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2016 National Biography Award winner drawn from the ashes

Brenda Niall's gripping biography Mannix has won the 2016 National Biography Award.

A gripping biography of one of Australia’s most prominent religious figures, who demanded his private records be burnt posthumously, has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award.

The fiercely private Catholic Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1917‐1963) is the challenging subject of Mannix (Text Publishing) by Brenda Niall, the extraordinary work selected for Australia’s richest biography prize from a record 110 entries.

Niall first met the influential archbishop at the age of six, and then later as a graduate employed to interview the then 95 year‐old. At this time Niall was given the rare opportunity to see a box of his personal papers. However, years later while researching the biography she discovered that these telling documents were lost to history – Mannix instructed they be destroyed after his death.

The judges praised Niall for “recovering both the public identity and the fiercely protected private self to create a beautifully balanced portrait of a very complex and elusive character.”

According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne: Over its 21 year history the National Biography Award has celebrated a body of incredible stories about our nation and its people to the benefit of us, the readers. This year’s winner, together with the five other shortlisted works, is yet another outstanding addition to this long list.”

The shortlisted authors each receive $1,000:

  • Martin Edmond Battarbee and Namatjira (Giramondo)
  • Stephen FitzGerald Comrade Ambassador: Whitlam’s Beijing Envoy (MUP)
  • Karen Lamb Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather (UQP)
  • Peter Rees Bearing Witness: The Remarkable Life of Charles Bean, Australia's greatest war correspondent (Allen & Unwin)
  • Magda Szubanski Reckoning: A Memoir (Text Publishing)

The judges for this year’s Award are:

Dr Peter Cochrane, author and Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities;

Rosemary Sorensen, a reviewer and journalist; and

Associate Professor Richard White, author and historian with the University of Sydney. 

Download the full media release (147 KB PDF)