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Colin Roderick Award
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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The Colin Roderick Award is presented annually by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies at James Cook University to honour Colin Roderick (1911-2000), who was JCU's foundation professor of English. Among his many published works were critical and biographical studies of Henry Lawson.

The Colin Roderick Award recognises ‘the best book published in Australia which deals with any aspect of Australian life’, and is open to books published in the previous year in all fields, including works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Source: Sighted: 15/11/2013.


2021 winner y separately published work icon Infinite Splendours Sofie Laguna , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2020 19846353 2020 single work novel

'Lawrence Loman is a bright, caring, curious boy with a gift for painting. He lives at home with his mother and younger brother, and the future is laid out before him, full of promise. But when he is ten, an experience of betrayal takes it all away, and Lawrence is left to deal with the devastating aftermath.

'As he grows into a man, how will he make sense of what he has suffered? He cannot rewrite history, but must he be condemned to repeat it?

'Lawrence finds meaning in the best way he knows. By surrendering himself to art and nature, he creates beauty - beauty made all the more astonishing and soulful for the deprivation that gives rise to it.

'Infinite Splendours is an extraordinary novel, incandescent with love and compassion, rich in colour and character. The power and virtuosity of Laguna's writing make it impossible for us to look away; and by being seen, Lawrence is redeemed.

'And we, as readers, have had our minds and hearts opened in ways we can't forget.' (Publication summary)

2020 winner y separately published work icon Paper Emperors : The Rise of Australia's Newspaper Empires Sally Young , Kensington : University of New South Wales Press , 2019 15507988 2019 single work non-fiction

'Before newspapers were ravaged by the digital age, they were a powerful force everywhere – especially in Australia, a country of newspaper giants and kingmakers.

'This magisterial book reveals who owned Australia’s newspapers and how they used them to wield political power. A corporate and political history spanning 140 years, Paper Emperors reveals how Australia’s media system came to be dominated by a handful of empires and powerful family dynasties who influenced public policies, lobbied and bullied politicians, and shaped internal party politics. Unexplored until now, Sally Young shows that this set the shape of Australian newspapers for the next century.'

'The book begins in 1803 with Australia's first newspaper owner - a convict who became a wealthy bank owner - giving the industry a blend of notoriety, power and wealth from the start. Throughout the twentieth century, Australians were unaware that they were reading newspapers owned by secret bankrupts and failed land boomers, powerful mining magnates, Underbelly-style gangsters, bankers, and corporate titans. It ends with the downfall of Menzies in 1941 and his conviction that a handful of press barons brought him down. The intervening years are packed with political drama, business machinations and a struggle for readers, all while the newspaper barons are peddling power and influence. 

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2019 winner y separately published work icon The True Colour of the Sea Robert Drewe , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2018 14212049 2018 selected work short story

'The long-awaited new collection of short stories from Australia’s master of the short-story genre.

'An artist marooned on a remote island in the Arafura Sea contemplates his survival chances. He understands his desperate plight and the ocean’s unrelenting power. But what is its true colour?

'A beguiling young woman nurses a baby by a lake while hiding brutal scars. Uneasy descendants of a cannibal victim visit the Pacific island of their ancestor’s murder. A Caribbean cruise of elderly tourists faces life with wicked optimism.

'Witty, clever, ever touching and always inventive, the eleven stories in The True Colour of the Sea take us to many varied coasts: whether a tense Christmas holiday apartment overlooking the Indian Ocean or the shabby glamour of a Cuban resort hotel.

'Relationships might be frayed, savaged, regretted or celebrated, but here there is always the life-force of the ocean – seducing, threatening, inspiring.

'In The True Colour of the Sea, Robert Drewe – Australia’s master of the short story form – makes a gift of stories that tackle the big themes of life: love, loss, desire, family, ageing, humanity and the life of art. '  (Publication summary)

2018 winner y separately published work icon On the Java Ridge Jock Serong , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11520458 2017 single work novel

'Amid the furious ocean there was no human sound on deck: some people standing, watching the wave, but no one capable of words.

'On the Java Ridge, skipper Isi Natoli and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored beside an idyllic reef off the Indonesian island of Dana.

'In the Canberra office of Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, a Federal election looms and (not coincidentally) a hardline new policy is being announced regarding maritime assistance to asylum-seeker vessels in distress.

'A few kilometres away from Dana, the Takalar is having engine trouble. Among the passengers fleeing from persecution are Roya and her mother, and Roya’s unborn sister.

'The storm now closing in on the Takalar and the Java Ridge will mean catastrophe for them all.

'With On the Java Ridge Jock Serong, bestselling author of The Rules of Backyard Cricket, brings us a literary novel with the pace and tension of a political thriller—and some of the most compelling, heartstopping writing about the sea since Patrick O’Brian.' (Publication summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Extinctions Josephine Wilson , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2016 9145761 2016 single work novel

'He hated the word ‘retirement’, but not as much as he hated the word ‘village’, as if ageing made you a peasant or a fool. Herein lives the village idiot.

'Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life – objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter – he is determined to be miserable, but is tired of his existence and of the life he has chosen.

'When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves.

'Humorous, poignant and galvanising by turns, Extinctions is a novel about all kinds of extinction – natural, racial, national and personal – and what we can do to prevent them.' (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon A Guide to Berlin Gail Jones , North Sydney : Random House Australia , 2015 8588237 2015 single work novel (taught in 1 units)

'A Guide to Berlin” is the name of a short story written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1925, when he was a young man of 26, living in Berlin.

'A group of six international travellers, two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian, meet in empty apartments in Berlin to share stories and memories. Each is enthralled in some way to the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and each is finding their way in deep winter in a haunted city. A moment of devastating violence shatters the group, and changes the direction of everyone's story.

'Brave and brilliant, A Guide to Berlin traces the strength and fragility of our connections through biographies and secrets. ' (Publication summary)

2015 winner y separately published work icon Wild Bleak Bohemia : Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall - A Documentary Michael Wilding , North Melbourne : Australian Scholarly Publishing , 2014 8265498 2014 single work biography

'Meticulously using contemporary newspaper reports, court records, published memoirs, private letters and diaries, Michael Wilding tells the story of three troubled geniuses of Australian writing and their world of poetry and poverty, alcohol and opiates, horse-racing and theatre, journalism and publishing. Gordon shot himself, unable to pay the printer of his poems; Kendall ended up in a mental hospital after forging a cheque, and Clarke died bankrupt for a second time.' (Publication summary)

2013 joint winner y separately published work icon The Railwayman's Wife Ashley Hay , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2013 Z1927871 2013 single work novel 'In a small town on the land's edge, in the strange space at a war's end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story. In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway's library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.' (Publisher's blurb) With Stephen Edgar's Eldershaw.
2013 joint winner y separately published work icon Eldershaw Stephen Edgar , Fitzroy North : Black Pepper , 2012 Z1924542 2012 selected work poetry

'A children’s game in an overgrown garden is the first hint of a troubling presence in the old house ‘Eldershaw’. But is the haunting a memory of the past inscribed in the stonework or a discord the occupants have brought with them?

'At the heart of Stephen Edgar’s compelling new collection are three interlinked narrative poems ranging forwards and backwards in time from the Second World War to the present day. Drawing on personal experience, reimagined and transformed through the lens of fiction, they enact those charged episodes which shape and scar the lives of several characters. From the dim rooms of ‘Eldershaw’, to the recollected infernos of war, to the uncanny waters of a seaside pool, these narratives affect us with a moving and haunting power.

'The book is completed by sixteen shorter lyrics in Edgar’s more characteristic manner, some glancing at or directly treating themes from the narratives.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

With Ashley Hay's The Railwayman's Wife.
2012 winner y separately published work icon The Daughters of Mars Thomas Keneally , North Sydney : Vintage Australia , 2012 Z1857705 2012 single work novel historical fiction

'In 1915 sisters Naomi and Sally Durance answer a call for nurses to join the war effort. They are escaping the family dairy farm in the Macleay Valley, and they carry a secret with them. Soon they are in Egypt, where they are put to work on the Red Cross hospital ship Archimedes as it patrols the Dardanelles. On Archimedes they witness Mars in all his ferocity, as he pummels soldiers in the massive, brutal metal brawl that is Gallipoli. Yet the sisters and their newfound nursing friends, with whom they will witness undreamt-of carnage and take care of unspeakably blighted men, find themselves courageous in the face of the horror.

'Naomi, Sally and their gang are then sent to northern Europe, where Naomi nurses in the visionary Australian Voluntary Hospital run by the committed and eccentric Lady Tarlton, and Sally in a casualty clearing station next to the Western Front. Here, again, they must face the inhumanity of war in its many terrible guises - where trench warfare and gas abound. But it is here, too, that the sisters meet the remarkable men with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives.

'Inspired by journals of Australian nursing sisters who gave their all to the Great War effort and the men they nursed, The Daughters Of Mars is vast in scope yet extraordinarily intimate. This is Keneally at the height of his storytelling powers; a stunning tour de force to join the best of First World War literature, and one that casts a fresh light on the challenges faced by the Australian men and women who voluntarily risked their lives for peace.' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon Foal's Bread Gillian Mears , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2011 Z1821887 2011 single work novel (taught in 4 units)

'The sound of horses' hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

'Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal's Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land.

