What do a monster, a witch, an assassin, and an owl have in common?

They are all nominated for the 2023 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. This year an eclectic mix of gothic literature, personal stories and eloquent poetry represents the best in WA writing. 

The Minister for Culture and the Arts, David Templeman, announced the 2023 WA Premier’s Book Awards shortlist. For the first time, a self-published book, Acacia House, has made the shortlist shining a light on three palliative care nurses who learn that humour and kindness are universal. The Emerging Writer shortlist is filled with stories about people who fight for love, life, and dignity. The Children’s Book of the Year category is a menagerie of captivating animal tales. The brand-new category Premier’s Prize for Book of the Year, sponsored by Writing WA, is a powerful mix of genres. 

Winners will be announced at the State Library on 23 June 2023. The award ceremony will be streamed on the State Library YouTube channel and announced via the State Library's social media channels @statelibrarywa. 

Without further ado... drum roll please!


Acacia House by Vivien Stuart

Vivien Stuart trained as a nurse and midwife, she welcomed countless babies in maternity wards from Port Moresby to Perth. Later, while caring for her three children, she became a palliative care nurse, working in a hospice in Perth, Western Australia. Studying creative writing at UWA culminated in a PhD. Her prize-winning honours dissertation and successful doctoral thesis are at the origin of the novel, Acacia House, and its accompanying dissertation, Caring Texts: Ethics, Literature and Care of the Dying. She currently works with Palliative Care WA, while continuing her life-long caring role for her family, friends and extensive garden.

cover of Acacia House

Acacia House

Three inter-twining nurse-narratives reveal both the professional and personal lives of the nurses. Alice has sought refuge in Perth from a brief abusive marriage in Adelaide. Maedhbh has been compelled by unemployment to leave Ireland. Gabby has reluctantly left South Africa seeking a better life for her son. Despite their differing, even conflicting cultural and spiritual values, the women discover a community of care, humour and kindness as they nurse a range of patients, rich and poor, young and old, Aboriginal and immigrant, religious and irreligious. The women’s often painfully acquired understanding of themselves and of each other transforms their personal lives. Their personal journeys carry the reader beyond the hospice – from outback South Australia to a Buddhist retreat in Ireland, from camping in Western Australia’s Kimberley to witnessing South African poverty, from walking the Bibbulmun track to political protests in Perth. Readers may discover how caring for those at the end of life teaches care for the living, including care for the self. And they may see the sacrifice that care may demand. (self-published)

Judges Comment - Vivien Stuart interweaves the fictional life stories of three palliative care nurses who come to Perth to work at ‘Acacia House’. Stuart gives valuable insight into the people and systems that care for the dying in this life-affirming book about death and lives well lived.

The Assassin Thief by Madeline Te Whiu

Madeline Te Whiu is a debut author publishing the first of The Soul Thief Trilogy with New Dawn Publishing in late 2022.
Madeline is a veterinary nurse residing Perth, Western Australia along with her husband, dog, two cats and small flock of chickens.
Her passion for books began when she was growing up in rural South Australia. She has always had an avidity for reading with her favourite authors are Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J Maas and Peter V. Brett, just to name a few.

cover of The Assassin Thief

The Assassin Thief
Betrayed by her queen. Haunted by her gifts. Forgotten by her people. Telium was once the most feared assassin in all Alkoria. Now she lives out her days in exile as she fights for dominance over her dark gifts. But all that changes when an errant Fae warrior enters her domain. Drawn by rumours of a powerful being said to be borne from the shadow of the dark goddess Tenebris. With their kingdoms on the brink of chaos, he calls for her aid in his mission to defeat the Mad Fae King and prevent an all-out war. But the road to the Fae capital of Meannthe is a long one, and haunted by memories of her past, Telium must decide if she can risk losing dominance over the darkness in her soul. (New Dawn Publishing)

Judges Comment - The Assassin Thief is an original, gripping fantasy novel with a powerhouse protagonist in Telium – an outcast, assassin, magician, warrior and exile. The power of the author’s own heritage brings a new voice to fantasy that readers will love.


