The ALS Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year. The Medal was inaugurated by the Australian Literature Society, which was founded in Melbourne in 1899 and incorporated into the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) in 1982.
The medal was originally awarded for the best novel published in the previous year but, since 1937, other literary forms have been eligible for consideration. The medal has sometimes been called the Crouch Gold Medal after its principal benefactor, Colonel R. A. Crouch.
No nominations are required, though ASAL members are invited to propose potential winners to the judging panel.
The award was either not offered or not awarded in the following years: 1943-1947 inc., 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1967-1969 inc., and 1975-1982 inc.
'Forty years ago, letters, words and feelings flowed between a teenage daughter and her mother. Letters writen by that teenage daughter – me – handed around family back home, disappeared. Yet letters from that mother to her teenage daughter – me – remained protected in my red life-journey suitcase. I carried them across time and landscapes as a mother would carry her baby in a thaga.
'In 1978–79, I was living in an Aboriginal girls’ hostel in the Bentley suburb of Perth, attending senior high school. Mum and I sent handwritten letters to each other. I was a small-town teenager stepping outside of all things I had ever known. Mum remained in the only world she had ever known.
'Nganajungu Yagu was inspired by Mother’s letters, her life and the love she instilled in me for my people and my culture. A substantial part of that culture is language, and I missed out on so much language interaction having moved away. I talk with my ancestors’ language – Badimaya and Wajarri – to honour ancestors, language centres, language workers and those Yamaji who have been and remain generous in passing on cultural knowledge.
'–Charmain Papertalk Green' (Publication summary)
'Click here for what we do is a cluster of four loosely connected poems that are not only sceptical of the status quo's serial mendacities and hype but, in a way, they also attempt a coming to terms with the erosion of the idealistic conditions that once made non-mainstream culture, including poetry, so viable and, even, necessary. For Pam Brown writing poetry is a habit, a disorganised ritual. Her poetic inventories begin in everyday bricolage. Real things interrupt the poems the same way thoughts and phrases do. She dismantles monumental intent and then, by mixing (rather than layering), splices the remains into a melange of imagery and thoughtful lyric. Hers is a friendly intelligence that clues in connections to the 'social' as the poems make political and personal associative links. Spurning any lofty design these poems debug the absurdities of contemporary materialism with surreptitious humour. Though disquiet is present it's usually temporary. Here, thinking about the future can be 'trickgensteinian' and yet Pam Brown's poems offer a circumspect optimism.' (Publication summary)
'With its wildness and originality, The Agonist is an exhilarating collection. Exploring the languages of anatomy, etymology and incantation, these poems craft conversations about fracture and repair, energy, love and danger. ' (Publication summary)
'Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 until his death, aged ninety-nine, in 1963, was a towering figure in Melbourne's Catholic community. But his political interventions had a profound effect on the wider Australian nation too.
'Award-winning biographer Brenda Niall has made some unexpected discoveries in Irish and Australian archives which overturn some widely held views. She also draws on her own memories of meeting and interviewing Mannix to get to the essence of this man of contradictions, controversies and mystery.
'Mannix is not only an astonishing new look at a remarkable life, but a fascinating depiction of Melbourne in the first half last century.' (Publication summary)
'Winner of the Victorian Premier's Literature Award, the richest literary prize in Australia Shortlisted for the international Griffin Poetry Prize Drones and Phantoms is a powerful successor to Maiden's prize-winning collection Liquid Nitrogen, and again features her unique interweaving of the personal and the political, in the use of intimate and public poetic modes within each poem and within the collection as a whole. The poems are in fact conversations, not only between the poet and the reader, but between historical and political figures, such as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, Tanya Pliberesek and Jane Austen, Mandela and Obama, Queen Victoria and Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who come to life in Maiden's poems to discuss their anxieties and ethical insecurities. There are also poems on the Cypriot financial crisis, Jimmy Hoffa, Judith Wright, Julia Gillard, the Copenhagen giraffe killing and Russian power in the Crimea. Maiden is unique both for the interrogative power of her poems, and the sense of vulnerability they express, in their subjects, and in the poet herself.' (Publication summary)
'The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.' (Publisher's blurb)
'A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.
'Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
'Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.' (From the publisher's website.)
'The sound of horses' hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.
'Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal's Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land.
'It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams 'turned inside out', and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard. Written in luminous prose and with an aching affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal's Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a stunning work of remarkable originality and power, one that confirms Gillian Mears' reputation as one of our most exciting and acclaimed writers.' (From the publisher's website.)
Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.
'The novel's hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.
'But slowly - by design and by accident - things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia...' (From the publisher's website.)
'At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.
'This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.
'In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.
'What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.' (Publisher's blurb)
'Tom Loxley is holed up in a remote bush shack trying to finish his book on Henry James when his beloved dog goes missing. What follows is a triumph of storytelling, as The Lost Dog loops back and forth in time to take the reader on a spellbinding journey into worlds far removed from the present tragedy.
'Set in present-day  Australia and mid-twentieth century India, here is a haunting, layered work that brilliantly counterpoints new cityscapes and their inhabitants with the untamed, ancient continent beyond. With its atmosphere of menace and an acute sense of the unexplained in any story, it illuminates the collision of the wild and the civilised, modernity and the past, home and exile.' (Publisher's blurb)
'Sixty Lights is the captivating chronicle of Lucy Strange, an independent girl growing up in the Victorian world. From her childhood in Australia through to her adolescence in England and Bombay and finally to London, Lucy is fascinated by light and by the new photographic technology. Her perception of the world is passionate and moving, revealed in a series of frozen images captured in the camera of her mind's eye showing her feelings about love, life and loss. In this confident, finely woven and intricate novel Jones has created an unforgettable character in Lucy; visionary, gifted and exuberant, she touches the lives of all who know her.' (Publication summary)
'The Great War ends, as it began, with military blunders. A field ambulance station is being evacuated when a young soldier, blinded by gas during the fighting, joins the wrong queue. Gas blisters in his throat prevent him from telling anyone that his name is Adolf Hitler, private first-class, of the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry, Reserve Division, or that he is headed for Germany.
'The year is 1919. At Versailles, Australia has just signed a peace treaty destined to ruin Germany and create the conditions in which Nazism would thrive. Meanwhile, amid the celebrations at a remote fishing port in New South Wales, the steamer bringing Australian war heroes home also delivers the blinded Hitler. Here he meets Audrey McNeil, aspiring filmmaker and desparate opponent of her sister Sybil. Brief though his visit is, he changes Audrey's life.
'But is the stranger really who he claims to be?'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
Holland lived with his only daughter, Ellen, by a khaki river four hours west of Sydney. In spite of their remote location, tales of Ellen's beauty had traveled long distances and in the process inscribed a small legend. But Ellen's desirability was Holland's blindspot and finally he decided that the man who correctly named every eucalypt on his property would win the hand of his daughter. (Source: Trove)
'After too many nights of takeaway pizzas, Marita wants just one year off to look after her daughter, Camille. Then she meets Stephen, a public servant in the complex process of reinventing himself, training as a shiatsu masseur. As their relationship grows, so does the drama of parenting Camille, in this elegantly crafted, warmly appealing novel of contemporary Australian life.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (HarperCollins).
'The brothers Kovalenko...did not kill Jews just because they were poor and Ukrainian, and did not know any better. They killed Jews because they believed that they themselves were savages.'
'The Hand that Signed the Paper tells the story of Vitaly, a Ukrainian peasant, who endures the destruction of his village and family by Stalin's communism. He welcomes the Nazi invasion in 1941 and willingly enlists in the SS Death Squads to take a horrifying revenge against those he perceives to be his persecutors.
'This remarkable novel, a shocking story of the hatred that gives evil life, is also an eloquent plea for peace and justice.' (Publication summary)
'Louis Nowra’s Radiance is an exuberant black sabbath for three great Indigenous dames. It begins conventionally enough: Mae, Nona and Cressy gather at the old Queenslander in the tropics for Mum’s funeral. But these three sisters are forces of nature, and they haven’t been in the same room for years, and years. It isn’t long before that old house can’t contain the joy and pain of them all being together again…
'Radiance began its life at Belvoir in 1993. After 22 years, Nowra’s feat of playwriting – almost Shakespearean, a Tempest-like packet of lust, rage, grief and high-flying foolery – is ready to be unleashed again. Leah Purcell is the woman for the job.
'Purcell is a powerhouse. She burst onto the national stage nearly two decades ago and is as full of fight and life as she ever was. What better idea than for this all-round theatre elder to direct herself in this mighty little classic?' (2015 Production summary)
'Vera has cabin fever. Confined with her thoughts in the concrete tower of a New York hotel, she is haunted by her mother's reminders of what she should have been, and the desperate choices she faced as an unprotected single mother.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (Modern Classics ed.).
University of Queensland Press refers to their republished version of Louisa as a 'groundbreaking, award-winning biography of Louisa Lawson, mother of Henry Lawson, major reformer, innovator and journalist, and founding editor of The Dawn. It includes an informative, personal foreword by Louisa' s first publisher, Hilary McPhee. Louisa won a number of prizes in the first year of its publication: The Victorian Premier's Award for Non-Fiction (The Nettie Palmer Prize), The NSW State Award for Literature, The Gold Medal of the Australian Literature Society and The John Hetherington Bicentennial Biography Prize (shared). It was also shortlisted for four other awards and was chosen as the best Commonwealth non fiction book for 1988 in The Year's Work in English, 1989.'
[source: University of Queensland Press website]
'On Kristi, a tiny Pacific island jointly ruled by France and England, a group of half-castes, native Melanesians, and sympathetic colonials grab for independence and Gavi Salway, grandson of an old-time planter, is torn between loyalties.' (Publication summary)
'The protagonist of this first-person narrative is Archimedes, also called ""Happy,'' an Irish setter who has taught himself to read and write. Archimedes guides the reader through the streets of Sydney, Australia, and expounds on human and dog life. Happy's world includes a Sydney waterfront where humans act like seagulls and seagulls take on human characteristics: there are seagull tourists, seagull art critics and seagull gay-rights activists. The eponymous seagle is different from the other seagulls, spending most of its time soaring like an eagle, and Archimedes admires it from a distance.'
Source: Publisher's Weekly (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-14-008090-2). (Sighted: 10/01/2018)
'To the Islands concerns the ordeal of Stephen Heriot, an elderly, careworn, and disillusioned Anglican missionary who abandons his mission when he mistakenly believes he has accidentally killed one of his Aboriginal charges in a not entirely unprovoked confrontation. Heriot flees into the desert not to escape justice but to embrace its desolate beauty and its elemental purity as the one objective reality and the one certainty left available to him.
Heriot's flight and his embrace of the desert may be seen as his attempt, as a European Australian, to immerse himself in the landscape, to make himself one with the land. At this realistic level, the novel enacts the ontological and existential dilemma that confronts most — if not all — European Australians, the dilemma that Professor Hassall [in his introduction to the 2002 UQP Australian Authors version] defines as the continuing quest for psychic integration, for reconciliation with indigenous Australians, and with the land itself.'
Wells-Green, James. [Untitled Review.] JAS Review of Books 15 (May 2003)
' Handsome, proud, reprehensible, misunderstood. Dominic Langton is the dark heart of A Difficult Young Man. His brother Guy can scarcely understand where he fits into the pattern of things or what he might do next. Martin Boyd’s much loved novel is an elegant, witty and compelling family tale about the contradictions of growing up.' (Publication summary)
'Stan Parker, with only a horse and a dog for company journeys to a remote patch of land he has inherited in the Australian hills. Once the land is cleared and a rudimentary house built, he brings his wife Amy to the wilderness. Together they face lives of joy and sorrow as they struggle against the environment.' (Publication summary)
for 'his wonderful contribution to Australian literature during the past 10 years'.
'A group of Jewish refugees are thrown together on board a dilapidated freighter charting a course for Australia. Fleeing terrible scenes of destruction in Europe, they are bound by a deep sense of loss and the uncertainty of their fate. As the ship lists, inner conflicts burst to the surface and romance, revenge, guilt and desperation fill the craft. There’s poignancy, drama and an abiding strength of humanity as the passengers’ lives play out in this unbearable hinterland between sky and sea.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
As 'Between Sky and Sea'.
'The flowers flared up from the ground unconquerable. The unrepentant gaiety of the weed, the burning blues and crimsons, set the hills glowing.
''It's a plant that's struck it lucky,' the Stray said thoughtfully. 'It hasn't got no right, but it's there.'
'The Battlers is the story of Snow, a drifter and wanderer, the waiflike Dancy the Stray, from the slums of Sydney, and the other outcasts who accompany them as they travel the country roads looking for work. Like the weed Patterson's Curse, they 'haven't got no right', but they are there. Based on her own experiences of life on the roads in the 1930s, Tennant tells the story of the motley crowd of travellers with compassion and humour. First published in 1941, The Battlers was awarded the Gold Medal of the Australian Literature Society and shared the S. H. Prior Memorial Prize. More than seventy years later, the book's message of survival against the odds is as relevant today as it was then. ' (Publication summary)
Arriving in Capricornia (a fictional name for the Northern Territory) in 1904 with his brother Oscar, Mark Shillingworth soon becomes part of the flotsam and jetsam of Port Zodiac (Darwin) society. Dismissed from the public service for drunkenness, Mark forms a brief relationship with an Aboriginal woman and fathers a son, whom he deserts and who acquires the name of Naw-Nim (no-name). After killing a Chinese shopkeeper, Norman disappears from view until the second half of the novel.
Oscar, the respectable contrast to Mark, marries and tries to establish himself on a Capricornian cattle station, Red Ochre, but is deserted by his wife and eventually returns for a time to Batman (Melbourne), accompanied by his daughter Marigold and foster son Norman, who has been sent to him after Mark's desertion.
