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The Robert Burns Fellowship is New Zealand's premier literary residency. It was established in 1958 by a group of anonymous Dunedin citizens to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Burns, and to perpetuate the community's appreciation of the part played by the related Dunedin family of Dr Thomas Burns in the early settlement of Otago. The Fellowship aims to encourage and promote imaginative New Zealand literature and to associate writers with the University.

The annual, 12-month Fellowship provides an office in the English Department and not less than the minimum salary of a full-time university lecturer. It is open to writers of poetry, drama, fiction, biography, autobiography, essays or literary criticism who are normally resident in New Zealand, and who, in the opinion of the Selection Committee, have established by their published work, or otherwise, that their writing would benefit from their holding the Fellowship.

See the list of all previous Robert Burns Fellowship recipients

The 2024 Robert Burns Fellow is Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela Nyman imageMikaela Nyman

Mikaela Nyman is a Taranaki based writer of Finnish heritage from the Åland Islands, born into the Swedish linguistic minority. She has also lived in Vanuatu.

The poet, novelist and non-fiction writer says she’s still finding it hard to believe she’s been awarded this Fellowship.

“It means I’m going to be able to focus on a year of writing in a nurturing environment - it's a joy and a privilege, and an incredible validation for a writer.

“As writers and artists we all need to nurture our creativity, and we need to set aside time to immerse ourselves and experiment, take risks,” Nyman says.

During her Fellowship, Nyman plans to research and write her second novel, about a dysfunctional family with themes of peace, war and belonging.

She envisages this to be more experimental than her first novel Sado (2020), a climate fiction set in Vanuatu, which she says “Draws on my experience of enforced seperation from my father and my native Åland Islands – autonomous and demilitarised, which are now under threat from Putin’s forces”.

Nyman also plans to collate and edit a collection of poetry by the late ni-Vanuatu writer and freedom fighter Mildred Sope, who was among the first indigenous poets to be published by Albert Wendt prior to Vanuatu’s indepedence in 1980. Nyman interviewed Sope for her PhD in creative writing, inter-disciplinary with Pacific Studies and went on to co-edit with Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen, Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology, published by Te Herenga Waka Press to critical acclaim in 2021.

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