Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 5, 2017

2017 Queensland Literary Awards

I admit it, I wish these awards were still called the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards – a name that conferred a certain gravitas, and signalled that the award was part of a national network of literary awards, defining Australia as a country which values books and writing.  Queensland could do with being a bit less miserly too: most of these awards are only worth $10,000, which isn’t enough to give an author much time off from the day job to write.  To put this in context, similar Victorian Premier’s Lit Award winners get $25,000 each at a cost to the tax payer for the prize pool of about $225,000, which is a very small amount in a state budget.  Well done, I say, to those who worked so hard to rescue these awards from oblivion under the Campbell Newman government, but the view from here is that Queensland still doesn’t value books and writing much and isn’t prepared to support its writers with meaningful money.

Anyway, whatever they’re called and whatever the prize is worth, the awards were announced last night and nothing should detract from the recognition that these books and the shortlisted books deserve:

The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award

  • The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley (Affirm Press), see my review

The University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award

  • Saltwater by Cathy McLennan (UQP)

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award

  • The Circle and the Equator by Kyra Giorgi (UWA Publishing)

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

  • Fragments by Antigone Kefala (Giramondo)

QUT Digital Literature Award

  • Nine Billion Branches by Jason Nelson

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award

  • Mirrored Pieces by Lisa Fuller

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award

  • The Killing of Louisa by Janet Lee

Queensland Writers Fellowships

  • Zenobia Frost for Museum of Dwellings
  • Linda Neil for People are Kind
  • Mirandi Riwoe for A Gold Mountain Woman

The Courier Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award

Winner: Saltwater by Cathy McLennan (UQP)

Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards

  • Lech Blaine
  • Mindy Gill

Griffith University Children’s Book Award

  • The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler by Lisa Shanahan (Allen & Unwin)

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award

  • Words in Deep Blue  by Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan)

Congratulations to all the authors, editors and publishers!


  1. Thanks Lisa. The winner of the Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance is one of my colleagues (and friends) from the ACT Writers Centre HardCopy program. Very proud of him. I’m also feeling a bit smug because I reviewed his book, The Daintree Blockade.


    • Ta muchly for the link, I shall add it straight away!


  2. On the poetry award, I have read Antigone Kefala’s “Fragments” and it is a beautiful, muted, subtle collection. The reason I haven’t published a review is I am awaiting her replies to an interview, which she has kindly agreed to do. So stay tuned for the poet talking about that very book, hopefully soon.


    • Ah, that reminds me, you have a new interview up at yours. I saw it yesterday but *shudder* yesterday was the day The Offspring came to upgrade my desktop to Windows 10 and the day passed in a blur of reinstallations of programs and trying to remember passwords to get back into this, that and the other.
      Nothing to do with books and writing, but for years and years I have tracked my finances using a program called Quicken, but I can’t reinstall it, I now have to buy an annual licence for $150. As if! That works out to $3 weekly just to track how I’ve spent my money. Already we pay $450+ for the annual licence for Quick Books for The Spouse’s business stuff. (Lucky me, I get to do the books). The Offspring tells me that this is the way of the future, the plan is to pay an annual licence fee for the MS Office Suite as well and all the other things we all use regularly. So add it all up and it’s just not going to be pretty!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is the way of the future, unfortunately, small licence fees here and there adding up to a fortune. Back to pen and paper?


        • Well, there are free things around: there’s Open Office, for example, but it can mean a loss of interchangeability. For example, I proof read docs (with tracking turned on) for The Spouse, so – like writers sharing work with each other for feedback? – we both need not only the same software as each other but also with whoever he’s writing the document for. Every time Microsoft bring out a new version of MS word, we have all kinds of layout issues with tables and whatnot, because some in the chain have the new version and others don’t.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s just so Queensland that they have an award named after Steele Rudd but not one named after Thea Astley.


    • Ooh yeah! I remember one year we chose an Astley for the online ANZ LitLovers book group I co-founded, and yikes, #duckforcover, one member was outraged at Astley’s depiction of the Great State of Queensland.


  4. Looking on the bright side I suppose one can hope that getting one of the awards translates into additional exposure and sales for the author.


    • Yes, it does. But the thing is, because we have such a very small local market – there’s only 24 million of us, and not all of those are readers, and not all of the readers are readers of literary fiction – it’s very difficult for an author to generate enough sales to give them an income to live on. That means full or part time work to feed the family and pay the rent and thus not much time for writing, so a decent prize can mean the difference between having time to write or research, or not. Especially since there have been major cuts in Australia Council grants which used to offer grants to writers to help out.


      • I didn’t know about the cuts to the grant programme. so sad when a country doesn’t see that it’s the mark of a civilised society to have a healthy and vibrant cultural dimension


        • Well, in general, with differences of degree and detail both sides of politics agree that market forces will generally sort things out and that government intervention is only needed when it doesn’t. The thing is that the current mob doesn’t recognise that it’s not an even playing field for Australian writers. It isn’t even an even playing field within Australia because small indie publishers can’t afford to publicise books the way the big ones do, they can’t afford to send their writers around this huge country of ours on blog tours or sponsor gigs at literary festivals – they can’t even afford to enter books for prizes even though there is a fair consensus that the indies publish the most interesting books and the big publishers play safe. This is where the work we do as bloggers is invaluable – we publicise books to an audience that can’t be bought, an audience of people who love books and reading so much that they subscribe to blogs about them and seek out reviews for new books to read.


          • There was a good article I saw recently from the owner of an indie company who disclosed the costs of entering awards. His entire promotional budget for the year would have been taken up by entering just one book for one award. I had no idea the price of entry was so high – it does make the playing field very unfair.


            • Yes. I had always assumed that the costs of these awards were covered by their sponsors, but it’s not so.


  5. Now, you know how I love to play devil’s advocate Lisa! I was thinking about your opening comment. I agree that now the awards are back sponsored by the government, it would be good if the prize money were greater. (I haven’t checked how much all the other state awards pay. WA is now biennial so whatever it pays is only done every two years.)

    But the issue of the name? Perhaps it might be better to remove Premier from all the others rather than add it to Queensland’s, given the occasional suggestion (particularly with the PM award) of political interference. Maybe a little separation in name would not be a bad thing? (Though I suppose doing that could hide interference!!) Just wondering out loud.


    • Ha! WA is crying poor about everything and Tassie is genuinely hard up so we can’t use them as a benchmark, but Qld should be able to be shamed into doing better.
      But I think it would be better to build independence into the awards than tinker with the names, the link to a premier lends prestige IMO.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: