AustLit logo
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


An award for a work of fiction by an Australian author, not previously published locally or overseas.


2015 winner y separately published work icon Useful Debra Oswald , Scoresby : Penguin , 2015 8141941 2015 single work novel

'Sullivan Moss is useless.

'Once a charming underachiever, he's now such a loser that he can't even commit suicide properly. Waking up in hospital after falling the wrong way on a rooftop, he comes to a decision. He shouldn't waste perfectly good organs just because they're attached to his head. After a life of regrets, Sully wants to do one useful thing: he wants to donate a kidney to a stranger.

'As he scrambles over the hurdles to become a donor, Sully almost accidentally forges a new life for himself. Sober and employed, he makes new friends, not least radio producer Natalie and her son Louis, and begins to patch things up with old ones, like his ex-best mate Tim. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of him.

'But altruism is not as easy as it seems. Just when he thinks he's got himself together, Sully discovers that he's most at risk of falling apart.' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon South of Darkness John Marsden , Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2014 7949044 2014 single work novel historical fiction young adult

'My name, then, is Barnaby Fletch. To the best of my knowledge I have no middle name and cannot say of whom I am the son, or of whom my father's father's father was the son. Alas, my origins are shrouded in mystery.

'Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s.

'Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business.

'When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world - a place called Botany Bay - he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life.

'To succeed, he must survive the trials of Newgate Prison, the stinking hull of a prison ship and the unknown terrors of a journey across the world.

'And Botany Bay is far from the paradise Barnaby has imagined. When his past and present suddenly collide, he is soon fleeing for his life - once again.

'A riveting story of courage, hope and extraordinary adventure.' (Publication summary)

2011 winner y separately published work icon The Voyagers : A Love Story Mardi McConnochie , Camberwell : Viking , 2011 Z1775619 2011 single work novel historical fiction 'In 1943, Stead arrives in Sydney Harbour hoping to spend his shore leave with Marina, a woman with whom he shared three magical days before the war. But Marina is gone, and has been missing for almost five years.

'And so begins an extraordinarily powerful and compelling journey - across the seas and the great stages of the war - as Stead retraces the steps of the one woman he has truly loved.' (From the publisher's website.)
2010 winner y separately published work icon The Second-Last Woman in England Maggie Joel , Sydney : Pier 9 , 2010 Z1679714 2010 single work novel historical fiction

'In London's South Kensington, in the austere years immediately following the end of the war, Mrs Harriet Wallis is convicted of the murder of her husband, Cecil, and is sentenced to death by hanging. Leading a pampered if conventional existence, the Wallises appear to have a contented life. However, when the police turn up at the front door on the day the new nanny arrives, the first of a chain of events that will culminate in Cecil's murder is begun.

'Set in a post-War period when a well-to-do British family's existence - both outside and inside the house - is ruled by a strict set of conventions, The Second-last Woman in England explores the depth of emotions that are always there in every family but rarely surface. And what happens when they do.' (From the publisher's website.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon Liar Justine Larbalestier , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2009 Z1615108 2009 single work novel young adult (taught in 2 units)

'Secrets, lies, murder and betrayal.

'Micah Wilkins is a liar. But when her boyfriend, Zach, dies under brutal circumstances, the shock might be enough to set her straight. Or maybe not. Especially when lying comes as naturally to her as breathing. Was Micah dating Zach? Did they kiss? Did she see him the night he died? And is she really hiding a family secret? Where does the actual truth lie?

'Liar is a breathtaking roller-coaster read that will have you up all night, desperately seeking for something true.' (From the publisher's website.)

2008 winner y separately published work icon Consumed Caroline A. Hamilton , Sydney : ABC Books , 2008 Z1482706 2008 single work novel crime
2006 winner y separately published work icon Black Widow Sandy McCutcheon , Carlton North : Scribe , 2006 Z1251630 2006 single work novel thriller In an act of revenge, six female teachers who survived the Beslan siege plan to kidnap four adult children of the Chechnyan terrorists.
2005 joint winner y separately published work icon The Poet : A Novella Alex Skovron , Ormond : Hybrid , 2005 Z1224172 2005 single work novella

'The Poet is a tale of obsession, art, and the thresholds between day and night. Manfred is a nondescript insurance clerk, inflexibly honest and imbued with a profound sense of order. He is also a prolific poet, but has never tried to publish – until now.

