Declan Fry awarded 2021 Peter Blazey Fellowship

We are pleased to announce that writer Declan Fry has been awarded the 2021 Peter Blazey Fellowship for his work Justice for Elijah: A Spiritual Dialogue with Ziggy Ramo, Dancing, which he describes as “a collection of interlinked biographies of contemporary First Nations artists, written in a dialogic style”.

A proud descendant of the Yorta Yorta, Mr Fry is a critic at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and an essayist and poet whose work has been published in the Australian Book Review and Overland, among others.

Awarded annually, the Peter Blazey Fellowship supports writers in the non-fiction fields of biography, autobiography and life-writing to further a work in progress. It honours the memory of New South Wales-based writer, journalist and gay activist Peter Blazey, a former Bachelor of Arts graduate at the University of Melbourne, who died in 1997.

Judges Professor Ken Gelder (Co-Director of the Australian Centre, the University of Melbourne), Jonathan Green (Editor, Meanjin), Dr Maria Tumarkin (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, the University of Melbourne) and Clare Forster (donor family representative) reviewed 79 submissions on a remarkable range of life writing topics.

In awarding the fellowship the judges praised Justice for Elijah as “an ethically charged, lyrical exploration of contemporary Australian life in a series of dialogic portraits. [Declan Fry’s] work gives cogent expression to the duty of a writer to bear witness and change understanding.”

Mr Fry was honoured to be chosen as this year’s recipient. “Thanks to the judges and supporters of the Peter Blazey Fellowship. It means a lot and it’s really humbling to have your work read – let alone recognised – and I’m eternally grateful,” he says. “At a time as embattled for the arts as this, it is invaluable. The assistance of the Peter Blazey Fellowship shows a commitment to the recording of our times, the commemoration of our living history. It is an investment in something which is subtle and often unremarked, yet indispensable: the work of noticing.”

Donor Tim Herbert, Peter Blazey’s partner, says that “Peter was a maverick who was fearless in combating prejudice. It is easy to forget the context of Peter’s activism, a time when homosexuality was illegal and police harassment a constant threat. Peter was fond of a quote from Patrick White: ‘A life so lived as to outstrip all discretion’, which in many ways sums up Peter’s own attitude to enacting social change. Peter would no doubt have celebrated another writer bearing witness in Declan Fry.”

Clive Blazey, Peter’s brother, who alongside Mr Herbert set up the fellowship, said: “It’s remarkable to think the Peter Blazey Fellowship was established 16 years ago when launched by Justice Michael Kirby and that Sara Hardy was the inaugural winner. What begins as an award for a work-in-progress has invariably led to publication and even critical acclaim. Declan Fry is another impressive writer and will no doubt follow in this tradition.”

Because of the high quality of many of the submissions, the judges decided to award three commendations alongside the winner: SJ Norman’s Blood From a Stone, which speaks of the lived experience of transitioning in the frameworks of colonial and institutional violence; Eloise Grills’ big beautiful female theory, a graphic investigation of art, art history, gender and body archetypes; and D┼żenana Vucic’s Teleology of Folding, a challenging meditation on her identity as a Bosnian Muslim in Australia.

View past recipients of the Peter Blazey Fellowship