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Nonfiction
Subcategory of Indie Awards
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Winners

2020 winner y separately published work icon Tell Me Why : The Story of My Life and My Music Archie Roach , Cammeray : Simon and Schuster Australia , 2019 16745125 2019 single work autobiography

'One of the most powerful and highly anticipated Australian stories to be told.

'No one has lived as many lives as Archie Roach – stolen child, seeker, teenage alcoholic, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, and leader – but it took him almost a lifetime to find out who he really was.

'Roach was only a few years old when he was forcibly removed from his family. Brought up by a series of foster parents until his early teens, his world imploded when he received a letter that spoke of a life he had no memory of.

'In this intimate, moving and often shocking memoir, Roach’s story is an extraordinary odyssey through love and heartbreak, family and community, survival and renewal – and the healing power of music. Overcoming enormous odds to find his story and his people, Roach voices the joy, pain and hope he found on his path through song to become the legendary singer-songwriter and storyteller that he is today – beloved by fans worldwide.

'Tell Me Why is a stunning account of resilience and the strength of spirit – and of a great love story.' (Publication summary)

2019 winner y separately published work icon The Arsonist The Arsonist : A Mind on Fire Chloe Hooper , Melbourne : Penguin , 2018 14732249 2018 single work non-fiction crime

'The Arsonist takes readers inside the hunt for a fire-lighter. After Black Saturday, a February 2009 day marked by 47 degree heat and firestorms, arson squad detectives arrived at a plantation on the edge of a 26,000-hectare burn site. Eleven people had just been killed and hundreds made homeless. Here, in the Latrobe Valley, where Victoria’s electricity is generated, and the rates of unemployment, crime and domestic abuse are the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

'The Arsonist tells a remarkable detective story, as the police close in on someone they believe to be a cunning offender; and a puzzling psychological story, as defence lawyers seek to understand the motives of a man who, they claimed, was a naïf that had accidentally dropped a cigarette.

'It is the story not only of this fire - how it happened, the people who died, the aftermath for the community - but of fire in this country. What it has done, what it has meant, what it might yet do. Bushfire is one of Australia’s deepest anxieties, never more so than when deliberately lit. Arson, wrote Henry Lawson, expresses a malice ‘terrifying to those who have seen what it is capable of. You never know when you are safe.‘

'As she did in The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper takes us to a part of the country seldom explored, and reveals something buried but essential in our national psyche. The bush, summertime, a smouldering cigarette - none of these will feel the same again.'  (Publication summary)

2018 winner y separately published work icon Saga Land Kári Gíslason , Richard Fidler , Sydney : ABC Books , 2017 12035241 2017 selected work prose

'A gripping blend of family mystery, contemporary stories and the beautiful and bloody Viking tales, set against the starkly stunning landscape of Iceland.

'Broadcaster Richard Fidler and author Kari Gíslason are good friends. They share a deep attachment to the sagas of Iceland - the true stories of the first Viking families who settled on that remote island in the Middle Ages.These are tales of blood feuds, of dangerous women, and people who are compelled to kill the ones they love the most. The sagas are among the greatest stories ever written, but the identity of their authors is largely unknown.

'Together, Richard and Kari travel across Iceland, to the places where the sagas unfolded a thousand years ago. They cross fields, streams and fjords to immerse themselves in the folklore of this fiercely beautiful island. And there is another mission: to resolve a longstanding family mystery - a gift from Kari's Icelandic father that might connect him to the greatest of the saga authors.' (Publication summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Everywhere I Look Helen Garner , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2016 9174059 2016 selected work essay

'Every day I work on the edit of my book. I slog away, shifting chunks of material and moving them back, eating my salad in a daze, wondering if the linking passages I’ve written are leading me up a garden path, or are sentimental, or violate some unarticulated moral and technical code I’ve signed up to and feel trapped in or obliged to. The sheer bloody labour of writing. No one but another writer understands it—the heaving about of great boulders into a stable arrangement so that you can bound up them and plant your little flag at the very top.

'Spanning fifteen years of work, Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments—sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and laughter. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice. 'Everywhere I Look includes Garner’s famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. Everywhere I Look glows with insight. It is filled with the wisdom of life. ' (Publication summary)

2016 winner y separately published work icon Reckoning : A Memoir Magda Szubanski , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2015 8858243 2015 single work autobiography

'Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia's most beloved performers, tells her story.

'In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

'Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.' (Publication summary)

2015 winner y separately published work icon The Bush : Travels in the Heart of Australia Don Watson , Scoresby : Penguin , 2014 7838248 2014 single work prose travel

'Most Australians live in cities and cling to the coastal fringe, yet our sense of what an Australian is – or should be – is drawn from the vast and varied inland called the bush. But what do we mean by 'the bush', and how has it shaped us?