Banjawarn by Josh Kemp - Winner

Josh Kemp is an author of Australian gothic fiction. Banjawarn was joint winner of the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and is his debut novel. His short stories have been published by Kill Your Darlings, Overland, Seizure, Tincture and Breach. He’s previously been shortlisted for the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and longlisted for the Fogarty Literary Award. Currently completing his PhD at Edith Cowan University in Bunbury, he lives in the South West of WA but is drawn, over and over again, to the red dirt of WA’s north.

cover of Banjawarn

Garreth Hoyle is a true crime writer whose destructive love affair with hallucinogenic drugs has sent him searching for ghosts in the unforgiving mallee desert of Western Australia. Heading north through Kalgoorlie, he attempts to score off old friends from his shearing days on Banjawarn Station. His journey takes an unexpected detour when he discovers an abandoned ten-year-old girl and decides to return her to her estranged father in Leonora, instead of alerting authorities. Together they begin the road trip from hell through the scorched heart of the state's northern goldfields. Love, friendship and hope are often found in the strangest places, but forgiveness is never simple, and the past lies buried just beneath the blood red topsoil. The only question is whether Hoyle should uncover it, or run as fast as his legs can take him. Banjawarn is an unsettling debut from Josh Kemp, winner of the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Echoing Cormac McCarthy's haunting border trilogy and narrative vernacular that recalls the sparse lyricism of Randolph Stow and Tim Winton, this is a darkly funny novel that earns its place amongst the stable of Australian gothic fiction.  (UWA Publishing)

Judges Comment - Banjawarn is a white knuckle, psychedelic road trip through the Eastern Goldfields. Josh Kemp’s characters are haunted by addiction, secrets and spectres of the past as they travel through arid landscapes and ghost towns seeking redemption in the outback.


Bone Picker by Thomas Simpson

Thomas Simpson is a poet based in Fremantle. He has an MA in Creative Practice from Curtin University and is a committee member for WA Poets Inc. His poetry has appeared in print and online.

cover of Bone Picker

Bone Picker
From the Eyre Highway to the tiled lanes of Lisbon, and the muted Australian suburbs at the beginning of a pandemic, Bone Picker presents vignettes of place and memory that draw on senses of belonging, movement and conflict. These imagistic glimpses into everyday life and work highlight the beauty and intrigue in the quotidian. (Ginninderra Press)

Judges Comment - Bone Picker glimpses into the life of an emerging artist in four acts. These simple poems powerfully evoke the landscapes, smells and seasons of Perth, while also exploring the first steps back to travel through Scotland before, during and after the pandemic with stunning clarity.





T by Alan Fyfe

Alan Fyfe is originally from Mandurah, Australia, the unceded country of the Binjareb Nation, whose verse and prose can be found in Westerly, Overland, Australian Poetry Journal, and Cottonmouth. He was an inaugural editor of UWA creative writing journal, Trove, and a prose editor for American web journal, Unlikely Stories. He is a winner of the Karl Popper Philosophy Award, was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, commended in the Tom Collins Poetry Prize, and has been selected as a WA Poets’ Inc Emerging Poet for 2022 / 23. In manuscript form, T has received shortlistings for both the T.A.G Hungerford Prize (Australia) and the Chaffinch Press Aware Prize (Ireland). Alan is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia, where he is writing a novel in chiastic structure.

cover of T

T or Timothy lives on the economic margins, both using and selling methamphetamine in Mandurah. When a friend, Gulp, tragically dies and T grows close to Lori-Bird his life promises to become more centred. But he moves between loving and leaving her. This is a lyrical and arresting portrait of characters who crave love but struggle with addiction and the tenuous yet intimate community connections it gives them. The spirit of the Peel landscape informs both Tâs identity and the lives of the people he encounters and offers a way out. Intimate with suffering and beauty, T is also at times transcendent. A contemporary novel with the urgency of what Davies's Candy, Kerouac's On the Road, and Garner's Monkey Grip were to their own times. (Transit Lounge)

Judges Comment  - T is an accomplished first novel that gives insight into the world of methamphetamine use in Mandurah through the eyes of the protagonist ‘T’.  Fyfe injects elements of magic realism, humour and a counterpoint story of colonist Thomas Peel in this searing narrative.

