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History

The Barbara Ramsden Award is sponsored by the Fellowship of Australian Writers as part of the National Literary Awards. It is a major literary award for a book of quality writing in any field of literature, and it recognises the contributions by both author and editor in producing the final product.

The award, named after esteemed Melbourne editor B. M. Ramsden, started in 1971 and ran until 1992. It was revived in 2006 with the support of the Society of Editors (Victoria) Inc.

This award was cancelled in 2016.

Winners

2015 winner y separately published work icon Under Cover : Adventures in the Art of Editing Craig Munro , Carlton North : Scribe , 2015 8873794 2015 single work autobiography

'Craig Munro began his blue-pencil adventures at the University of Queensland Press in 1971. Over the next thirty years, he became friend, counsellor, and occasionally foil to some of the country's leading authors.

'From a champagne-fuelled telegram to Patrick White to a run-in with Xavier Herbert, Craig's editorial life was punctuated by encounters with remarkable writers. Championing the early works of Peter Carey, right up to the Booker–winning True History of the Kelly Gang, Craig also edited David Malouf's first novel, Johnno. He was teased by Murray Bail's tantalising mind games, discovered a passion for Olga Masters' fiction, and helped create UQP's acclaimed Indigenous list.

'Blending book history with memoir, Under Cover explores the invisible art of editing from an insider's perspective. Told with warmth and humour, it is a wise, entertaining tour of three audacious, intoxicating, and ultimately inspiring decades of publishing mayhem.

Jointly awarded to the author Craig Monro and his editor Julia Carlomagno.

2014 winner y separately published work icon Gough Whitlam : His Time : Volume 2 Jenny Hocking , Carlton : Melbourne University Publishing , 2012 Z1882270 2012 single work biography

'The much-anticipated second volume of former labor prime minister Gough Whitlam's biography.
'In the first volume acclaimed biographer Jenny Hocking illuminated Whitlam's path to power, and here she recreates the excitement of Whitlam's historic win in 1972, the forces that never accepted his ascendency and the tragedy that followed. Drawing on previously unseen archival material, extensive interviews with family and colleagues as well as exclusive interviews with the man himself, this second volume finally exposes the truth about the Whitlam years.' (Publisher's blurb)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Lightning Felicity Volk , Sydney : Pan Macmillan , 2013 Z1930741 2013 single work novel fantasy young adult 'Amid the chaos of sweeping bushfires, Persia gives birth alone at home with tragic consequences. Traumatised and grieving, she travels north, and encounters Ahmed, a refugee fleeing deportation and his past in Pakistan. So begins a road trip to the dead heart of Australia, a journey that transcends the limits of ordinary experience. In Persia and Ahmed's world, ancient winds wreak havoc across generations, lightning ignites flames that both destroy and rejuvenate, and water drowns then delivers. Hearts break, days are leavened with loss, laughter kills and cinnamon preserves. Lightning is an odyssey across continents and centuries that explores identity and connection, and our yearning to reveal ourselves even when cloaked in crippling grief. A glorious feat of magic realism, and a moving meditation on finding hope in the rubble of our lives, Lightning celebrates the way our stories and their telling keep us alive when all else is pulling us under.' (Publisher's blurb)
2012 winner y separately published work icon The Ink Bridge Neil Grant , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2012 Z1851319 2012 single work novel young adult

'Each step becomes a heartbeat and I feel the distance between Omed and me closing. I remember when I first met him - when he had showed me what bravery meant. How he had stood up for what he believed. In the end that had been his undoing.

'Omed is a boy from Afghanistan. After making an enemy of the Taliban on the day the Buddhas of Bamiyan are destroyed, he undertakes a perilous journey to seek asylum in Australia. Hector is a grieving Australian boy who has given up on school and retreated into silence. Their paths meet at a candle factory where they both find work. But secrets fester behind the monotonous routine of assembling wax and wicks - secrets with terrible consequences. And, ultimately, it is up to Hector to see how the story ends.

'Omed's and Hector's beautifully told and compelling journeys will grip hold of your heart and not let go.' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon In Bligh's Hand : Surviving the Mutiny on the Bounty Jennifer Gall , William Bligh , Canberra : National Library of Australia , 2010 Z1839609 2010 single work biography Centred on the notebook written at sea by Captain William Bligh immediately after the mutiny on the Bounty.
2010 winner y separately published work icon Night Street Kristel Thornell , 2009 Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2010 Z1624125 2009 single work novel historical fiction

'Night Street is the passionate story of a young painter, Clarice Beckett, who defies society's strict conventions and indifferent art critics alike and leads an intense private and professional life. With her extraordinary talent for making simple city and seascapes haunting and mysteriously revelatory, Clarice paints prolifically and lives largely, overcoming the seemingly confined existence as the spinster daughter in the parental home.

