Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 26, 2020

2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards winners

Thanks to Jonathan from Me Fail? I Fly for the news about the winners of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.  (Just as well, IMO, that it was a virtual event or there might have been some polite hissing at the Premier, given the government’s shameful treatment of the Arts sector in the present crisis.  It can’t be a coincidence that The Guardian published this article about the extent of the disaster to hit the Australian books industry.)

With a win that will please everyone who’s read the book, Tara June Winch won the Book of the Year, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the People’s Choice Award for The Yield.

Here are the category winners from the shortlists, in bold.

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)

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).

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

Congratulations to all the authors, editors and publishers!


  1. I even had this event in my calendar to make sure I watched it, but, with so little going on these days I don’t always check my calendar – haha! (Actually yesterday was busy, as I cooked all morning for my parents who were coming around, and then hosted a reading group Zoom practice in the late afternoon which rather exhausted me!) Anyhow, it meant Jonathan’s announcement was the first I heard of the results too. Thrilled to see Winch win those three prizes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds as if I was right to back off on Zoom…I mustered the energy to learn Skype for French, and then there were proposals to replace it with Zoom, and the Indonesian book group wants to do Zoom as well…
      But I felt as if I’ve had enough of learning new things, from ordering groceries, fruit and veg, nice bread on three different websites, plus having to set up accounts to buy basic things like face washers. I just want to get on with what I want to do, not spend my time downloading stuff and learning to use it…
      Jonathan is a legend! And yes, delighted to see Winch win, and also S L Lim. Barry from Transit Lounge is sending me her new novel soon, she’s such an interesting thinker, I’m looking forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We tried Skype for reading group at my behest but it doesn’t handle multiple people as neatly as Zoom. I guess having had family scattered for many years I’ve been used to Skype and now FaceTime so Zoom is not too big a step. The Zoom challenge was as much about getting everyone on but also about understanding my role as host. It is tiring! We do a lot of online ordering here – so this time hasn’t been tricky really. But we are doing our own shopping – using quiet IGAs mostly.


  2. I too am over this online stuff but it looks as if it might be the new normal. Very boring and tiring. Yuk. Good about the wins for Winch.


    • It had better not be the new normal for long. I like to choose fresh produce, I like to decide what quantities I need, and I like to be able to return faulty goods to where I bought it from! And of course, I like to browse in bookshops!!


      • For this reason we are still doing our own grocery shopping. It’s allowed and we feel we can do it pretty safely. The risk is very low here. The stores pretty well all now have perspex windows between them and the cashier, the baskets are cleaned after every use, etc. I’m conscious that it’s a risk, but so is it a risk having others handle and deliver food. And, you don’t see what practices they are following?

        But, we can’t browse in bookshops!


        • According to Norman Swan on Coronacast (my authoritative source for all advice) food deliveries aren’t a risk if you wipe everything down with hot water and detergent before you put it away.


          • Now I know why your life is full of boring jobs😄 Seriously, I did hear him say that but it’s not something I can imagine doing with every piece of fruit and vegetable that came in the door. But we all have to decide on the risk level we are prepared to or are able to take dont we.

            Liked by 1 person

        • All the bookshops in Fremantle have been open throughout the whole shutdown because they don’t have an online ordering facility. You can ring up and they’ll deliver by bike for free, but I’ve been making a point of visiting a bookshop once a week and buying something.


          • I think many of ours are open – but the independent story closest to me, for example, you can only go to the entrance and they’ll get the book for you. They also do online orders and delivery.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, ours are doing deliveries, but even readings is advising that there are delays if you want anything from overseas…

              Liked by 1 person

              • I have to tell my lovely Readings story. I decided to send books to our Melbourne family for Easter – three books to my son’s family, and one to my daughter. I ordered them from Readings on Sunday night and all items were in stock, so I assumed they’d be delivered by the Thursday (before Good Friday.) Through a discussion with them over a changed credit card issue about the order for the three books, I discovered that they might not get there in time. I expressed disappointment but wasn’t cross because I realised the predicament they were in.

                However, on Thursday morning they emailed me to say that the order had been processed and that X would deliver them to my son on her way home to her own suburb of Y! I replied with thanks, and mentioned in passing that I had another order in the mill for my daughter who actually lived in Y (but that I wasn’t hinting for delivery because we had in fact sent her another gift that she’d already received, so I wasn’t so concerned about her.) However, my daughter told me that there was a knock at the door at her place that evening and there was X with her two poodles, and the book. She lived around the corner. To say I was impressed is an understatement! I visit Readings pretty well every time we go to Melbourne, because we usually have a Nova movie outing with my daughter.


  3. I refuse to use Zoom. At work we use Microsoft Teams, which is similiar, but I’m so anti-social I only click onto that once a week for our weekly team catch up.

    As for Tara June Winch winning these prizes, that is wonderful news. Still haven’t read her book… it’s been sitting in my TBR since the early days of its release… but I will get to it eventually.


    • I tried so hard not to use Zoom but every which way I turned there were issues eg Skype has a Meet Now function but it’s only available for Chrome or Edge browsers, neither of which I use or want to use. In the end I had to gracefully succumb to the majority. My daughter’s company uses Zoom for webinars, and Google Hangouts for team meetings. I considered the latter, but I think you can’t have more than 10 visible and we are 12 in my reading group. It’s a nightmare!


      • I don’t mind skipping a book group meeting or two, especially at the moment when I really do need to read books with large fonts, and French is working fine with Skype because there’s only 6 of us. I think they’re going to try Zoom for French book group but I dislike the book so much I don’t care if I miss it anyway. The rate I’m going I won’t be finished anyhow, and if I skip the group, I can abandon it!


        • We are doing Too much lip tomorrow night. No way would I miss that. And next month, Favel Parrett’s book. I wouldn’t miss that either. Our June book is one I wouldn’t miss either. So, we just have to do the best we can. I LOVE my group. Such a great bunch of women. So, I just have to cope as best I can unfortunately.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, I am not alone!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Like you I am sick of learning new techie things every 5 minutes. It’s bad enough at work where I have to manage — and this is no exaggeration — 40+ different platforms, all with different passwords, functionality & uses. And just when I think I’ve learned learned them all, I’ll discover something else I should know about that I was never informed of, or our company introduce a new system. It honestly makes my brain hurt. I wish we had one dashboard to do multiple things, but no, we’ve got to log into 60-trillion different accounts and be expected to know how to use them by training ourselves 😡🙄🤷🏻‍♀️


        • What a pain! It seems a bit inefficient too.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It is. Whenever my boss tells me about some new techie thing I need to know / access / manage I just send him this gif

            It has now become a bit of a running joke.


            • Haha that’s good. I must say I think we have taken this issue of choice too far. Too many platforms, too many apps, and not enough standardisation. It’s so hard helping nonagenarians use devices – and troubleshooting them in particular – when there’s no standardisation.


              • Yes, remember when we thought it was too hard to choose between Beta and VHS? We didn’t know what was coming!

                Liked by 1 person

                • Haha, Lisa – good one!


                • Quite. But that’s capitalism for you… all these companies and start-ups trying to invent the next big thing, but instead of unifying the market it just keeps fragmenting it further and further.

                  Liked by 1 person

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