'It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams 'turned inside out', and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard. Written in luminous prose and with an aching affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal's Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a stunning work of remarkable originality and power, one that confirms Gillian Mears' reputation as one of our most exciting and acclaimed writers.' (From the publisher's website.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon The Water Dreamers : The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent Michael Cathcart , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2009 Z1608208 2009 single work prose

'The Water Dreamers is the story of the settlement of Australia: of the scarcity of water and the need to fill an imagined silence with the sounds of civilisation. From the moment the First Fleeters stepped ashore, water determined progress. The Tank Stream that flowed through what is now the Sydney CBD provided fresh water until settlers and their livestock fouled it. Then water from a nearby swamp was piped into the growing settlement. When it ran dry sights were set further afield.

'The Water Dreamers is an illuminating account of the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It's an environmental history and a cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.' (From the publisher's website.)

2007 winner y separately published work icon Jamaica : A Novel Malcolm Knox , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2007 Z1424188 2007 single work novel 'A group of 6 friends converge on the fabled island of Jamaica to compete in a marathon relay swim across treacherous water. Most have known each other since school, scions of wealth, breeding and privilege and members of the upper echelon of supposedly classless Sydney. The odd man out is new money Jeremy Hutchison (Hut), who's tolerated by the group because of the fortune he's made, but never really accepted. It is a group of people on the edge of crisis, none more so than Hut, who is guarding a terrible truth. As the sleazy charms of Jamaica insinuate themselves onto the group, things fall apart in predictable and surprising ways, and the secrets of the past must be addressed. Compulsive reading from an unflinching observer of fallibility, hypocrisy and thwarted ambition.' (Publisher's blurb)
2006 winner y separately published work icon Careless Deborah Robertson , Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2006 Z1274224 2006 single work novel (taught in 1 units) 'Eight-year-old Pearl tries very hard to get things right. She watches over her small brother and manages her mother's happiness, while carefully guarding her private passions. But the events of a summer's day are about to change Pearl's life, and nothing may ever be right again. In a cooler, greener suburb, Sonia is learning to live alone after the death of her husband, and at the edge of the city, close to the beaches, the young artist Adam Logan is hoping that his recent celebrity will open the doors to a new life. In ways connected but unforeseen, Pearl's tragedy will soon affect the worlds of these two strangers. Combining the intimacy of a family's heartache, with the suspense of a thriller, Careless is a gripping, seductive novel about the ties of caring and responsibility, that are formed, and broken, in our society. It is a novel about our times.' (Backcover)
2005 winner y separately published work icon The Broken Shore Peter Temple , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2005 Z1207328 2005 single work novel crime (taught in 9 units)

'Joe Cashin was different once. He moved easily then; was surer and less thoughtful. But there are consequences when you've come so close to dying. For Cashin, they included a posting away from the world of Homicide to the quiet place on the coast where he grew up. Now all he has to do is play the country cop and walk the dogs. And sometimes think about how he was before.

'Then prominent local Charles Bourgoyne is bashed and left for dead. Everything seems to point to three boys from the nearby Aboriginal community; everyone seems to want it to. But Cashin is unconvinced. And as tragedy unfolds relentlessly into tragedy, he finds himself holding onto something that might be better let go.'
Source: Publisher's website (Sighted 22/8/11)

2004 joint winner y separately published work icon The Lovemakers : Book 2 : Money and Nothing Alan Wearne , Sydney : ABC Books , 2004 Z1099636 2004 single work novel

'Centered on the Australian suburbs in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, The Lovemakers Part Twocontinues to explore the inner and outer tensions of families and society, and the rituals of home extensions, weddings and public-service career paths. Meanwhile, in the city, the demi-monde transforms itself into the drug culture. This stunning verse novel builds powerfully to its emotional heart: the triangle of Barb, her husband Roger and her lover Neil.' (Publication summary)

Announced in 2005. Joint winner with Tim Winton for The Turning.
2004 joint winner y separately published work icon The Turning Tim Winton , Sydney : Picador , 2004 Z1146280 2004 selected work short story (taught in 12 units)

The Turning comprises seventeen overlapping stories of second thoughts and mid-life regret set in the brooding small-town world of coastal Western Australia. Here are turnings of all kinds - changes of heart, nasty surprises, slow awakenings, sudden detours - where people struggle against the terrible weight of the past and challenge the lives they've made for themselves.

These elegiac stories examine the darkness and frailty of ordinary people and celebrate the moments when the light shines through.

