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The Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction
Subcategory of Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
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From 2011 onwards, the Victorian Premier's non-fiction literary award was re-named Non-Fiction.


2021 winner Paddy Manning for 'Body Count'.
2018 winner y separately published work icon The Trauma Cleaner The Trauma Cleaner : One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster Sarah Krasnostein , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11873511 2017 single work biography

'I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.

'‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.

'‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.

'‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.

'We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’

'But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved.

'Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

'But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

'A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

'Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2016 winner y separately published work icon Something for the Pain : A Memoir of the Turf Gerald Murnane , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2015 8702842 2015 single work autobiography

'I never met anyone whose interest in racing matched my own. Both on and off the course, so to speak, I've enjoyed the company of many a racing acquaintance...I've read books, or parts of books, by persons who might have come close to being true racing friends of mine if ever we had met. For most of my long life, however, my enjoyment of racing has been a solitary thing: something I could never wholly explain to anyone else.

'As a boy, Gerald Murnane became obsessed with horse racing. He had never ridden a horse, nor seen a race. Yet he was fascinated by photos of horse races in the Sporting Globe, and by the incantation of horses' names in radio broadcasts of races. Murnane discovered in these races more than he could find in religion or philosophy: they were the gateway to a world of imagination.

'Gerald Murnane is like no other writer, and Something for the Pain is like no other Murnane book. In this unique and spellbinding memoir, he tells the story of his life through the lens of horse racing. It is candid, droll and moving—a treat for lovers of literature and of the turf. ' (Publication summary)

2010 winner y separately published work icon Reading by Moonlight : How Books Saved a Life Brenda Walker , Camberwell : Hamish Hamilton , 2010 Z1678187 2010 single work autobiography (taught in 2 units)

'The first time Brenda Walker packed her bag to go into hospital, she wondered which book to take with her. As a novelist and professor of literature, her life had been built around reading and writing. Now she was also a patient, being treated for breast cancer, fighting for her life and afraid for herself and her family. But turning to medicine didn't mean she turned away from fiction. Books had always been her solace and sustenance, and now choosing the right one was the most important thing she could do for herself.

'In Reading by Moonlight, Brenda describes the five stages of her treatment and how different books and authors helped her through the tumultuous process of recovery. As well as offering wonderful introductions and insights into the work of writers like Dante, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Beckett and Dickens, Brenda shows how the very process of reading - surrendering and then regathering yourself - echoes the process of healing.

'Reading by Moonlight guides, reassures, throws light on dark places, and finds beauty in the stories that come to us in times of jeopardy. It affirms that reading can be essential to life itself.' (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)
2007 winner y separately published work icon Voyages to the South Seas : In Search of Terres Australes Danielle Clode , Melbourne : Melbourne University Press , 2007 8180655 2007 single work biography

'Through revolution and empire, war and bloodshed, France remained fascinated with Australia, sending expeditions of dedicated young men to explore the utopian Paradise of the Pacific and Australia to the frozen hell of Antarctica. Voyages to the South Seas reveals the true stories of explorers who risked, and often lost, their lives in pursuit of their passion. It is the story of noble men impoverished by their passion, nobodies made famous by courage and intellect and young men–and some women–who often risked their lives for adventure and excitement but above all, in the pursuit of knowledge and discovery.

This is Australia through French eyes–beautiful, mystifying, untouched nature–an Australia few Englishmen ever saw.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2006 winner y separately published work icon Margaret Michaelis : Love, Loss and Photography Helen Ennis , Canberra : National Gallery of Australia , 2005 Z1241761 2005 single work biography
2005 winner y separately published work icon Twilight of Love : Travels with Turgenev Robert Dessaix , Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2004 Z1137193 2004 single work prose travel Dessaix explores the life of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, particularly his relationship with the opera singer Pauline Viardot and her husband. Intrinsic to this exploration is Dessaix's journey to each of the houses where Turgenev and the Viardots lived. Within the narrative Dessaix intersperses his own reflections on the nature and meaning of life, including his understanding of the soul.
2003 (shortlisted) y separately published work icon Recollections of a Bleeding Heart : A Portrait of Paul Keating PM Don Watson , Milsons Point : Random House Australia , 2002 Z994945 2002 single work biography 'In December 1991 Paul Keating wrested the role of Prime Minister from Bob Hawke and the bruises from that struggle were part of the baggage he brought to the job: the other parts included the worst recession in 60 years and an electorate determined to make him pay for it. Keating defied the odds and won the 1993 election, and in his four years as Prime Minister set Australia on a new course - towards engagement with Asia, a republic, reconciliation, a social democracy built on a modern export-based economy and sophisticated public systems of education and training, health and social security. Widely regarded as a quintessential economic rationalist, Keating's record clearly shows that his vision was infinitely broader and more complex.

