Counting and Cracking wins the Victorian Prize for Literature

Counting & Cracking - Belvoir & Co-CuriousVictorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced S.Shakthidharan and associate writer Eamon Flack as the major prize-winners at the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for their play, Counting and Cracking. Shakthi and Flack won the Victorian Prize for Literature from a shortlist of 23 works across six categories at the awards ceremony at MPavilion on Thursday 30 January 2020.

In addition to taking out the top honour, Counting and Cracking – an epic story of love and political strife, of home and exile, of parents and children, was awarded the Prize for Drama. The judges said the play is ‘a post-colonial work of sublime generosity and humour; a sober reflection of the painful path our peoples have taken to reach our shores, and a grand and moving celebration of cultural diversity and human spirit.’

Christos Tsiolkas won the Prize for Fiction for his epic novel, Damascus – which charts the development of the Christian church via Saul’s conversion to St Paul, his imprisonment and death alongside the experiences of those he encounters along the way.

The judges said the book is a ‘deeply compassionate and affecting novel, which interrogates what it means to live as an ethical and moral human being.’ Tsiolkas previously won the Prize for Fiction for The Slap at the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

The Prize for Non-Fiction was awarded to Christina Thompson for her book, Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia – which dives deep into the history of the Pacific and uncovers how the world’s greatest navigators colonised every habitable island in Remote Oceania. The judges said the book ‘cuts through myth and colonial fantasy to weave a far-reaching history, contemporary in its importance and meaning.’

Charmaine Papertalk Green was presented with the Prize for Poetry for her work, Nganajungu Yagu – a textured, personal and poetic exploration of maternal love. The judging panel said the book ‘is a moving, revelatory and utterly unique landmark in Australian poetry.’

Taking out the Prize for Writing for Young Adults is How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox. According to the judging panel, Fox’s debut novel is ‘an honest and engaging depiction of grief, and life with anxiety and depression. … An exciting and exquisite debut.’

Minister Foley presented the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript to Rhett Davis for Hovering – a gripping story about three people who are struggling to find meaning in their lives. The judging panel said it is ‘an ambitious, kaleidoscopic novel that playfully but poignantly explores ideas around permanence, ownership, belonging, artistic integrity, and the sentience of nature.’ This award has launched the careers of writers including Christian White, Jane Harper, and Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Over 1000 people voted for the People’s Choice Award, and this year Premier Daniel Andrews presented the award to Chloe Higgins for her heartbreaking memoir, The Girls.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated in 1985 by the late Victorian Premier John Cain to honour literary achievement by Australian writers. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

“The late John Cain created these awards 35 years ago to showcase and support Australian writers and writing,” said Premier Daniel Andrews. “Today, we are proud to see his legacy continue as we celebrate the extraordinary contribution of our writers, who inspire a love of reading in us all. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees.”

Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley added “Writers are central to our creative industries and our cultural life. This year’s crop of award winners has produced works of global and local significance; stories that reflect the diversity of our nation. Our government is proud to support and champion Australian writers and we encourage you to support them too by reading these and other fantastic works of local writing.”

For more information, about the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, visit: for details.

Image: Counting and Cracking – courtesy of Belvoir & Co-Curious