Lion Is That You? written and illustrated by Moira Court

Moira Court grew up in the West Country, England. She emigrated to Australia in 2001 and now lives in the Perth Hills with her husband, daughter and fur children. An artist and illustrator, she predominantly works in printmaking and likes to chop up the failures to use for collaging. Her work is inspired by nature, conservation, folklore and folk art.

cover of Lion is that youLion Is That You?
‘Come on, let’s take a good look around. Are there really lions to be found?’ Rumours abound of ex-circus cats roaming wild in the hills. But are the stories true? Join in the search, and discover lots of different animals in the Australian bush along the way. (Fremantle Press)

Judges Comment - Looking for lions in verse! Lion is that You? calls for active reading coupled with the joy of discovery. With subtle rhyme and invigorating diction, the book celebrates Western Australia's native flowers, plants and animals. The exquisite and wonderfully layered illustrations make this book enjoyable for readers and listeners. A playful and distinctively Western Australian picture book. And it is so much fun, too.



Nenek Tata and the Mangrove Menace by Judith Vun Price and Jacqui Vun

Judith Vun Price and Jacqui Vun are sisters who emigrated as children from Sabah to Western Australia in 1974. They both forged careers as artists, designers and artisans whose love of visual storytelling is clearly evident in how they collaborate to produce exceptional work that honours the culture of their birthplace. Judith’s previous work includes author and illustrator of Koo Kaa & Burra: The Rescue, and illustrator of a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s It’s Quite True! by Lis Mathiasen.

cover of Nenek Tata and the Mangrove MenaceNenek Tata and the Mangrove Menace
A grandmother's tale about the day a monster came out of the swamp and threatened her home. Stunning illustrations in this grandmother's tale capture the steamy jungles of Sabah Malaysia in eye-catching beauty for children of all ages.  Both humorous and a little bit scary, this grandmother’s tale follows Nenek Tata on a day that starts as normal but mysteriously turns out to be not-so-normal. When Nenek Tata goes to check her crab traps inside the gloomy jungles of the swamp, a huge, dripping, brown monster emerges. And, when the monster follows her, she must defend her home to the last … until she discovers the monster's identity. (Crotchet Quaver: noteworthy publications)

Judges Comment - Incredibly visual, both in the writing and the wonderful illustrations, Nenek Tata and the Mangrove Menace, is an exciting introduction into mythology and another culture. The book transports the reader to the mangroves of Sabah in far eastern Malaysia, where Nenek Tata goes about her everyday life until she comes face-to-face with a monster! Deftly written to incorporate Malay language, it's a rollicking adventure for kids and parents to enjoy together. Readers will love Nenek Tata's strength and determination. 


Owl and Star by written and illustrated by Helen Milroy

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She was born and educated in Perth. Helen has always had a passionate interest in health and wellbeing, especially for children. Helen studied medicine at the University of Western Australia. She is currently a professor at UWA, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Board Member with Beyond Blue and the AFL’s first Indigenous Commissioner.

cover of Owl and StarOwl and Star
Owl loved the sparkle of the stars. He would sit out on his tree at dusk and wait for them to appear. One evening, Owl became worried. His favourite little star had not shown herself. Owl searched far and wide. Where could Little Star be? (Fremantle Press)

Judges Comment - Every page in this gorgeous book is filled with colour. The Owl and the Star speaks of the universe, the moon and the stars, and Owl’s place in it! There is so much generosity here: Owl helps a friend in need. Delightful and easy to read.   




