2009

1 September 2010 - Premier Announces Winners of 2008 and 2009 Book Awards

Premier Colin Barnett tonight announced the winners of the 2008 and 2009 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.

"For the first time these awards were broadened to allow all Australian writers to enter, and I was very pleased to see many of the interstate winning authors attend the presentation," Mr Barnett said.

"The increased profile and greater prestige of the Awards allows Western Australian authors to be judged on the national stage, and I was delighted that local authors were successful in several genres."

Record entries had been submitted following the announcement earlier this year of the widening of the eligibility criteria and increased prize money, with 404 entries in the 2009 awards, and 300 for the 2008 awards.

The Chair of the 2009 Judging Panel Dr Lucy Dougan said the judges were impressed with the high calibre of entries.

"The high standard of entries posed some challenging decisions for the judges, who displayed integrity and professionalism in making some very difficult decisions," Dr Dougan said.

"It is wonderful to see these prizes going national; this can only strengthen and enhance writing in WA."

The 2008 Premier's Prize of $25,000 was won by Chloe Hooper for The Tall Man, which was the winner of the $15,000 non-fiction category.

The 2009 Premier's Prize of $25,000 was awarded to Shirley Barrett for South Solitary, which won the $10,000 scripts category. 

The 2008 Judging Panel were Dr Wendy Were (Chair), Frank Palmos, Dr Rose Lucas, Carmel Ballinger, Prof Keith Norris and Beverley Jacobson.

The 2009 Judging Panel were Dr Lucy Dougan (Chair), Clare Renner, Prof John Tonkin, Dr Shalmalee Palekar, Tehani Wessely and Frank Palmos.

Show Winners / Short List

Premier's Prize

South Solitary by Shirley Barrett
South Solitary by Shirley Barrett

Published by HLA Management

Tortuous emotional narratives are sharpened by geographic isolation. The script revealed Barrett as a very talented and imaginative writer; her dialogues are an example of fine, crisp writing. The setting would have appealed to any practical producer, and there were clear indications the script would make a smooth transition to the screen.

Fiction

Summertime by JM Coetzee
Summertime by JM Coetzee

Published by Random House (KNOPF)

Appearing almost prosaic in its economy, the writing in Summertime nevertheless reminds us continually of Coetzee’s formidable talent. While seemingly intent on telling us that Coetzee the man is, at best, inconsequential, the assured nature of the writer and his brilliant controlled manipulation of reality, memory and truth make it certain that he appears anything but this.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Published by Allen & Unwin

Craig Silvey’s second novel Jasper Jones does everything to confirm his position as one of Australia’s foremost storytellers. Within the first few paragraphs he drags the reader headlong into the story and doesn’t let go until the very last page. In this deliberate homage to Harper Lee and Mark Twain, Craig Silvey has written a perfectly crafted coming of age novel that will speak to a wide audience, defying the notion of intended readership.

Gerald Murnane by Barley Patch
Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane ​

Published by Giramondo Publishing

Murnane is an intriguing and disciplined writer. He pulls off an experimental, concentrated and self-referential book that quietly and precisely draws us into the magic at the heart of story telling itself.

Ransom by David Malouf
Ransom by David Malouf

Published by Random House (KNOPF)

This is a rich, layered, delicate and sometimes disturbing reworking of one fragment of Homer’s Iliad. Written in beautifully poetic prose, this fine book makes craft look effortless and haunts us long after the last page has been read.

Non-Fiction

Darwin's Armada by Iain McCalman
Darwin's Armada by Iain McCalman

Published by Penguin Group Australia

An absolutely superb achievement — rigorously researched, elegantly constructed and narrated with flair, wit and wonder. McCalman brings to vivid life one of the greatest scientific achievements and controversies.

Australians: Origins to Eureka by Thomas Keneally
Australians: Origins to Eureka by Thomas Keneally

Published by Allen & Unwin

This book is a lovely feast. Keneally brings a wide cast of characters to life and, in doing so, traces a thoughtful portrait of a continent’s origins to the coming into being of a modern nation.

Between Stations by Kim Cheng Boey
Between Stations by Kim Cheng Boey

Published by Random House (KNOPF)

Kim Cheng Boey’s fluid and sensually evocative essays trace his journey through India, China and Pakistan to Egypt and Morocco. More than a collection of traveller’s tales, this philosophical and poetic memoir creates a resonance that lingers long after the last page has been read.
Between Stations serves as a vehicle for the writer’s physical and emotional meandering through time and place, prompting an exploration of memory and belonging

Grand Obsessions by Alasdair McGregor
Grand Obsessions by Alasdair McGregor

Published by Penguin Group Australia

In this fascinating biography, Alasdair McGregor draws on meticulous research to tell the story of Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin. Through this multi-layered and controlled narrative, he examines the role each played in their personal and professional relationship, and encourages us to look with new eyes at the rich legacy they left behind.

