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The Calibre Prize
or Calibre Essay Prize
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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First awarded in 2007, the Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay is given by Australian Book Review. The prize is the key Australian award for an original essay.

The Calibre Prize is intended 'to generate brilliant new essays and to foster new insights into culture, society, and the human condition'. Essays from leading authors, commentators, and emerging writers are welcomed, and all non-fiction subjects are eligible.

Source: Sighted: 3/12/2013.


  • First presented in 2006, The Calibre Prize is awarded annually, by The Australian Book Review and Copyright Agency Limited, for an outstanding essay.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2022

winner This Woman My Grandmother Simon Tedeschi , 2022 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , May no. 442 2022; (p. 29-34)

'A decade before she died, my grandmother Lucy, whose Hebrew name was Leah but who was known to us as Nanna, decided to write her memoirs. English wasn’t her first language, let alone her second or third, so rather than write she chose to speak. When she was finished, the contents of eight cassette tapes were typed up and bound in blue plastic covers. Copies were made for both daughters and all five grandchildren, of whom I am the eldest.' (Introduction)

Year: 2021

winner Facades of Lebanon Theodore Ell , 2021 single work
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , July no. 433 2021; (p. 44-48)

'As the March and April evenings grew hotter, the streets of East Beirut were as empty as our calendars. The grumble of traffic had disappeared. Without the usual smokescreen, the nearby mountains and coastline were visible for weeks. Parks are scarce in Beirut and gardens are private, but this spring, vines and bougainvillea were clambering over the high walls and no one was trimming them. It was possible to take solitary walks and hear birdsong.' (Introduction)

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Reading the Mess Backwards Yves Rees , Southbank : Australian Book Review, Inc. , 2020 19498808 2020 single work essay

'When I’m ten or so, my brother appears shirtless at the dinner table. Ever the eager disciple, I follow his example without a second thought. It is a sweltering January day, and our bodies are salt-crusted from the beach. Clothing seems cruel in these conditions.' (Introduction)

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon Nah Doongh's Song Grace Karskens , Southbank : Australian Book Review, Inc. , 2020 17067125 2019 single work biography 'Nah Doongh was among the first generation of Aboriginal children who grew up in a conquered land. She was born around 1800 in the Country near present-day Kingswood, just south-east of Moorroo Morack, Penrith, and she lived until the late 1890s. Her life spanned the first century of colonisation, from the invasion of her Country to the years approaching Federation. She was a contemporary of the famous Hawkesbury River matriarch and landowner Maria Lock and of the astonishing Lake Macquarie religious seer and teacher Biraban.' (Introduction)

Year: 2018

winner 'We Three Hundred' Lucas Grainger-Brown , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , April no. 400 2018; (p. 45-51)

'I signed away ten years of my life at high school. Three hundred or so teenagers did likewise around the country; from Sydney and Melbourne to the wind-rustle quiet of burnt umber townships. We had similar reasons – wanting to be heroes and leaders, chasing self-respect, escaping loose ends, following Simpson and his donkey.' (Introduction)

Works About this Award

News from the Editor's Desk - September 2017 Peter Rose , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , September no. 394 2017; (p. 1)

'At a lively ceremony at Potts Point Bookshop on August 10, David Malouf named Eliza Robertson as the winner of the 2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for her story ‘Pheidippides’. Robertson’s story ‘explores the changing relationships between a marathon runner, a journalist and his wife in the wake of tragedies. It is a powerfully observed, beautiful, and unflinching story that shows the different paths that people take to cope with grief and trauma,’ said Jolley Prize judge Amy Baillieu at the ceremony.' (Introduction)

Walking, Talking, Looking : The Calibre Essay and Remembering Persuasively in Australia Daniel Juckes , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: TEXT Special Issue Website Series , no. 39 2017;
'The Calibre Essay Prize has been awarded annually since 2007 by the Australian Book Review. In this paper I argue that a number of the Calibre essays represent a discontinuous, but vital, conversation concerning the interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. I use the work of Ross Gibson to interpret some of the commended and winning essays. I suggest that the essay form is suited to negotiating difficulties that persist in contemporary Australia as a result of colonial incursion, and argue that the Calibre essays under examination offer possible mechanisms for reconciliation. The form and method of the essay, as well as the finished work itself, help writer and reader to engage with others, with silences, and with the past through concentration of focus, conversation and reciprocity, and the particular flâneur-like qualities of essay writing. I argue that the Calibre essays are examples of what Gibson calls persuasive remembering (2015b: 29).' (Introduction)
Advances 2012 single work column
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , September no. 344 2012; (p. 1, 4)
A column canvassing current literary news including reports on Matt Rubinstein's win in the 2012 Calibre Prize, and on the disquiet caused by Fairfax's decision to 'remove its books editor at the Canberra Times and to rely on literary reviews and commentaries emanating from Fairfax's two main broadsheets, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

'Advances' also notes the deaths of Peter Steele, Rosemary Dobson and Robert Hughes.
Undercover Susan Wyndham , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 1-2 September 2012; (p. 29)
A column canvassing current literary news including a note on Matt Rubinstein's 2012 Calibre Prize-winning essay and notice of the Shirley Hazzard Symposium at the Heyman Center, Columbia University, on 8 September 2012.
Advances 2012 single work column
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , July-August no. 343 2012; (p. 1)
A column canvassing current literary news including a report on ABR's move from its premises in Bridge Rd, Richmond to the newly renovated J. H. Boyd Girls' High School site, located in Melbourne's Southbank precinct.