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Australian Capital Territory Book of the Year Award
or ACT Book of the Year Award
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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The ACT Government offers the ACT Book of the Year Award annually for excellence in literature. The Award recognises quality contemporary Australian literary works including fiction, non-fiction and poetry, by ACT-based authors published in the previous calendar year.

The author may include an editor or translator who, in the opinion of the judges, has made a substantial and creative contribution to the original material from which the book is derived.

Source: Sighted: 10/12/2013.


2020 winner y separately published work icon Ghost Bird Lisa Fuller , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2019 16861510 2019 single work novel young adult

'Remember daughter, the world is a lot bigger than anyone knows. There are things that science may never explain. Maybe some things that shouldn’t be explained.

'Stacey and Laney are twins – mirror images of each other – and yet they’re as different as the sun and the moon. Stacey works hard at school, determined to get out of their small town. Laney skips school and sneaks out of the house to meet her boyfriend. But when Laney disappears one night, Stacey can’t believe she’s just run off without telling her.

'As the days pass and Laney doesn’t return, Stacey starts dreaming of her twin. The dreams are dark and terrifying, difficult to understand and hard to shake, but at least they tell Stacey one key thing – Laney is alive. It’s hard for Stacey to know what’s real and what’s imagined and even harder to know who to trust. All she knows for sure is that Laney needs her help.

'Stacey is the only one who can find her sister. Will she find her in time?'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2019 winner y separately published work icon Book of Colours Robyn Cadwallader , Sydney South : HarperCollins Australia , 2018 13526246 2018 single work novel historical fiction

'London, 1321: In a small shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a book of hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power - it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2018 winner y separately published work icon Dancing Home Paul Collis , St Lucia : The University of Queensland , 2017 11671262 2017 single work novel

‘When he was in gaol, he’d begun to prepare himself for the fight of his life, a showdown with the policeman, McWilliams … he’d face life with death, and see who blinked first.’ 

'Blackie and Rips are fresh out of prison when they set off on a road trip back to Wiradjuri country with their mate Carlos. Blackie is out for revenge against the cop who put him in prison on false grounds. He is also craving to reconnect with his grandmother’s country. 

'Driven by his hunger for drugs and payback, Blackie reaches dark places of both mystery and beauty as he searches for peace. He is willing to pay for that peace with his own life. 

'Part road-movie, part ‘Koori-noir’, Dancing Home announces an original and darkly funny new voice.'

[source: Publisher's website]

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Snow Kimono Mark Henshaw , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2014 7472103 2014 single work novel thriller

'There are times in your life when something happens, after which you're never the same. It may be something direct or indirect, or something someone says to you. But whatever it is, there is no going back.

'Paris: 1989. Recently retired police inspector Auguste Jovert receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter. Two days later, a stranger comes knocking on his door…

'Set in France and Japan, The Snow Kimono tells the stories of Jovert, former Professor of Law Tadashi Omura, and his one-time friend the writer Katsuo Ikeda. All three have lied to themselves, and to each other. Their lies are about to catch up with them.

'A quarter of a century after the award-winning bestseller Out of the Line of Fire, Mark Henshaw returns with an intricately plotted, beautifully written novel that is both a psychological thriller and an unforgettable meditation on love and loss, memory and its deceptions, and the ties that bind us to others.' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Beloved Land : Stories, Struggles and Secrets from Timor-Leste Gordon Peake , Carlton North : Scribe , 2013 6470166 2013 single work prose travel

'At the stroke of midnight on 20 May 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the first new nation of the 21st century. From that moment, those who fought for independence have faced a challenge even bigger than shaking off Indonesian occupation: running a country of their own.

Beloved Land picks up the story where world attention left off. Blending narrative history, travelogue, and personal reminiscences based on four years of living in the country, Gordon Peake shows the daunting hurdles that the people of Timor-Leste must overcome to build a nation from scratch, and how much the international community has to learn if it is to help rather than hinder the process. Family politics, squabbles, power struggles, old romances, and even older grudges are woven into life in this land of intrigue and rumours in the most remarkable ways.

Yet above all, Beloved Land is a story about the one million East Timorese who speak nearly 20 different languages, and who are exuberantly building their nation. Written with verve and deep affection, the book introduces a set of colourful Timorese and international characters, and brings them to life unforgettably.' (Publisher's blurb)

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:
2011 winner y separately published work icon The River : A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin Chris Hammer , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2010 Z1671899 2010 single work prose travel Australia's major river system, the Murray-Darling, is collapsing. Parts of it are dying; parts of it are already dead. Some places near the shores of South Australia's lower lakes, where the Murray has stopped flowing, may never recover. Australia's most significant river no longer reaches the sea. Ecosystems are dying, farmers are going to the wall, towns are emptying. This was the Murray-Darling that journalist Chris Hammer found in the summer of 2009 as he drove along the river. The River tells the story of the things he saw and the people he met: of farmers practical yet delusional, of towns so friendly yet hidebound. He also tells stories of the environment, and sees first-hand the effects of climate change, drought and mismanagement on the land. What is the future of settlement west of the Great Dividing Range? Can the once mighty Murray-Darling river system continue to support the agricultural industries and towns of the hinterland, or will Australians increasingly be forced to retreat to desalination-dependent coastal cities? What mixture of climate change, drought and mismanagement has led to the current crisis? Hammer explores these questions and more in this compelling investigation into one of Australia's key environmental and political issues. (Libraries Australia record)
2010 winner y separately published work icon Valley of Grace Marion Halligan , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2009 Z1550045 2009 single work novel

'Valley of Grace is an interwoven narrative of modern day Paris.

