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The Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History
Subcategory of Prime Minister's Literary Awards
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Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Bible in Australia : A Cultural History Meredith Lake , Sydney : NewSouth Publishing , 2018 13958032 2018 multi chapter work criticism

'The revelatory story of the Bible in Australia, from the convict era to the Mabo land rights campaign, Nick Cave, the Bra Boys, and beyond. Thought to be everything from the word of God to a resented imposition, the Bible has been debated, painted, rejected, translated, read, gossiped about, preached, and tattooed.

'At a time when public discussion of religion is deeply polarised, Meredith Lake reveals the Bible’s dynamic influence in Australia and offers an innovative new perspective on Christianity and its changing role in our society. In the hands of writers, artists, wowsers, Bible-bashers, immigrants, suffragists, evangelists, unionists, Indigenous activists, and many more – the Bible has played a defining and contested role in Australia.

'A must-read for sceptics, the curious, the lapsed, the devout, the believer, and non-believer. ' (Publication summary)

2018 winner y separately published work icon John Curtin's War : The Coming of War in the Pacific, and Reinventing Australia John Edwards , Melbourne : Penguin , 2017 12211848 2017 single work biography

'John Curtin became Australia’s Prime Minister eight weeks before Japan launched war in the Pacific.

'Curtin’s struggle for power against Joe Lyons and Bob Menzies, his dramatic use of it when he took office in October 1941, and his determination to be heard in Washington and London as Japan advanced, is a political epic unmatched in Australian experience. As Japan sank much of the Allied navy, advanced on the great British naval base at Singapore, and seized Australian territories in New Guinea, Curtin remade Australia.

'Using much new material John Edwards’ vivid, landmark biography places Curtin as a man of his times, puzzling through he immense changes in Australia and its region released by the mighty shock of the Pacific War.

'It shows Curtin not as a hero and certainly not as a villain but as the pivotal figure making his uncertain way between what Australia was, and what it would become. It locates the turning point in Australian history not at Gallipoli or the Western Front or even Federation but in the Pacific War and in Curtin’s Prime Ministership.

'This two volume work is a major contribution to Australian biography, and to how we understand our history. In this first part, Edwards takes Curtin’s story from the late nineteenth century socialist ferment in Melbourne through to his appointment as prime minister and a Japanese onslaught so complete and successful that within a few months of launching it military leaders in Tokyo debated between the options of invading Australia, or sealing it off from Allied help.' (Publication summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Atomic Thunder : The Maralinga Story Elizabeth Tynan , Sydney : NewSouth Publishing , 2016 10253557 2016 single work prose

'In September 2016 it will be 60 years since the first British mushroom cloud rose above the plain at Maralinga in South Australia. The atomic weapons test series wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities and turned the land into a radioactive wasteland.

In 1950 Australian prime minister Robert Menzies blithely agreed to atomic tests that offered no benefit to Australia and relinquished control over them – and left the public completely in the dark. This book reveals the devastating consequences of that decision. After earlier tests at Monte Bello and Emu Field, in 1956 Australia dutifully provided 3200 square kilometres of South Australian desert to the British Government, along with logistics and personnel.

How could a democracy such as Australia host another country’s nuclear program in the midst of the Cold War? In this meticulously researched and shocking work, journalist and academic Elizabeth Tynan reveals how Australia allowed itself to be duped. Maralinga was born in secret atomic business, and has continued to be shrouded in mystery decades after the atomic thunder stopped rolling across the South Australian test site. This book is the most comprehensive account of the whole saga, from the time that the explosive potential of splitting uranium atoms was discovered, to the uncovering of the extensive secrecy around the British tests in Australia many years after the British had departed, leaving an unholy mess behind.' (Publisher's blurb)

2016 joint winner y separately published work icon The Story of Australia's People Volume 1: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Australia Geoffrey Blainey , Melbourne : Penguin , 2015 8300874 2015 single work single work criticism

The vast continent of Australia was settled in two main streams, far apart in time and origin.

'The first came ashore some 50,000 years ago when the islands of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea were one. The second began to arrive from Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. Each had to come to terms with the land they found, and each had to make sense of the other. '

'The long Aboriginal occupation of Australia witnessed spectacular changes. The rising of the seas isolated the continent and preserved a nomadic way of life, while agriculture was revolutionising other parts of the world. Over millennia, the Aboriginal people mastered the land's climates, seasons and resources.'

