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Colin Roderick Award
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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The Colin Roderick Award is presented annually by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies at James Cook University to honour Colin Roderick (1911-2000), who was JCU's foundation professor of English. Among his many published works were critical and biographical studies of Henry Lawson.

The Colin Roderick Award recognises ‘the best book published in Australia which deals with any aspect of Australian life’, and is open to books published in the previous year in all fields, including works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Source: Sighted: 15/11/2013.


  • The Colin Roderick Award 'is made for the best original book of the year dealing with any aspect of Australian life and first published in the award year'. The award is presented in the following year and comprises a monetary prize and the H. T. Priestley Memorial Medal.

    (Source: School of Humanities, James Cook University website,

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon Infinite Splendours Sofie Laguna , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2020 19846353 2020 single work novel

'Lawrence Loman is a bright, caring, curious boy with a gift for painting. He lives at home with his mother and younger brother, and the future is laid out before him, full of promise. But when he is ten, an experience of betrayal takes it all away, and Lawrence is left to deal with the devastating aftermath.

'As he grows into a man, how will he make sense of what he has suffered? He cannot rewrite history, but must he be condemned to repeat it?

'Lawrence finds meaning in the best way he knows. By surrendering himself to art and nature, he creates beauty - beauty made all the more astonishing and soulful for the deprivation that gives rise to it.

'Infinite Splendours is an extraordinary novel, incandescent with love and compassion, rich in colour and character. The power and virtuosity of Laguna's writing make it impossible for us to look away; and by being seen, Lawrence is redeemed.

'And we, as readers, have had our minds and hearts opened in ways we can't forget.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Paper Emperors : The Rise of Australia's Newspaper Empires Sally Young , Kensington : University of New South Wales Press , 2019 15507988 2019 single work non-fiction

'Before newspapers were ravaged by the digital age, they were a powerful force everywhere – especially in Australia, a country of newspaper giants and kingmakers.

'This magisterial book reveals who owned Australia’s newspapers and how they used them to wield political power. A corporate and political history spanning 140 years, Paper Emperors reveals how Australia’s media system came to be dominated by a handful of empires and powerful family dynasties who influenced public policies, lobbied and bullied politicians, and shaped internal party politics. Unexplored until now, Sally Young shows that this set the shape of Australian newspapers for the next century.'

'The book begins in 1803 with Australia's first newspaper owner - a convict who became a wealthy bank owner - giving the industry a blend of notoriety, power and wealth from the start. Throughout the twentieth century, Australians were unaware that they were reading newspapers owned by secret bankrupts and failed land boomers, powerful mining magnates, Underbelly-style gangsters, bankers, and corporate titans. It ends with the downfall of Menzies in 1941 and his conviction that a handful of press barons brought him down. The intervening years are packed with political drama, business machinations and a struggle for readers, all while the newspaper barons are peddling power and influence. 

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon The True Colour of the Sea Robert Drewe , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2018 14212049 2018 selected work short story

'The long-awaited new collection of short stories from Australia’s master of the short-story genre.

'An artist marooned on a remote island in the Arafura Sea contemplates his survival chances. He understands his desperate plight and the ocean’s unrelenting power. But what is its true colour?

'A beguiling young woman nurses a baby by a lake while hiding brutal scars. Uneasy descendants of a cannibal victim visit the Pacific island of their ancestor’s murder. A Caribbean cruise of elderly tourists faces life with wicked optimism.

'Witty, clever, ever touching and always inventive, the eleven stories in The True Colour of the Sea take us to many varied coasts: whether a tense Christmas holiday apartment overlooking the Indian Ocean or the shabby glamour of a Cuban resort hotel.

'Relationships might be frayed, savaged, regretted or celebrated, but here there is always the life-force of the ocean – seducing, threatening, inspiring.

'In The True Colour of the Sea, Robert Drewe – Australia’s master of the short story form – makes a gift of stories that tackle the big themes of life: love, loss, desire, family, ageing, humanity and the life of art. '  (Publication summary)

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon On the Java Ridge Jock Serong , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11520458 2017 single work novel

'Amid the furious ocean there was no human sound on deck: some people standing, watching the wave, but no one capable of words.

'On the Java Ridge, skipper Isi Natoli and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored beside an idyllic reef off the Indonesian island of Dana.

'In the Canberra office of Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, a Federal election looms and (not coincidentally) a hardline new policy is being announced regarding maritime assistance to asylum-seeker vessels in distress.

'A few kilometres away from Dana, the Takalar is having engine trouble. Among the passengers fleeing from persecution are Roya and her mother, and Roya’s unborn sister.

'The storm now closing in on the Takalar and the Java Ridge will mean catastrophe for them all.

'With On the Java Ridge Jock Serong, bestselling author of The Rules of Backyard Cricket, brings us a literary novel with the pace and tension of a political thriller—and some of the most compelling, heartstopping writing about the sea since Patrick O’Brian.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2017

winner y separately published work icon Extinctions Josephine Wilson , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2016 9145761 2016 single work novel

'He hated the word ‘retirement’, but not as much as he hated the word ‘village’, as if ageing made you a peasant or a fool. Herein lives the village idiot.

'Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life – objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter – he is determined to be miserable, but is tired of his existence and of the life he has chosen.

'When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves.

'Humorous, poignant and galvanising by turns, Extinctions is a novel about all kinds of extinction – natural, racial, national and personal – and what we can do to prevent them.' (Publication summary)

Works About this Award

A Pair of Ragged Claws Stephen Romei , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 18-19 October 2014; (p. 17)
Bookmarks Jason Steger , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Saturday Age , 10 November 2012; (p. 33)
A column canvassing current literary news including comments from the judges of the Melbourne Prize 2012; the Penguin Random House merger; Colin Roderick Award 2012; the projected annual appointment of a critic to the Australian Book Review periodical and an Australian Association for Literary Translation symposium on translating poetry.
Exploring the Hidden Self : An Interview with Malcolm Knox Lindsay Simpson (interviewer), 2008 single work interview
— Appears in: LiNQ , December vol. 35 no. 2008; (p. 121-124)
Award Ashley Hay , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 24 October vol. 124 no. 6543 2006; (p. 70)
Roderick Award Short List Gia Metherell , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 9 September 2006; (p. 17)