Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 22, 2022

2022 Barbara Jefferis Award shortlist

The 2022 Barbara Jefferis Award shortlist was announced today, along with three novels that were highly commended.  The nominees are:

  • Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down (Text Publishing)
  • Ordinary Matter by Laura Elvery (University of Queensland Press)
  • Benevolence by Julie Janson (Magabala Books), see my review
  • Revenge: Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim (Transit Lounge), see my review
  • Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan (Brio Books)
  • The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (Penguin Random House Australia)

The highly commended titles include:

  • She is Haunted by Paige Clark (Allen & Unwin)
  • A Million Things by Emily Spurr (Text Publishing)
  • The Performance by Claire Thomas (Hachette Australia), see my review

Funded by a bequest in memory of author Barbara Jefferis, this award is made biennially for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society”. 

At the ASA website you can read the judges comments about the award in general and the books in particular, but of interest is that they also noted the scarcity of work submitted by authors who identify as men.

They suggested that “This might genuinely represent the number of Australian men writing novels in which women and girls are depicted positively, or merely be a reflection of their publishers’ judgement as to their likelihood of winning.”  Or, it might be that identity politics has led to male authors vacating the field. When I think of books like the late Frank Moorhouse’s brilliant Edith Trilogy, it would be a pity if that is the case.

The winner of the 2022 Barbara Jefferis Award will be announced on Thursday 22 September 2022. The winner will receive $50,000, and shortlisted authors receive $1000 each.

The winner of the 2020 Barbara Jefferis Award was Lucy Treloar’s wonderful novel Wolfe Island, (see my review). ( I am looking forward to hearing Lucy speak at the upcoming Port Fairy Literary Weekend.)

For more information about the Barbara Jefferis Award, visit:

Update: In the light of discussion in the comments below, here’s my own personal list of books from 2020-2021 which represent women in a positive way:

NB I excluded from my list, the ones in the judges shortlist.  Thinking about which of  I’d have shortlisted or made the winner raises a conundrum.  For this prize, should the book have the most positive portrayal of women, or should it be the ‘best’ book, the most memorable and/or the most original?  In the end, the winner of all these was a toss-up between Sincerely, Ethel Malley and The Tolstoy Estate.  Both have memorable women characters and are excellent reading too.  You can make what you will of the fact that both are by male authors!

Image credit: bookstack:


  1. I hope there are men still out there writing stories that feature women in a positive way. Off the top of my head I can think of Robbie Arnott who writes strong, interesting female characters.

    Thanks for the Edith shout out too :-)


    • Yes, he does too.
      And what about those women in Robert Lukins’ Loveland?!
      I did wonder, depending on how we might interpret what the judges said, do they mean that they didn’t have entries, or did they have entries that the author/publisher thought portrayed women in a positive light, but the judges thought they didn’t?


      • Sounds to me that they didn’t have entries?


        • I don’t know what it costs to enter this award, but with a prize of $50,000 you’d think that they’d get a lot of entries…


          • You would … but I’m trying to think whether they didn’t get the entries because, as we’ve posited, they weren’t there to enter. I haven’t read enough recent Aussie literature to know.


            • LOL As you knew it would (!) …
              This prompted me to make my own list of books from 2020-2021 that portrayed women in a positive way…


              • And how have you gone? Did you do only Aussie male writers or go broader? Are you going to post them?


                • I’ve added them above, in my post…


  2. My first thought is that the own-stories movement might have put men off, as you also suggest, which I think is a shame too.


    • An interesting synchronicity with what you and I have been discussing vis-a-vis the Emma Viskic book!


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