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Award for Non-Fiction (1986-)
Subcategory of Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature
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Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2022

winner y separately published work icon Olive Cotton : A Life in Photography Helen Ennis , Pymble : Fourth Estate , 2019 16573779 2019 single work biography

'A landmark biography of a singular and important Australian photographer, Olive Cotton, by an award-winning writer - beautifully written and deeply moving.

'Olive Cotton was one of Australia's pioneering modernist photographers, a woman whose talent was recognised as equal to her first husband's, Max Dupain, and a significant artist in her own right. Together, Olive and Max could have been Australia's answer to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, or Ray and Charles Eames. The photographic work they produced during the 1930s and '40s was extraordinary and distinctively their own.

'But in the early 1940s Cotton quit their marriage and Sydney studio to live with second husband Ross McInerney and raise their two children in a tent on a farm near Cowra - later moving to a hut that had no running water, electricity or telephone. Despite these barriers, and not having access to a darkroom, Olive continued her photography but away from the public eye. Then a landmark exhibition in Sydney in 1985 shot her back to fame, followed by a major retrospective at the AGNSW in 2000. Australian photography would never be same.

'This is a moving and powerful story about talent, creativity and women, and about what it means for an artist to manage the competing demands of art, work, marriage, children and family.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon The Bible in Australia : A Cultural History Meredith Lake , Sydney : NewSouth Publishing , 2018 13958032 2018 multi chapter work criticism

'The revelatory story of the Bible in Australia, from the convict era to the Mabo land rights campaign, Nick Cave, the Bra Boys, and beyond. Thought to be everything from the word of God to a resented imposition, the Bible has been debated, painted, rejected, translated, read, gossiped about, preached, and tattooed.

'At a time when public discussion of religion is deeply polarised, Meredith Lake reveals the Bible’s dynamic influence in Australia and offers an innovative new perspective on Christianity and its changing role in our society. In the hands of writers, artists, wowsers, Bible-bashers, immigrants, suffragists, evangelists, unionists, Indigenous activists, and many more – the Bible has played a defining and contested role in Australia.

'A must-read for sceptics, the curious, the lapsed, the devout, the believer, and non-believer. ' (Publication summary)

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon The Boy Behind the Curtain Tim Winton , Melbourne : Penguin , 2016 9481193 2016 selected work autobiography essay

'The remarkable true stories in The Boy Behind the Curtain reveal an intimate and rare view of Tim Winton’s imagination at work and play.

'A chronicler of sudden turnings, brutal revelations and tender sideswipes, Tim Winton has always been in the business of trouble. In his novels chaos waits in the wings and ordinary people are ambushed by events and emotions beyond their control. But as these extraordinarily powerful memoirs show, the abrupt and the headlong are old familiars to the author himself, for in many ways his has been a life shaped by havoc.

'In The Boy Behind the Curtain Winton reflects on the accidents, traumatic and serendipitous, that have influenced his view of life and fuelled his distinctive artistic vision. On the unexpected links between car crashes and religious faith, between surfing and writing, and how going to the wrong movie at the age of eight opened him up to a life of the imagination. And in essays on class, fundamentalism, asylum seekers, guns and the natural world he reveals not only the incidents and concerns that have made him the much-loved writer he is, but some of what unites the life and the work.

'By turns impassioned, funny, joyous, astonishing, this is Winton’s most personal book to date, an insight into the man who’s held us enthralled for three decades and helped us reshape our view of ourselves. Behind it all, from risk-taking youth to surprise-averse middle age, has been the crazy punt of staking everything on becoming a writer.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2016

winner y separately published work icon What Days Are For Robert Dessaix , North Sydney : Random House , 2014 8019105 2014 single work autobiography

'One Sunday night in Sydney, Robert Dessaix collapses in a gutter in Darlinghurst, and is helped to his hotel by a kind young man wearing a T-shirt that says FUCK YOU. What follows are weeks in hospital, tubes and cannulae puncturing his body, as he recovers from the heart attack threatening daily to kill him.

'While lying in the hospital bed, Robert chances upon Philip Larkin's poem 'Days'. What, he muses, have his days been for? What and who has he loved – and why?

'This is vintage Robert Dessaix. His often surprisingly funny recollections range over topics as eclectic as intimacy, travel, spirituality, enchantment, language and childhood, all woven through with a heightened sense of mortality. ' (Publication summary)

Year: 2014

winner y separately published work icon Madness : A Memoir Kate Richards , Camberwell : Viking , 2013 Z1928228 2013 single work autobiography

'It's Not Every Day You Get to Admit You're Mad.

'The thing with psychosis is that when I'm sick I believe the delusional stuff to the same degree that you might know the sky is above and the earth below. And if someone were to say to me that the delusional thinking is, in fact, delusional, well that's the same as if I assure you now that we walk on the sky. Of course you wouldn't believe me, and that's why it's sometimes so hard for people who are sick like this to know that they need treatment. Psychosis and severe depression have a huge effect on how you relate to other people and how you see the world. It's a bit like being in a vacuum, or behind a wall of really thick glass . . . you lose any sense of connectedness. You're cast adrift from everyone and everything that matters.

'I've lived with acute psychosis and depression for the best part of twenty years. This is the story of my journey from chaos to balance, and from limbo to meaning.' (Publisher's blurb)

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