'The novella traces the events and experiences that befall Manfred in the wake of a single moment’s carelessness, a mistake that will change his life. He enters a maze he must negotiate, between action and paralysis, inspiration and despair, guilt – and the phantom, love.

'We encounter an eccentric stranger bent on a terrible mission, the publisher of a deceitful new author, and the city that forms a living, shifting backdrop to the interior drama, as Manfred struggles with his predicament, his muse, and the labyrinth of his implacable honesty. It is a journey from common daylight into a darkness flickering with both hope and oblivion; a journey across the fragile web of what we understand as sanity.' (Publication summary)

2005 joint winner y separately published work icon The Secret River Kate Grenville , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2005 Z1194031 2005 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 69 units)

'In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand.

'But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.

'Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them.

'Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

'Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.' (From the publisher's website.)

2003 winner y separately published work icon Three Dog Night Peter Goldsworthy , Camberwell : Viking , 2003 Z1068831 2003 single work novel

'Is it possible to be too much in love? After ten years in London, Martin Blackman returns to Adelaide with his wife and fellow psychiatrist Lucy, blissfully happy. But then he introduces her to his old friend Felix, once a brilliant surgeon, now barred from practising and changed beyond recognition. In the complex triangle that develops, Martin must decide just how far he is prepared to go for Felix. So begins the darkest of journeys for all three of them...' (Publication summary)

2001 winner y separately published work icon Yarn Spinners : A Story in Letters : Dymphna Cusack, Florence James, Miles Franklin Dymphna Cusack , Miles Franklin , Florence James , Marilla North (editor), St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2001 Z899867 2001 anthology correspondence biography From the correspondence between Cusack, James and Franklin across the years 1928 to the death of Franklin in 1954, Yarn Spinners: A Story in Letters has been shaped by a process of selection, editing, weaving and providing narrative links in order to develop a continuous narrative of the friendship, collaborations and inter-related lives of these three Australian women writers. The Prologue gives a biographical overview of each of their lives. Each of the five narrative Parts is briefly prefaced with its socio-historical context.

Part I:1928-1935 sets up the Cusack-James relationship as they write to each other as young women graduates: Cusack is teaching in remote rural NSW schools whilst James does the Grand Tour of Europe, finally settling down in London where she marries in 1933.

Part II :1938-39 establishes the friendship of Cusack and Franklin which develops during their collaboration on the scandalous sesqui-centennial satire Pioneers on Parade. In Part III:1945-47, Cusack and James, both burnt out at the end of WWII, set up a writing retreat in the Blue Mountains and collaborate on their prizewinning bestseller expose of wartime Sydney, Come In Spinner.

In Part IV: 1947-49, James returns to London and Cusack follows through the revisions demanded by the Daily Telegraph before they will award the thousand pounds prize money. Cusack is also researching her "tuberculosis novel" Say No To Death. All That Swagger is published by Angus & Robertson whilst Franklin endures her nephew's war neurosis and makes her final Will, providing for an annual [Miles] Franklin Award. In mid-1949 Cusack leaves for Europe.

In Part V:1950-55 the Cusack-Franklin-James friendships are now essentially carried through their correspondence; Come In Spinner is published to press acclaim in London, with Cusack's Say No To Death, Southern Steel and Caddie following in quick succession. Angus & Robertson finally began publishing the "Brent of Bin Bin" series. James, now divorced, rearing two daughters, begins work with London publisher Constable & Co as a reader and talent scout for Australian writers. Franklin and Cusack's friendship provides the emotional fulcrum for this final Part.

The Chronology (1879-2001) provides the facts of the lives and works; the Biographical Notes provide an inventory of most of the cast of characters who appear in the letters.

