The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards celebrate the contribution of Australian literature to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life. The awards recognise literature’s importance to our national identity, community and economy.
A tax free prize of $100 000 will be awarded to the work judged to be of the highest literary merit in each of four categories:* Fiction * Non-Fiction * Young Adult Fiction * Children’s Fiction
The awards are open to works written by living Australian citizens and permanent residents.
The winners were:
Traitor by Stephen Daisley
The Hard Light of Day: An Artist's Story of Friendships in Arremte Country by Rod Moss
Young Adult Fiction
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Shake a Leg by Boori Monty Pryor and illustrator Jan Ormerod
The 2011 shortlisted publications and authors:
|Fiction shortlist ;||Non-fiction shortlist|
|Young adult fiction shortlist||Children's fiction shortlist|
The winner of the Fiction award is Eva Hornung for her outstanding novel Dog Boy. This daring novel with ancient folkloric and literary traditions of children lost, then raised and nurtured in the animal world was chosen for its testing but triumphant feat of the imagination.
The winning entry for Non-fiction is Grace Karskens'The Colony: A History of Early Sydney an intimate account of the transformation of a campsite in a beautiful cove to the town that later became Sydney, was praised by the judges for its high literary quality and originality.
This year the Prime Minister's Literary Awards included two new categories; Children's and Young adult fiction.
The inaugural Young adult fiction winner is Bill Condon's Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. This poignant, funny and deeply insightful rite of passage novel is about a student who attends a Catholic boys' school in 1967. The pain of first love and the morality attached to individual life choices is made contemporary in a work praised by the judges as one of tremendous honesty and integrity.
The Children's fiction winner is Star Jumps by Lorraine Marwood, a verse novel told through the eyesof a young girl depicting the joys and heartbreaks of a farming family as they struggle to cope with the devastating effects of long-term drought. According to the judges it was the ‘surprise package’ in the list and the voice in which it is written is appealing, authentic and irresistible.
Young Adult Fiction shortlist
Children’s Fiction shortlist
2009 Prime Minster's Literary Award Winners - Nov 2nd
The winner of the 2009 Fiction award is Nam Le for his book of short stories The Boat. The judging panel was impressed by the daring scope and excellence of its execution, the generous breadth of its emotional and social traverse and the excitement generated by every story.
In 2009, two books and three authors share the Non-Fiction award. The winners are Evelyn Juers for House of Exile: The Life and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann; and Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds for Drawing the Global Colour Line.
Both books explore important racial, moral and political issues of Australia's past. The Non-Fiction judging panel said "With great intellectual authority and international research Evelyn Juers, Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds tell their stories magnificently."
Their story is crossed by others from their circle, including Heinrich's brother Thomas Mann, their friends Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, and Joseph Roth, the writers Egon Kisch, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and Nettie Palmer. In train compartments, ship's cabins and rented rooms, they called upon what was left to them—their bodies, their minds, their books—and amidst the debris of an era of self-destruction, built their own annexes to the House of Exile. (Giramondo)
An exemplar of the new 'group biography', Juers follows Heinrich, brother of one of the greatest twentieth century writers, to the US where he finds troubled refuge in Los Angeles. This book is remarkable for both its research and its prose. Juers has devoted years to the former and the skills of a novelist to the latter, seeing the horrors of the 1930s, in particular the desperate diaspora of Jews seeking to escape the malignancy of Nazism, through the experiences of one distinguished family.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
At last a history of Australia in its dynamic global context. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in response to the mobilisation and mobility of colonial and coloured peoples around the world, self-styled 'white men's countries' in South Africa, North America and Australasia worked in solidarity to exclude those peoples they defined as not-white—including Africans, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Pacific Islanders. Their policies provoked in turn a long international struggle for racial equality.
Through a rich cast of characters that includes Alfred Deakin, WEB Du Bois, Mahatma Gandhi, Lowe Kong Meng, Tokutomi Soho, Jan Smuts and Theodore Roosevelt, leading Australian historians Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds tell a gripping story about the circulation of emotions and ideas, books and people in which Australia emerged as a pace-setter in the modern global politics of whiteness. The legacy of the White Australia policy still casts a shadow over relations with the peoples of Africa and Asia, but campaigns for racial equality have created new possibilities for a more just future.