Night Street began with Thornell's first encounter with the paintings of Melbourne artist Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The subtle power of Clarice's highly atmospheric, enigmatic landscapes enabled her to imagine Clarice's inner life and shape an extraordinary novel.' (Publisher's blurb)

Awarded to the author, Kristel Thornell and the publisher's editor, Clara Finlay.
2009 winner y separately published work icon Grand Obsessions : The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin Alasdair McGregor , Camberwell : Lantern , 2009 Z1628869 2009 single work biography

'On 23 May 1912, American Walter Burley Griffin was announced to the world as the winner of the international design competition for the new Australian capital to be built on a sheep paddock they called Canberra. Almost a century later, Griffin's design - but most of all its implementation - is still hotly debated. Who was this man and what was his vision? How did he come to Canberra, what happened once the Australian establishment tore him to shreds, and what was the role of his wife, helpmate, fellow architect and equal creative partner, Marion Mahony Griffin?

'In this definitive new biography of Griffin husband and wife, Alasdair McGregor delineates the role each played in the production of their greatest works - Canberra, Castlecrag, Newman College and the rest - and charts their lives, from their childhoods and meeting in Chicago in the employ of the larger than life Frank Lloyd Wright, to their battles in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, and their swansong in India.

'This is a tale of many parts. It traces the lives of two individuals of great talent and vision and their fight against mediocrity. It is the story of the birth of Canberra, one that tells us as much about the Griffins as it does about ourselves and the troubled birth of the Australian national identity. It is a portrait of a pioneering woman who achieved extraordinary things but was rarely credited with that achievement. And it is an examination of the nature of fame in a young country uncertain of its position in the world.

'The Griffins' story resonates through the years, and their fight to see their idealistic vision realised is one that goes on in Australia today.' (From the publisher's website.)

Jointly awarded to the author Alasdair McGregor and the publisher's editor Nicola Young.
2009 winner Nicola Young For the editing of Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Jointly awarded with the author Alasdair McGregor.
2008 winner Elise Jones For the editing of Pip: The Story of Olive. Jointly awarded with the author Kim Kane.
2008 winner y separately published work icon Pip : The Story of Olive Kim Kane , East Melbourne : Allen and Unwin , 2008 Z1491429 2008 single work children's fiction children's 'Olive Garnaut likes things in pairs. But even with her own perfectly symmetrical family, birthday and bedroom, Olive has only ever felt half. How extraordinary, then, that one day Pip should appear...' (Publisher's blurb) Jointly awarded to the author and the publisher's editor Elise Jones.
2007 winner Meredith Rose For the editing of Dying: A Memoir. Jointly awarded with the authors Donald Horne and Myfanwy Horne.
2007 winner y separately published work icon Dying : A Memoir Donald Horne , Myfanwy Gollan , Camberwell : Penguin , 2007 Z1430747 2007 selected work autobiography biography essay 'On learning that his illness was terminal, Donald Home began dictating his experience of dying, and his resulting journal is full of courage, honesty, insight and humour. Ever the intellectual, he also recorded his last thoughts on some of the big human questions: faith and regret, the uses of art, the rewards of the engaged mind. And on contemporary dilemmas such as the Iraq War, anti-Americanism and the meaning of democracy. These essays have been refined by his wife and long-time editor, Myfanwy, who has also written her own inspirational account of Donald's final weeks.' (Publisher's blurb) Jointly awarded to the authors and the publisher's editor Meredith Rose.
1992 joint winner y separately published work icon The House of Breathing Gail Jones , Fremantle : Fremantle Press , 1992 Z508629 1992 selected work short story (taught in 2 units)
1992 joint winner y separately published work icon The Ancestor Game Alex Miller , Ringwood : Penguin , 1992 Z203024 1992 single work novel
1991 winner y separately published work icon Collected Poems Les Murray , New York (City) : Farrar Straus and Giroux , 1991 Z796593 1991 selected work poetry
1990 winner y separately published work icon Velvet Waters Gerald Murnane , Ringwood : McPhee Gribble , 1990 Z55492 1990 selected work short story
1989 winner y separately published work icon I for Isobel Amy Witting , Ringwood : Penguin , 1989 Z391185 1989 single work novel

'This was life: no sooner had you built yourself your little raft and felt secure than it came to pieces under you and you were swimming again.