The Raven's Song by Zana Fraillon and Bren MacDibble

Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. After 20 years in Melbourne, Bren sold everything and spent two years living and working in a bus travelling around Australia. She recently parked her bus in Kalbarri on the beautiful west coast, where she now manages a holiday villa. In 2018, How to Bee - her first novel for younger readers - won the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers, the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature, and the New Zealand Book Awards Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction. In 2019 The Dog Runner won the New Zealand Book Awards Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction. Bren also writes for young adults under the name Cally Black.

Zana Fraillon is an internationally acclaimed, multi-award-winning author of books for children and young adults. Her work has been published in over 15 countries and is in development for both stage and screen. Zana was born in Melbourne but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. Her 2016 novel The Bone Sparrow won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, the Readings Young Adult Book Prize and the Amnesty CILIP Honour. It was shortlisted for the PM's Literary Awards, the CBCA awards, the Qld Literary Awards, Vic Premier's Literary Awards, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Gold Inky and the CILIP Carnegie Medal. Zana spent a year in China teaching English and now lives in Melbourne with her three children, husband and two dogs.

cover of The Raven's SongThe Raven's Song
Shelby and her best friend Davy live quiet low-tech lives in a closed community that is made up of exactly three hundred and fifty kind, ethical people living on exactly seven hundred hectares.

When they climb through a hole in the perimeter fence to venture into the surrounding jungle, what they find is more astonishing than anything they could have imagined. And when Shelby realises the terrible danger that is unfolding, it will take all of her daring and determination to ensure the past does not repeat itself. Intriguing, absorbing and spine-tinglingly good, The Raven's Song is a brilliant novel by two esteemed writers at the height of their powers. (Allen & Unwin)

Judges Comment - A beautiful story, beautifully told – for the older reader to enjoy. There is magic here, and an exciting jungle in which to lose and find yourself. The Raven's Song is a book to read again and again.


Wild Australian Life written by Leonard Cronin and illustrated by Chris Nixon - Winner

Leonard Cronin is one of Australia's foremost natural history authors. Trained as a biologist, he is a prolific writer of books and articles about the Australian flora, fauna and environment, bringing his own fascination with the natural world to the general reader. His books include the bestselling Cronin's Key Guide series of field guides, Australian Flora and A Journey Through Ancient Kingdoms and Natural Wonders.

Chris Nixon is a multidisciplinary artist creating across illustration, graphic design, creative direction and public art. Based in Perth, Chris's work is inspired by the West Coast and classic surf culture with an emphasis on the handmade and crafted, using colour, texture and pattern across a wide range of media from children's books to animation, commercial illustration and large artwork installations.

cover of Wild Australian Life

Wild Australian Life
From a leading expert and talented visual artist comes this celebration of the astounding diversity of Australia's animal kingdom. More than one million animal species make their homes in Australia - from the deepest oceans to the tops of mountains and the harshest deserts. But just how do they survive? Discover the remarkable stories behind some of the world's most extraordinary animals in this must-have collection for every Australian family. (Allen & Unwin)

Judges Comment - A book to keep! You will want to refer to it time and again. Wild Australian Life is filled so much valuable scientific information and excellent illustrations for the inquisitive reader: birds, butterflies, insects, frogs, reptiles, all here. A wonderful book to enjoy! And it comes with a comprehensive Index.   

Uncle Xbox (Book 2) – Getting Dusty by Jared Thomas - Winner

portrait of Jared ThomasDr Jared Thomas is a Nukunu person of the Southern Flinders Ranges and the Research Fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Material Culture and Art at the South Australian Museum and the University of South Australia.

His novel Calypso Summer (Magabala Books, 2015) joined the 2015 International Youth Library White Raven list of books that deserve worldwide attention because of their universal themes and exceptional artistic and literary style. Jared’s recent releases include Uncle XBox (Magabala Books, 2023) Songs that Sound Like Blood (Magabala Books, 2016) as well as the Game Day series which was written with NBA player and Olympian Patty Mills.

