Australian Centre and Faculty of Arts Literary Awards 2014

The Australian Centre and the Faculty of Arts celebrated the writing achievements of our community on Saturday 23rd August as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

The Australian Centre and the Faculty of Arts celebrated the writing achievements of our community on Saturday 23rd August as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Please join us in warmly congratulating and celebrating the following winners of these prestigious awards.

Peter Blazey Fellowship

A $15,000 award to further a work in progress in biography, autobiography or life-writing. Awarded to Rebe Taylor for The Politics and Poetry of Rhys Jones' Tasmanian Archaeology.

Judges' citation

Rebe Taylor's submission stood out this year, especially in terms of its treatment of its subject.  She has written an evocative account of the controversial Tasmanian archaeologist Rhys Jones, opening up some fascinating areas for scholarly discussion and putting Jones's reputation and fieldwork in contexts that are always illuminating.  This is a compelling and revealing piece of writing, important to our understanding of the ways in which Indigenous histories and pre-histories have been shaped and struggled over.

Commendations are given for Jane Messer's chronicle of her Jewish German grandmother Bella Reiss Messer; her story of Bella's experiences in Berlin, Palestine and Melbourne considers questions of ethics, self and identity through the lens of Bella's life as a Jewish woman and mother, and is a fine piece of sympathetic, analytical writing. Jessica White's memoir of her great-grandfather F.G. White was also highly commended for providing a detailed and engaging account of White's extensive art collection – as well as his role as a pastoralist involved in the colonial project of property expansion and its historical connections to Aboriginal dispossession.


  • Jane Messer for Grave Relations: A Biography
  • Jessica White for Blue Shadows and Morning Light: Tracing the Art Collection of F.G. White

The judging panel for the 2014 Peter Blazey Fellowship included Ms Penny Blazey, Ms Brigid Mullane, Professor Ken Gelder, and A/Prof Denise Varney.

Wesley Michael Wright Prize

$4,000 award for poetry in English by an Australian poet. Awarded to Sarah Day for Tempo, Puncher & Wattman Poetry, 2013.

Judges' citation

Sarah Day's meticulously-crafted lyrics move with a quicksilver ease across time and place, between myth and reality, from the personal to the world-historical. Her invocations of ancient cities, celestial mechanics, oceanic flows, old paintings and domestic cooking are magisterially coaxed — to use one of her own metaphors — like 'melody from wood and gut.' Day's handling of memorable juxtapositions is subtle and striking: a rooster confronts a jumbo jet, and a dead dog an antique fresco, while too-carefully manufactured plantations are shown to 'breathe death in life.' The poems are at once sensuous and metaphysical, affective meditations upon the deadly paradoxes of time.


  • Niki Koulouris for The sea with no one in it, Porcupine's Quill, 2013
  • Bella Li for Maps, Cargo, Vagabond Press, 2013
  • Cameron Lowe for Circle Work, Puncher & Wattman, 2013

The judging panel for the 2014 Wesley Michael Wright prize included Dr Justin Clemens, Dr Amanda Johnson and Dr Amy Brown from the University of Melbourne.

Ernest Scott Prize

$13,000 award for a work in Australian, New Zealand or colonial history. Supported by the Australian Historical Association (AHA). Awarded to Angela Wanhalla for Matters of the Heart. A History of Interracial marriage in New Zealand, Auckland University Press, Auckland, NZ 2013.

Judges' citation

Angela Wanhalla's ground breaking history of interracial relationships in New Zealand across two hundred years utilises not only the usual range of church and state records but also personal papers, family and local histories to track the lives of couples whose relationship was sustained over a period of time.  While Maori women left little trace for the historian, Wanhalla uses analysis of images, particularly photography, to overcome some of the gaps and silences in the record. She takes a broad view of coupling which incorporates common law relationships, Maori ceremonies and Christian marriages sanctioned by the State and also takes account of various debates and legislative action in relation to marriage over time.

Wanhalla draws on the recent work by anthropologists and historians such as Ann Laura Stoler to explore the history of emotion and sentiment as central to these encounters. She historicises the specific context in which these are expressed and how they changed over time in relation to the society and demographics. She notes that interracial relationships in New Zealand have often been used as evidence of 'gentle colonialism' but while  her study of intimacy makes an important contribution to overturning simplistic paradigms of race relations on the frontier and beyond,  Wanhalla still  emphasises the framework of gendered and racial power struggles within which these relationships operated.

This book is beautifully written, clearly structured and Wanhalla wears her extensive scholarship lightly so the reader has the pleasure of reading fascinating personal stories combined with sharp analysis.


  • Janis Sheldrick for Nature's Line George Goyder: Surveyor, environmentalist, visionary, Wakefield Press, Kentown, South Australia
  • Bruce Scates (and his collaborators – Alexandra McKosker, Keir Reeves, Rebecca Wheatley and Damien Williams) for ANZAC Journeys: Returning to the Battlefields of World War II, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2013
  • Paul Moon for Encounters. The Creation of New Zealand. A History, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2013

Professor Paula Hamilton from the University of Technology, Sydney, and Professor Tom Brooking from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand were the judges for the 2014 Ernest Scott Prize.

Affirm Press Creative Writing Prize

Professional editorial assistance and writing space for best adult genres manuscript. This prize is open to University of Melbourne students and recent graduates.

Awarded in 2014 to Suzanne Hermanoczki ­for her work in progress, Our Fathers.

Judges' citation

Suzanne Hermanoczki's Our Fathers unites the past and the present through the story of a boy escaping post-war Hungary and, in parallel, his death in Brisbane fifty years later. Written from various perspectives Suzanne Hermanoczki's work is a lyrical and sensitive study of family, and character.


  • Alison Strumberger for Inner Geography
  • Danae Bosler for Bellwether
  • Maya Mulhall for Rubiginou

The judging panel for the 2014 Affirm Press Creative Writing Prize included Aviva Tuffield from Affirm Press and Professor Kevin Brophy and Dr Elizabeth Macfarlane from the University of Melbourne.

Congratulations to all of the winners and short-listed entrants for this years' literary awards. The entrants were all of an incredibly high calibre and showcased the breadth of Australian writing talent.

The 2014 Faculty of Arts Literary Awards ceremony was hosted by Professor Ken Gelder and Associate Professor Denise Varney, co-directors of the Australian Centre and Kate Darian Smith, Professor of Australian Studies and History Chair, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts.