17 September 2012 - Premier Colin Barnett tonight announced Fiona Skyring’s Justice: A History of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia as winner of the 2011 Premier’s Prize worth $25,000.

  • A record number of 596 entries were received.
  • Twenty-two publishers were represented, including six from Western Australia. 
  • Fourteen Western Australian born authors were shortlisted across the categories.
  • The total prize money was $120,000.

Highly acclaimed Western Australian author Tim Winton was also inducted into the State Library of Western Australia’s Hall of Fame of notable and prolific WA writers.

Premier's Prize

Justice: A History of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia by Fiona Skyring

Published by UWA Publishing
In this history, Skyring provides one of the most comprehensive and challenging investigations of the political and legal vicissitudes indigenous Australians have confronted in Western Australia since European settlement. This elegantly written, painstakingly researched and profoundly relevant publication is a ‘must read’ for all Western Australians as, knowingly or not, all are inextricably involved in this story.


Winner - All That I Am by Anna Funder

Published by Penguin
Funder combines meticulous historical research with a story of power, tension and discomfort. Weaving together the narratives of interrelated characters and told from the cohering vantage point of an old woman dying in Sydney, Funder tracks the changing world in Germany throughout the thirties, the impossible mires of deceit, betrayal, compromise and the difficulty of love in the face of such emerging violence. A powerful and important new voice in Australian fiction.

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

Published by Fourth Estate
Drawing on historical sources, Brooks’ poignant novel brings insight into two liminal figures: the young Native American boy who casts his lot with the Europeans, and the young woman who watches and loves him, narrating their story from the margins of a fierce and masculinist Puritan culture. Casting light on Australia’s own fraught settler-indigenous relations, Brooks’ novel takes us to that point of perilous crossing where individuals and cultures meet and collide.

The Cook by Wayne Macauley

Published by Text
The unique voice of the narrator, Zac, entices the reader into this disturbing narrative. A youthful offender, Zac’s rehabilitation program leads him to believe he can become the world’s greatest chef. Wayne Macauley queries contemporary lifestyles through this revenge tragedy.

Five Bells by Gail Jones

Published by Vintage
The complexity of this narrative unfolds against a setting that is both iconic and mundane. Four individuals pass through Circular Quay, Sydney on a single Saturday and the experience of travelling is cause for reflection and reminiscence. Gail Jones brilliantly evokes each life story and the points of intersection.

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears

Published by Allen and Unwin
This lyrical novel represents the triumphs and tragedies of rural life in northern New South Wales prior to and during the Second World War. We follow the development of the female protagonist, Noah, as she struggles to free herself from the exploitation of her childhood using her skills as a horsewoman. The romance and drama of the show jumping circuit brings new possibilities. However, Noah’s love and security is tested by illness and family rivalry. This is an intense and beautiful work.

The Street Sweeper by Eliot Perlman

Published by Vintage
Perlman’s novel is epic in its range – from the horrors of the Holocaust and its many legacies, through the Civil Rights movement in the US, and across a panoply of characters each of whom seeks to make sense of a complex past. At the heart of these swirls of history, is the moving connection between an African-American hospital orderly and a dying Jewish man. It is the difficult stories they share, and the story of their unlikely friendship itself, which both cohere the novel’s vastness and provide its emotional core. An ambitious and important novel.


Winner - Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung

Published by Black Inc.
Memorable and moving, Alice Pung’s memoir works on several levels. As she relates her struggle to establish her independent adult life in the face of her parents’, especially her father’s, wish to keep her safe at home, she gradually unravels the source of his fears for his childrens’ safety in his past. Shifting between Melbourne, China and Cambodia, this beautifully written narrative is significant both on a personal level and also for its story of refugee parents and first generation Australian children and the place of those stories in contemporary Australian culture.