'Don Watson was employed as Keating's speechwriter. Based on the diaries Watson kept through the four turbulent and exhausting years of Keating's Prime Ministership, on its release Recollections of a Bleeding Heart was widely deemed a masterpiece. It is at once a groundbreaking "inside" account of politics and a profound and extraordinarily frank study of the most intriguing and visionary politician in Australia's modern history. Now, when vision and character have all but vanished from politics, Don Watson's Recollections makes absorbing - and essential - reading.' (From the publisher's website, 10th anniversary edition.)
2003 winner y separately published work icon Broken Song : T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession Barry Hill , Milsons Point London : Knopf , 2002 Z980577 2002 single work biography

'A group of men…chanting with the enthusiasm that made them forget age & weakness & becoming young again in spirit…the rising and falling of the chant melody, like the breathing that gives us life – what an unforgettable scene!’ Thus wrote T. G. H. Strehlow in 1935, as he began his life work, Songs of Central Australia, acclaimed as one of the great books of world literature. Prize-winning poet and historian, Barry Hill, with exclusive access to Strehlow’s diaries, has written a major work about the troubled man who grew up on the Hermannsburg mission, became the first Patrol Officer of Central Australia, called himself the ‘last of the Aranda’, and compulsively collected secret-sacred objects and images. Broken Song straddles a century of Australian history, from the race wars on the frontier to the modern era of Aboriginal land rights, tracking Strehlow’s creative and tragic life in translation.' (Source: Reading Australia website)

2002 winner y separately published work icon The Boyds : A Family Biography Brenda Niall , Carlton South : Miegunyah Press Melbourne University Press , 2002 Z940729 2002 single work biography
2000 winner y separately published work icon The White Adrian Caesar , Chippendale : Picador , 1999 Z481439 1999 single work novel historical fiction
1998 winner y separately published work icon Romulus, My Father Raimond Gaita , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 1998 Z827978 1998 single work biography (taught in 3 units)

'Romulus Gaita fled his home in his native Yugoslavia at the age of thirteen, and came to Australia with his young wife Christina and their infant son Raimond soon after the end of World War II.

'Tragic events were to overtake the boy’s life, but Raimond Gaita has an extraordinary story to tell about growing up with his father amid the stony paddocks and flowing grasses of country Australia.

'Written simply and movingly, Romulus, My Father is about how a compassionate and honest man taught his son the meaning of living a decent life. It is about passion, betrayal and madness, about friendship and the joy and dignity of work, about character and fate, affliction and spirituality.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (Text Publishing).

1995 winner y separately published work icon Georgiana : A Biography of Georgiana McCrae, Painter, Diarist, Pioneer Brenda Niall , Carlton South : Melbourne University Press Miegunyah Press , 1994 Z939915 1994 single work biography
1992 winner y separately published work icon Patrick White : A Life David Marr , London : Jonathan Cape , 1991 Z307107 1991 single work biography 'Patrick White, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of more than a dozen novels and plays - including Voss, The Vivisector and The Twyborn Affair - lived an extraordinary life. David Marr's brilliant biography draws not only on a wide range of original research but also on the single most difficult and important source of all: the man himself. Gracefully written and exhaustively researched, Patrick White is a biography of classic excellence - sympathetic, objective, penetrating and as blunt, when necessary, as White himself.' (Source: LibrariesAustralia)
1991 winner y separately published work icon Wild Card : An Autobiography, 1923-1958 Dorothy Hewett , Ringwood : McPhee Gribble , 1990 Z453485 1990 single work autobiography 'In this acclaimed autobiography, Dorothy Hewett, renowned playwright and novelist, traces the personal and political metamorphoses of her first thirty-five years. A woman who challenged sexual and political conventions, she combines in Wild Card the passions of her life with her power as a writer, creating a classic of people, place and history.After university, several failed love affairs, an attempted suicide and a major poetry prize, Dorothy Hewett joined the Australian Communist Party in 1945. Four years later she left her first husband and moved to Sydney's Redfern with her lover, a boilermaker. Hers has been a life of extremes: the pleasures and purgatories of a woman who tackled everything placed in her path with a searing honesty, energy and intellect.' (Publication summary)
1990 winner y separately published work icon The Sixpenny Soldier Roland Griffiths-Marsh , Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1990 Z1048543 1990 single work autobiography war literature
1988 winner y separately published work icon Louisa Brian Matthews , Melbourne : McPhee Gribble , 1987 Z395805 1987 single work biography

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]

1986 winner y separately published work icon Evil Angels John Bryson , Ringwood : Viking , 1985 Z809307 1985 single work non-fiction (taught in 1 units)

Non-fiction account of the prosecution of Michael and Lindy Chamberlain for the alleged murder of their daughter Azaria at Uluru in 1980.

1985 winner y separately published work icon The Boy Adeodatus : The Portrait of a Lucky Young Bastard Bernard Smith , Ringwood : Allen Lane , 1984 Z130461 1984 single work autobiography