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Shortlist announced
Cover image for the book Detention.
Tristan Bancks
Penguin Random House
Cover image for the book One Tree.
Christopher Cheng and Bruce Whatley
Penguin Random House
Cover image for the book Catch a Falling Star.
Meg McKinlay
Walker Books
Wilam book cover
Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrew Kelly, Lisa Kennedy
Black Dog Books
Cover image for the book Young Dark Emu.
Bruce Pascoe
Magabala Books
Cover image for the book Ella and the Ocean.
Lian Tanner, Jonathan Bentley
Allen & Unwin

Shortlist comments

The Patricia Wrightson Prize received 105 entries in 2020. The overall quality was generally high. Many were creative and significant works, with our longlist featuring books by a number of Indigenous authors/illustrators, one of whom has muscular dystrophy and is profoundly deaf. Many works consider the Australian natural environment, with a focus on fire and drought, and a number introduce young readers to lesser known events in Australia’s past.

Our shortlisted books are diverse and original. They span Australia’s history and landscape from an Aboriginal perspective, to the impact of drought on a farming family, and to a refugee experience. Our panel has selected one non-fiction work, three picture books and two novels. Their readership ranges from young children to sophisticated upper primary readers. 

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.

Joy Lawn

Joy Lawn is a freelance reviewer and columnist for The Weekend Australian and Books+Publishing (poetry). Her writing has also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Book Review. Joy has experience in judging state and national literary awards, including the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. She has an MA in Children’s Literature & Literacy. Joy blogs about literary fiction, young adult and children’s literature for PaperbarkWords Blog. She has worked for indie bookshops as a literature consultant and has chaired sessions at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. 

photo of alex wharton

Alex Wharton

Alex Wharton is Head of Middle School at Carinya Christian School, Gunnedah. He is a proud classroom teacher, having taught in a variety of primary and secondary school contexts in metropolitan and rural areas around NSW.

Alex is a Director with the English Teachers Association NSW and is a presenter/writer for the Australian Association for the Teaching of English. Alex serves as the Secretary for the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and is a Premier’s Teacher Scholarship recipient. 

Alex has written and published extensively in the areas of school curriculum and children’s education. He is the inaugural recipient of the Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy for his research ‘The Missing Peace: A literary analysis of the Australian representation surrounding the Indigenous and non-Indigenous colonial experience.’

photo of maxine beneba clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is the author of 9 books, including the ABIA and Indie Award winning short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the NSW Premier's Literary Award winning memoir The Hate Race, and the CBCA and Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike. She is the editor of Best Australian Stories (2017) and Growing up African in Australia (2019) and poet laureate of The Saturday Paper.

About the Prize

The Patricia Wrightson Prize ($30,000) is offered for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry written for children up to secondary school level. Books containing the work of more than four authors, including anthologies, are not eligible for nomination. In the case of books containing original illustrations, the judges may determine that the award be shared by the writer/s and the illustrator. 

About Patricia Wrightson

The prize, established in 1999, commemorates the work of Patricia Wrightson (1921-2010), one of Australia’s most distinguished children’s authors. In her lifetime Wrightson published 27 books which have been translated into 16 languages. Wrightson, born in Lismore, New South Wales, moved to Sydney during the Second World War where she worked as hospital administrator in Bonalbo. Wrightson became assistant editor and later, editor of the School Magazine, a literary publication for children. By then, she had begun her literary career. Her writing is well known for entwining Australian Aboriginal mythology.  For her services to children’s literature, Wrightson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1986. She was also a multiple winner of the Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award for The Crooked Snake (1956), The Nargun and the Stars (1974), The Ice Is Coming (1978) and A Little Fear (1984). 

Past winners and shortlists


Cover image of Leave Taking.
Lorraine Marwood
Cover image of Dingo.
Claire Saxby and Tannya Harricks
Cover image of Maya and Cat.
Caroline Magerl
Jessica Townsend


Cover image of How to Bee
Bren MacDibble
Allen & Unwin
Cover image of The Sorry Tale of Fox & Bear.
Margrete Lamond and Heather Vallance
Dirt Lane Press
Cover image of The Patchwork Bike
Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van T Rudd
Hachette Australia
Cover image of The Elephant.
Peter Carnavas
Cover image of Blossom.
Tamsin Janu
Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia
Cover image of Figgy Takes The City
Tamsin Janu
Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia


Welcome to Country
Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy
Black Dog Books
Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud
Walker Books Australia
Book cover for Desert Lake by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli
Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli
Walker Books Australia
Book cover for Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
Penguin Random House Australia
Book cover for Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu
Tamsin Janu
Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia