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Ashurst Business Literature Prize
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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'Launched in 2004 by Blake Dawson and the State Library of NSW, the $30,000 Ashurst Business Literature Prize is acknowledged as Australia’s most important award for business writing.

'The prestigious prize was originally established by law firm Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson*) and the State Library of NSW to encourage the highest possible standards of literary commentary on Australian business and financial affairs written by an Australian author.

'In 2013, for the first time in its decade-long history, the Ashurst Business Literature Prize was expanded to include Australian authored works addressing international and global commercial life and its participants.

'The range of subjects covered by the prize includes corporate and commercial literature, histories, accounts and analyses of corporate affairs as well as biographies of business people. As in previous years, authors must be Australian citizens or permanent residents in order to be eligible.

'According to Ashurst Vice-chairman Mary Padbury: “In an increasingly globalizing world, Australians want, and need, to be better informed about international commercial life.

'“We recognise that Australian authors are producing insightful and well researched books on national and international subjects and, by expanding the scope of the prize, we hope writers are encouraged to continue producing works that better inform the reader about all aspects of commercial life.”' (Source: )


  • In 2012, the Blake Dawson Business Literature prize was renamed the Ashurst Business Literature Prize after the commercial law firm Blake Dawson combined its Asian practice with the international law firm Ashurst. (The Sun-Herald, 12 Feb 2012, p. 7: Extra)

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2017

winner y separately published work icon Jumping Ship : From the Heart of Corporate Australia to the World of Social Investment Michael Traill , Richmond : Hardie Grant Books , 2016 11645101 2016 single work autobiography

'As an ambitious, competitive kid from a public school, who grew up in a country town in Victoria, Michael Traill converted privileged education opportunities in the hallowed halls of Melbourne University's Trinity College and the Harvard Business School into a highly paid and successful career at Macquarie Bank, often called the millionaire's factory. But a career devoted to money-making - for himself and his clients - was never going to satisfy Michael's deeper yearnings: his passion for social justice; his determination to make the world a better place. 

'So at the peak of his career and only in his early forties he decided to leave merchant banking behind. His vision was to bring the rigour and hard-headedness of the world of finance to the world of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. In Jumping Ship Michael Traill tells the candid and inspiring story of the journey that took him from a modest small town in Morwell to the millionaire's factory and then on to founding a unique Australian non-profit success story. 

'This led to being a key architect, along with a group of financial high-fliers, who found a way to run a multi-million dollar business devoted entirely to the creation of social good rather than profit. In the process they were at the forefront of addressing social disadvantage and reshaping the Australian non-profit landscape.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2016

winner y separately published work icon Minding Her Own Business : Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney Catherine Bishop , Sydney : NewSouth Publishing , 2015 9113417 2015 single work biography

'A history that populates the streets of colonial Sydney with entrepreneurial businesswomen earning their living in a variety of small – and sometimes surprising – enterprises.

'There are few memorials to colonial businesswomen, but if you know where to look you can find many traces of their presence as you wander the streets of Sydney. From milliners and dressmakers to ironmongers and booksellers; from publicans and boarding-house keepers to butchers and taxidermists; from school teachers to ginger-beer manufacturers: these women have been hidden in the historical record but were visible to their contemporaries.

'Catherine Bishop brings the stories of these entrepreneurial women to life, with fascinating details of their successes and failures, their determination and wilfulness, their achievements, their tragedies and the occasional juicy scandal. Until now we have imagined colonial women indoors as wives, and mothers, domestic servants or prostitutes. This book sets them firmly out in the open.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2015

winner y separately published work icon Penguin and the Lane Brothers : The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution Stuart Kells , Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2015 8877163 2015 single work biography

'An intimate partnership of three brothers – Allen, Richard and John Lane – lay at the heart of Penguin Books, the twentieth century’s greatest publishing house. In a spirit of daring and creative opposition, the brothers issued quality books on a massive scale and at minuscule prices – and achieved a revolution in publishing.

'The Lane boys did their best thinking together in bathroom board meetings, where at least one director would always be ‘mother naked’. They innovated in countless ways – in the early years, a church crypt served as their office and warehouse. Penguin was an unconventional upstart, bringing literary giants such as Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Graham Greene to vast new audiences, and it seemed unstoppable.

'Yet the 1942 death of John Lane brought the troika to a halt. Allen, the enthusiastic frontman who relied on his younger brothers to drive Penguin’s success, became more erratic and suspicious over time. Ultimately, he would force Richard out of the company he had cofounded and built.

'A portrait of a remarkable family and a publishing powerhouse, Penguin and the Lane Brothers also explores the little known story of Richard Lane – the heart and backbone of Penguin, and its strongest influence. Richard’s experiences as a youth in Australia shaped his character and outlook; his dedication to the business was matched only by his devotion to his brothers.

Relying on unprecedented access to Lane family sources, including Richard’s diaries, Penguin and the Lane Brothers sheds new light on the relationship of Allen, Richard and John, so crucial as a driver of Penguin’s spirit and success. By turns hilarious and tragic, moving and insightful, this is a groundbreaking counter-history of an unlikely publishing triumph.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2014

winner y separately published work icon Twiggy : The High-Stakes Life of Andrew Forest Andrew Burell , Collingwood : Black Inc. , 2013 6049628 2013 single work biography

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is the public face of Australia’s once-in-a-life time mining boom. A swashbuckling entrepreneur in the finest West Australian tradition, Twiggy took on mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto at their own game – and won. Yet he has also

been embroiled in two of the most heated debates in recent Australian history: the treatment of Aboriginal people and the mining super-profit tax. In this unauthorised biography, journalist Andrew Burrell reveals the complicated man behind the Twiggy

myth. Why do his mining ventures attract so much controversy? And what do his philanthropic schemes tell us about him, and his plans for the future? It takes an extraordinary force of will, combined with boundless energy and cunning, to create enterprises on the mammoth scale that Twiggy has. This entertaining book gives a unique insight into one of the most powerful men in Australia today. '

Year: 2013

winner Peter Hartcher for The Sweet Spot
winner Malcolm Knox for Boom: The Underground History of Australia, from Gold Rush to GFC

Works About this Award

Footnotes : Down to Business Marc McEvoy , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: Sun-Herald , 12 February 2012; (p. 7)