Judges Comments:  A middle grade story with a relatable young character whose culture and family teach and guide him through life. The story of Dusty and his Uncle Xbox lingers long in your mind after reading.



The Ultimate AGD by Kim Morrison 

portrait of Kim MorrisonKim Morrison is a writer, artist, teacher, forager and cold-water swimmer from Goulburn, NSW. She is a descendent of the Kamilaroi people of Northern NSW but grew up in the semi-rural outskirts of South-Western Sydney, with a rescue pony and a suspiciously dingo-looking family dog. She would often wag school to finish a good book, and often got into trouble for reading under the desk. After completing an honours degree in English Literature at the University of Sydney, and a Masters in Writing from UTS, she set off on a working holiday adventure in Europe. This gave her the distance to start to wonder about some of the stories and silences in her family history.  When she returned to Australia, she worked as a closed-caption editor for the deaf and hearing impaired at the Australian Caption Centre and SBS. As well as watching other people's stories all day, she devoted herself to finding lost and stolen family members. She found them.

Judges Comments:  Deeply moving young adult story with humour and authentic characters that are bright on the page. Narrator and protagonist, Spud, is a realistic character with a strong and engaging young voice.


A Queen's Glory by Kristie Harris

portrait of Kristie HarrisKristie Harris is a proud Wiradjuri woman living in Brisbane with her husband and 3 girls. She is studying for a Bachelor of Arts, and works as a Community Engagement Data Officer with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health. She loves to write fantasy and dystopian novels with themes of colonisation, adventure and overcoming adversity. She enjoys spending her spare time with her family, reading, playing video games, and building her creative arts business.

Judges Comments:  Delves into a fantasy world with a rich background. Harris has written a well-rounded character in Reid and with a pace that makes it hard to stop reading!

Clean by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Scott-Patrick Mitchell is a WA-based non-binary poet who is a guest on unceded Whadjuk Noongar land. SPM’s work appears in Contemporary Australian Poetry, The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, Solid Air, Stories of Perth and Going Postal. A seasoned performance poet, Mitchell has toured Australia with works that have fused language and minimal baroque. A focus for the poet is in building community through their work with Perth Poetry Festival and WA Poets Inc’s Emerging Writers Program. They live with two black cats, Beowulf and Bones.

cover of CleanClean
In this volume, Scott-Patrick Mitchell propels us into the seething mess of the methamphetamine crisis in Australia today. These poems roil and scratch, exploring the precarious life of addiction and its sleep deprivation. From an unsteady and unsavoury life, we are released into the joy of a recovery made through sheer hard work.

Even in the disintegration, the poet points us towards love and carries tenderness every day in memory. Scott-Patrick Mitchell’s decades of spoken-word practice has enabled a fine tuning on the page when, for so many readers, we enter into an alien zone of unknowing. (Upswell Publishing)

Judges Comments -

Clean is a powerful and, at times, harrowing account of drug addiction with moments of strength and tenderness in recovery. Mitchell explores the world of addiction with incredible versatility and compactness. The poems are taut with energetic rhythms, spiky imagery and incorporates witty pirouettes. The collection is varied and sustained in its refinement and control, despite the subject matter's volatility and the intensity of the emotional experiences it exposes.

Each poem is crafted with restraint. The precision with line breaks, enjambment, and typography reflects expert handling of pace and pause. The highly skilled uses of epigraphs, including the voices of Nintendo and selected contemporary poets, establish syntheses of theme and phrasing from the outset. Similarly, the dedications are diverse and thought-provoking, suggesting the power of the influence of others and culminating in a matter-of-fact and emotive statement of 'your final words to me'. Clean visits the intimate settings and sites of nature, each time presenting vivid images of unglorified but resolute pain and assertion: I am clean.

