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Author Dr Tony Birch.
Tony Birch Tony Birch i(A19090 works by) (a.k.a. Anthony Birch)
Born: Established: 1957 Melbourne, Victoria, ;
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal ; Irish ; West-Indian
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Dr Tony Birch was born in inner-city Melbourne, into a large family of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. His upbringing was challenging and difficult, and much of this is captured in his remarkable debut, the semi-autobiographical Shadowboxing.

An altar boy and exceptional student at his local Catholic primary school, in adolescence, Birch went 'off the rails' as a teenager. He was expelled from two high schools for fighting and found trouble with the police for the same reason. Although somewhat adrift following his expulsions, he remained a voracious reader – once, when he was arrested by police, all they found when they patted him down was a copy of Camus’ The Outsider, which remains his favourite book.

Returning to night school to complete his studies, Birch met his mentor, Anne Misson, whose credo was very simple: 'You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.' Birch still lives by this and applies it to everything including his passion for running, which is where his writing is created and shaped.

Studying as a mature-age student at the University of Melbourne, Birch holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and, a PhD in History, which won the university's Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in 2013.

Birch has been publishing short stories and poetry regularly since the 1980s, although his first collection, Shadow Boxing, only appeared in 2006. Since this, he has published four more collections of short stories and poetry (Father's Day [2009], The Promise [2014], Broken Teeth [2016], and Common People [2017] and two novels (Blood [2011] and Ghost River [2015]).

Among his awards are the Scanlon Prize and the Prize for Indigenous Writing (Victorian Premier's Literary Awards). He has also been shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Steele Rudd Award (with both the original Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and the later Queensland Literary Awards), and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 2015, he joined Victoria University as the first recipient of its Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship. His role sits within the Moondani Balluk Academic Unit and is linked to the University’s creative arts and writing programs. He has also taught creative writing at the University of Melbourne for many years.

Birch’s work is widely read and loved including by those who might normally avoid books, particularly teenage boys. Through his outreach work, he visits many schools to speak to students, and takes particular pleasure in returning to the two schools that expelled him, as both of his previous books are on the syllabus.


Most Referenced Works

Personal Awards

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon The White Girl St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2019 15595276 2019 single work novel

'Odette Brown has lived her whole life on the fringes of a small country town. After her daughter disappeared and left her with her granddaughter Sissy to raise on her own, Odette has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. When a new policeman arrives in town, determined to enforce the law, Odette must risk everything to save Sissy and protect everything she loves.

'In The White Girl, Miles-Franklin-shortlisted author Tony Birch shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families.'  (Publication summary)

2021 longlisted International Awards International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
2020 shortlisted Barbara Jefferis Award
2020 longlisted Booksellers Choice Award Adult Fiction Book of the Year
2020 shortlisted Miles Franklin Literary Award
2020 winner New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Indigenous Writer's Prize
2020 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
2020 shortlisted Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year
2020 longlisted APA Book Design Awards Best Designed Commercial Fiction Cover Cover designed by Josh Durham, Design by Committee
2020 longlisted Indie Awards Fiction
y separately published work icon Common People St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2017 11496679 2017 selected work short story

'In this unforgettable new collection, Tony Birch introduces a cast of characters from all walks of life. These remarkable and surprising stories capture common people caught up in the everyday business of living and the struggle to survive. From two single mothers on the most unlikely night shift to a homeless man unexpectedly faced with the miracle of a new life, Birch’s stories are set in gritty urban refuges and battling regional communities. His deftly drawn characters find unexpected signs of hope in a world where beauty can be found on every street corner – a message on a T-shirt, a friend in a stray dog or a star in the night sky. 

'Common People shines a light on human nature and how the ordinary kindness of strangers can have extraordinary results. With characteristic insight and restraint, Tony Birch reinforces his reputation as a master storyteller.'

Source: Publication summary.

2019 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing
2018 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards Australian Short Story Collection - Steele Rudd Award
2018 shortlisted Colin Roderick Award
2018 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Indigenous Writer's Prize
2018 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
2018 longlisted ASAL Awards ALS Gold Medal
y separately published work icon Broken Teeth Australia : Cordite Press , 2016 9101544 2016 selected work poetry

'I wrote many poems before I published a single word of fiction, short or long. Some of the poems I was happy with. Others were terrible. Thankfully, most of the bad stuff was never published, although a couple of the more atrocious ones were. I hope they’re being taught somewhere as examples of bad writing and giving students a laugh. The poems of mine that I’m most happy with, while not being ‘found’ poems, riff off the political words of others, hammered into shape with anger, and sometimes caressed with love. Other institutional words, phrases and sentences I picked up along the way, interrogating them until they confessed their hidden meaning. Any dictatorship worth its violent salt executes the poets first. It is the way it should be, as a great poem cuts through the crap and goes for the heart and heat like a double-barrelled shotgun.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2016 shortlisted Scanlon Prize for Poetry
Last amended 15 May 2020 12:53:57
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