Shortlist announced for Australia’s richest biography and memoir prize

The shortlisted books of the National Biography Award courtesy of State Library New South WalesThe remarkable biographies of celebrated writers Donald Horne, Frank Moorhouse and Shirley Hazzard, pioneering composer Margaret Sutherland, bohemian rebel Bee Miles and a memoir of a daughter’s quest to free her imprisoned father have been shortlisted for the National Biography Award.

Selected from a record 107 entries, the six shortlisted works – five of which are debut biographies/memoirs – are:

  • Donald Horne: A Life in the Lucky Country by Ryan Cropp (La Trobe University Press/Black Inc.) – debut biography
  • Bee Miles: Australia’s famous bohemian rebel, and the untold story behind the legend by Rose Ellis (Allen & Unwin) – debut biography
  • Inner Song: A Biography of Margaret Sutherland by Jillian Graham (Melbourne University Publishing) – debut biography
  • The Shape of Dust: A father wrongly imprisoned. A daughter’s quest to free him by Lamisse Hamouda (Pantera Press) – debut memoir
  • Frank Moorhouse: A life by Catharine Lumby (Allen & Unwin)
  • Shirley Hazzard: A Writing Life by Brigitta Olubas (Virago) – debut biography

“This magnificent shortlist is united in a single pursuit: to understand Australian lives, from the famous to the forgotten, as snapshots of political and social history,” said Senior Judge, Dr Melinda Harvey.

“But not only that: these books harbour the belief that the act of remembering what Australians have experienced and contributed is, itself, potentially transformative for our future.”

The judging panel, comprising Dr Melinda Harvey (chair), Eda Gunaydin and Jason Om, also gave a highly commended mention to Graft: Motherhood, Family and a Year on the Land by Maggie MacKellar (Penguin Random House).

“The State Library is at the heart of literature, research and writing and we’re pleased that the National Biography Award – Australia’s richest biography and memoir prize – continues to thrive thanks to the generosity of the John Lamble Foundation, Graham & Charlene Bradley Foundation and Sarah Crouch,” said State Librarian Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon:

The National Biography Award has a total prize pool of $42,000. The overall winner will receive $25,000. The $5,000 Michael Crouch AC Award will be awarded to the best debut biography or memoir, in honour of the late Library benefactor and former Award supporter. In addition, each shortlisted author will receive $2,000.

The winners of the 2024 National Biography Award will be announced in late July. The Library will host an event with the winners on Saturday 17 August 2024. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: The shortlisted books of the National Biography Award – courtesy of State Library New South Wales