Announced in 2005. Joint winner with Alan Wearne for The Lovemakers.
2003 winner y separately published work icon The Tyrant's Novel Thomas Keneally , Sydney : Doubleday , 2003 Z1041696 2003 single work novel thriller Trapped behind barbed wire in an alien land, a man used to guarding his secrets is compelled to set the record straight. Imagine a faraway country that was once a friend of the West becoming the enemy, its people isolated and savagely repressed by a tyrant known as Great Uncle. As one of the country's most celebrated writers and a war hero, the storyteller has a better life than most, until he is made an offer he can't refuse. He must write a great novel, telling of the suffering of his people under the enemy's cruel economic sanctions and portraying Great Uncle as their saviour. This masterpiece must be completed in time for its international debut in three months, or else. If the writer cannot, or will not, meet the tyrant's deadline, he and anyone he cares for will pay the ultimate price. Stark, terrifying and utterly compelling, The Tyrant's Novel is both a gripping thriller and a chilling glimpse of a fictional world that seems all too real. (Source: LibrariesAustralia) Announced in 2004
2002 winner y separately published work icon Recollections of a Bleeding Heart : A Portrait of Paul Keating PM Don Watson , Milsons Point : Random House Australia , 2002 Z994945 2002 single work biography 'In December 1991 Paul Keating wrested the role of Prime Minister from Bob Hawke and the bruises from that struggle were part of the baggage he brought to the job: the other parts included the worst recession in 60 years and an electorate determined to make him pay for it. Keating defied the odds and won the 1993 election, and in his four years as Prime Minister set Australia on a new course - towards engagement with Asia, a republic, reconciliation, a social democracy built on a modern export-based economy and sophisticated public systems of education and training, health and social security. Widely regarded as a quintessential economic rationalist, Keating's record clearly shows that his vision was infinitely broader and more complex.

'Don Watson was employed as Keating's speechwriter. Based on the diaries Watson kept through the four turbulent and exhausting years of Keating's Prime Ministership, on its release Recollections of a Bleeding Heart was widely deemed a masterpiece. It is at once a groundbreaking "inside" account of politics and a profound and extraordinarily frank study of the most intriguing and visionary politician in Australia's modern history. Now, when vision and character have all but vanished from politics, Don Watson's Recollections makes absorbing - and essential - reading.' (From the publisher's website, 10th anniversary edition.)
2001 winner y separately published work icon Rose Boys Peter Rose , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2001 Z915485 2001 single work autobiography (taught in 1 units) At twenty-two Robert Rose faced a rare choice. He could devote his talents to cricket or he could follow the path of his father, Bob Rose, one of the great Australian Rules footballers. Then on St Valentines Day 1974 Robert became a quadriplegic following a tragic car accident. He lived for another twenty-five years, totally dependent on others. Now his brother Peter, a leading literary figure, has written Robert's life story. The result is a family memoir of rare candour touching themes of family, disability, loyalty, masculinity, physical and emotional dependence--above, all mortality. (Source: Trove) This award is accompanied by the H T Priestley Medal
2000 winner (Best Australian Book) y separately published work icon True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2000 Z668312 2000 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 29 units)

'"I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false."

'In TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semi-literate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.' (From the publisher's website.)

Award is accompanied by the H. T. Priestley Medal
1999 winner y separately published work icon Out of Ireland Christopher Koch , Sydney : Doubleday , 1999 Z513277 1999 single work novel

'A leader of the Young Ireland rebellion of 1848, Robert Devereaux is an Irish gentleman who is prepared to hazard a life of privilege in the fight for his country's freedom. transported to Van Diemen's land as a political prisoner, he enters a life that greatly changes him, falling in love with a young Irish convict woman. Through Kathleen O'Rahilly he comes to know the people he's long romanticised; but his cause, and the life he has lost, will not let him go.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (HarperCollins 2013 ed.)

1998 winner y separately published work icon (And So Forth) Robert Dessaix , Sydney : Macmillan , 1998 Z349426 1998 selected work short story prose criticism biography

'In this award-winning selection of his short fiction, essays and journalism from the last decade, Robert Dessaix offers insights into the many selves at play behind the mask of well-known broadcaster and author of "Night Letters". Traveller, thinker, linguist, and self-confessed dilettante, Dessaix muses in these pieces on an astonishing array of subjects from Orientalism to Aboriginal spirituality, from the art of translation to the nature of creativity, from covetousness to gay fiction, from Albanian tourism to adoption and the suburban family.Underlying these finely nuanced conversations with the reader is a passion for language and for finding ways to write with simplicity about intricate yet vital things–intimacy, mortality, time, love.

'"(and so forth)" was a bestseller when first published in hardback in 1998, and won the Colin Roderick Award for 1999 for the best Australian book of 1998. This paperback edition includes the 8-page colour section.'(Publication summary) 

1994 winner y separately published work icon The Scandalous Penton : A Biography of Brian Penton Patrick Buckridge , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1994 Z575375 1994 single work biography
1993 winner y separately published work icon Gross Moral Turpitude : The Orr Case Reconsidered Cassandra Pybus , Port Melbourne : Heinemann Australia , 1993 Z1252278 1993 single work non-fiction
1991 winner y separately published work icon Struggle of Memory Joan Marie Dugdale , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1991 Z561524 1991 single work novel