Nimblefoot by Robert Drewe

Robert Drewe is the author of eight novels, four books of short stories, two plays, two memoirs and four other works of non-fiction. His work has been widely translated, won national and international prizes and been adapted for film, television, theatre and radio.

cover of NimblefootNimblefoot
At the age of ten, a small boy from Ballarat named Johnny Day became Australia’s first international sporting hero. Against adult competition he wooed crowds across continents as the World Champion in pedestrianism, the sporting craze of the day. A few years later, in 1870, he won the Melbourne Cup on a horse aptly called Nimblefoot, winning the hearts of British royalty and Melbourne’s high society. And then he disappeared without a trace. Robert Drewe picks up where history leaves off, re-imagining Johnny’s life following his great Cup win. In doing so he brings us an adventure story, a coming-of-age classic, a man-hunt, a thriller – but most of all, a rollicking good yarn. Johnny Day is a character who couldn’t be invented, but in the masterful re-imagining of his life Robert Drewe shows storytelling at its best, and lays claim to Johnny Day’s rightful place in Australia’s illustrious sporting history. (Penguin Random House)

Judges Comments Nimblefoot by Robert Drewe is a glimpse into the shadowy world that underpinned early colonial society, told through the eyes of Johnny Day. This book is a skilfully crafted historical fiction novel. Drewe resurrects the known facts of Day's life (he was a minor celebrity in his time), then furnishes him with imagined adventures. With a diverse cast of characters, including members of royalty and high society, gamblers, racegoers, and villains, Nimblefoot provides a rich exploration of the European society and culture of the time. 

Drewe's vivid and descriptive language, coupled with his use of humour and irony to comment on aspects of that society, create a sense of place and atmosphere that immerse readers in the story. He weaves together different periods and perspectives, which delve into historical context and explore characters' motivations and relationships. The novel's sensitivity and empathy towards its characters, even some of the flawed and morally ambiguous ones, add to the richness and depth of the story. Overall, Nimblefoot is a skilfully crafted historical fiction novel that showcases the author's talent for language, storytelling, and character empathy.

The Red Witch by Nathan Hobby - Winner

Nathan Hobby is a Perth author, librarian and honorary research fellow at the University of Western Australia. His novel The Fur (Fremantle Press 2004) won the TAG Hungerford Award.

cover of The Red WitchThe Red Witch: A Biography of Katherine Susannah Prichard
Novelist, journalist and activist Katharine Susannah Prichard won fame for vivid novels that broke new ground depicting distinctly Australian ways of life and work - from Gippsland pioneers and West Australian prospectors to Pilbara station hands and outback opal miners. Her prize-winning debut The Pioneers made her a celebrity but she turned away from jaunty romances to write a trio of inter-war classics, Working Bullocks, Coonardoo and Haxby's Circus. Heralded in her time as the 'hope of the Australian novel', her good friend Miles Franklin called Prichard 'Australia's most distinguished tragedian'. This biography of a literary giant traces Prichard's journey from the genteel poverty of her Melbourne childhood to her impulsive marriage to Victoria Cross winner Hugo Throssell, and finally on to her long widowhood as a 'red witch', marked out from society by her loyalty to the Soviet Union and her unconventional ways. Through meticulous archival research and historical detective work, Nathan Hobby reveals many unknown aspects of Prichard's life, including the likely identity of the mysterious lover who influenced her deeply in her twenties, her withdrawal from politics during her remarkable five-year literary peak and an intimate friendship with poet Hugh McCrae. Lively and detailed, The Red Witch is a gripping narrative alert to the drama and tragedy of Prichard's remarkable life. (Melbourne University)

Judges Comments -  Nathan Hobby's account of Katherine Susannah Prichards' life is a fine example of the biographer's art. Diligently researched, judiciously compiled, and well-written, this is a definitive account of a notable writer's life. The resulting text is eminently readable for a general audience because Hobby has not allowed the thoroughgoing research to spill over into a stuffy or academic tone. The book is beautifully complemented with a precise and light prose style that delicately balances the more controversial aspects of his subject's life. 

