Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist Announced

VPLA2021Victoria’s summer reading list is sorted with the announcement of the 26 titles shortlisted for the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson today announced the shortlist of authors, playwrights and poets whose works have been judged the year’s best, now in contention for Australia’s richest single literary prize, the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature.

“The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards are a celebration of Australia’s best writing and of Victoria’s reputation as the creative state,” said Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson. “Congratulations to all finalists and highly commended writers for these works that showcase the many voices, and perspectives of our literary landscape, and for giving us plenty of reasons to get reading this summer.”

Nominated across seven categories encompassing fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults, Indigenous writing and unpublished manuscripts, the shortlist includes acclaimed Victorian singer-songwriter and author Archie Roach AM and Walkley Book Award winner Louise Milligan.

The drama shortlist comprises a fascinating unsolved murder, a play that celebrates the life of one of Australia’s most treasured sporting icons Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and three interwoven stories that are a reminder of the strength in the human voice, the collective will and the need for action.

Three works have been shortlisted, and a further three highly commended, for the Unpublished Manuscript Award, an award open to Victorian writers which has uncovered local talent including Maxine Beneba Clarke (Foreign Soil), Jane Harper (The Dry) and Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project).

The winners of the fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, Indigenous writing and young adults’ categories each receive $25,000. The unpublished manuscript winner receives $15,000. All seven award categories go on to contest the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature.

The public is encouraged to participate in the awards by voting for their favourite book published in 2020. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be named alongside the general category winners and will receive $2,000.

The winners will be announced at a special digital awards ceremony on Monday 1 February 2021. The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (supplied)

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist:


  • The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan (Penguin Random House)
  • Our Shadows by Gail Jones (Text Publishing)
  • The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (Scribe Publications)
  • The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham (Penguin Random House)


  • Songlines: The Power and Promise by Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly (Thames & Hudson Australia)
  • Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us by Paddy Manning (Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • Show Me Where It Hurts by Kylie Maslen (Text Publishing)
  • Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice by Louise Milligan (Hachette Australia)
  • Blueberries by Ellena Savage (Text Publishing)
  • Fire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia by Victor Steffensen (Hardie Grant Travel)


  • Wonnangatta by Angus Cerini (Sydney Theatre Company)
  • SLAP. BANG. KISS. by Dan Giovannoni (Melbourne Theatre Company)
  • Sunshine Super Girl: The Evonne Goolagong Story by Andrea James (Currency Press)


  • Ask Me About the Future by Rebecca Jessen (University of Queensland Press)
  • Case Notes by David Stavanger (UWA Publishing)
  • Throat by Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

Writing for Young Adults:

  • The F Team by Rawah Arja (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore (Text Publishing)
  • Where We Begin by Christie Nieman (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Indigenous Writing:

  • Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music by Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • Kindred by Kirli Saunders (Magabala Books)
  • Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson (Hachette Australia)
  • Where the Fruit Falls by Karen Wyld (UWA Publishing)

Unpublished Manuscript:

  • Anam by André Dao
  • On a Knife’s Edge by Neela Janakiramanan
  • But the Girl by Jessica Zhan Mei Yu

Highly commended:


  • Revenge: Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim (Transit Lounge)
  • Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan (Brio Books)


  • After the Count by Stephanie Convery (Penguin Random House)
  • Hazelwood by Tom Doig (Penguin Random House)
  • People of the River by Grace Karskens (Allen & Unwin)
  • British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, intercolonial relations and the Empire by Kama Maclean (NewSouth Publishing)


  • Wherever She Wanders by Kendall Feaver (Griffin Theatre Company and Currency Press)
  • Torch the Place by Benjamin Law (Melbourne University Publishing)


  • Of Memory and Furniture by Bron Bateman (Fremantle Press)
  • Turbulence by Thuy On (UWA Publishing)

Young Adult:

  • The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell (Text Publishing)
  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

Indigenous Writing:

  • Late Murrumbidgee Poems by John Mukky Burke (Cordite Books)

Unpublished Manuscript:

  • Children of Tomorrow by J.R. Burgmann
  • Goblins by Patrick Hunn
  • The Guest House by Kylie Mirmohamadi