Oscar rejects the plea of a former employee, Peter Differ, to see to the welfare of his daughter Constance; Constance Differ is placed under the 'protection' of Humboldt Lace, a Protector of Aborigines, who seduces her and then marries her off to another man of Aboriginal descent. Forced into prostitution, Constance is dying of consumption when discovered by a railway fitter, Tim O'Cannon, who will take care of Constance's daughter, Tocky, until his own death in a train accident.
Hearing news in 1928 of an economic boom in Capricornia, Oscar returns to his station, where he is joined by Marigold and Norman, who has grown to manhood believing himself to be the son of a Javanese princess and a solider killed in the First World War. Soon after, he discovers his mother was an Aboriginal woman, and meets his father, with whom he will not reconcile until later in the novel. Norman then goes on a series of journeys to discover his true, Aboriginal self. On the second of these journeys, he meets and wanders in the wilderness with Tocky, who has escaped from the mission station to which she was sent after the death of O'Cannon. During this passage, she kills a man in self-defense, which leads to Norman's being accused of murder, at the same time his father is prosecuted for the death of the Chinese shopkeeper. At the end of the novel they are both acquitted, Heather and Mark are married, and Norman returns to Red Ochre, where he finds the body of Tocky and their child in a water tank in which she had taken refuge from the authorities. (Source: Oxford Companion to Australian Literature)
'In the late afternoon of a day in February, that hottest of Australian summer months, when a brutal sun stood bronze above the river flats which you may see from the dormitory windows of Chatterton, Charles came to the school with his mother, walking from the railway station to the gates by a private path across a burnt, untidy field, overhung with Cape lilacs that still drooped, dusty and melancholy…In the lower part of his belly fear kicked and pulsed like a child in the womb, ready to be born.
'Fifteen-year-old Charles Fox is sent away to boarding school, innocent, alone and afraid. There one of his masters develops an intense attachment to him. But when Charles meets Margaret, a girl staying at a nearby farm for the holidays, he is besotted, and a passionate, unforgettable romance begins. ' (Publication summary : Text Classics)
'Should a woman bear a child knowing that there are traces of insanity in her family? Linda Hainlin, niece of a famous biologist, was aware of the danger when she married Dr. Nigel Hendon, a practical idealist, whose creed was normality and the rational ordering of the world. This book tells how, years later, while temporarily deprived of her husband's sane companionship, Linda feels the oncoming of those homicidal impulses which presage madness. On this tragic theme, 'Prelude to Christopher' is written with strong literary art as a narrative of four days of crisis. The story goes back in memory to the happiness of Linda's love for Nigel, and forward in her frightened imagination to a future from which the strongest must flinch. Christopher, the unborn child, dominates terrific events in which he has no living part to play. The prelude to his birth is told with emotional power.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Leonard Mann privately published his first novel, Flesh in Armour, in Melbourne in 1932, after he was unable to place it with a publisher in Australia or England. The novel was an immediate success, and Mann was subsequently awarded the Australian Literature Society's gold medal for outstanding book of the year. The book's merits then established, it was republished in England and Australia in 1944.
Drawn in part from the author's combat experience in France during World War I, Flesh in Armour is an exploration of the lives of soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force from the Ypres campaign in 1917 until just before the Armistice. The novel follows the actions and evolving attitudes of three soldiers in the same battalion—a naive and handsome raw recruit eager for combat, a schoolteacher whose intellect and anxiety have led to disillusionment, and a courageous warrior-hero who remains undaunted by battle despite being wounded.The novel bears an unmistakable Australian point of view, particularly in its wry sense of humor in spite of the dark subject matter and in its vehement disdain for British commanders.
Nearly 420,000 Australians enlisted during World War I, and more than half were killed, wounded, or captured. The conflict was the most costly in Australia's history. In the fates of his protagonists—one dies valiantly, one dies in an abject and mentally unhinged state, one survives—Mann pays tribute to the sacrifices of his countrymen and reminds readers of the unforgiving test of character found in war then and now. ' (University of South Carolina Press website sighted July 2010)
'A entertaining example of the family history kind of novel. This particular family, descended from the historic Simon to begin with, has been enlivened about a hundred and fifty years ago by the irruption of a frivolous and enchanting French lady, Madeleine des. Baux. One of her grandsons, :Henry, sails with his family to -join a brother, Simon, who has taken up land near Port Phillip ; and becomes one of the makers of his colony. The 'marriages of his children and their cousins, and their inter-mixture with Spanish; Irish and Scots colonists, provide the matter of the book ; and, since their characters are varied and whimsical, it is entrancing matter. Incidentally we get some vivid impressions of Australia before and after the gold rush. The early love story of Richard and Aida provides a passage of singular beauty ; and when at the end of the book Raoul, who looks " like a cynical angel," sinks into the frank embrace of her daughter Madeleine, we feel that the French ancestress is still triumphant. This is a witty and picturesque book, with a keen sense of flavor in place and personality. ...'