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Submissions closed
Alfred's War
Rachel Bin Salleh and Samantha Fry
Magabala Books
Cover image of the book The White Girl.
Tony Birch
University of Queensland Press
Too Much Lip
Melissa Lucashenko
University of Queensland Press

Shortlist comments

The judges would like to commend all of the writers who entered work in the prize category. We have been thoroughly impressed by the outstanding literary merit, abiding creative spirit and immense heart that underpins so much Indigenous writing across all the genres represented.  

Collectively, the works submitted for the Indigenous Writing Prize are a testament to the literary skill, imagination and lived experience of Indigenous people more generally and our deep and abiding relationship to story and storytelling. 

It is unfortunate that the Prize must reward such diverse and distinct literary practices as fiction, life writing, poetry, travelogue, memoir, children’s and short story in one biennial category. 

The panel strongly recommends that the prize be offered annually to truly reward the depth and quality of work being produced. 

Additionally we would like to make special mention of three works, nominated by individual members of the panel.  

These are Archival-Poetics by Natalie Harkin (commended by Ellen van Neerven and Daniel Browning), Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton (commended by Samuel Wagan Watson) and Nganajungu Yagu by Charmaine Papertalk Green (commended by Ellen van Neerven).

The judging panel

Jane McCredie

Senior Judge

Jane McCredie is an award-winning journalist, writer and reviewer who has been widely published in Australia and internationally. A former book publisher, she is the CEO of Writing NSW and the founder and director of the Quantum Words Festival of writing about science. She is the author of Making Girls and Boys: Inside the science of sex and was coeditor of the 2013 anthology of The Best Australian Science Writing. Jane is a graduate of the Australia Council’s arts leaders program and has previously chaired both the Christina Stead and Douglas Stewart panels of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Daniel Browning

Daniel Browning is an Aboriginal journalist and radio broadcaster. A descendant of the Bundjalung and Kullilli peoples of far northern New South Wales and south-western Queensland, Daniel presents and produces Awaye!, the Indigenous art and culture program on ABC RN which surveys contemporary cultural practice across the arts spectrum. A visual arts graduate, Daniel is also a widely-published arts writer.

photo of samuel wagan watson

Samuel Wagan Watson

Samuel Wagan Watson hails from Munanjali/Wunjaburra and German ancestry. Samuel’s collection of poetry, Smoke Encrypted Whispers was awarded the 2005 Kenneth Slessor Prize and the New South Wales Premier’s Book of the Year. Recently he co-wrote a poetic exploration of relics held in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, entitled Time and Memory. In 2018 he was gifted the Patrick White Literary Award. He is a Brisbane-based writer, and is proud to be published by University of Queensland Press.


Ellen van Neerven

Ellen van Neerven is the award-winning author of Heat and Light (UQP, 2014) and Comfort Food (UQP, 2016). Ellen is Mununjali Yugambeh from South East Queensland and lives and works in Brisbane.

About the Prize

The Indigenous Writers' Prize ($30,000) is offered biennially.  The Prize was first awarded in 2016.  The prize is intended to acknowledge the contribution made to Australian literary culture by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers.

The prize is open to those who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, and who are accepted as such by the communities in which they live. 

The Prize is designed to recognise literary merit and promote works in all categories including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, books for children and young adults, plays and scriptwriting. Entrants to the Indigenous Writers' Prize are also eligible to enter their work in any of the other award categories, and entry fees will apply for each category entered.

Co-authored entries will only be considered if both writers are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. The prize will be next awarded in 2020. All works entered must have been first published, performed, screened or broadcast between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2019.


Taboo Cover Image
Kim Scott
Pan Macmillan Australia
Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms Cover Image
Anita Heiss
Simon & Schuster Australia
Cover image of Finding Eliza
Larissa Behrendt
Book cover for The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell
Leah Purcell
Currency Press and Belvoir
Common People Cover Image
Tony Birch


Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Bruce Pascoe
Magabala Books
Cover of Heat and Light
Ellen van Neerven
Cover of Inside my mother
Ali Cobby Eckermann
Cover of Not just black and white
Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams
Cover of Dirty Words
Natalie Harkin