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Magarey Medal for Biography
Subcategory of ASAL Awards Subcategory of The Australian Historical Association Awards
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Donated by Professor Emerita Susan Magarey, the Magarey Medal for Biography is awarded to the female person who has published the work judged to be the best biographical writing on an Australian subject. The awarding of the prize is administered and judged by a panel established by the Australian Historical Association and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. Established in 2004, the medal is awarded every two years.

Source: Sighted: 26/11/2013.


2020 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.

2018 winner y separately published work icon Tracker Tracker : Stories of Tracker Tilmouth Alexis Wright , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2017 11570382 2017 single work biography

'The legendary Indigenous activist ‘Tracker’ Tilmouth died in Darwin in 2015. Taken from his family as a child and brought up on a mission on Croker Island, he returned home to transform the world of Aboriginal politics. He worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council. He was a visionary and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his colourful anecdotes. The memoir was composed by Wright from interviews with Tracker before he died, as well as with his family, friends and colleagues, weaving his and their stories together into a book that is as much a tribute to the role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of a remarkable man.'  (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Warrior : A Legendary Leader's Dramatic Life and Violent Death on the Colonial Frontier Warrior Libby Connors , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2015 8532889 2015 single work biography

'In the 1840s, white settlement in the north was under attack. European settlers were in awe of Aboriginal physical fitness and fighting prowess, and a series of deadly raids on homesteads made even the townspeople of Brisbane anxious.'

'Young warrior Dundalli was renowned for his size and strength, and his elders gave him the task of leading the resistance against the Europeans' ever increasing incursions on their traditional lands. Their response was embedded in Aboriginal law and Dundalli became one of their greatest lawmen. With his band of warriors, he had the settlers in thrall for twelve years, evading capture again and again, until he was finally arrested and publicly executed.'

'Warrior is the extraordinary story of one of Australia's little-known heroes, one of many Aboriginal men to die protecting their country. It is also a fresh and compelling portrait of life in the early days of white settlement of Brisbane and south east Queensland.' (Source Publisher's website)

2014 winner y separately published work icon The Lone Protestor : A M Fernando in Australia and Europe Fiona Paisley , Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press , 2012 Z1874516 2012 single work biography

'The late 1920s saw an extraordinary protest by an Australian Aboriginal man on the streets of London. Standing outside Australia House, cloaked in tiny skeletons, Anthony Martin Fernando condemned the failure of British rule in his country.

'Fernando is believed to be the first Aboriginal person to protest conditions in Australia from the streets of Europe. His various forms of action, from pamphlets on the streets of Rome to the famous Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, distinguish this lone protestor as a unique Aboriginal activist of his time.

'Drawn from an extensive search in archives from Australia and Europe, this is the first full-length study of Fernando and the self-professed mission that was to last half of his adult life.

'Paisley brings to light new episodes in Fernando's activist career as well as previously unknown details about his extraordinary life in Australia and overseas. Her account dramatically shifts our understanding of the international reach of Aboriginal protest in this era.' (From the publisher's website.)

2012 winner y separately published work icon My Father's Daughter : Memories of an Australian Childhood Sheila Fitzpatrick , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2010 Z1713085 2010 single work autobiography

'How does a daughter tell the story of her father?

Sheila Fitzpatrick was taught from an early age to question authority. She learnt it from her father, the journalist and radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick. But very soon, she began to turn her questioning gaze on him.

Teasing apart the many layers of memory, Fitzpatrick reveals a complex portrait of an Australian family against a Cold War backdrop. As her relationship with her father fades from girlhood adoration to adolescent scepticism, she flees Melbourne for Oxford to start a new life. But it's not so easy to escape being her father's daughter.

My Father's Daughter is a vivid evocation of an Australian childhood; a personal memoir told with the piercing insight of a historian.' (From the publisher's website.)

2010 winner y separately published work icon Stella Miles Franklin Her Brilliant Career : The Life of Stella Miles Franklin Jill Roe , Pymble : Fourth Estate , 2008 Z1457113 2008 single work biography 'This biography is an authoritative account of the novelist, journalist, nationalist, feminist and larrikin Stella Miles Franklin, author of My Brilliant Career and a great literary figure. This account follows her story from her beginnings in the Australian bush, through her publishing success and time spent working for the women's labour movement in Chicago, and details her time spent as a nurse in the Balkans during World War I.'

[Source: HarperCollins]
2008 winner y separately published work icon Ida Leeson : A Life Sylvia Martin , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2006 Z1285476 2006 single work biography

'A girl from a working class background, Ida Leeson successfully penetrated the bourgeoisie to become a woman of achievement in what was still predominantly a man's world. When she was appointed Mitchell Librarian in 1932 there was very public controversy over whether it was appropriate to appoint a woman to such a senior position.

'In what we now acknowledge to be a heroic period of Australian writing and publishing, Ida became a trailblazer for women, for librarians, and a champion of the lively literary culture of Australia in the 1930s and 1940s. She was friendly with many of the leading literary figures of the time, such as James McAuley, Christopher Brennan, Marjorie Barnard, Flora Eldershaw and most notably Miles Franklin, for whom she was a kind of honorary proof-reader and literary advisor (she was even written into the novel Pioneers on Parade by Miles Franklin and Dymphna Cusack).

'She was also a close friend of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, and for some time both Ida and her partner, Florence Birch, lived as part of the bohemian enclave the Griffins established around them at Castlecrag. Brought to vivid life by Sylvia Martin, here is the story of a pioneering woman who lead an extraordinary life.' (Publisher's blurb)

2006 winner y separately published work icon Behind the News : A Biography of Peter Russo Prue Torney-Parlicki , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2005 Z1227962 2005 single work biography
2004 winner y separately published work icon Isabel Flick : The Many Lives of an Extraordinary Aboriginal Woman Isabel Flick , Heather Goodall , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2004 Z1116442 2004 single work autobiography

'The remarkable life story of a leading Aboriginal community activist who grew up in a camp in northern NSW, and worked on health, education and other social issues across the state.

"And I said that to this old fella to this old fella at the ticket box: I want you to come and fix this. Take these ropes off! What do you think we are? Our money is as good as anyone else's and we want to sit where we want to sit. I kept standing there in front of the ticket office, and by then my sister-in-law was there too. The two of us, making trouble! And my poor little heart, I don't know how it stayed in my chest".' Source: Publisher's blurb