'Fanny and Gerard fall in love in a way that surprises even them as their lives fill with good sex and loving companionship. But they long for a child to complete their happiness. Two of Fanny's lesbian friends feel similarly driven by the need to have a child. But how to make that possible?

'Jean-Marie is an internationally regarded professor of philosophy whose adoring students are willing sexual partners fulfilling the tenets of his libertarianism. But perhaps philosophy can't bear the weight of human emotion.

'When Gerard buys a beautiful old house in the suburbs, the disturbing contents of the attic binds the stories into an intriguing and darkly disturbing knot. (Publisher's blurb)

2009 winner y separately published work icon A Guide to the Birds of East Africa : A Novel Nicholas Drayson , London New York (City) : Viking , 2008 Z1519696 2008 single work novel 'For the past three years, Mr. Malik has been secretly in love with Rose Mbikwa, a woman who leads the weekly bird walks sponsored by the East African Ornithological Society. Just as Malik is getting up the nerve to invite Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball (the premier social occasion of the Kenyan calendar), Harry Khan, a nemesis from his school days, arrives in town.
Khan has also become enraptured with Rose and announces his intent to invite her to the Ball. Rather than force Rose to choose between the two men, a clever solution is proposed. Whoever can identify the most species of birds in one week’s time gets the privilege of asking Ms. Mbikwa to the ball.' (Publication summary)
2008 winner y separately published work icon Walking the Camino : A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago Tony Kevin , Carlton North : Scribe , 2007 Z1398010 2007 single work autobiography

'In May 2006, armed only with a small rucksack and a staff, Tony Kevin, an overweight, sedentary, 63-year-old former diplomat, set off on an eight-week trek across Spain. But this was not just a very long walk - it was a pilgrimage.

'From Granada, in the southeast, to Santiago de Compostela, in the far northwest, Tony followed the Via Mozarabe and the Via de la Plata, two of the many pilgrim trails that crisscross Spain and Portugal and that all lead to a single destination. In the Middle Ages, the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela was Europe's most famous centre of pilgrimage, and in recent years it has enjoyed a remarkable revival; every day towards noon, hundreds of hot, tired, and dusty pilgrims stream into Santiago Cathedral for the daily Pilgrim's Mass.

'What, in our busy, materialistic 21st century, is this apparently anachronistic phenomenon all about? What drives tens of thousands of people of all nationalities and creeds to make long, exhausting walks across the cold mountains and hot tablelands of Spain, to take part finally in a mediaeval Christian liturgy of spiritual renewal and reconciliation with God?

'Walking the Camino beautifully captures the flavour of what it was like to walk the camino, and is filled with fascinating observations and anecdotes about the nature of contemporary Spain. And, unavoidably, because pilgrimage is such a deeply personal experience that has the potential to unlock the deepest recesses of hidden memory and conscience, it is also a profound personal meditation on the nature of modern life.' (Publisher's blurb)

2007 winner y separately published work icon Sunday Menu : Selected Short Stories of Pham Thi Hoai Pham Thi Hoai , Rose Bay : Brandl and Schlesinger , 1998 Z1229417 1998 selected work short story To Thon-That Quynh Du for translation of Sunday Menu: Selected Short Stories of Pham Thi Hoai
2006 winner y separately published work icon Vincenzo's Garden John Clanchy , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2005 Z1185671 2005 selected work short story
2005 winner y separately published work icon A Certain Maritime Incident : The Sinking of SIEV X Tony Kevin , Carlton North : Scribe , 2004 Z1195901 2004 single work non-fiction In October 2001, over 400 asylum-seekers departed from Indonesia in a grossly overcrowded, rickety boat bound for Australia. Somewhere between the two countries the boat sank with a huge loss of life - 353 of the asylum seekers drowned. This is an examination of the event, the author's effort to spark a full-powers inquiry.
2004 winner y separately published work icon The Point Marion Halligan , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2003 Z1004280 2003 single work novel
2003 winner y separately published work icon The Hard Word John Clanchy , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2002 Z973921 2002 single work novel