1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce

Published by Black Inc
This book argues that previous accounts of the foundation of Melbourne are misplaced: that British Government policy to allow the release of pastoral land to Europeans led to a preventable disaster - the rapid and comprehensive slaughter of Victorian Aboriginal people. Boyce also considers that the original founders of Melbourne were disreputable Tasmanian ex convicts and sees integrity in John Batman’s well meaning though inadequate land settlement agreement with the Kulin nation. Concise, incisive, engaging and measured, Boyce’s vision (qua Manning Clark) is that the historian must ”hear the voices of the dead, put forward new ideas for the present generation and embrace the mystery at the heart of things”.

An Eye for Eternity: the life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna

Published by The Miegunyah Press
This is an exemplary and exhaustive biography of historian Manning Clark, himself an important and controversial figure in Australian cultural life. Building on meticulous research, McKenna constructs a fascinating narrative, placing Clark’s life in its familial, social and intellectual contexts, on both national and international stages. A major achievement.

Black Swan: A Koorie Woman’s Life by Eileen Harrison and Carolyn Landon

Published by Allen & Unwin
Middle-aged Eileen Harrison joins a group of Koori women in a painting class. As she develops as a painter she begins to tell her story to Carolyn Landon, then together they write that story. A moving personal record, Harrison’s story also reflects on the impacts of dispossession and assimilation policies on Aboriginal Australians, especially women, over the past half-century. The book is beautifully illustrated with some of Harrison’s work.

Hiroshima Nagasaki by Paul Ham

Published by Harper Collins
Using a range of sources, including diaries, accounts of some who lived through the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and official documents, Paul Ham’s massive book is a comprehensive cultural and political history of the events that led to the dropping of these first atomic bombs and their effects on the Japanese cities’ civilian populations. This major work is impressive in its scope as it reassesses that history as well as the scientific, moral and political debates about the action and its effects.

Paramedico: Around the World by Ambulance by Benjamin Gilmour

Published by Pier 9
In a brilliantly told series of episodes, Gilmour relates his experiences of fifteen years as a paramedic, working with ambulance services around the globe. This original and amusing book is always insightful, both about the cultural locations he works in and the life and death nature of that work.

Children's Literature

Winner - Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck by Michelle Gillespie, illustrated by Sonia Martinez

Published by Fremantle Press
Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck tells the story of Sam Isaacs and Grace Bussell, who rescued crew and passengers from the wreck of the Georgette at Calgardup Bay, WA, in 1876. The clear writing and the bold, striking illustrations combine to creating an exciting retelling of this true-life adventure.

Archie’s Letter: An Anzac Day Story, illustrated by Ainsley Walters

Published by One Day Hill
Archie’s Letter aims to explain both the experience of being at war and how one man went on to live a ‘good life’ after the war.  Illustrated with a mixture of photos, maps and letters from WWII, and contemporary, naive paintings, Archie’s Letter is a moving tribute to Flanagan’s father, Archie, and is based on their best-selling memoir, The Line – A man’s experience; a son’s quest to understand.

Brotherband: The Outcasts by John Flanagan

Published by Random House Australia
Set in a fantasy land called Skandia, and with a strong Viking feel, this is a marvelous tale of fighting pirates, ships, challenges, gallantry and friendship. Hal, the young would-be hero, is the main character in this fast-moving and hugely entertaining action-packed adventure. It is the first of a series with Hal as the main protagonist.

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

Published by Walker Books
Graham is in fine and true form with A Bus Called Heaven. When the bus appears outside Stella’s house, blocking traffic and annoying drivers, it is pale, quiet Stella who announces that the bus should stay. With Sufis, priests, and Sikhs, Indians, graffiti artists and families, Graham’s vision of community shines through and the bus stays – cleaned, loved and saved by all.

The Little Refugee by Anh and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Published by Allen and Unwin
Anh Do and his family were boat people from Vietnam.  This beautifully illustrated story is not only a humorous and entertaining biography but is an inspiring testament to the inner strength and resilience of Anh and his family.

On Orchard Road by Elsbeth Edgar

Published by Walker Books
Jane’s family is in crisis, and her home life is suddenly and irrevocably changed. Set in country Victoria, this gentle story tells of how Jane – with the help of some interesting characters – gains the strength to cope with her problems and find happiness.