Remarkable for the breadth of its research and its engaging narrative, Drawing the Global Colour Line offers a new perspective on the history of human rights and provides compelling and original insight into the international political movements that shaped the twentieth century. (Melbourne University Publishing)
With the arrival of three parties 6f troops and convicts—two from NSW and one from London—white settlement was established in the north and south of Van Diemen's Land in 1803. After a brief period of co-existence between the invaders and the Indigenous people the dynamics changed dramatically as convict stockmen helped create a pastoral industry by following the kangaroo hunters into the landscape of lush grasslands nurtured by thousands of years of land management by Tasmania's Aborigines. James Boyce tells an increasingly tragic story with immense skill, adding considerable depth to our understanding2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
Elizabeth Jolley wrote about hope and love in families, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and boarding houses in which unlovely and loveless people survive as best they can. Jolley too was a survivor. Her lovelorn and homeless times in Britain and her life as a migrant in Australia inform her own experiences of 'doing life'. The many prizes, awards and academic and civil honours Jolley received reflect her importance as an author who helped to define Australia's identity during the late part of the twentieth century.
Brian Dibble was given complete access to the writer's private papers and has spent more than a decade travelling the world to follow leads on the story of Elizabeth Jolley. Through his meticulous research and elegant prose, he details the life of the woman and captures the importance of the writer. This is a lyrical and readable biography, one that presents a world of family and pleasures, but is always infused somewhere with an unexpended sadness. (UWA Press)
After many a lonely year writing at night on her legendary kitchen table, Elizabeth Jolley suddenly found herself famous in her 50s. With readers fascinated by her portraits of people on the margins the prizes piled up—yet the writer remained a mystery. Now, after a decade's international research and access to her papers, Brian Dibble tells us Jolley's story—and reveals the links between her marvellous gallery of misfits and the writer.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
From his childhood in the fledging city of Canberra to his first appearance as Prime Minister (playing Neville Chamberlain), to his extensive war service in the Pacific and marriage to Margaret, the champion swimmer and daughter of Justice Wilfred Dovey, the biography draws on previously unseen archival material, extensive interviews with family and colleagues, and exclusive interviews with Gough Whitlam himself.
Hocking's narrative skill and scrupulous research reveals an extraordinary and complex man, whose life is, in every way, formed by the remarkable events of previous generations of his family, and who would, in turn, change Australian political and cultural developments in the twentieth century. (Melbourne University Publishing)
No stranger to the political biography, Hocking gives us a portrait of a man who has cast a longer shadow on Australia's history than most of his predecessors or successors as Prime Minister. There have been many books on Whitlam as Prime Minister—yet no detailed biographic account of his long and remarkable life, of his journey to the Lodge. Hocking combines fine writing with exemplary research including extended interviews with Whitlam and his family. A vivid and engaging book.
The Tall Man is the story of Palm Island, the tropical paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. It is the story of that policeman, the tall, enigmatic Christopher Hurley who chose to work in some of the toughest and wildest places in Australia, and of the struggle to bring him to trial.
A unique work of investigation, The Tall Man takes the reader into the courtroom, into the once notorious Queensland police force, and into the Indigenous communities of the Far North—places where people live lives like no others, have a relationship with the land like no others, and a history, culture and catastrophic present like no others. This is Australia, but an Australia that few of us have seen. The Tall Man is a story in luminous detail of two worlds clashing—and a haunting moral puzzle that no reader will forget. (Penguin Books)
After a long history of deaths in custody one more occurs—to become the most notorious and contested of all. Within 40 minutes of swearing at a policeman, Cameron Domadgee is dead in the watch house—and soon Palm Island, somewhere between a tropical paradise and an open prison, is ablaze. The Tall Man is Christopher Hurley, a copper who prided himself on his work with indigenous communities and is now accused by the rioters of murder. Hooper's fine book remains reasoned and reflective amidst the tumult and the tragedy of a legal and racial controversy that continues to this day.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
On Thursday 22 May 2008, Bill Henson, one of Australia's most significant artists, was preparing his new Sydney exhibition. It featured photographs of naked adolescent models. That afternoon, triggered by a newspaper column and the outrage of talkback radio hosts, a controversy exploded in response to these images.
