Anita Heiss and five other women win NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2022

This year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards presented six female writer awards, spanning a range of categories including the Indigenous Writers Award, People’s Choice Award and the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing.

The total prize of $295,000 makes the prize the highest-grossing state-funded literary prize in Australia. This year, a total of 30 judges assessed 746 entries across all categories – its highest number ever.

Anita Heiss won the Indigenous Writers Award ($30,000) for her book Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: the river of dreamsa 19th century drama set in the land of Wiradyuri.

the the judges said that Heiss “…brings a human dimension to 19th century history through the romantic tenderness between Wagadhaany and Yindyamarra.”

“Caring for one another and being one with the country forms the ethical foundation of this novel, and Heiss’ own love for his Wiradyuri people and his country shines through.”

“Bila’s language and tone are not complex, but the author weaves together the narrative and dialogue so that the worlds of bilingual communication perfectly illustrate the complexity of the challenges that members of the Wiradyuri Nation overcome.”

Chloe Wilson won the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5,000) with her short story collection, Hold your fire.

the the judges congratulated Wilson on the books’ “sharp and funny” stories, “…with confronting twists of a sometimes malevolent zeitgeist.”

“The stories of Hold your fire are as immediate as urban myths and as desirable as the best gossip: about fecal transplants, bat bites, leopards on the loose and body parts washed up on beaches,” they say.

“Chloe Wilson navigates with panache in the abyss between social appearance and private thought. From a vantage point inside his characters’ heads, readers are treated to unforgiving perceptions (of bodies, patterns, and truthfulness) and often wild glimpses into the worlds of art, sport, law, medicine or well-being evoked by his stories.

“This work touches the dark heart of contemporary existence and introduces a dazzling new voice to Australian fiction.”

The Audience Award went to Closures by Katherine Brabon, a novel that follows the journey of a white Australian through Japan.

The novel is a “lyrically and quietly compelling exploration of the tensions between inwardness and conformity through the Japanese concept of achiragawa, or ‘the other side'”, the judges praised.

“A disturbing and fascinating work…which elegantly frames three stories of ordinary Japanese drawn, like her, to this surreal and dreamlike space that manifests itself in a rejection of contemporary societal or family pressures and relationships.”

Closures offers lively virtuosity and subtle realism to interrogate the substrates of youthful alienation as a form of freedom and action.

Writer Kate Holden won the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction ($40,000) for her sensational expose of the murder of environmental worker Glen Turner, The Winter Road: A Story of Legacy, Land and a Murder at Croppa Creek.

This “assured and accomplished book” sees its author “…animating multiple perspectives on land, property, and legal issues in a surprising, compelling, and timely way,” the the judges said.

“This is a virtuoso work of narrative non-fiction, a book that makes room for the complexity, contradictions and ugliness of Australian colonization.”

“Holden’s deeply researched book leaves behind the clichés of the bush to produce a multi-faceted account of life in regional Australia. And at a time when regional Australia is much discussed and little understood, The winter road makes an essential contribution to the public sphere.

The Ethel Turner Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000) was awarded to Leanne Hall, for her novel, The holes.

“Leanne Hall immerses the reader in their world – their anxieties, their collective grief and their creative ambitions – and the result is a novel that not only feels authentic and lived in, but unique to this moment”, the judges said.

“The novel is deeply concerned with race, gender, and privilege, and Hall’s deft touch keeps The holes to never be didactic.

“The alternate narrators, scholarship student Chloe and queen bee Natalia, provide Hall with different vantage points from which to explore the young woman.”

“The holes maintains a propulsive rhythm. There is beauty and economy in Hall’s use of language. Vivid images are painted with few words. It’s a finished work that lingers with readers long after it’s finished.

Kirsty Marillier won the Nick Enright Award for Playwriting ($30,000) for her coming-of-age play, orange launcherwhich was performed at the Griffin Theater Company and the National Theater in Parramatta earlier this year.

The “vital and deeply awe-inspiring piece of playwriting”, according to the judgesis set in the fictional, sunny suburb of Paradise, where a teenage girl deals with a new crush, strange neighbors and a mysterious person who throws oranges at her house every night.

“The characters are full of life and the plot is precise,” the judges said.

“On the one hand, this is a simple suburban coming-of-age story. But the play bounces off that familiar territory to give us a thoroughly original story with characters that are engagingly idiosyncratic in a landscape unfamiliar to the Australian stage.

“The play offers us comedy and mystery, budding sexuality and unrequited love, all wrapped up in what is truly a loving tribute to the power and perseverance of South African women.”

“The play stands out for its thrilling transformation from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and its urgent, shrewd and magical examination of the self in the world. The piece is full of life and insight. It is a major achievement. »

Other winners include Safdar Ahmed’s Still Alive: Notes from the Australian Immigration Detention System, which won Book of the Year ($10,000) and NSW Multicultural Award ($20,000), Tony Birch’s Dark like last night for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000).

Dan Disney’s collection of poetry accelerations & inertias, for Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000) and Peter Carnavas My brother Ben, who won Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000).

The Betty Roland Award for Screenwriting ($30,000) was also won by Shaun Grant’s movie NITRAM. Grant is best known for directing the explosive Australian horror film, Snow town.

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