Children's Books

Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild, Illustrations by Freya Blackwood
Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild, Illustrations by Freya Blackwood

Published by Omnibus Books

Harry & Hopper is such a sad story, but is an extraordinarily good book for dealing with grief. With a beautiful story, gorgeous and unusual illustrations, and excellent examination of the theme, this is a great package.

Audrey's Big Secret by Christine Harris
Audrey's Big Secret by Christine Harris

Published by Little Hare Books

An enjoyable read, covering issues such as the stolen generation and gender, with a solid narrative at an age-appropriate level while still being highly entertaining. It suffers very slightly from being the third in a series, with some elements of story/character somewhat vague, but is otherwise excellent.

Crocodile Cake by Palo Morgan. Illustrated by Chris Nixon
Crocodile Cake by Palo Morgan. Illustrated by Chris Nixon

Published by Fremantle Press

This book is an overall highly entertaining story with a ripping pace, clever rhyming and great illustration. Crocodile Cake was one of the favourites with the children, out of all the books read aloud from the entries..

Lighthouse Girl by Dianne Wolfer, Illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Lighthouse Girl by Dianne Wolfer, Illustrated by Brian Simmonds

Published by Fremantle Press​

Using real historical material and based on a true story, this book is cleverly put together to be both appealing and realistic as a story. With beautiful artwork and what can only be described as a “mashup” of historical documents, fictional story and art, this is a gorgeous package in total.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, Illustrated by Heather Potter
Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, Illustrated by Heather Potter

Published by Walker Books Australia

This story is an unexpected gem with poetic meta-text. Written as a verse novel, the book sensitively and realistically deals with the issues of bullying, grief and the things kids struggle with. It’s a very difficult form to do well, and is achieved here with great success.

Poetry

Fire Season by Kate Middleton
Fire Season by Kate Middleton

Published by Giramondo Publishing​

This collection of poems moves effortlessly between the divas of film culture and everyday experience. Ideas about representations of the self, a touchstone for this book, are never a straightforward business, and lush imagery is contained by a wonderful sense of where to end a line. 

The Darwin Poems by Emily Ballou
The Darwin Poems by Emily Ballou

Published by UWA Publishing

This is a meticulously researched and realised verse narrative, which avoids the charm-school pitfalls of many representations of Victorian England to bring the reader close to the life of such an influential figure.

The Unhaunting by Andrew Taylor
The Unhaunting by Andrew Taylor

Published by Salt Publishing

Another honest book with great appeal, this subtle charting of aging and holding close what is important was much admired.

Vanishing Point by Felicity Plunkett​
Vanishing Point by Felicity Plunkett​

Published by University of Queensland  Press

Impressive in its honesty and grace, Vanishing Point is the intensely lived-in world in which Plunkett represents the experience of mothering.

WA History

Paupers, Poor Relief & Poor Houses in WA, 1829-1910 by Penelope Hetherington 
Paupers, Poor Relief & Poor Houses in WA, 1829-1910 by Penelope Hetherington 

Published by UWA Publishing

Meticulously researched, the narrative is illuminated with numerous case studies of unemployed paupers, of the sick and insane, of destitute widows and unmarried pregnant servant girls and of abandoned children. The author asks questions whether the Poor Houses were administered to assist the poor or to punish them and what was the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. Much of Western Australian history is written from the point of view of elites, and this work provides a much needed balance.

Historical Encyclopedia of WA Edited by Jenny Gregory and Jan Gothard
Historical Encyclopedia of WA Edited by Jenny Gregory and Jan Gothard

Published by UWA Publishing

This is a landmark of historical scholarship and provides an authoritative and comprehensive guide to Western Australian history. The scope of this historical encyclopedia has been expanded, historical sources have been interpreted anew and the histories of groups once marginalised or ignored have been included. Contributions have come from a wide range of disciplines with scientists, socials scientists and other scholars of the humanities joining with historians to contribute to this endeavour. The high standard of articles is maintained throughout and the editors are to be congratulated.

Shaking Hands on the Fringe: Negotiating the Aboriginal World at King George's Sound by Tiffany Shelham​
Shaking Hands on the Fringe: Negotiating the Aboriginal World at King George's Sound by Tiffany Shelham​

Published by UWA Publishing

This ethnographic history narrates episodes of the developing relationships between British and aboriginal individuals, transcending the common ‘friendly’ and ‘violent’ encounters. A particularly impressive feature is the reflections that follow each chapter.

