2012 winners by category.


Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears

Judges’ comments

Foal’s Bread is the story of two generations living on hard-bitten Australian farming land. The women in particular are compelling for their tenderness and toughness, in a world where families can be cruel and joy is fleeting. This is a story through which we come to better know ourselves.

Written in transfixing prose and with an—at times—aching affinity for the harsh landscape the book describes, Foal’s Bread is an extraordinary work of remarkable strength and originality.


Interferon Psalms by Luke Davies

Judges’ comments

This long poem made up of shorter lyrics is a concerted effort by Luke Davies to write a major poem and it is notable for the power of its poetic realisation.

This potently organised suite of poems articulates a vision which invokes the traditional psalmist’s prerogative to utter the thousand names of the Most High.

Interferon Psalms encompasses not only the meditative intensities of the dark night of the soul but a tragicomic vision which is by turns dramatic, alarming and luminous in its formal expression.


An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna

Judges’ comments

This is a masterful biography, a deeply compassionate portrait of a complex and flawed man.

With a biographer’s literary skill and an historian’s diligence, Mark McKenna offers a rounded, humane treatment of Australia’s best-known historian, encompassing both Manning Clark’s life and work.

This wise, clear-eyed portrait of perhaps our most influential historian is essential reading for all Australians seeking to understand the transformation of Australian cultural nationalism in the second half of the twentieth century.

Prize for Australian History

The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage

Judges’ comments

Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth argues that the Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we previously envisioned. 

The Biggest Estate on Earth recasts, in a quantum leap, our perceptions of Aboriginal Australia and our understanding of the historic Australian environment and its land care.

Gammage forces us to reconsider our intellectual landscape, and thus present day environmental practices, through his dramatic historical revisioning of our physical landscape.

Gammage’s compelling central insight is that the landscape of 1788 was not natural but rather that it was made by Aboriginal people.

The author again demonstrates a rare capacity to open a fresh horizon, capturing both history and his reader.

Young adult fiction

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

Judges’ comments

The looming shadow of war is ever present in When We Were Two and the book speaks of the innocence, naivety and hope of a generation of young men and boys who marched towards it. 

Yet the strength of the story lies in the unconditional love between the two brothers, and in their spirit and courage which are destined to survive the slaughter to come.

This is historical fiction of rare accomplishment. When We Were Two deserves to become a classic.

Children’s fiction

Goodnight, Mice! written by Frances Watts and illustrated by Judy Watson

Judges’ comments

The collaboration of writer and illustrator in this case makes for an almost perfect bedtime book.

Watts’s words sing with rhyme and repetition, making them excellent linguistic tools for small children, while Watson’s impish, affectionate illustrations speak to families from every type of background.