Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 27, 2016

Josephine Wilson wins the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award

I don’t usually pass on press releases but this award owes its existence to unfortunate events, and in keeping with the Bolshie nature of Dorothy Hewett after whom the award is named, I’m going to be Bolshie enough to discuss them.

UWA Publishing, in partnership with Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) and ABC 720 Perth established the Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript, in response to this year’s cuts to the WA Premier’s Book Awards.  The money to make up for the loss of $65,000 per annum has come from the arts community itself.  UWAP is not a large corporate publisher; the ABC in Perth is as cash-strapped as the ABC anywhere; and the money from CAL is money that would otherwise have gone to Australian authors as payment for their works that have been photocopied.  This is money hard come by.  That the money for this award has had to be cobbled together in this way (and through CAL and the ABC, indirectly from other States of Australia) seems especially galling when we consider the mining money that WA has reaped over the years of the boom (and how they postured about having to share a little bit of that wealth with small impoverished States like Tasmania).

So while we congratulate the winner Josephine Wilson and look forward to reading her book, Extinctions, it’s important to remember that the arts are an easy target for redneck politicians and bean-counters in the Public Service, and that those of us who live in States where Premier’s Book Awards survive untouched should ensure that their leaders know that these awards are valued.  This is especially important if you live in a marginal seat. (If you didn’t know that your communications to politicians are sorted by postcode/electorate, you do now.  BTW politicians also know that someone who takes the trouble to write a letter or actually go and see them, cares a lot more (i.e. might change voting intentions) than someone who ‘likes’ a social media campaign or signs an online petition).

It’s a nice move to name the award after Dorothy Hewett.  As it says on the award website:

The aim of the Dorothy Hewett Award is to support literary talent both in and related to Western Australia, and to celebrate the life and writing of a stalwart Australian radical. The award will be an annual fixture designed to be a catalyst for writers beginning or furthering their professional writing careers.

Hewett (1923-2002) is considered one of Australia’s leading writers whose work captures and disrupts ideas of normalcy in twentieth century Australian culture. As a staunch feminist and, for a long time, communist, Hewett gave voice to the marginalised. In 1986 Dorothy Hewett was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to literature. It is important to note that Hewett won the Western Australian Premier’s Poetry Award in 1994 and 1995 for her collections Peninsula and Collected Poems: 1940-1995.

The Dorothy Hewett Award is open to all writers who have completed a manuscript and are seeking publication. The work must be fiction, narrative nonfiction or poetry, inclusive of hybrid genres such as verse novels or memoirs. The winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000, courtesy of Copyright Agency Limited, and will be offered a publishing contract by UWA Publishing. The award will be announced at a special event at the Perth Writers Festival 2016.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s UWAP’s Press Release:

UWA Publishing is delighted to announce Josephine Wilson’s manuscript ‘Extinctions’ is the winner of the inaugural $10,000 Dorothy Hewett Award. The award was presented at a ceremony held as part of the Perth Writers Festival on Saturday 20th February.

The judges, Publishing Director of UWA Publishing Terri-ann White, poet and niece of Dorothy Hewett, Dr Lucy Dougan, and author and RMIT academic David Carlin, praised Wilson’s novel for its, “strong, complex sense of Perth” and called it, “funny throughout in a wry, as well as an absurd laugh-out-loud way.” The judges’ report stated, “it was the strongest entry and one that continued to occupy the minds of each reader.” ‘Extinctions’ was one of 136 entries that arrived at UWA Publishing following the announcement of the Dorothy Hewett Award late last year.

UWA Publishing thanks The Copyright Agency Limited and 720 ABC Perth for their support. Extinctions is due for release late 2016.

Click here to read more about the award.

CuspJosephine Wilson’s author bio is on the UWAP website and there’s a link to where you can buy her novel Cusp (2005).

I look forward to reading the inaugural winner’s book!


  1. sorry comment decided to send itself. I didn’t know the WA Premier’s Award had experienced such cuts, although I’m not surprised. As well as being in the arts, I have a disability and that sector’s been hit hard as well. Thanks for the tip on the local members.I do live in a very unsafe seat so I will get those letters pumping!


    • Hello, and thank you for your comment:)
      Unsafe seats are excellent places to have an impact, so all the best for getting your voice heard!


  2. Well said Lisa. I heard on the radio the other day that each person who writes a letter is said to stand for x (forgotten the actual no!) number of people, so if several people write the value of that letter increases dramatically. I really should write more letters. It’s not hard is it!

    Queensland, and now WA, it’s a worry, and shows just how politically vulnerable culture and the arts are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sue, yes, I’ve heard that too, though the value of the letter depends a bit on the electorate. The Victorian ALP fighting the Greens for the balance of power in inner Melbourne can’t afford to lose a single vote in an gentrified arts-loving electorate. So, our Premier’s Lit Award goes from strength to strength here in Victoria!
      Whereas in Queensland that ridiculous landslide gave carte blanche to the Newman slash-and-burn government, and what was worse, only the authors seemed to care. That attitude did almost as much to harm Qld’s reputation as the cuts did, IMO.


      • Yes, very true about the electorate. As a generally Labor voting city we tend not to get a lot of attention for anything here in Canberra – or so it seems to me. The cultural institutions are having a really tough time, with more cuts announced last week.


        • Yes, I saw that. Trove looks like a victim. Hopefully all the family history buffs will kick up a ruckus.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Not just family history, too – all the researchers. I know historical fiction writers and biographers who use Trove extensively too. It’s a magnificent resource, particularly the newspaper digitisation component (of course)


            • Oh I know, but the government won’t take any notice of them. They all live in inner city ALP or Green strongholds. But mum-and-dad amateur sleuths somewhere out there in the aspirational suburbs? If enough of them make their presence felt, that will make a difference.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Lisa. The government here (in WA) is panicking about paying for all the grandiose projects it has entered into on the basis of mining royalties it is no longer receiving. The arts rank very low on their list of priorities.


    • Well, I always been quite fond of WA because my son lived there for three years and I got to know it quite well, but I have to say that from this side of the Nullarbor this meanness does look a bit shabby.


  4. That’s a good point about letter writing. I write to my local MP all the time (mainly about traffic problems for cyclists and pedestrians) and he always writes back. They’re not form letters either; they’re proper ones where he’s taken the time to consider the issues I’ve raised and he often puts me in touch with other people who know more than he does who could help. Your post has made me realise why he’s so good at responding to complaints: I live in a marginal seat!

    I have to admit the whole mining boom angers me: a few people / corporations got rich on resources that “belonged” to the nation and should have been shared as such (as Norway shares its oil wealth with all its citizens). That WA now has to cobble together funding for a literary prize in this way is shameful (and laughable). There’s so much lit talent coming out of WA, too. They’d be wise to invest in that instead of making cuts, but I guess no one looks beyond the end of their nose these days!


    • Good for you, Kim, I think people who are activists over any issue contribute to making society a better place. It’s the ones who whinge and say that they despise politicians and that they’re disengaged from politics who make me cross.
      I couldn’t agree more about the way the mining boom was wasted in this country, and with what you say about WA writers. They deserve a better deal.


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