The Unforgiving Rope, Murder and Hanging on Australia's Western Frontier by Simon Adams
The Unforgiving Rope, Murder and Hanging on Australia's Western Frontier by Simon Adams

Published by UWA Publishing

In eleven chapters focusing on the period between 1840 and 1909, historian Simon Adams skilfully places the circumstances of victims and perpetrators against the backdrop of their era revealing the stories behind the hangings. In the final chapter, the author’s passion is fully revealed. It touches on such issues as the continued influence of the penal period, and the disproportionate percentage of Aborigines hanged. Western Australia was the last state to abolish capital punishment in 1984, though a petition was circulated calling for its reintroduction in 2000.

Young Adults 

Liar by Justine Larbalestier​
Liar by Justine Larbalestier​

Published by Allen and Unwin

This book is cleverly written, with unreliable narration that is brilliantly done. It's not a book that you can dip in and out of – you have to read this one from start to finish, and then you'll immediately turn back to the start and begin again because you'll find it so intriguing. It’s a complex style that is extremely successful here.

The Beginner's Guide to Living by Lia Hills
The Beginner's Guide to Living by Lia Hills

Published by Text Publishing

The concept of a young man finding himself through philosophy is a fascinating and challenging one. The overall read was intriguing, and it offers a different viewpoint from a usual male-gaze book. Pleasant to find stories that offer something to kids who are less than mainstream by nature, and this book succeeds in that.

Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey
Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey

Published by University of Queensland Press

Definitely for the older end of YA spectrum and quite gripping, Brown Skin Blue is topical and well written. There is some shocking content in these pages, but it is powerfully and appropriately drawn. This is challenging subject matter to write, and Jeffrey has handled it very well.

Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen
Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen

Published by Penguin Group Australia

Though this book may not appeal to all, it's a solid "male" book that has more depth than just sport or rough-housing. It is a great counter balance to the plethora of female-targeted YA fiction, handling some excellent relationship and gender issues in a way that won't be off-putting to boys.

Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey
Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey

Published by University of Queensland Press

A very interesting book, quite different from most of the rest of the field, but very well written and thoroughly enjoyable. The characterisation of the protagonist was perhaps a little problematic, not quite ringing true as an adolescent character, but it didn't seem to distract from the story. With an engaging style and fascinating concepts, this is well worth reading.

Scripts

South Solitary by Shirley Barrett
South Solitary by Shirley Barrett

Published by HLA Management

Tortuous emotional narratives are sharpened by geographic isolation. The script revealed Barrett as a very talented and imaginative writer; her dialogues are an example of fine, crisp writing. The setting would have appealed to any practical producer, and there were clear indications the script would make a smooth transition to the screen.

The Circuit – Series 2: Sorry Business by Kelly Lefever
The Circuit – Series 2: Sorry Business by Kelly Lefever

Media World Pictures

An intense set of courtroom scenes in the far northwest that test the sensitivities to native law and fundamental morality in a series of thrilling exchanges. Unsurprisingly, this was one of a series of successful television series.

Darwin – Episode 1 Origins by Katherine Thomson
Darwin – Episode 1 Origins by Katherine Thomson

Media World Pictures

Scripting from complex narratives is always a challenge and the judges felt Katherine Thomson produced a fine script based on lain McCalman's outstanding book. The script was worthy of translating into a three-part television series.

Krakouer by Reg Cribb
Krakouer by Reg Cribb

HLA Management

The rise and fall of one of Western Australia's sporting identities traced in powerful word pictures, from Krakouer's schooldays through success in the field, then a very public fall from grace.

My Place 1948 by Alice Addison 
My Place 1948 by Alice Addison 

HLA Management

A fine piece of work; well-crafted dialogue and directions that keep the mind sprinting along with a young girl's thoughts. The lead character comes to terms with the fact that her "handsome and brave father," killed in the war, cannot grow with the family and that change in the family unit is inevitable. The final few scenes are beautifully done, maintaining the rural atmospherics and attending symbolism.

Realism by Paul Galloway
Realism by Paul Galloway

Currency Press

A challenge of major dimensions; a writer of impressive intellect and firm grasp of history has written a play for audiences that today perhaps know little of the Stalinist era of Russia. The Melbourne Theatre Company staged Realism for six weeks from 4 April to 17 May 2009, thus it struck a chord.

Last updated on: 20 January 2020