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Winning biography reveals Australia’s enigmatic Federation ‘Father’

Monday 6 August 2018

A fascinating biography of Australia’s second prime minister, Alfred Deakin, has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award, the nation’s richest prize for biographical writing, the State Library of NSW announced TODAY [Monday 6 August 2018].

The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (Text Publishing) by political historian Judith Brett delves into the public and private life of Australia’s Federation ‘Father’ Alfred Deakin (1856-1919).

The judges praised Brett for her rigorous research and analysis of her subject and reliability of judgement, calling her work “among the very best political biographies written in Australia.”

According to Senior Judge, Associate Professor Richard White: “The Enigmatic Mr Deakin reveals how ‘Deakin was never a mate’. He was respectable, courteous, intellectual, interested in the life of the spirit, a little aloof, not given to swearing nor much of a drinker, certainly no larrikin hero: no wonder popular culture rarely finds time for him.”

“Yet, as Judith Brett demonstrates, this immensely important figure, and Australia’s most influential early prime minister, shaped the new nation in ways that continue to resonate,” Associate Professor White said.

In recognition of the long-standing support from the late Michael Crouch AC and the Crouch family, the Nelson Meers Foundation, the Award’s new supporter, will establish from 2019 an additional $5,000 prize in his name for the first published biography by an Australian writer.  

Download full media release (PDF 603KB)