Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers

2024
Winners announced
Biennial

The Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers was established in 2016 to celebrate Australian women’s contribution to the screen and stage.

 

Winners of the 2024 Mona Brand award

 

Described by the judges as “the hidden gem” of Australian screenwriting, Belinda Chayko has earned the country’s coveted (and only) prize for women stage and screen writers, the Mona Brand Award.

Belinda Chayko has been awarded the $30,000 Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers for 2024. This recognises her exceptional body of work that centres on the profound, unresolved events of our time — going to war, surviving bushfires, rescuing refugees — events whose consequences ripple across time.

According to the judges, “Chayko’s writing seamlessly merges the political and the personal. She tells gripping stories that explore morally complex ideas and characters. Who is right or wrong is never as important as truthful explorations of how people behave under pressure, and what their decisions say about them. And nothing is more important than their humanity.”  

State Librarian Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon says, “The State Library is at the heart of literature, research and writing and is a place where writers at varying stages of their careers can be supported, inspired and celebrated. Through this award, we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate the extraordinary contribution women stage and screen writers make to the cultural fabric of our society, just as Mona Brand herself did.”

“I encourage everyone to explore some of Belinda Chayko’s compelling work, which includes Stateless, Fires and Safe Harbour, to name a few.”  

The $10,000 Early Career Writer Award has been given to Hannah Carroll Chapman for her reboot of the Australian Heartbreak High series (2022), described by the judges as “a funny and heartfelt exploration of diverse stories surrounding teenage drama, sexuality and body positivity … [that] sets the standard for how young people can be better represented in Australian television”.  

Slovenian-Australian screenwriter and director Sara Kern received a Highly Commended in this category for her screenplay for the “heart-wrenching” feature debut Moja Vesna (2022).  

Senior Judge Helen Bowden says it has been “an absolute joy to judge the 2024 Mona Brand Awards." The panel noted the impressive Early Career Award nominees, and equally the contenders for the main award, for being “at the top of their game, they are on fire both nationally and internationally. What a very exciting time for Australian writing.”  

Read the judges' comments below.

 

Mona Brand Award

The Mona Brand Award ($30,000) is presented to a woman or non-binary writer who has a body of outstanding work which has been widely performed or screened to critical acclaim.

Early Career Writer Award

The Early Career Writer Award ($10,000) is presented to a woman or non-binary writer who is in the early stages of their career.

Judging Panel

Helen Bowden

Senior Judge

Helen Bowden is one of Australia’s most prolific and highly awarded drama producers. Lingo Pictures, which she runs with Jason Stephens, has made eleven series in eight years. This includes two seasons of The Secrets She Keeps for Paramount + and BBC1; two seasons of Upright starring Tim Minchin for SkyUK and Foxtel; Lambs of God, starring Anne Dowd, Essie Davis and Sam Reid for Foxtel; Queen of Oz starring Catherine Tate for BBC1. As well as the upcoming Erotic Stories for SBS; After the Party for the ABC and Prosper for Stan. Helen also produced The Slap.

Anchuli Felicia King

Anchuli Felicia King is a playwright, screenwriter and multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent. King’s plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London), Manhattan Theater Club (New York), Studio Theatre (Washington D.C.), Melbourne Theatre Company (Melbourne), Sydney Theatre Company, National Theatre of Parramatta, Belvoir Theatre (Sydney) and La Boite Theatre (Brisbane). As a screenwriter, Felicia has written episodes on The Sympathizer, starring Robert Downey Jr and Sandra Oh (HBO), and Mary and George (AMC) starring Julianne Moore. She has also written episodes for The Baby (UK), The Twelve and Deadloch (Australia).

Carissa Lee

Dr Carissa Lee is a Noongar actor and writer born on Wemba-Wemba country who has recently completed her PhD in Cross-Cultural Collaboration in Indigenous theatre with The University of Melbourne. Carissa has featured in stage and film productions locally and interstate. Carissa also works as a cultural script consultant and dramaturg, having consulted film and theatre. A member of FNAWN, her writing has featured in The Guardian, Junkee, Witness Performance, IndigenousX and The Conversation. Carissa is currently the Indigenous public policy commissioning editor at The Conversation and IndigenousX, while working as a writer and actor.

About the prize

Photograph of Mona Brand on ferry

Established in 2016, the $30,000 Mona Brand Award is presented every two years to a woman or non-binary writer for a body of outstanding work displaying broad array, which has been widely performed or screened to critical acclaim.

As well as this major prize for a body of work, the Early Career Writer Award, valued at $10,000, is presented to a woman or non-binary writer who is in the early stages of their career for their first professionally produced, screened or broadcast work. 

This is the only award of its kind in Australia and was made possible through a bequest to the State Library of NSW Foundation by the late Mona Fox nee Brand (1915–2007) a trailblazing Australian poet, author and a prolific playwright of nearly 30 plays. Her work, which often addressed socially relevant and controversial topics has been performed on stage, radio and television in Australia and overseas. 

In 2002 the Library acquired her papers, including correspondence, diaries, manuscripts photographs, recordings and many other records of her remarkable life and career. As the custodian of this important collection it is fitting that the State Library administers and presents this Award, which not only honours the rich legacy Mona Brand imparted but celebrates the best of contemporary writing by Australian women. 

 

Hear from Robyn Nevin AM, patron of the award, on why the Mona Brand Award is significant.

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Mona Brand Award Presentation 2020 

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Last updated:  05 June 2024

Award Information

Biennial

For more information, please contact the Awards team.

awards@sl.nsw.gov.au

Phone: (02) 9273 1767, or alternatively (02) 9273 1770.