Winner - The Argument by Tracy Ryan

Published by Fremantle Press
Ryan’s collection of poems demonstrates a poet at the height of her powers. Eloquent and insightful, this argument achieves poetry’s great task and wrests the beauty and the vulnerability of life’s experience from the inevitability of death, the eventual onset of silence.

Armour by John Kinsella

Published by Picador
John Kinsella’s 32nd book of poetry is a deeply rewarding gust of imagery and ideas that cleave to form a pressing cultural, political and philosophical line of enquiry. Armour is archetypal Kinsella, with the landscape of rural Western Australia featuring heavily in his cogitations of human interaction with the natural world.

Interferon Psalms by Luke Davies

Published by Allen and Unwin
Described as the shadow companion of his earlier work Totem, Luke Davies’ Interferon Psalms is a both lamentation and celebration of physical and spiritual suffering. Incantatory in style and deeply affecting, this tour de force adroitly interprets the ravages of heartbreak and disease and the journey to recovery.

Lines for Birds: Poems and Paintings by Barry Hill and John Wolseley

Published by UWA Publishing
Hill and Wolseley combine prodigious skill in language and visual art to evoke not only the world of birds and their environments – specific, beautiful – but also the act of looking itself. The synergy of lines – of poetry, the brush, the possibilities of flight – creates a moving and illuminating reading experience.

Surface to Air by Jaya Savige

Published by University of Queensland Press
Ambitious, layered and skilful, Jaya Savige’s much anticipated second collection deftly manoeuvres across diverse ground – digital, geographical and metaphysical. Awash with Savige’s keen observation and fine lyricism, Surface to Air is a glittering constellation of disparate images and ideas that nonetheless cohere in this profoundly contemporary collection.

The Taste of River Water by Cate Kennedy

Published by Scribe
Quiet and perceptive, Kennedy’s poetry is grounded in the luminosity of the everyday, drawing our attention to the possibilities of life’s intensified moments. A powerful and accessible voice speaking to us all.

WA History

Winner - Justice: A History of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia by Fiona Skyring

Published by UWA Publishing
In this history, Skyring provides one of the most comprehensive and challenging investigations of the political and legal vicissitudes indigenous Australians have confronted in Western Australia since European settlement. This elegantly written, painstakingly researched and profoundly relevant publication is a ‘must read’ for all Western Australians as, knowingly or not, all are inextricably involved in this story.

Fremantle Port by John Dowson

Published by The Chart and Map Shop, Fremantle

This is a handsome and meticulously designed pictorial history of Western Australia’s premier port in all its aspects. This is the fourth in a series of consistently elegant and revealing photographic histories of Fremantle by John Dowson. The archival revelations from many irreplaceable glass plate early photographs, some printed with great clarity for the first time, bring to life, with concise and always apposite prose comment, human endeavour in this anchorage. A splendid presentation publication.

A Garden on the Margaret: The Path to the Old Bridge House by Gillian Lilleyman

Published by Gillian Lilleyman Publisher
A valuable and affectionate family history located in the beautiful Margaret River area. The stories and lineage of key first settler individuals and families provide vital context to the specific history and contribution of the current owners of Old Bridge House and its still surviving encyclopaedic botanical garden. A detailed local history, written with the author’s botanical knowledge and passion, it has Australia-wide importance, firmly focused on the lives of individuals in a distinct location.

Government House and Western Australian Society 1829-2010 by Jeremy C. Martens

Published by UWA Publishing
This finely written and carefully researched foundational history which is structured around a key symbolic building, offers compelling insight into how governance evolved in Western Australia. Detailed, even-handed and entertaining, this is not a specialist architectural chronicle, but an excellent social history of the state viewed through the lens of the House.

Powering Perth: A History of the East Perth Power Station edited by ​Lenore Layman

Black Swan Press
Exploration of working class and industrial locations is a burgeoning and valuable field of contemporary historical endeavour. This multi-authored book investigates the antecedents, physical surrounds, economic necessity, construction, challenges and the functional importance of the now empty East Perth Power Station. The book reveals the often unacknowledged superstructure and the sweat that has provided the increasing ease of life we now enjoy. Each specialist contribution presents an entertaining and informative view of some aspect of the power station, its purpose and its workers.

