AustLit logo
Best Writing Award
Subcategory of Melbourne Prize
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.


  • The Best Writing Award is for 'a piece of published or produced work, in any genre, by a Victorian writer, 40 years and under, which is an outstanding example of clarity, originality and creativity. The prize is supported by the Sidney Myer Fund, Readings and Hardie Grant Publishing.'

    Source: Melbourne Prize website,
    Sighted: 06/11/2006

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon Axiomatic Maria Tumarkin , Melbourne : Brow Books , 2018 13360818 2018 single work prose

'The past shapes the present – they teach us that in schools and universities. (Shapes?  Infiltrates, more like; imbues, infuses.) This past cannot be visited like an ageing aunt. It doesn’t live in little zoo enclosures. Half the time, this past is nothing less than the beating heart of the present. So, how to speak of the searing, unpindownable power that the past – ours, our family’s, our culture’s – wields in the present?

'Stories are not enough, even though they are essential. And books about history, books of psychology – the best of them take us closer, but still not close enough.

'Maria Tumarkin's Axiomatic is a boundary-shifting fusion of thinking, storytelling, reportage and meditation. It takes as its starting point five axioms:

  • ‘Give Me a Child Before the Age of Seven and I’ll Give You the Woman’
  • ‘History Repeats Itself…’
  • ‘Those Who Forget the Past are Condemned to Repeat It’
  • ‘You Can’t Enter The Same River Twice’
  • ‘Time Heals All Wounds’

'These beliefs—or intuitions—about the role the past plays in our present are often evoked as if they are timeless and self-evident truths. It is precisely because they are neither, yet still we are persuaded by them, that they tell us a great deal about the forces that shape our culture and the way we live. 

'Axiomatic is Tumarkin's fourth book of non-fiction, and her most pioneering. Her three previous books, Otherland  (2010), Courage  (2007), and Traumascapes  (2005), have each and all been critically acclaimed and shortlisted for major prizes.

'More than seven full and long years in the making, and utilising her time as a Sidney Myer Creative Fellow, Axiomatic actively seeks to reset the non-fiction form in Australia.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2015

winner y separately published work icon The Memory Trap Andrea Goldsmith , Sydney South : HarperCollins Australia , 2013 Z1908497 2013 single work novel 'The past feeds into the present and often undermines it in this story about marriage, memory and mistakes that can never be forgiven. It features Nina, a memorial consultant and her futurologist husband Daniel: her sister Zoe, a music teacher and Zoe's biographer husband, American ex-alcoholic Elliot. And lastly, there is Ramsay Blake, a genius at the piano but a half-baked human being in every other respect. All the relationships are on shaky ground. As for memory and forgiveness are less reliable than what we would like to think.' (Source: Author's website: )

Year: 2012

winner y separately published work icon The Amateur Science of Love : A Novel Craig Sherborne , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2011 Z1762016 2011 single work novel

'Colin dreams of escaping his parents' New Zealand farm for a grand stage career. He makes it to London and a disastrous audition before meeting Tilda—beautiful Tilda, older, an artist—who brings his future with her. A heady romance leads to a new home in a decaying former bank in a small town hours from Melbourne. They are building a life together—but there are cracks in the foundation. This is a love story, told from passionate beginning to spectacular end. It is intimate and honest, blackly funny and emotionally devastating.' (From the publisher's website.)

Year: 2009

winner y separately published work icon The Boat Nam Le , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2008 Z1495449 2008 selected work short story (taught in 42 units)

'In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam - and what seems at first a satire on turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise" an ageing New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.' (From the author's website.)

winner Nam Le

Year: 2006

inaugural winner y separately published work icon Dead Europe Christos Tsiolkas , Milsons Point : Vintage Australia , 2005 Z1186455 2005 single work novel (taught in 14 units) 'The novel comprises two separate narratives. The first, told in the style of a fairytale, is set in a traditional Greek peasant village during and after World War II. Its world is still magical. ... The second narrative is set in the present time. The narrator is a 36-year-old gay, Greek-Australian photographic artist named Isaac. We meet Isaac at a time when he has travelled to Greece for what turns out to be a rather dismal officially funded exhibition of his works.'

Source: Manne, Robert. 'Dead Disturbing'. The Monthly. (June, 2005)

Works About this Award

$60,000 Consolation for Writer's Concern Jason Steger , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 16 November 2006; (p. 8)
The Prize Writers Joel Becker , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 11 November 2006; (p. 26)
Joel Becker discusses the contenders in the two categories of the 2006 Melbourne Prize.