Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 20, 2020

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 shortlists

Thanks to Brona from Brona’s Books and Books and Publishing for the heads-up…

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 shortlists announced

The shortlists for the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced.

The shortlisted titles in each category are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000) 

Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)

  • Growing Up African in Australia (ed by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Black Inc.), see my review
  • Room for a Stranger (Melanie Cheng, Text), see my review
  • White Tears/Brown Scars (Ruby Hamad, MUP)
  • Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia (Samia Khatun, UQP)
  • The Pillars (Peter Polites, Hachette)
  • The Lost Arabs (Omar Sakr, UQP)

NSW Premier’s Prize for Indigenous writing (biennial award of $30,000)

  • Alfred’s War (Rachel Bin Salleh, illus by Samantha Fry, Magabala)
  • The White Girl (Tony Birch, UQP), see my review
  • Too Much Lip (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP), see my review

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5000)

  • Lucky Ticket (Joey Bui, Text)
  • Dolores (Lauren Aimee Curtis, W&N)
  • An-Tan-Tiri Mogodan: Short stories (Florina Enache, Adelaide Books)
  • The House of Youssef (Yumna Kassab, Giramondo), see Kim’s review at Reading Matters.
  • Little Stones (Elizabeth Kuiper, UQP), see my review
  • Real Differences (S L Lim, Transit Lounge), see my review

Douglas Stewart Prize for Nonfiction ($40,000)

  • The Seventies (Michelle Arrow, NewSouth)
  • The Enchantment of the Long-haired Rat: A rodent history of Australia (Tim Bonyhady, Text)
  • Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the future (Alice Gorman, NewSouth)
  • Australianama: The South Asian odyssey in Australia (Samia Khatun UQP)
  • Tiberius with a Telephone: The life and stories of William McMahon (Patrick Mullins, Scribe)
  • The World Was Whole (Fiona Wright, Giramondo), see Jonathan’s review at Me Fail? I Fly

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000) 

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)

  • Detention (Tristan Bancks, Puffin)
  • One Tree (Bruce Whatley, illus by Christopher Cheng, Puffin)
  • Catch a Falling Star (Meg McKinlay, Walker)
  • Wilam: A Birrarung Story (Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly, illus by Lisa Kennedy, Black Dog Books)
  • Young Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
  • Ella and the Ocean (Lian Tanner illus by Jonathan Bentley, A&U)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young Adult’s Literature ($30,000)

  • How it Feels to Float (Helena Fox, Pan)
  • Lenny’s Book of Everything (Karen Foxlee, A&U)
  • The Little Wave (Pip Harry, UQP)
  • It Sounded Better in My Head (Nina Kenwood, Text)
  • This Is How We Change the Ending (Vikki Wakefield, Text)
  • Impossible Music (Sean Williams, A&U)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)

  • ‘Banging Denmark’ (Van Badham, Sydney Theatre Company)
  • ‘The Feather in the Web’ (Nick Coyle, Griffin Theatre Company)
  • ‘The Mares’ (Kate Mulvany, Tasmanian Theatre Company)
  • ‘THEM’ (Samah Sabawi and Lara Week, in collaboration with La Mama Courthouse)
  • ‘Counting and Cracking’ (S Shakthidharan and associate writer Eamon Flack, Belvoir and Co-curious), see Jonathan’s thoughts at his Reading/Watching Diary
  • ‘City of Gold’ (Meyne Wyatt, Queensland Theatre) 

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000) 

  • On the Ropes episode 1 (Tamara Asmar, Lingo Pictures)
  • Missing (Kylie Bolton, SBS)
  • H is for Happiness (Lisa Hoppe, Happiness Film Productions)
  • The Cry episode 2 (Jacqueline Peske, Synchronicity Films)
  • Buoyancy (Rodd Rathjen, Causeway Films).

The winners will be announced on 29 April. Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open now.

For more information on the awards, see the State Library of NSW website.

Congratulations to all the authors, editors and publishers!


  1. Well done for reading all the fiction books Lisa. I will have reviewed three soon! Am working on my review of The yield now.


  2. Reblogged this on Tasmanian Bibliophile @Large and commented:
    I have read some of these. Some great books here!


  3. Interesting mix for fiction (and a gold star to you for having read them all!). These lists highlight how difficult the judges have it – not sure how you compare something like Exploded View (which I thought was impressively and creatively written) with Electric Hotel (which I didn’t get much out of for a range of reasons).


    • Yes, it’s a bit of a something-for-everyone kind of list. I am mildly uneasy about Dominic Smith being included. Like Peter Carey he’s lived overseas now for donkey’s years but whereas Carey comes home regularly and still writes with an Australian sensibility and themes that matter to Australians, that’s not really true of Smith, and his topics have nothing to do with Australia. And while I don’t think that the primary purpose of awards is to supplement authors’ incomes, it seems a little unfair to include writing that’s not really ‘Australian’ writing.


      • Haha, but you know early on in the novel Claude does go to Australia with the new technology (as indeed the actual Lumiere Brothers did!) I understand your mild unease though.

        BTW I haven’t read this prize’s conditions of entry but they clearly don’t require residence. I seem to recollect that the Miles Franklin doesn’t require residence but just that Australian focus criterion, which is why Matthew Kneale was able to be shortlisted for his The English passengers?


        • Yes, that’s right, it’s also why Peter Carey was eligible with his last one.
          The English Passengers, that was a while ago, wasn’t it?!

          Liked by 1 person

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