Triumphs and Tragedies: Ommbulgurri, an Australian Aboriginal Community by Neville Green

Published by Hesperian Press
An indispensable and essential history which by its unblinking close focus - and some authorial first hand personal experience - reveals the complex and often tragic governance mechanisms relevant to all such communities throughout the whole of Western Australia. It presents painful insight into law enforcement, religious dogmatism, settler intransigence and frustration, governmental neglect, cultural arrogance, ignorance or indifference to the first inhabitants' vulnerability, resistance and their very evident if misunderstood adult wisdom. Frightening, saddening but unavoidable realities are fearlessly investigated and clearly presented.

Young Adult Fiction

Winner - Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Published by Allen and Unwin
Mysterious, complex and challenging, Only Ever Always is a beautifully written story of parallel lives where Claire in the now, and Clara in a dystopian, timeless world, each face similar difficulties. Is one the dreamer, the other the dream, and if so, which? Changing voices, points of view and place make this a very satisfying novel for a reader willing to give it the close attention it deserves.

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan​

Published by Allen and Unwin
Combining excellent writing with an action packed but still character driven story, this book stands very well on its own as well as being an intriguing establishing scenario for what is to come. McGahan has a deft hand at writing powerful descriptions, drawing the reader in to the world he has created. An outstanding start to what promises to be a strong series.

Crow Country by Kate Constable

Published by Allen and Unwin
Kate Constable has taken a complex and contentious topic and handled it with a deftness that will be enjoyed by a casual reader but will be long considered by a thoughtful one. As race relations in this country are still being negotiated, this novel reminds us of past injustices while offering hope for a better future.

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Published by Allen & Unwin​
Although dark, The Dead I Know is a redemptive, hopeful narrative. Scot Gardner brings us a novel of intense grief and loss, but also one of great kindness and love. Gardner’s unusual choice of setting, his cast of complex and believable characters and his engaging writing result in a gritty, positive novel for young adults.

Horses for King Arthur​ by LS Lawrence

Published by Omnibus
A historical narrative in the Sutcliff tradition, this book is well researched and engaging, looking at issues of women's roles and responsibilities and featuring a resourceful and brave young protagonist. Taking as its premise a well known and loved story from history, Horses for King Arthur dexterously blends fact with fiction to produce a powerful story.

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Published by Hardie Grant Egmont
Keighery tackles a difficult topic here, but handles it exceptionally well, creating a scenario where the reader can empathise with the hearing-impaired protagonist and understand her situation. The characters are wholly believable and real, and the writing is simply beautiful.


Winner - Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and Ellen Fontana

Three-part TV miniseries adaptation 
Published by Penguin
This powerful screenplay uses sustained screen structure and timing, living performance writing and consistently creative visual/aural realization in order to transform the prose narrative of a much loved Australian novel. Standing as a significant achievement in its own right, the script has already resulted in a major and acclaimed television production.

Anytown by Hellie Turner

Stage Play
Unpublished Script
In Anytown, Turner offers a singular vision of a hyper real, an exemplar of an Australian rural town that embodies all the deathly clichés of antipodean inertia. The playwright’s vision is droll, savage and darkly comic. It provides a subversive entertainment for stage that is full of quiet and savage indignation neatly realized in distinctive performance scripting.

Burning Man by Jonathan Teplitzky

Feature Film
Meercat Films
In Burning Man, Telpitzky presents us with an anatomising for the screen of a blindly driven male ego, using his skills as a screenwriter to deftly apply post-modern time shifts and surreal recurring visual motifs. What is achieved is a sustained vertiginous journey through the self-destructions as well as the precarious final self-realisation of the contemporary urban protagonist, concerning love and its necessary selfless demands.

