Winners announced

National Biography Award 2020 online announcement

National Biography Award announcement

National Biography Award
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The National Biography Award, supported by the Nelson Meers Foundation, celebrates excellence in biography, autobiography and memoir writing.

With a prize pool of $42,000 it is the nation’s richest prize for Australian biographical writing and memoir.  

The Award was established in 1996 by Dr Geoffrey Cains and generously supported by the late Michael Crouch AC to encourage the highest standards of writing in biographical writing and to promote public interest in the genre.

On 6 August 2018 the State Library announced that the Nelson Meers Foundation would be supporting the Award moving forward. The Nelson Meers Foundation has generously increased the value of the prize for each of the shortlisted authors to $2,000. The Nelson Meers Foundation's key objective is to foster innovative artistic and cultural expression, and to encourage greater engagement with the diversity, complexity and richness of
our cultural sector. They support organisations and projects that utilise the arts to create positive social change, promote individual wellbeing, community cohesion and cultural tolerance.

In recognition of the long standing support from the late Michael Crouch AC the Nelson Meers Foundation will also fund an additional prize in his name for a first published biography/memoir by an Australian writer. 

The Award’s growth and success recognises and reflects the continuing interest in stories about people with extraordinary lives.

In 2020 there will be a total of $42,000 in prize money: 
•    $25,000 for the winner
•    $2,000 for each of six shortlisted authors
•    $5,000 Michael Crouch Award for a first published biography by an Australian writer

2020 Winner and Shortlist

2020 Judges

photo of margy burn

Margy Burn

Margy Burn has headed Australian special collections at the National Library of Australia, the State Library of New South Wales, the State Library of South Australia and the University of Adelaide. She has served on working parties for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and was a foundation judge for the Kibble and Dobbie awards for life writing by a woman author. In retirement she plans to write more biographical entries for the Australian Women’s Register linking significant women to the institutions holding relevant archival records.

Head shot of Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna is one of Australia's leading historians. He has written several highly acclaimed books which have won major national awards, including From the Edge: Australia's Lost HistoriesAn Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark and Looking for Blackfellas' Point: An Australian History of Place.

Image of Senior Judge Richard White

Richard White

Associate Professor Richard White retired from the University of Sydney in 2013, having taught Australian history there since 1989. His publications include Inventing AustraliaThe Oxford Book of Australian Travel WritingOn Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia and Symbols of Australia. He has been a judge for the Premier’s Literary Awards and other history prizes, served on the Friends of the State Library committee and initiated the establishment of the History Council of NSW. He was co-editor of the journal History Australia from 2008 to 2013 and is a member of several editorial boards. 

Past winners and shortlists


No Friend But the mountain
book cover image
the trauma cleaner book cover
One Hundred Years of Dirt
Miss Ex Yugoslavia


Cover image of the enigmatic mr deakin
Front cover image of Songs of a War Boy
Front cover image of Paul Keating: the big-picture leader
Front cover image of A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work
Front cover image of Writing for Raksmey
Cover image of the boy behind the curtain


2020 Guidelines (for reference only)

For more information please contact the Senior Project Officer, Awards.

Email: awards@sl.nsw.gov.au
Telephone: (02) 9273 1605 or (02) 9273 1582

2020 Shortlist