'Born into a world without welcome, Isobel observes it as warily as an alien trying to pass for a native. Her collection of imaginary friends includes the Virgin Mary and Sherlock Holmes. Later she meets Byron, W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. Isobel is not so much at ease with the flesh-and-blood people she meets, and least of all with herself, until a lucky encounter and a little detective work reveal her identity and her true situation in life.' (Publication summary)

1988 winner y separately published work icon Out of the Line of Fire Mark Henshaw , Ringwood : Penguin , 1988 Z370746 1988 single work novel

'To an Australian writer visiting Heidelberg, the brilliant young philosophy student Wolfi is a compelling character. From the start, the details of Wolfi's life are curious - from his inquisitorial father and passionate mother to the grandmother who pays for his sexual initiation with a prostitute and to his connections with the outlandish rogue Karl.

'As we are lured by Wolfi's obsession into the mysterious and erotic maze of this novel, we find nothing is as it appears.

'What in fact is fact and what in fiction is fiction?' (Publication summary)

1987 winner y separately published work icon Stories from the Warm Zone and Sydney Stories Jessica Anderson , Ringwood : Penguin , 1987 Z366184 1987 selected work short story autobiography

'Stories told from the point of view of Beatie, a young girl growing up in Brisbane,  (Publication summary)recreate family relationships and trace the path from adolescence to adulthood.'

1986 winner y separately published work icon The Well Elizabeth Jolley , Ringwood : Viking , 1986 Z385481 1986 single work novel (taught in 17 units)
— Appears in: Kokainovyj Bljuz [and] Kolodec 1991;

'Miss Hester Harper, middle-aged and eccentric, brings Katherine into her emotionally impoverished life. Together they sew, cook gourmet dishes for two, run the farm, make music and throw dirty dishes down the well. One night, driving along the deserted track that leads to the farm, they run into a mysterious creature. They heave the body from the roo bar and dump it into the farm's deep well. But the voice of the injured intruder will not be stilled and, most disturbing of all, the closer Katherine is drawn to the edge of the well, the farther away she gets from Hester.' (From the publisher's website.)

1985 joint winner y separately published work icon Illywhacker Peter Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1985 Z359598 1985 single work novel (taught in 2 units) In Australian slang, an illywhacker is a country fair con man, an unprincipled seller of fake diamonds and dubious tonics. And Herbert Badgery, may be the king of them all. Vagabond and charlatan, aviator and car salesman, seducer and patriarch, Badgery is a walking embodiment of the Australian national character. (Source: Trove)
1985 joint winner y separately published work icon Ocean of Story : The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead Christina Stead , R. G. Geering (editor), Ringwood : Viking , 1985 Z273683 1985 selected work short story prose extract drama biography
1982 winner y separately published work icon Just Relations Rodney Hall , Ringwood : Penguin , 1982 Z541175 1982 single work novel

'The back-of-beyond New South Wales hamlet of Whitey's Fall is the home of a secret, solitary boy seeking love, two young men who crave the same woman, and an earnest, bumbling, and provocative government man.' (Publisher's blurb)

1981 winner y separately published work icon Company of Heralds : A Century and a Half of Australian Publishing by John Fairfax Limited and Its Predecessors 1831-1981 Gavin Souter , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 1981 Z489028 1981 single work criticism
1980 winner y separately published work icon Henry Parkes : A Biography A. W. Martin , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 1980 Z547427 1980 single work biography
1975 joint winner y separately published work icon Gossip from the Forest Thomas Keneally , London Sydney : Collins , 1975 Z559053 1975 single work novel historical fiction

'In 1918 at Compiègne, France, a group of intractable men negotiate to forge the armistice ending World War I. The Allies press for total submission; the Germans angle for compromise. So they talk on and on, while the guns roar and men die.'

(Source: Amazon.com)

1975 joint winner y separately published work icon The Winter Sparrows : Growing Up in Scotland and Australia Mary Rose Liverani , West Melbourne : Nelson , 1975 Z263906 1975 single work autobiography
1974 joint winner y separately published work icon The Mango Tree Ronald McKie , Sydney : Collins , 1974 Z531098 1974 single work novel
1974 joint winner y separately published work icon The Pure Land David Foster , South Melbourne : Macmillan , 1974 Z178749 1974 single work novel
1973 joint winner y separately published work icon Ulysses Bound : Henry Handel Richardson and Her Fiction Dorothy Green , Canberra : Australian National University Press , 1973 Z47092 1973 single work criticism

A classic interpretative study of HHR's fiction and its genesis in the life and temperament of the author, and a scholarly critical study which broke new ground on its publication. It examines the psychological necessity underlying HHR's artistic creations, and provides a firm factual base from which to assess her achievement.

Includes selected bibliography and index.

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