The Good, the Bad & the Baba  by Phillip Dalkin

Dogstar Children’s TV series episode 48
Media World Pictures
Dalkin’s screenwriting provides us with an object lesson in an excellent commercial half-hour episode for children’s TV. The episode is entertaining, full of delights for the target audience with genuinely funny dialogue and narrative jeopardy. All components complement the series’ house style, the set format, the character realizations and the story structure, engagement and resolution. A veteran at work.

Mad Bastards by Brendan Fletcher in collaboration with Dean Daley-Jones, Greg Tait and John Watson

Feature Film - Script developed with the support of Screen Australia and Screenwest
©Bush Turkey Films Pty Ltd
Mad Bastards is an important original and personal screenplay, which advances the burgeoning first-hand giving of voice from inside contemporary indigenous Australian experience. Compelling and memorable character creation is captured in a deceptively plain storytelling of genuine universal appeal.

Waltzing the Willara  by David Milroy
Stage Musical Drama

Belvoir Street Theatre
Deep seriousness and delight are fused in this live performance entertainment, with wide audience appeal that anneals - with apparent ease - the multi-craft skill of David Milroy as a performer, writer, composer and as a self-effacing but subtle ambassador of reconciliation.

Digital Narrative

Winner - Machine Man by Max Berry

Published by Scribe
Max Barry’s Machine Man is the best of both worlds both in terms of creation and the story itself. Originally released online, a page at a time, Barry’s ideas were scrutinised and celebrated by daily readers whose input helped shape the resulting novel. The story itself is a wonderfully dark look at cybernetics, prosthetics and commodification, begging some difficult questions about the line between people and machines. Enjoyed either episodically, or in one sitting in the final novel format, this is a witty, riveting and sometimes chilling tale. The fact that the initial day-at-a-time version remains available online for new readers, and can still be enjoyed as daily emails, leaves Machine Man as a tale dancing between the traditional paperback form and the emerging realm of networked digital storytelling.

Bear and Bairn by Caralyn Lagrange

Bear and Bairn is an original, fascinating tale, told from the perspective of a unique little Bear (Smarty Pants), inspired by the author’s own life. This first book, available freely online either as a whole book, in chapters, or read aloud as mp3 files, opens up an interactive world that will no doubt bloom with future tales, and blossom, filling a framework the author has established ready for deep audience interaction.

Nullarbor Song Cycle by David Reiter

Published by IP Digital
David Reiter’s Nullarbor Song Cycle combines poetry with a range of photos, video footage and a plethora of digital special effects to reshape the way the Nullarbor might be understood – no longer a place to avoid or speed through, but rather a realm of multiple histories and endless intrigue.

Puri: Search for Paradise by Robin Clark and Amanda Clark

Published by Peliguin
Puri is a heart-warming story, reminding us all of the importance of empathy and our close kinship with animals, from Australia to the streets of Bali. The CD book is clearly narrated, broadening English-language readers’ vocabulary with key phrases also read in Indonesian. The story’s heart, though, is the exquisite illustrations which amplify the impact of every sentence a hundred fold. A great read for kids (of all ages).

Sparky the Shark – A Frighteningly Funny Adventure by Mark Newell and Paula Mantle

Published by Biscuit Interactive
Mark Newell and Paul Mantle’s Sparky the Shark is a beautifully designed interactive children’s book delivered as an app on the iOS and Android platforms. The tale of Sparky the Shark and Dax the Penguin uses comedy and wit to engage young readers, all the while deploying an important moral message about accepting difference and being comfortable with your own identity. The mobile app design integrates a range of fun bells and whistles, including a read aloud version for very young readers. The interactive animations delight young readers, with everything from screams and shrieks, to giggling, camera clicks and beach noises; animations fill every page, making them a joy to explore. Or, as my 3 year old more succinctly put it: ‘Sparky is fun’.

People's Choice Award

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Published by Penguin
Funder combines meticulous historical research with a story of power, tension and discomfort. Weaving together the narratives of interrelated characters and told from the cohering vantage point of an old woman dying in Sydney, Funder tracks the changing world in Germany throughout the thirties, the impossible mires of deceit, betrayal, compromise and the difficulty of love in the face of such emerging violence. A powerful and important new voice in Australian fiction.

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