2013 winners by category.
Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
Michelle de Kretser has written a brave account of two extraordinary and apparently separate lives, and all the lives that intersected with theirs that will have readers examining their own sense of place in the world.
The two travellers in these gorgeously addictive parallel tales could not be more different: Laura the restless Australian and perpetually dissatisfied tourist, and Ravi the Sri Lankan, forced to become a refugee.
As they criss-cross the world and each others' paths, never quite escaping the ties of home, de Kretser's novel assembles an array of encounters and experiences for each of her travellers to raise questions that are droll, piquant, satirical, sometimes devastating. In prose of sparkling wit, she seduces, teases and challenges her readers into looking at their own assumptions about what it means to be on the move.
Jam Tree Gully by John Kinsella
John Kinsella's poems are an observation of his surrounds in the Western Australian farming community – the animals, the weather, the people. Kinsella shows his extraordinary skills, using a wide variation of verse forms to great effect in this outstanding collection.
This book of poems is an extraordinarily attentive chronicle of living in a West Australian place. Referencing Thoreau's wish, in Walden, to 'live deliberately', Kinsella's poems offer keen observations of animal life (wild, feral and domesticated), landscape, weather, and the social life of Australian country towns and the small properties that encircle them.
These are also poems of great technical virtuosity and variation, exploring traditional verse forms and freer, experimental modes of language. They capture the continual unexpectedness of the world, its violent weather, the proximate lives of animals, the depredations of settlement, the demands of the seasons. This is a poetic voice finely tuned to the shocks and delight of country life.
The Australian Moment by George Megalogenis
The Australian Moment examines the social and economic contributions of both sides of politics, from the Whitlam government of the 70s to the global crises of the early 21stCentury, detailing how each government has responded to both internal and external conditions. While most readers will be familiar with the events of recent history, Megalogenis provides additional insights from declassified documents from the USA; and a fascinating and probing series of interviews, where he asks successive Prime Ministers to comment on the value of each other's contribution.
A seasoned political journalist, George Megalogenis writes with elegance and clarity.
The Australian Moment is an important contribution to Australia's social and political history, not least for its ability to explain the Australian reform agenda since the 1970s to a broad audience.
Prize for Australian History
Farewell, dear people by Ross McMullin
Ross McMullin has taken 10 young men from different backgrounds and various parts of the country who were killed in the Great War and poignantly recounts the story of their relatively short lives. Amongst these lost leaders were sportsmen, lawyers, a scientist, a politician, a farmer and a winemaker.
The book, drawing on first hand sources, provides a fascinating glimpse into the Australia of the late 19th Century and then the first decade before the conflict that engulfed Europe and drew in the British dominions. It also tells the reader a great deal about how the war was actually fought on the ground by those present on the Western Front and at Gallipoli. Particularly moving are the accounts of how the families of these young men responded to their deaths. Many of them never fully recovered and the memory of this lost generation was an ever-present shadow over Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. This is a powerful and important contribution to Australian history.
Young adult fiction
Fog a Dox by Bruce Pascoe
Bruce Pascoe's Fog a Dox is a work of profound humanity' that ‘delights with its gentle humour, its knowledge of the bush and of the hidden workings of the heart, and its often surprising originality of expression. It gives an eloquent voice to those rarely heard. It has a place in the canon of Australian literature and is in every respect an appropriate winner'.
Pascoe's is an original voice and his story of people and country is beautiful in its simplicity. It speaks of a love of the land and its animals, of the innate goodness of bush people, of being an outsider and of earned respect. Its language and dialogue are crisp, authentic and inventive. The author's Aboriginality shines through but he wears it lightly, with an inclusivity brilliantly expressed in the bushmen's encounter with a young girl suffering from leukaemia.
Red by Libby Gleeson
Libby Gleeson's Red it is an outstandingly well-told story that will enthral young readers for a long time to come'. The central character in this dramatic novel has a compelling voice and the natural disaster scenario is of great recognisable contemporary significance.
Red is a credible heroine, the dialogue is entirely convincing and Gleeson has woven all the elements of her story into a well-plotted page-turner. This is a book of enduring value that will resonate profoundly with today's children.