AustLit logo
Asher Literary Award (2005-2017)
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


The Asher Literary Award is offered every two years to a female author whose work carries an anti-war theme. The Award is managed by the Australian Society of Authors on behalf of the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

Made possible by a bequest from Mrs Helen Waltraud Rosalie Asher, the Award was established in 2005. Helen Asher was the author of Tilly’s Fortunes (Penguin, 1986). Her shorter works were published in various anthologies.

A post-WWII refugee from Germany, Helen was deeply committed to Australia’s artistic and cultural life. Both Helen and her husband Mervyn were active in Sydney’s literary community.

Source: Sighted: 29/11/2013.


  • The Asher Literary Award was created from the bequest of Helen Asher, a post-World War II refugee and writer. The prize is for writing by a female that carries an anti-war message. The Award, inaugurated in 2005 with prize money of $10,000, was administered by the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

    The award was disestablished in 2017, at the point at which the bequest had been fully expended.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2017

joint winner y separately published work icon Enemy : A Daughter's Story of How Her Father Brought the Vietnam War Home Ruth Clare , Melbourne : Penguin , 2016 9310170 2016 single work autobiography

'Ruth Clare's father came back from the Vietnam War a changed man: a violent, controlling parent and a dominating, aggressive husband. Through a childhood of being constantly on guard, with no one to protect her but herself, Ruth learned to be strong and fierce in the face of fear.

'After escaping her difficult upbringing, Ruth went on to have a family of her own. Facing the challenges of parenting brought her past back to life, and she lived in fear that she was doomed to repeat her father's behaviour. Wanting to understand the experiences that had damaged her father, she met with other veterans and began listening to their stories, of war, conscription, returning to civilian life. What Ruth uncovered left her with a surprising empathy for the man who caused her so much pain and heartache.

'Weaving a striking personal narrative with a revelatory exploration of the effects of war, Enemy is a bold, compelling and ultimately triumphant memoir from a hugely impressive new Australian writer.' (Publication summary)

joint winner y separately published work icon A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy Libby Hathorn , Sydney : Hachette Australia , 2016 9021173 2016 single work children's fiction children's war literature

''From award-winning Australian author Libby Hathorn and acclaimed illustrator Phil Lesnie, an exquisitely illustrated and deeply moving story of the Somme.

'A moving story, told completely in dialogue, about a young Australian soldier in the battle of the Somme. Walking through the fields away from the front, he finds what he thinks is a stray dog, and decides to adopt it as a mascot for his company. Then he meets Jacques, the homeless orphan boy who owns the dog. The soldier realises that Jacques needs the dog more - and perhaps needs his help as well.

'With stunning illustrations from Phil Lesnie, this is a deeply moving celebration of friendship in times of war.

'A Soldier, A Dog And A Boy was inspired by Libby Hathorn's months of research on her uncle, who survived Gallipoli but went on to fight at the Battle of the Somme and was killed there in 1917 at just twenty years old.'

Year: 2015

winner y separately published work icon Broken Nation : Australians in the Great War Joan Beaumont , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2013 7949419 2013 single work non-fiction

''If you read only one book about Australia's experience of World War I ... make it Broken Nation, an account that joins the history of the war to the home front, and that details the barbarism of the battlefields as well as the desolation, despair, and bitter divisions that devastated the communities left behind.' - Marilyn Lake, Australian Book Review

'The Great War is, for many Australians, the event that defined our nation. The larrikin diggers, trench warfare, and the landing at Gallipoli have become the stuff of the Anzac 'legend'. But it was also a war fought by the families at home. Their resilience in the face of hardship, their stoic acceptance of enormous casualty lists and their belief that their cause was just made the war effort possible.

