AustLit logo
Prize for Fiction (2011-)
The Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction (1985-2010)
Subcategory of Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2022

winner y separately published work icon Smokehouse Melissa Manning , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2020 18931843 2020 selected work short story

'A man watches a boy in a playground and pictures him in the grey wooden shed he's turned into a home. A woman's adopted mother dies, reawakening childhood memories and grief. A couple's decision to move to an isolated location may just be their undoing. A young woman forms an unexpected connection at a summer school in Hungary.

'Set in southern Tasmania, these interlinked stories bring into focus the inhabitants of small communities, and capture the moments when life turns and one person becomes another. With insight and empathy, Melissa Manning interrogates how the people we meet and the places we live shape the person we become.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon The Animals in that Country Laura McKay , Melbourne : Scribe , 2020 18465113 2020 single work novel fantasy

'Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, Jean is not your usual grandma. She’s never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. And although Jean talks to all her charges, she has a particular soft spot for a young dingo called Sue.

'Then one day, disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country. This is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. But as the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds.

'When Jean’s infected son, Lee, takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin. Setting off on their trail, with Sue the dingo riding shotgun, they find themselves in a stark, strange world in which the animal apocalypse has only further isolated people from other species.

'Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, The Animals in That Country asks what it means to be human — and what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Damascus Christos Tsiolkas , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2019 17060761 2019 single work novel historical fiction

'They kill us, they crucify us, they throw us to beasts in the arena, they sew our lips together and watch us starve. They bugger children in front of fathers and violate men before the eyes of their wives. The temple priests flay us openly in the streets and the Judeans stone us. We are hunted everywhere and we are hunted by everyone. We are despised, yet we grow. We are tortured and crucified and yet we flourish. We are hated and still we multiply. Why is that? You must wonder, how is it we survive?

'Christos Tsiolkas' stunning new novel Damascus is a work of soaring ambition and achievement, of immense power and epic scope, taking as its subject nothing less than events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church. Based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself, Damascus nevertheless explores the themes that have always obsessed Tsiolkas as a writer: class, religion, masculinity, patriarchy, colonisation, refugees; the ways in which nations, societies, communities, families and individuals are united and divided—it's all here, the contemporary and urgent questions, perennial concerns made vivid and visceral.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon The Madonna of the Mountains Elise Valmorbida , London : Faber , 2018 15359403 2018 single work novel historical fiction


'Maria Vittoria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry trunk.

'Her father has gone to find her a husband. He’s taken his mule, a photograph and a pack of food: home-made sopressa sausage, cold polenta, a little flask of wine – no need to take water – the world is full of water.

'There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, and her father will not let her marry just anyone, and now, despite Maria’s years, she is still healthy. Her betrothed will see all that. He’ll be looking for a woman who can do the work.

'Maria can do the work. Everyone in the contrà says that.

'And the Lord knows Maria will need to be able to work. Fascism blooms as crops ripen, the state craves babies just as the babies cry for food. Maria faces a stony path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.

'In this sumptuous and elegant novel you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, touch the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdie, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family safe in the most dangerous of times.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon Australia Day Melanie Cheng , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11202969 2017 selected work short story

'Australia Day is a collection of stories by debut author Melanie Cheng. The people she writes abut are young, old, rich, poor, married, widowed, Chinese, Lebanese, Christian, Muslim. What they have in common—no matter where they come from—is the desire we all share to feel that we belong. The stories explore universal themes of love, loss, family and identity, while at the same time asking crucial questions about the possibility of human connection in a globalised world.' (Introduction)

Works About this Award

Readers Can Judge for Themselves Jane Sullivan , 2010 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 2 October 2010; (p. 26)
Jane Sullivan reflects on her experience of reading all ninety entries for the 2010 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.
Unsung Authors Pack a Punch Jane Sullivan , 2009 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 12 September 2009; (p. 28)
Jane Sullivan comments on, and commends, some of the books that did not make the longlist or shortlist for the 2009 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction. Sullivan was a judge for the 2009 award.
Kudos for Palm Island Tale Miriam Cosic , 2009 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 2 September 2009; (p. 3)
Carey Wins Vance Palmer Gia Metherell , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 9 September 2006; (p. 17)
Shortlist Reflects the New Look of a Good Book Jane Sullivan , 2005 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 17 September 2005; (p. 12)