Awarded to editor Marilla North.
2000 winner y separately published work icon The Children's House of Belsen Hetty Verolme , Fremantle : Fremantle Press , 2000 Z1206211 2000 single work autobiography

'Hetty's family was torn apart following the German invasion of the Netherlands. Rounded up by the Nazis and then separated from their parents, Hetty and her brothers were sent to the Children's House, within Belsen concentration camp. As one of the eldest, Hetty became the 'Little Mother', helping to care for not only her siblings, but the other children as well. In a direct and powerful style, Hetty recalls one of the remarkable, largely untold stories of the Holocaust, the extraordinary struggle and survival of this group of children through these terrible years.' (Publisher's blurb)

1998 winner y separately published work icon Sandstone Gothic A. P. Riemer , St Leonards : Allen and Unwin , 1998 Z442019 1998 single work autobiography
1997 winner y separately published work icon Snake Cradle Roberta Sykes , St Leonards : Allen and Unwin , 1997 Z328748 1997 single work autobiography (taught in 1 units)

'Snake Cradle is the first volume of Roberta Sykes's three volume autobiography, Snake Dreaming. Snake Cradle chronicles the early years of one of Australia's best known activists for Aboriginal rights, from the time of her birth in Townsville in the 1940s through to the birth of her son when she was 17, and the trial of the men who raped her.

Roberta's voice is strong and true as she describes far north Queensland of the time, her battles with a series of childhood illnesses, and her growing awareness that hers was not an ordinary Australian childhood. Born to a white mother and a father whose identity she did not know, her passion and commitment to the struggles of the Aboriginal people was shaped by the racism her dark skin invoked. A powerful and moving autobiography about a history that must never be forgotten.' (Allen and Unwin)

1996 winner y separately published work icon An Australian Son Gordon Matthews , Port Melbourne : Heinemann , 1996 Z68105 1996 single work autobiography
1994 winner (Biography.) y separately published work icon Heddy and Me Susan Varga , Ringwood : Penguin , 1994 Z222604 1994 single work biography In telling her mother's story, Susan Varga also tells her own. As a tiny baby she barely survived the holocaust, in hiding in a Hungarian village with her sister and mother, Heddy. Neither pain nor the devastation of this time lessened Heddy's will to go on to recreate her life in Australia. (Book cover)
1992 winner y separately published work icon Inside Outside : Life Between Two Worlds A. P. Riemer , North Ryde : Angus and Robertson , 1992 Z248856 1992 single work autobiography
1991 winner y separately published work icon Journeys into Night D. E. Charlwood , Hawthorn : Hudson Publishing , 1991 Z162340 1991 single work autobiography
1990 winner y separately published work icon Marching as to War D. E. Charlwood , Hawthorn : Hudson Publishing , 1990 Z136022 1990 single work autobiography
1989 winner y separately published work icon The Puzzles of Childhood Manning Clark , Ringwood : Viking , 1989 Z11482 1989 single work autobiography
1988 winner y separately published work icon His Mother's Country Maslyn Williams , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 1988 Z288198 1988 single work autobiography 'Written in the third person, the autobiography describes both his experiences in 1920s New England, the lives and personalities of numerous individuals he encountered, and the distinctive identity of the landscape which ultimately claimed his loyalty.' The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, ed. William H. Wilde et. al. (1994): 817.
1988 winner y separately published work icon To My Delight : The Autobiography of Bill Cohen a Grandson of the Gumbangarri Bill Cohen , Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press , 1987 Z1346864 1987 single work autobiography

The story of an Aboriginal man by the name of Bill Cohen is set in the tablelands and valleys of the McLeary River. The journey of his life takes us from his birth, to his his boxing days and his enlistment in the army. Bill a tribal descendants of the Gumbangarri recalls the days he and his father drove cattle through the rugged cliffs of the valley. The Cohen family history can be traced as far back as the 1880's where Bill, his father Jack and his grandfather earned the title of King due to their respected elders status as initiated men of the Kapparra ceremony.