Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist announced for 2021

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist announced for 2021


The shortlist for the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards has been announced with recognition going to 26 of this year’s best writers across seven categories.

Established in 1985 by the Victorian Government, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards honours the country’s best writers with winners of the fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, prize for Indigenous writing and young adults’ categories each receiving $25,000.

The unpublished manuscript winner receives $15,000.

One winner selected from the cohort of all categories, will take out the top accolade with prize money of $100,000

The shortlisted works for this year, include investigative reporter, Louise Milligan and award-winning writers Gail Jones and Ellen van Neerven. Legendary singer-songwriter and author, Archie Roach AM, as well as Booker Prize-winning author Richard Flanagan are also in the mix.

While Women’s Agenda regular contributor, Neela Janakiramanan debuts on the unpublished manuscript list for her work, ‘On a Knife’s Edge’.

Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson celebrated the shortlist, saying Australia’s best writing was being put on show.

“The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards are a celebration of Australia’s best writing and of Victoria’s reputation as the creative state,” he said. “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”.

CEO of The Wheeler Centre, Caro Llewellyn said that this year’s shortlist cohort and the appetite for such works, was a reflection of the importance of the creative industries.

“This past year has been unprecedented in the disruption to the creative industries and the ways in which we have gone about our work, but I’m proud that the Wheeler Centre has continued to support writers through a calendar of exceptional digital programs, while sustaining the community’s appetite and need for informed conversation and entertainment,” she said.

“There could be no better start to the new year than a celebration of the very best in Australian literature and the stories that made us think, feel and reflect in 2020.’

The public are encouraged to participate in the awards by voting for their favourite book published in English and made available to Australian readers throughout 2020 at 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 and presented with their awards at on Monday 1 February, 2021.



The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, Richard Flanagan, (Penguin Random House)

Our Shadows, Gail Jones, (Text Publishing)

The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay, (Scribe Publications)

The Coconut Children, Vivian Pham, Penguin (Random House)

Highly Commended 

Revenge: Murder in Three Parts, S.L. Lim (Transit Lounge)

Smart Ovens for Lonely People, Elizabeth Tan (Brio)



Songlines: The Power and Promise, Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly (Thames & Hudson Australia)

Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us, Paddy Manning (Simon & Schuster Australia)

Show Me Where It Hurts, Kylie Maslen (Text Publishing)

Blueberries, Ellena Savage (Text Publishing)

Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice, Louise Milligan (Hachette Australia)

Fire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia, Victor Steffensen (Hardie Grant Travel)

Highly Commended

After the Count, Stephanie Convery (Penguin Random House)

Hazelwood, Tom Doig (Penguin Random House)

People of the River Grace Karskens (Allen & Unwin)

British India, White Australia, Overseas Indians, intercolonial relations and the Empire, Kama Maclean (NewSouth Publishing)



Wonnangatta, Angus Cerini (Sydney Theatre Company)

SLAP. BANG. KISS., Dan Giovannoni (Melbourne Theatre Company)

Sunshine Super Girl: The Evonne Goolagong Story, Andrea James (Currency Press)

Highly Commended

Wherever She Wanders, Kendall Feaver (Griffith Theatre Company and Currency Press)

Torch the Place, Benjamin Law (Melbourne University Publishing)



Ask Me About the Future, Rebecca Jessen (University of Queensland Press)

Case Notes, David Stavanger (UWA Publishing)

Throat, Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

Highly Commended 

Of Memory and Furniture, Bron Bateman (Fremantle Press)

Turbulence, Thuy On (UWA Publishing)

Writing for Young Adults


The F Team, Rawah Arja (Giramondo Publishing)

Metal Fish, Falling Snow, Cath Moore (Text Publishing)

Where We Begin, Christie Nieman (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Highly Commended

The End of the World is Bigger than Love, Davina Bell (Text Publishing)

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

Award for Indigenous Writing


Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music, Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster Australia)

Kindred, Kirli Saunders (Magabala Books)

Song of the Crocodile, Nardi Simpson (Hachette Australia)

Where the Fruit Falls, Karen Wyld (UWA Publishing)

Highly Commended

Late Murrumbidgee Poems, John Mukky Burke (Cordite Books)

Unpublished Manuscript Award 


Anam, André Dao

On A Knife’s Edge, Neela Janakiramanan

But the Girl, Jessica Zhan Mei Yu

Highly Commended

Children of Tomorrow, JR Burgmann

Goblins, Patrick Hunn 

The Guest House, Kylie Mirmohamadi

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