The biography gently reveals the impact of one WA's most significant writers and her role in social, political and literary history. Her connections with major literary figures, and her foundation role in the Communist Party of Australia, makes this biography one of national and, in some respects, international significance. Readers interested in any of those dimensions would find this handsome volume a welcome addition to their bookshelf. 


The Shield and the Spear: The Kimberly Land Council by Joe Fox

Joe Fox, a kartiya (white person) from the South West, came to the Kimberley in 1985, first to Halls Creek as a music teacher then as co-ordinator of Ngaringga Ngurra Women’s Group, where he assisted the group in the establishment...

cover of The Shield and the SpearThe Shield and the Spear: The Kimberly Land Council
In April 1978 leaders from Aboriginal Communities across the Kimberley met in the river bed at Old Halls Creek. At least 55 representatives attended, which closed with a request to the Noonkanbah Mob to invite all the Aboriginal Communities in the Kimberley to a Cultural Festival and meeting in May 1978, at which a new organisation – The Kimberley Land Council (KLC) – would be officially formed and launched. The KLC was formed as a political land rights organisation. Today it is the peak Indigenous body in the Kimberley region working with Aboriginal people to secure native title, conduct conservation and land management activities and develop cultural & economic business enterprises. The Shield and the Spear is mostly told through firsthand contributions from the people who were there. The reader is taken on a journey through historic Indigenous rights battles such as the Noonkanbah blockade in 1979, the formation of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC) and the Kimberley Language Resource Centre (KLRC) in 1984; the formation of Magabala Books in 1987; and the controversial James Price Point gas hub. Plus the many commercial negotiations facilitated by the KLC. Commissioned by the KLC, Fox uses a combination of interviews and eyewitness accounts; quotes from the KLC Newsletter; quotes taken from historic documents, speeches, recordings and meetings; and historical and contemporary photographs and illustrations. The book is roughly chronological and the reader hears unmediated accounts of what happened. (Magabala Books)

Judges Comments - The Shield and the Spear is an important resource for promoting reconciliation and understanding. Shedding light on the historical and ongoing injustices Aboriginal Communities face across the Kimberley creates a powerful testament to the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples.

The Shield and the Spear showcases the resilience of Indigenous communities in the Kimberley region against colonisation and dispossession. The book features contributions from Indigenous authors, historians, and community leaders, delving into the impact of colonialism, the fight for land rights, self-determination, and ongoing challenges faced by Kimberley Aboriginal peoples.  The book's high production value and quality design, including striking cover art, reflects the significance of its subject matter. The portraits and images accompanying people's vivid accounts of their lived history add to the richness of the book.

Thistledown Seed: A Memoir by Louise Helfgott

Louise Helfgott is an author, playwright and poet. She has received many awards for her writing. Recent achievements include Thistledown Seed, shortlisted in the Dorothy Hewett Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2018 and Light in her Eye which won the Todhunter Literary Award for drama in 2014 and performed at the Perth Fringe Festival in 2018. Her play, Potchnagoola, based on the mentoring relationship between the West Australian writer, Katharine Susannah Prichard and her concert pianist brother, David Helfgott, was commissioned and performed for the fiftieth anniversary commemoration of Prichard’s death in 2019.

cover of Thistledown SeedThistledown Seed: A Memoir
Interweaving fiction and memoir in multiple threads, Thistledown Seed follows the displacement and violence of the Holocaust for a Polish family who subsequently settle in Western Australia. In this deeply moving account, Louise Helfgott explores another side of her family's tragic past made famous in the Oscar-winning movie, Shine, about her brother David Helfgott. The floating thistledown seed, often seen in Europe during summer, represents the diaspora of the Jewish people who were scattered around the world as a result of the Holocaust. (Brandl & Schlesinger)

Judges Comments Thistledown Seed is a memoir that explores intergenerational trauma unleashed by the horrors of the Holocaust. 

The author intimately explores a family of immensely talented individuals living straitened lives in the enormous shadow of trauma. Despite all, the author and her brother have made important cultural contributions, which is a testament to their immense talent.