David Marr, one of Australia's leading journalists, tells the story of this dramatic public trial. The Henson Case is a remarkable investigative essay which draws on Marr's extensive interviews with Bill Henson and features eight photographs from the Sydney show. (Text Publishing)
The uproar created by the exhibition of one photograph of a pubescent girl in a Sydney art gallery seemed to take Australia back decades into the good old days of moral panics and censorship wrangles. Yet it raised complex issues that divided the art world as deeply as public and political opinion. David Marr tries to reverse the ratio of heat and light with his calm account of a raging controversy.
Through the people he meets, Watson discovers the incomparable genius of America, its optimism, sophistication and riches—and also its darker side, its disavowal of failure and uncertainty. Beautifully written, with gentle power and sly humour, American Journeys investigates the meaning of the United States: its confidence, its religion, its heroes, its violence, and its material obsessions. The things that make America great are also its greatest flaws. (Random House)
Whether it's Australia observed by D.H. Lawrence, England observed by Oscar Wilde (or Barry Humphries) or the United States by Don Watson, much of the most acute analysis comes from the visitor. Watson follows in de Tocqueville's footsteps but provides his own brand of scepticism and wit. Resisting the temptation to dwell on George W. Bush, Watson nonetheless writes a book to cause neo-conservatives acute discomfort. Watson's active role in Australian politics informs his observations—from the New Orleans of Cyclone Katrina to the beltway. What was clearly therapeutic for Watson is a delight to the reader2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
Each story uncovers a raw human truth. Each story is absorbing and fully realised as a novel. Together, they make up a collection of astonishing diversity and achievement. (Penguin Books)
Nam Le's collection of fiction, The Boat, which comprises short and long stories, artfully arrayed, is one of the most impressive debuts of recent years. The range of subjects and settings astonishes, as does the assurance and control with which the author immerses us in the stories that he makes from them. While the span of the fiction is cosmopolitan, each story is intensely attuned to the local circumstances that deform and enable the lives of these varied characters, animated as they are by love and despair. As shown especially in the final and title story, Nam Le combines almost reckless artistic boldness with highly disciplined craft.
Erica, a philosopher herself, has been asked by her university to review Wesley's work, to read his notes—the pages. They are as Wesley left them, unread, untouched, at the rural property run by Wesley's sister Lindsey and brother Roger. Sophie, a psychoanalyst whose professional skills in listening seem to be confined to her patients, accompanies her friend, painting her toenails in the passenger seat and reeling off her opinions of the various qualities of her current man.
In this wry literary novel ideas intersect with experience, city sophistication with rural landscape, philosophy with psychology, as each woman searches for her own truth, and the life, and philosophy, of Wesley Antill unfolds. (Text Publishing)
In Murray Bail's latest novel, The Pages, a work of masterly compression, the death of a reclusive philosopher on a sheep station in western New South Wales leads his surviving brother and sister to call for an expert appraisal of his work. Thus amateur and professional, rural and urban, private and public realms are juxtaposed. An intense, but quiet drama develops in a series of sharply etched scenes, as secrecy and solitude, betrayal and faith are revealed in their tenacious power over individuals. Once again, Bail has made a fresh, unpredictable departure in, and renewal of his fiction.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript that has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war-torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring the Sarajevo Haggadah—a Jewish prayer book—to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival. But the trip will also set in motion a series of events that threaten to rock Hanna's orderly life, including her encounter with Ozren Karamen, the young librarian who risked his life to save the book.
