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Winners

2017 winner y separately published work icon The Drover's Wife Leah Purcell , Strawberry Hills : Currency Press , 2016 11151204 2016 single work drama

'If anyone can write a full-throttle drama of our colonial past, it’s the indomitable Leah Purcell.

'We all know Henry Lawson’s story of the Drover’s Wife. Her stoic silhouette against an unforgiving landscape, her staring down of the serpent; it’s the frontier myth captured in a few pages. In Leah’s new play the old story gets a very fresh rewrite. Once again the Drover’s Wife is confronted by a threat in her yard, but now it’s a man. He’s bleeding, he’s got secrets, and he’s black. She knows there’s a fugitive wanted for killing whites, and the district is thick with troopers, but something’s holding the Drover’s Wife back from turning this fella in…

'A taut thriller of our pioneering past, with a black sting to the tail, The Drover’s Wife reaches from our nation’s infancy into our complicated present. And best of all, Leah’s playing the Wife herself.' (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Dark Emu : Black Seeds : Agriculture or Accident? Bruce Pascoe , Broome : Magabala Books , 2014 7202021 2014 single work criticism

'Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the 'hunter-gatherer' tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession. Accomplished author Bruce Pascoe provides compelling evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history, and that a new look at Australia’s past is required.' (Source: publishers website)

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Bush : Travels in the Heart of Australia Don Watson , Scoresby : Penguin , 2014 7838248 2014 single work prose travel

'Most Australians live in cities and cling to the coastal fringe, yet our sense of what an Australian is – or should be – is drawn from the vast and varied inland called the bush. But what do we mean by 'the bush', and how has it shaped us?

'Starting with his forebears' battle to drive back nature and eke a living from the land, Don Watson explores the bush as it was and as it now is: the triumphs and the ruination, the commonplace and the bizarre, the stories we like to tell about ourselves and the national character, and those we don't. Via mountain ash and mallee, the birds and the beasts, slaughter, fire, flood and drought, swagmen, sheep and their shepherds, the strange and the familiar, the tragedies and the follies, the crimes and the myths and the hope – here is a journey that only our leading writer of non-fiction could take us on.

'At once magisterial in scope and alive with telling, wry detail, The Bush lets us see our landscape and its inhabitants afresh, examining what we have made, what we have destroyed, and what we have become in the process.

'No one who reads it will look at this country the same way again. ' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Questions of Travel Michelle De Kretser , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2012 Z1887768 2012 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

'Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

'Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.' (From the publisher's website.)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Ruby Moonlight Ruby Moonlight : A Novel of the Impact of Colonisation in Mid-North South Australia Around 1880 Ali Cobby Eckermann , Broome : Magabala Books , 2012 Z1861301 2012 single work novel (taught in 2 units)

Through these interconnected poems, the main character, Ruby, the refugee of a massacre, shelters in the woods where she befriends an Irish trapper. The poems convey how fear of discovery is overcome by the need for human contact which, in a tense unraveling of events, is forcibly challenged by an Aboriginal lawman. The natural world is richly observed and Ruby's courtship is measured by the turning of the seasons. [From the publisher's website]

2012 winner y separately published work icon That Deadman Dance Kim Scott , New York (City) : Bloomsbury , 2010 Z1728528 2010 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 43 units)

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

'The novel's hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

'But slowly - by design and by accident - things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia...' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon Malcolm Fraser : The Political Memoirs Malcolm Fraser , Margaret Simons , Carlton : Miegunyah Press , 2010 Z1670364 2010 single work autobiography

'Malcolm Fraser is one of the most interesting and possibly most misunderstood of Australia's Prime Ministers. In this part memoir and part authorised biography, Fraser at the age of 79 years talks about his time in public life.

'From the Vietnam War to the Dismissal and his years as Prime Minister, through to his concern in recent times for breaches in the Rule of Law and harsh treatment of refugees, Fraser emerges as an enduring liberal, constantly reinterpreting core values to meet the needs of changing times.