'Traditional Aboriginal life came under threat the moment Europeans crossed the world to plant a new society in an unknown land. That land in turn rewarded, tricked, tantalised and often defeated the new arrivals. The meeting of the two cultures is one of the most difficult and complex meetings in recorded history. '

'In this book Professor Geoffrey Blainey returns first to the subject of his celebrated works on Australian history, Triumph of the Nomads (1975) and A Land Half Won (1980), retelling the story of our history up until 1850 in light of the latest research. He has changed his view about vital aspects of the Indigenous and early British history of this land, and looked at other aspects for the first time.' (Source: Publisher's website)

With Sam Lipski and Suzanne D. Rutland's Let My People Go: The Untold Story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959-89.
2015 joint winner y separately published work icon Charles Bean Ross Coulthart , Sydney : HarperCollins Australia , 2014 8023758 2014 single work biography

'On the eve of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign comes a long overdue new biography of this iconic Australian war correspondent. On the eve of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign comes a long overdue new biography of this iconic Australian war correspondent, C E W Bean. Charles Bean's wartime reports and photographs mythologised the Australian soldier and spawned the notion that the Anzacs achieved something nation defining on the shores of Gallipoli and the battlefields of western Europe. But did Bean tell the whole story of what he knew? In this new biography, Ross Coulthart explores not only the veracity of Bean's post-war official history but also how closely his actual experience from his diaries and other first-hand accounts compares with what he actually wrote as a journalist during the conflict. Much has been made of Bean's journalistic honesty, but the evidence suggests Bean did not have to be censored much at all. How constrained was he not only by the threat of official censorship but also by his own social and class prejudices and considerations of continued journalistic access? Coulthart's thesis is that repeatedly throughout Bean's frontline reportage, he made journalistic compromises to avoid clashing with the commanders who gave him unhindered access to the front lines. What has never been properly examined is how Bean abandoned any notion of covering the conflict as a proper news reporter to instead dedicate himself to the official history - perhaps because he knew that an attempt to honestly report what he was seeing would not be allowed to be told as the war still raged. This meant that like every other correspondent reporting on the allied armies in the Great War, the full catastrophic story of strategic and command failures was never properly told to his readers. Bean certainly faced death as often as many of the soldiers he stood beside in the trenches, seeing more combat than most of them. But did he get too close and in so doing, lose sight of the role of a journalist/correspondent in a war zone? Like Charles Bean, Ross Coulthart studied the law, became a journalist and has covered conflicts in hostile war zones such as East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has always admired Bean's courage and scrupulous honesty, but he believes it is time to step behind the hagiography; he brings his journalist's eye to the real story a century on of the man who is so strongly linked with Australia's Great War.' (HarperCollins)

2014 joint winner y separately published work icon Australia's Secret War Hal Colebatch , Sydney : Quadrant Books , 2013 6898724 2013 single work non-fiction With Joan Beaumont's Broken Nation.
2014 joint 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)

With Hal G.P. Colebatch's Australia's Secret War.
2013 winner y separately published work icon Farewell, Dear People : Biographies of Australia's Lost Generation Ross McMullin , Brunswick : Scribe , 2012 Z1853549 2012 selected work biography
2012 winner y separately published work icon The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia Bill Gammage , Sydney : Allen and Unwin , 2011 Z1917220 2011 single work non-fiction 'Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.

For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it.

With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.' (Source: www.allenandunwin.com)
2010-2011 joint winner y separately published work icon A Three-Cornered Life : The Historian W. K. Hancock Jim Davidson , Sydney : University of New South Wales Press , 2010 Z1704878 2010 single work biography 'While W.K. Hancock may no longer be described as 'Australia's most distinguished historian', he has some enduring claims to our attention. No other Australian historian - and few elsewhere - can match his 'span', to use one of his watchwords. Hancock was a major historian in four or five fields, who himself made history by going on a mission to Uganda for the British government in 1954 to mediate the future of Buganda after its ruler had been exiled. He was also, from a room in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, the editor of a vast historical project: the writing of a series of accounts of British mobilisation on the home front during the Second World War. In addition, Hancock was a founder of the Australian National University, while his Australia (1930) remains one of the classic accounts of this country' (Publishers website). Joint winner with Peter Stanley's Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny and Murder in the Great War.
2008 joint winner y separately published work icon Slicing the Silence : Voyaging to Antarctica Tom Griffiths , Sydney : University of New South Wales Press , 2007 Z1365300 2007 single work prose travel 'In the summer of 2002-2003 Griffiths voyaged the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. He was with the first Australian ship to 'slice the silence' of a year, arriving at Casey Station to deliver the new team of 'winterers' and take away the old. Griffiths interweaves his own diary entries with essays that explore the human history of the mysterious continent of ice.' - back cover Prize shared with Robert Kenny's The Lamb Enters the Dreaming.
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