As meticulously researched as all of Brooks's previous work, People of the Book is a gripping and moving novel about war, art, love and survival. (Harper Collins)
Based on the true story of the improbable survival of an ancient Jewish manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book, moves deftly from Australia to Bosnia, from the troubled present back to an equally violent and unstable past. This is a thriller that lightly wears its considerable scholarship at the same time as it takes us into the terrors of imperilled lives. The heroine—an Australian, if not an innocent abroad—is confronted in violent practice with cultural differences that she had only known in theory. Brooks writes eloquently of fortitude, devotion and acts of redeeming heroism.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
Inspired by historical events, Wanting is a haunting meditation about love, loss and the way life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting. (Random House)
Richard Flanagan's historical novel, Wanting, maps two psychologically damaged societies, geographically distant, but intimately connected. They are colonial Van Diemen's Land under the governorship of Sir John Franklin and the London of Charles Dickens, who will be enlisted in strange circumstances to protect Franklin's reputation. This is also the story of the lamentable fate of the Aboriginal girl Mathinna, adopted by Franklin's wife, only to be cast into a cultural chasm. The historical backgrounds of the novel are sketched with exemplary imaginative daring: the idioms and mental landscapes of a lost world are strikingly brought back to us.
Everything I Knew is at once laugh-out-loud funny and cry-out-loud tragic—farcical, horrifying, confronting— and bursting with originality. It challenges our determination to believe in the innocence of childhood and adolescence, and yet again shows Peter Goldsworthy to be a master of shifting tone. There is no novel quite like it in Australian literature. (Penguin Books)
The conventional rite of passage story tracing the progress from adolescence to young adult becomes altogether bleaker and more engrossing than usual in Peter Goldsworthy's Everything I Knew. Besides skilfully depicting the society of a small Australian town—its communal life, its solitaries, the web of gossip, remembrance and speculation in which all are enmeshed— the novel also deals with a teenager's struggle for both sexual and intellectual awareness. The consequences of his dreams and desires will sadly and indelibly mark his future. The novel is a triumphant rendering of provincial life and the costs of escape from it.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
One day Hester takes a brave Alice in Wonderland trip into the forbidden outside (at the behest of Handle—‘turn me turn me’), and this overwhelming encounter with light and sky and sunshine is a marvel to her. From this moment on, Hester learns the concept of the secret, and not telling, and the world becomes something that fills her with feeling as if she is a vessel, empty and bottomless for need of it.
The story told by Hester in One Foot Wrong is often dark and terrible, but the sheer blazing brilliance of her language and the imagery that illuminates the pages make this novel an exhilarating, enlightening and joyous act of faith. The stars shine brightest out of the deepest dark. (Allen and Unwin)
Sofie Laguna's first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong, is one of the most starkly disturbing and original treatments of the lost child motif in Australian literature. This devastating tale of the harm done by parents to their daughter maintains an eerie equilibrium despite the cruelties that are related. The tormented but vivid imagination of the victim is registered in writing that is remarkable for its experimental daring. In a world of predators, innocence is terribly beset. It is the distinction of Laguna's novel that this is related without sensationalism, the better to harrow us.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
With Maya's disappearance, the lives of all those close to her come into focus, to reveal the complexity of the ties that bind us to one another, to parents, children, siblings, friends and lovers.
Pacy and enthralling, The Good Parents is at once a vision of contemporary Australia and a story as old as fairytales: that of a runaway girl. (Random House)
In The Good Parents, Joan London examines with even-handed compassion the consequences for both parents and children when members of the older generation must face the constriction of an earlier, heedless freedom, and the younger must seek to find a way of their own. This is a novel of manifold abandonments, and of a compensating search for connection and expiation. London's stylistic clarity allows shocks and blessings to be more sharply illuminated. This both a caustic and consoling anatomy of modern Australian life, shadowed at once by myths of a carefree past and anxiety about where a future might be.2009 Fiction | 2009 Non-fiction | 2008 Winners | 2008 Fiction Shorts | 2008 Non-fiction Shorts | Home Page | Fishpond Books Australia | Top
The 91 entries in the fiction category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards included a wide range of contemporary Australian fiction.
The seven short-listed fiction books include works in prose, a compilation of short stories and one work in verse. Among the short list are writers whose distinguished careers have spanned decades as well as debut authors whose careers are just beginning. Links below to details on individual books on this page.
A total of 103 books, traversing topics from politics, art, philosophy and architecture were entered in the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards non-fiction category.
The judges selected the seven short-listed books because of their originality, rich detail and clarity of writing. Included in the short list are histories born from meticulous research, engaging accounts of survival and moving stories that resonate long after the book has been closed.