'Written in collaboration with journalist Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser's political memoirs trace the story of a shy boy who was raised to be seen and not heard, yet grew to become one of the most persistent, insistent and controversial political voices of our times.

'The book offers insight into Malcolm Fraser's substantial achievements. He was the first Australian politician to describe Australia's future as multicultural, and his federal government was the first to pass Aboriginal Land Rights and Freedom of Information legislation, also establishing the Human Rights Commission.

'After his parliamentary career, Fraser continued to be an important player in public life, playing a key role in persuading the USA Congress to impose sanctions on South Africa as part of the battle against apartheid. He was also the founding chair of CARE Australia, one of our largest aid agencies.' (From the publisher's website.)

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.)

2008 winner y separately published work icon The Lost Dog Michelle De Kretser , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2007 Z1431148 2007 single work novel mystery (taught in 4 units)

'Tom Loxley is holed up in a remote bush shack trying to finish his book on Henry James when his beloved dog goes missing. What follows is a triumph of storytelling, as The Lost Dog loops back and forth in time to take the reader on a spellbinding journey into worlds far removed from the present tragedy.

'Set in present-day [2007] Australia and mid-twentieth century India, here is a haunting, layered work that brilliantly counterpoints new cityscapes and their inhabitants with the untamed, ancient continent beyond. With its atmosphere of menace and an acute sense of the unexplained in any story, it illuminates the collision of the wild and the civilised, modernity and the past, home and exile.' (Publisher's blurb)

2004 winner y separately published work icon Shanghai Dancing Brian Castro , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2003 Z1011730 2003 single work novel (taught in 5 units)

'After 40 years in Australia, António Castro packs a bag and walks out of his old life forever. The victim of a restlessness he calls "Shanghai Dancing," António seeks to understand the source of his condition in his family's wanderings. Reversing his parents' own migration, António heads back to their native Shanghai, where his world begins to fragment as his ancestry starts to flood into his present, and emissaries of glittering pre-war China, evangelical Liverpool and seventeenth-century Portugal merge into contemporary backdrops across Asia, Europe and Australia. A "fictional autobiography," Shanghai Dancing is a dazzling meditation on identity, language and disorientation that combines photographs and written images in the style of W.G. Sebald. ' (Publication summary)

2003 winner y separately published work icon Looking for Blackfellas' Point : An Australian History of Place Mark McKenna , Sydney : University of New South Wales Press , 2002 Z1035628 2002 single work non-fiction (taught in 1 units)

'Blackfellas' Point' lies on the Towamba River in south-eastern New South Wales. As the river descends rapidly from its source on the Monaro plains, it winds its way through state forest, national park and farming land. Around twenty-five kilometres before it reaches the sea, just south of Eden, it passes through Towamba, the small village in which Mark McKenna now owns eight acres of land. Mark's land looks across the river to Blackfellas' Point , once an Aboriginal camping ground and meeting place.'

Looking for Blackfellas' Point is a history that begins by looking across the river to arc of bush that is Blackfellas' Point. From there, Mark McKenna's gaze pans out - from the history of one place he knows intimately, to the history of one region and, ultimately, to the history of Australia's quest for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.'

2002 winner y separately published work icon The Lovemakers : Book One : Saying All the Great Sexy Things Alan Wearne , Ringwood : Penguin , 2001 Z795937 2001 single work novel

'Centred on Australian suburbia in the 60s, 70s and 80s The Lovemakers explores the inner and outer tensions of families, friendships and society whilst charting the sleaze, mayhem and humanity that go to make a nation's life. Taking the triangle of Barb, her husband Roger and her lover Neil for its emotional heart the work then explodes into the lives of Kevin the heroin czar, Stubbsy the entrepreneur, Gibbo the comedian and Sophie, Hannah and Carrie, three women each set on making her way in the world. Meanwhile, through a life and times consumed by melodrama and farce, money and nothing, ambles Kim Lacey — drug importer, merchant banker, a two-faced charmer forever on the approximate make.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

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