The winners of the 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have been announced.
The Awards are the richest literary prize in the nation, with a tax-free prize pool of $600,000. In recognition of the outstanding literary talents of established and emerging Australian writers, illustrators, poets, and historians. An independent panel of judges chose the winners.
In congratulating the winners, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “These prestigious awards reflect the Government’s commitment to supporting arts and culture. They build the international reputation of Australia’s writers by sharing our stories with the world.
A total of 643 entries were received across six literary categories. Fiction, non-fiction, young adult literature, children’s literature, poetry, and Australian history.
The winners are:
Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
A young woman has arranged a holiday with her mother in Japan. All the while, they talk, or seem to talk. But uncertainties abound. With extraordinary skill, Au creates an enveloping atmosphere that expresses both the tenderness between mother and daughter, and the distance between them.
Jessica Au is a Melbourne based writer. She has worked as deputy editor at the quarterly journal Meanjin and as a fact-checker for Aeon magazine. Cold Enough for Snow has been translated into 18 languages.
My Father and Other Animals by Sam Vincent
Sam Vincent is a 20-something writer in the inner suburbs, scrabbling to make ends meet, when he gets a call from his mother. His father has stuck his hand in a woodchipper. When Sam returns to the family farm to help out, his life takes a new and unexpected direction. His memoir is about belonging, humility and regeneration – of land, family and culture.
Sam Vincent’s first book, Blood and Guts, was longlisted for the Walkley Book Award. In 2019 he won the Walkley Award for longform feature writing. He runs a cattle and fig farm in the Yass Valley, NSW.
YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE
The Greatest Thing by Sarah Winifred Searle
It’s the first day of Grade Ten, and Winifred is going to reinvent herself. In art class, she meets Oscar and April. But even though Winifred is breaking out of her shell, there’s one secret she can’t bear to admit to April and Oscar, or even to herself – and this lie threatens everything.
Sarah Winifred Searle originally hails from New England in the United States, and lives in Perth. Best known for vulnerable memoir and compassionate fiction, they write and draw comics and still like to make zines with their friends when they have time.
Open Your Heart to Country by Jasmine Seymour
Told in English and Dharug, Open Your Heart to Country is a moving account of re-connection to Country from a First Nations perspective. With exquisite illustrations and soft, lilting text, it appeals to the very young. While sharing a deeper message for older readers.
Jasmine Seymour is a Dharug woman and descendant of Maria Lock. Maria was the daughter of Yarramundi, the Boorooberongal elder who had met Governor Phillip on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. Jasmine is a primary school teacher in the Hawkesbury area of NSW.
At the Altar of Touch by Gavin Yuan Gao
From the 2020 winner of the Thomas Shapcott Award comes a sophisticated, impressive, and rich collection of poetry that unpacks the complexity of family, grief, and cross-cultural and queer identity. A scintillating and exhilarating collection from an accomplished and distinctive new voice.
Born in Beijing, Gavin Yuan Gao is a genderqueer, bilingual immigrant poet who grew up in Beijing and Brisbane. They live in Brisbane and At the Altar of Touch is their first book.
Unmaking Angas Downs by Shannyn Palmer
Unmaking Angas Downs traces a history of colonisation in Central Australia. By tracking the rise and demise of a rural enterprise across half a century, as well as the complex and creative practices that transformed a cattle station into Country.
Shannyn Palmer is a community-engaged practitioner, researcher, and writer with a PhD in History from the ANU. She’s living and working on the Ancestral lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples. While living in Mparntwe and working with Aṉangu, recording the stories that form the foundation of this book, Shannyn worked for the Aṟa Iritija Project. She travelled between seven communities in the southwest of Central Australia working with Aṉangu to develop and maintain the community-based archive.
The winner of each category receives $80,000.
The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards acknowledge the importance of Australian literature and history. As set out in the National Cultural Policy – Revive, 2023 is the first year that the Awards have been managed by Creative Australia. Reflecting the Australian Government’s commitment to supporting Australian literature and the role it plays in connecting Australians to our culture, history, and values.
The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were established in 2008 to recognise individual excellence and the contribution Australian authors make to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life. Initially with two categories of non-fiction and fiction, in 2010 the young adult and children’s literature categories were introduced. With the addition of the Poetry category in 2012 and the incorporation of the pre-existing Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History.
The Award shortlistees, previously announced on 25 October, will each receive a prize of $5,000.
For more information on the Awards, including this year’s shortlists, winners, and judging panel comments, please visit: Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.