'Starting with his forebears' battle to drive back nature and eke a living from the land, Don Watson explores the bush as it was and as it now is: the triumphs and the ruination, the commonplace and the bizarre, the stories we like to tell about ourselves and the national character, and those we don't. Via mountain ash and mallee, the birds and the beasts, slaughter, fire, flood and drought, swagmen, sheep and their shepherds, the strange and the familiar, the tragedies and the follies, the crimes and the myths and the hope – here is a journey that only our leading writer of non-fiction could take us on.

'At once magisterial in scope and alive with telling, wry detail, The Bush lets us see our landscape and its inhabitants afresh, examining what we have made, what we have destroyed, and what we have become in the process.

'No one who reads it will look at this country the same way again. ' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Girt : The Unauthorised History of Australia David Hunt , Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2013 9051576 2013 single work non-fiction

'Girt. No word could better capture the essence of Australia...

'In this hilarious history, David Hunt tells the real story of Australia's past from megafauna to Macquarie ... the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.

'Mark Twain wrote of Australian history: 'It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... but they are all true, they all happened.' In Girt, Hunt uncovers these beautiful lies, recounting the strange and ridiculous episodes that conventional histories ignore. The result is surprising, enlightening – and side-splittingly funny.

'Girt explains the role of the coconut in Australia's only military coup, the Dutch obsession with nailing perfectly good kitchenware to posts, and the settlers' fear of Pemulwuy and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamingcoat.

'It introduces us to forgotten heroes like Mary McLoghlin, transported for the typically Irish crime of 'felony of sock'; Patyegarang, the young Eora girl who co-authored the world's most surprising dictionary; and Trim the cat, who beat a French monkey to become the first animal to circumnavigate Australia.

'Our nation's beginnings were steeped in the unlikely, the incongruous and the frankly bizarre. Girt restores these stories to their rightful place. Not to read it would be un-Australian.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2012 winner y separately published work icon Worse Things Happen at Sea Sarah Watt , William McInnes , Sydney : Hachette Australia , 2011 Z1817770 2011 single work autobiography

'Worse Things Happen at Sea is about families, suburbs and homes, friends, love and day to day life written by bestselling author William McInnes and award winning filmmaker, photographer and animator Sarah Watt.

'In William's first book A Man's Got to Have a Hobby he wrote about family life in the 1960s with humour, affection and honesty. Worse Things Happen at Sea does the same for family life in 2000s; written by William and Sarah in a way that many Australians can relate to and enjoy.

'This book celebrates the wonderful, messy, haphazard things in life -- bringing home babies from hospital, being a friend, a parent, son or daughter, and dog obedience classes. It's about living for twenty years in the family home, raising children there, chasing angry rabbits around the backyard, renovations that never end. It is also about understanding that sometimes you have to say goodbye; that is part of life too.

'Illustrated throughout with Sarah Watt's photographs of family life and beautiful, everyday objects.' (From the publisher's website.)

2011 winner y separately published work icon The Happiest Refugee : The Extraordinary True Story of a Boy's Journey from Starvation at Sea to Becoming One of Australia's Best-Loved Comedians Anh Do , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2010 Z1720525 2010 single work autobiography

'Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing - not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days - could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.

'Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was thirteen - they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own. His mother's sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate high school and then university.

'Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour a week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. "Four," the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian! The Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of one of our favourite personalities. Tragedy, humour, heartache and unswerving determination - a big life with big dreams. Anh's story will move and amuse all who read it.' (From the publisher's website.)

2009 winner y separately published work icon The Tall Man : Death and Life on Palm Island Chloe Hooper , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2008 Z1483259 2008 single work prose (taught in 11 units) In November 2004, in the small township of Palm Island in the far north of Queensland, Detective Hurley arrested Cameron Doomadgee for swearing at him. Doomadgee was drunk. A few hours later he died in a watch-house cell. According to the inquest, his liver was so badly damaged it was almost severed. (Source: Trove)
2008 inaugural winner y separately published work icon American Journeys Don Watson , North Sydney : Random House , 2008 Z1477248 2008 single work prose travel

'Only in America - the most powerful democracy on earth, home to the best and worst of everything - are the most extreme contradictions possible. In a series of journeys acclaimed author Don Watson set out to explore the nation that has influenced him more than any other.

'Travelling by rail gave Watson a unique and seductive means of peering into the United States, a way to experience life with its citizens: long days with the American landscape and American towns and American history unfolding on the outside, while inside a tiny particle of the American people talked among themselves.

'Watson's experiences are profoundly affecting: he witnesses the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast; explores the savage history of the Deep South, the heartland of the Civil War; and journeys to the remarkable wilderness of Yellowstone National Park. Yet it is through the people he meets that Watson discovers the incomparable genius of America, its optimism, sophistication and riches - and also its darker side, its disavowal of failure and uncertainty.

'... American Journeys investigates the meaning of the United States: its confidence, its religion, its heroes, its violence, and its material obsessions. The things that make America great are also its greatest flaws.' (Publisher's blurb)

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