Each year, the State Premiers of Australia nominate several books across several categories for literary awards, and each of the awards are announced at different times, and have different categories. The Victorian awards were inaugurated in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.
The Victorian awards are split into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults, with one winner in each. Each winner wins $25,000 and they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. The Premier’s Award also incorporates the Unpublished Manuscript Award, won by Christian White for Decay Theory in 2017, and a biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. Both of these awards go onto contest the Victorian Literary Prize with the other five categories.
People can participate in the awards by voting for their favourite work on the shortlist, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is named alongside the general categories wins $2,000.
In 2018, none of the winners were male or identified as male. Of the five winners, four were women, and one was non-binary – Alison Evans, whose novel, Ida, won The People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were announced on the first of February.
- The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction: The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
- The Prize for Fiction: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
- The Prize for Drama: Riceby Michele Lee (Playlab)
- The Prize for Poetry: Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
- The Prize for Writing for Young Adults: Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
- People’s Choice Award: Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
Of these, I have Australia Day by Melanie Cheng on my To Be Read list, and am deciding which of the others to explore.
The above winners were chosen and voted for from the following shortlist:
- A New England Affair by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
- Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
- The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
- The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
- The Restorer by Michael Sala (Text Publishing)
- Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)
- The Museum of Words: A Memoir of Language, Writing and Mortality by Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications)
- Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing)
- The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
- For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope by Mary-Rose MacColl (Allen & Unwin)
- No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow (Scribe Publications)
- Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)
- Rice by Michele Lee (Playlab)
- Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui (Sydney Theatre Company)
- The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany (The Ensemble Theatre)
- Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
- The Metronome by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo)
- redactor by Eddie Paterson (Whitmore Press)
Writing for Young Adults
- Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
- Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
- Because of You by Pip Harry (UQP)
- No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
- Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman (Hachette)
- Atlantic Black by A.S. Patrić (Transit Lounge)
- Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun)
- They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention edited by Michael Green, André Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope (Allen & Unwin)
- I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)
- Reading for a Quiet Morning by Petra White (GloriaSMH Press)
- In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Reading up on as many of these entries as possible shows that this award strived for diversity too, and in naming four women and one non-binary author as winners, shows the importance of having these voices heard in society, but also the exemplary work these authors have achieved to have been nominated for these awards. Some of the authors on the shortlist were also nominated for the Stella Prize, and are on the 2018 Longlist, and information about this can be found on my post about the 2018 Stella Prize here.