As an adult, Helfgott directly confronts the sites that cast that ineradicable shadow. The account of her journey to Poland is heartbreaking in its understatement. She uses her writer's gift to share the story of a resilient, ineradicable life.

Carolyn Wadley Dowley

portrait of Carolyn Wadley Dowley
Photo by Cait Dowley

Carolyn Wadley Dowley has a Master of Philosophy in Australian Studies and was the recipient of the New South Wales Premier's Community and Regional History Prize in 2001 for Through Silent Country: her speaking tour for the book took her to Perth Writers' Festival in 2001; the European Conference on Australian Studies in Klagenfurt, Austria (1-4 October 2000); the WA Oral History Conference in 2000 (where she delivered a paper on 'Writing / Re-writing the Records'); books clubs and community reconciliation groups; and national, regional, and local radio.

Dowley was an adjunct research fellow at Curtin University from 2001 to 2002. She has also worked as an architect. She was featured in Carol Eikelberry and Carrie Pinsky's The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2015).


Madison Godfrey

portrait of Madison Godfrey
Photo by Louise Coghill

Madison Godfrey is a writer, editor and educator. They live on Whadjuk Noongar land, with a rescue cat named Sylvia. Madison has performed poetry at the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, TEDx and Glastonbury Festival. In 2021 they were awarded a Western Australian Youth Award for ‘Creative Contributions’ to the state. Madison is also a previous recipient of the Kat Muscat Fellowship, the Varuna Poetry Flagship Fellowship, the Tom Collins Poetry Prize, and a writer-in-residence position from the National Trust of Western Australia. In 2019, Madison worked with Propel Youth Arts as the Creative Coordinator of Youth Week WA. Since then, they have worked with various organisations (including Express Media, Varuna Writers’ House, State Library of Victoria) to create and deliver poetry programs. Currently Madison teaches ‘Creative Writing’ and ‘Cultural Studies’ at a local University, where they are in the final stages of a PhD on prose poetry and gendered performances. Madison’s new book Dress Rehearsals is forthcoming from Allen & Unwin Imprint JOAN in March 2023.


Michael Trant

portrait of Michael Trant
Photo by JJ Gately

Michael Trant is a WA country boy turned suburban writer, following a wide range of careers from marine draftsman to farmer, and pastoralist to FIFO pot-washer. Mike grew up on the family farm at Eneabba, before moving to Geraldton then out to Yalgoo before heading to Perth. His debut novel Ridgeview Station was inspired by his time on Gabyon Station, and he highly recommends a visit for those curious about life on a sheep station. When he’s not writing, Michael can be found plucking away at his guitar in attempts to replicate his idol Tommy Emmanuel, or swearing at his beloved Fremantle Dockers. He still travels to Three Springs to drive tractors ‘just to keep my hand in,’ but despite the advent of autosteer machines, refrains from taking the laptop to write, as that would not end well for power poles, fences or trees. Michael began writing with his highly successful blog – ‘A Farmers Way of Life,’ where he used humor and anecdotes to give an insight into life on a family farm.


Norman Jorgensen

portrait of Norman Jorgensen Norman Jorgensen began writing stories when in primary school and had a story about his school read on the ABC Radio Argonaut’s Club, but it took many years for his first picture book, In Flanders Fields, to be published. Beautifully illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever, this is the story set in World War One and tells of a homesick young soldier who risks his life to rescue a robin caught in the barbed wire of no man’s land. In Flanders Fields won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2003, the first of many awards, and the first of a dozen books he has created for children and young people.




portrait of Tracy Ryan
Photo by John Kinsella

Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan was born and grew up in Western Australia. She has worked at various jobs in libraries, bookselling, editing, community journalism and university teaching and is the author of ten books of poetry and five novels, with a sixth novel due out this year. She has a PhD in English from UWA. She is especially interested in foreign languages and the translation of poetry.

Hon David Templeman MLA Minister for Culture and the Arts
Winners and Shortlists from previous years of the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.
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