'Broken Nation is the first book to bring together all the dimensions of World War I. Combining deep scholarship with powerful storytelling, Joan Beaumont brings the war years to life: from the well-known battles at Gallipoli, Pozieres, Fromelles and Villers-Bretonneux, to the lesser known battles in Europe and the Middle East; from the ferocious debates over conscription to the disillusioning Paris peace conference and the devastating 'Spanish' flu the soldiers brought home. We witness the fear and courage of tens of thousands of soldiers, grapple with the strategic nightmares confronting the commanders, and come to understand the impact on Australians at home, and at the front, of death on an unprecedented scale.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2013

winner y separately published work icon Hannah and Emil Belinda Castles , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2012 Z1879347 2012 single work novel historical fiction 'Emil and Hannah live their lives amid the turmoil of 20th-century history. Emil, a German veteran of the Great War, has returned home to a disturbed nation. As inflation and unemployment edge the country near collapse, Emil's involvement with the resistance ultimately forces him from his family and his home. Hannah, soaked in the many languages of her upbringing as a Russian Jew in the West End of London and intent on experiencing the world, leaves home for Europe, travelling into a continent headed again towards total war. In Brussels, she meets the devastated Emil, who has just crossed the border on foot from Nazi Germany, leaving tragedy in his wake. All too briefly, they make a life in England before war strikes, and Emil, an enemy alien, is interned and then sent away. Hannah, determined to find him, prepares herself for a lonely and dangerous journey across the seas' (Publisher website).

Year: 2011

joint winner y separately published work icon The Old School P. M. Newton , Camberwell : Viking , 2010 Z1696204 2010 single work novel detective

'Sydney, 1992. Nhu 'Ned' Kelly is a young detective making her way in what was, until recently, the best police force money could buy. Now ICAC has the infamous Roger Rogerson in the spotlight, and the old ways are out. Ned's sex and background still make her an outsider in the force, but Sydney is changing, expanding, modernising, and so is the Job.

When two bodies are found in the foundations of an old building in Sydney's west, Ned is drawn into the city's past: old rivalries, old secrets and old wrongs. As she works to discover who the bones belong to - and who dumped them there - she begins to uncover secrets that threaten to expose not only the rotten core of the police force, but also the dark mysteries of her own family.'

Source: Publisher's website Sighted: 7/6/10

Joint winner with Ruin by Roberta Lowing
joint winner y separately published work icon Ruin Roberta Lowing , Carindale : Interactive Press , 2010 Z1745137 2010 selected work poetry Joint winner with The Old School by P. M. Newton.

Year: 2009

winner y separately published work icon The Ghost at the Wedding Shirley Walker , Camberwell : Viking , 2009 Z1603338 2009 single work biography 'In the year of 1914, in the canefields of northern New South Wales, the young men couldn't wait to set off for the adventure of war. The women coped as best they could, raised the children, lived in fear of being next to receive an official telegram. They grieved their dead, and came to learn that for returned men there are worse things than death in combat. They bore more children to replace those lost in the First World War, and the sons were just the right age to go off to the second.' Source: (Sighted 06/07/2009). Joint winner with Sara Knox, The Orphan Gunner.
winner y separately published work icon The Orphan Gunner Sara Knox , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2007 Z1440085 2007 single work novel war literature

'The Orphan Gunner is an unconventional romance set in bomber command in Lincolnshire during the Second World War.

Evelyn and Olive grew up together in the Canabolas Valley near Orange. They are in England at the outbreak of war: Evelyn as a pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary, Olive in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. They're joined by Evelyn's brother Duncan, a novice gunner in Lancaster L-Love, flying bombing raids over Germany.

The raids take their toll on the crew, and the two women are drawn into a plot involving disguise and mistaken identity, to get the exhausted Duncan out of service.

The Orphan Gunner explores the seductions of passing, the licence granted by risk, and the selflessness - and selfishness - of sacrifice. The relationship between the two women is portrayed with subtlety and warmth, and an extraordinary sense of historical detail which brings its wartime setting vividly to life. (Publisher's blurb)

Joint winner with Shirley Walker, The Ghost at the Wedding.