Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlists 2016


Earlier in the week the shortlists for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced. The Awards were established by the, then, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007, shortly after the election with the first winners announced in 2008. The award is to “recognise individual excellence and the contribution Australian authors make to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life.” For the first two years the awards were given in Fiction and non-Fiction categories, in 2010 young adult and children’s fiction categories were added and in 2012 the addition of the poetry category and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History were incorporated into the awards.

The judging panels, made up of twelve “experts”, recommend shortlists and winners across each of the categories, with the Prime Minister of Australia making the final decisions. In fact in 2014 the, then, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, overruled the judge’s decision to award the Fiction Prize to Steven Carroll for “A World of Other People” and announce joint winners, sharing the award between Carroll and Richard Flanagan for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”. At the time this was highly controversial as Flanagan had been an outspoken critic of the Abbott Government.

The prize pool of $80,000 (tax free) for each winner of each category and $5,000 (tax free) each for shortlisted work is surely an amount sought by every writer, again Flanagan taking the limelight in 2014 by donating half of his prizemoney to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, stating that although he is not wealthy and had a mortgage, he recalled his father’s advice: “Money is like shit. If you pile it up, it stinks; if you spread it around, you may grow something.”

Let’s see if the 2016 winners, announced “later this year” (thanks for that clarification Arts Department), will make controversial or amusing statements in their winning speeches.


Forever Young by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins Publishers) Lisa Hill’s Review

The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton (Giramondo) Lisa Hill’s Review

The World Repair Video Game by David Ireland AM (Island Magazine Inc.)

Quicksand by Steve Toltz (Penguin) Lisa Hill’s Review

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin) Lisa Hill’s Review (with links to numerous other reviews) –  my review here


Net Needle by Robert Adamson (Black Inc.)

Cocky’s Joy by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)

The Hazards by Sarah Holland-Batt (University of Queensland Press) – my review here

Waiting for the Past by Les Murray AO (Black Inc.)

The Ladder by Simon West (Puncher & Wattmann)


Tom Roberts and the Art of Portraiture by Julie Cotter (Thames & Hudson)

On Stalin’s Team: the Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics by Sheila Fitzpatrick (Melbourne University Press)

Thea Astley: Inventing her own Weather by Karen Lamb (University of Queensland Press)

Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska (Penguin Random House Australia)

Island Home by Tim Winton (Penguin)

Prize for Australian History

The Story of Australia’s People. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Australia by Geoffrey Blainey AO (Penguin)

Let My People Go: the Untold Story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959–89 by Sam Lipski and Suzanne D Rutland (Hybrid Publishers)

Red Professor: the Cold War Life of Fred Rose by Peter Monteath and Valerie Munt (Wakefield Press)

Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life by Doug Morrissey (Connor Court Publishing)

The War with Germany: Volume III—The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War by Robert Stevenson (Oxford University Press)

Young Adult fiction

Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison (Magabala Books)

Illuminae: The Illuminae Files _01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia)

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing)

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson (Allen & Unwin)

Children’s fiction

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst (Allen & Unwin)

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press)

Perfect by Danny Parker and illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Hardie Grant Egmont)

The Greatest Gatsby : A Visual Book of Grammar by Tohby Riddle (Penguin Random House Australia)

Mr Huff by Anna Walker (Penguin Random House Australia)


As per last year, I will read and review all of the Poetry shortlist (time permitting), with all titles ordered, excluding Sarah Holland-Batt’s “The Hazards”, which I have already read and reviewed.

I have linked reviews to Lisa Hill’s ANZ LitLovers Blog for the Fiction titles as she has covered nearly every title – excluding the limited edition “The World Repair Video Game”


3 thoughts on “Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlists 2016

  1. I hadn’t heard of that controversy from a few years back. Whats the point in setting up judges only to over rule them? How did the PM justify his action – did the judges all resign in protest?


    • No resignations, no protests. Apparently they don’t “judge” but recommend & the PM can over rule – my understanding is it has only been done once & the “judges” didn’t even know he was going to split the award until the presentation itself. He had read the book, which is a start!

      Liked by 1 person

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