2023 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Announced

VPLA-Jessica-AuAustralian writers from a diverse range of backgrounds, publishing houses and styles were recognised at the 2023 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards ceremony in Melbourne last night.

“Gripping, tender, thought-provoking and funny – this year’s winning works reflect the diversity of Australian stories and the breadth of literary talent across the country,” said Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos.

“Writers play a vital role in our creative industries and cultural life, telling the stories that shape and reflect who we are. Through the awards we’re backing the careers of writers, while showcasing Victoria as a driving force behind the industry.”

Author Jessica Au was awarded the coveted $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature for her novel Cold Enough for Snow, deemed by judges to be the most outstanding work across six main award categories. This year’s Awards included 28 shortlisted works and a prize pool of $267,000.

Cold Enough for Snow, a deftly woven story told in just over 100 pages about a mother and daughter travelling in Japan, was also awarded the Prize for Fiction.

Judges noted that the work opened up new horizons for Australian literature, commending Au for her masterful writing style and the way the novel straddles present and past.

Eda Gunaydin’s debut essay collection Root & Branch: Essays on inheritance, won the Prize for Non-Fiction. Judges remarked that the work cemented the Turkish-Australian writer as one of Australia’s most astute and necessary cultural critics.

The Upwelling, a debut fantasy speculative fiction novel for young adults by Queensland writer Lystra Rose, was awarded the Prize for Indigenous Writing. Judges said the work acted as cultural reclamation by subverting colonial imaginings of Aboriginal people.

Gavin Yuan Gao’s debut poetry collection At the Altar of Touch was honoured with the Prize for Poetry with judges calling it a lucid, lyrical work that demanded attention, while We Who Hunt the Hollow, a debut Young Adult novel by Kate Murray set in a fantastical future Melbourne, was awarded the Prize for Writing for Young Adults.

The Prize for Drama went to The Return, an ambitious and unflinching work about Indigenous repatriation by Torres Strait Islander dramatist John Harvey, while Melbourne writer Mick Cummins took home the much-anticipated Unpublished Manuscript Award for One Divine Night, a gritty work exploring homelessness, the social system and family complexities.

The People’s Choice Award, awarded to the best book of 2022 as voted by Australian readers, went to Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli.

“The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards are wonderful recognition of the amazing talent this country has to offer,” said CEO of the Wheeler Centre Caro Llewellyn.

“The fact that debut works account for five of the eight winning works this year means that fresh perspectives and compelling new voices are being amplified in the Australian literary community.”

“I’m pleased to know that these Awards will ensure we see these names in our libraries and bookshops long into the future.”

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Victorian Government. 

The winner of each award category is awarded $25,000, except for the Unpublished Manuscript prize winner, who receives $15,000, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, who is awarded $2000.

The winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, the single richest literary award in Australia, is awarded $100,000.

For more information about the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, visit: www.wheelercentre.com for details.

Image: Jessica Au (supplied)