'Vera. Miriam, Laura - one family, three generations - with Miriam at the centre, balancing the needs of her mother and daughter with those of her marriage and career. Vera is slipping into the darkness of Alzheimer's disease, while Laura is embroiled in teenage conflicts of identity and sexuality. In her professional life, Miriam is able to help others unlock the past through the simple power of words. So, what prevents her from doing it for those closest to her? And for herself...? The answer to this painful dilemma emerges not so much from within Miriam herself, but from the hard, raw experience of the migrant and refugee women she teaches. Their stories resonate with her own, and she finds herself sustained in her own crisis by their strength and laughter.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2002 winner y separately published work icon In the Blood Jackie French , Pymble : Angus and Robertson , 2001 Z795879 2001 single work novel science fiction young adult horror

'She has been banished from the city to a remote area and a murdered girl lands on her doorstep ...Danielle has always been 'linked' to others so when her links were cut and she was banished from the city it was a shock in more ways than one. She no longer had fast access to information, food, friends - anything. Now she will fend for herself and she is notorious for having been part of an experimental type of linking with 3 others. They are either dead or dead to Danielle anyway. Then, soon after moving in, an injured young girl turns up on her doorstep - the girl soon dies and Danielle cannot let go of the mystery of her death. With Neil, who lives in a neighbouring commune, she begins to make enquiries at places all over the countryside and starts suspecting that someone is making illegal modifications to humans - could it be that vampirism is becoming a trait in some humans from this illegal activity? And, if so, how far has it gone - can Danielle find the source before they are all dead?'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2001 joint winner y separately published work icon The Trojan Dog Dorothy Johnston , Kent Town : Wakefield Press , 2000 Z27112 2000 single work novel crime

'I should ask your department's accountant whether he's missing nine hundred thousand bucks. This is the anonymous message that will change Sandra Mahoney's life.

'When a powerful but unpopular bureaucrat is accused of theft and computer fraud, Sandra is convinced that the charge is false. But how to track down the culprit when almost anyone could be an enemy? In her search for the truth, Sandra finds herself in a battle of wits against an elusive and unscrupulous opponent, a battle in which no-one's allegiance can be taken for granted.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

First prize shared between Dorothy Johnston and Alan Gould (The Schoonermaster's Dance)
2001 joint winner y separately published work icon The Schoonermaster's Dance Alan Gould , Pymble : Flamingo , 2000 Z668474 2000 single work novel

'Sarah Tilber has a passion for history. Captivated by the mysterious Charlie Tilber she embarks on a journey across the world, determined to uncover his secrets. But as she becomes more deeply involved in her project Sarah begins to lose her ties with the present, drifting away on the sea of the past. It is left to her friend, Jenn, to piece together the fragments of two lives and thereby uncover a haunting which stretches across the Tilber generations.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

First prize shared between Alan Gould and Dorothy Johnston (The Trojan Dog)
2000 winner y separately published work icon The White Adrian Caesar , Chippendale : Picador , 1999 Z481439 1999 single work novel historical fiction
1999 winner y separately published work icon Unwritten Histories Craig Cormick , Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press , 1998 Z379477 1998 selected work short story prose

'In this witty and satirical revisiting of Australia’s heroic past, Craig Cormick rediscovers the contributions of Indigenous Australians that have always remained unrecorded and unacknowledged, Australia’s unwritten histories.'

'Drawing on original records of the time, he has turned the spotlight away from its traditional focus to illuminate those whom history has forgotten. Great explorers, teachers, warriors and dreamers, who were there when Banks first saw a Banksia or when explorers Burke and Wills staggered on from Coopers Creek, but they have vanished simply because their stories were unrecorded.'   (Publication summary)

1999 winner y separately published work icon Kurikka's Dreaming : The True Story of Matti Kurikka, Socialist, Utopian and Dreamer Craig Cormick , East Roseville : Simon and Schuster Australia , 2000 Z812393 2000 single work novel historical fiction
1997 joint winner y separately published work icon Imago Francesca Rendle-Short , North Melbourne : Spinifex Press , 1996 Z253360 1996 single work novel
1997 joint winner y separately published work icon An Australian Son Gordon Matthews , Port Melbourne : Heinemann , 1996 Z68105 1996 single work autobiography
1996 winner y separately published work icon Shadow Swimmer Paul Hetherington , Canberra : Molonglo Press , 1995 Z351126 1995 selected work poetry
1995 winner y separately published work icon Sapphires Sara Dowse , Ringwood : Penguin , 1994 Z384033 1994 single work novel 'Evelyn Hazelwood is the descendant of the Kozminsky clan. Her grandmother fled as a child from Tsarist Russia to the American plains; Evelyn's own flight takes her to Sydney where she ekes out a puzzled existence as a television comedy writer. To her family she is a traveller, carrying with her the hope invested in daughters by their mothers across the generations.' (Publisher's blurb)
1994 winner y separately published work icon New and Selected Poems John Foulcher , Pymble : Angus and Robertson , 1993 Z502986 1993 selected work poetry
1993 joint winner y separately published work icon Selected Poems A. D. Hope , David Brooks (editor), Pymble : Angus and Robertson , 1992 Z552438 1992 selected work poetry
1993 winner y separately published work icon Lovers' Knots : A Hundred-Year Novel Marion Halligan , Port Melbourne : Heinemann Australia , 1992 Z314607 1992 single work novel