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The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature are presented every two years during Adelaide Writers’ Week as part of the Adelaide Festival. Introduced in 1986 by the South Australian Government, the awards are managed by the State Library of South Australia. 

The awards offer a total prize pool of $167,500 across six national and five South Australian categories, including the coveted Premier’s Award worth $25,000 for the overall winner.

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, one of Australia’s richest and most prestigious literary awards.

Congratulations to all winning and shortlisted authors and their publishers.

The 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature winners are:

Premier's Award

$25,000 for the best overall published work, chosen from the winners of the five national categories.

Book cover of Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
Jessica Townsend 
(Hachette Australia)

An enchanting series by debut Australian author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world, but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.

About the author
Jessica Townsend lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Her pet fascinations include public transport, ancient cities, hotels, opera singers, Halloween, secret societies and gigantic cats - all of which have weaselled their way into Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, her award-winning first novel released in 2017.  Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, the second book in this record-breaking series, was released in 2018.


Children's Literature Award

$15,000 for a published fiction or non-fiction book aimed at readers up to 11 years.


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Jessica Townsend (Hachette Australia)
Book and author information above.


  • The Elephant, Peter Carnavas (University of Queensland Press)
  • Winston and the Wondrous Wooba Gymnastics Club, Tamsin Janu (Scholastic Australia)
  • Young dark emu: A truer history, Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books)
  • Mallee Sky, Jodi Toering (Walker Books Australia)
  • The house on the mountain, Ella Holcombe (Allen & Unwin)


Fiction Award

$15,000 for a published novel or collection of short stories.

Book cover, Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones


The death of Noah Glass
Gail Jones
(The Text Publishing Company)

The art historian Noah Glass, having just returned from a trip to Sicily, is discovered floating face down in the swimming pool at his Sydney apartment block. But a sculpture has gone missing from a museum in Palermo, and Noah is a suspect. The police are investigating.

About the author
Gail Jones is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers. Her work has been translated into twelve languages and awarded several prizes in Australia. Internationally her fiction has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the IMPAC Award and the Prix Femina Étranger.


  • Dyschronia, Jennifer Mills (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • A stolen season, Rodney Hall (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Taboo, Kim Scott (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • The enlightenment of the greengage tree, Shokoofeh Azar (Wild Dingo Press)
  • Saudade, Suneeta Peres da Costa (Giramondo Publishing)


Young Adult Fiction Award

$15,000 for a published book of fiction aimed at readers aged 12 to 18 years.

Book cover, Small spaced by Sarah Epstein


Small Spaces
Sarah Epstein
(Walker Books Australia)

“We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.” Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival.

About the author
Sarah Epstein is an award-winning Australian author, illustrator and designer who grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne. Her debut novel Small Spaces is a CBCA Honour Book, winner of the Davitt Award for Best YA Crime Novel, and was shortlisted for another seven awards.


  • Neverland, Margot McGovern (Penguin Random House Australia)
  • A song only I can hear, Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)
  • The centre of my everything, Allayne Webster (Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Between us, Clare Atkins (Black Inc)
  • After the lights go out Lili Wilkinson (Allen & Unwin)


Non-Fiction Award

$15,000 for a published non-fiction work.

Book cover, Bible in Australia by Meredith Lake


The Bible in Australia: A cultural history
Meredith Lake
(NewSouth Publishing)

This book explores how in the hands of Bible-bashers, immigrants, suffragists, evangelists, unionists, writers, artists and Indigenous Australians, the Bible has played a contested but defining role in this country.

About the author
Meredith Lake is a historian, broadcaster and award-winning writer interested in how Australians understand the big questions of faith and meaning. She has a PhD from Sydney University, where she has also taught courses in Australian history.


  • Call of the reed warbler, Charles Massy (University of Queensland Press)
  • Eggshell skull: A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back, Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)
  • Deep time dreaming: Uncovering ancient Australia, Billy Griffiths (Black Inc)
  • The year everything changed: 2001, Phillipa McGuinness (Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Dr Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and the future, Alice Gorman (NewSouth Publishing)


John Bray Poetry Award

$15,000 for a published collection of poetry, in honour of late South Australian poet Dr John Bray.

Book cover, Archival poetics by Natalie Harkin


Natalie Harkin (Vagabond Press)
Archival-Poetics is an embodied reckoning with the State’s colonial archive and those traumatic, contested and buried episodes of history that inevitably return to haunt.

About the author
Dr Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman and activist-poet from South Australia. She is a Research Fellow at Flinders University with an interest in decolonising state archives, currently engaging archival-poetic methods to research and document Aboriginal women's domestic services and labour histories in SA.


  • False claims of colonial thieves, Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella (Magabala Books)
  • The lost Arabs, Omar Sakr (University of Queensland Press)
  • Music our bodies can’t hold, Andy Jackson (Hunter Publishers)
  • Viva the real, Jill Jones (University of Queensland Press)
  • Blakwork, Alison Whittaker (Magabala Books)


Jill Blewett Playwright's Award

$12,500 for an unproduced play of any genre written by a professional South Australian playwright. Supported by State Theatre Company South Australia.

Piri Eddy, author of Forgiveness
State Theatre Company South Australia


Piri Eddy

In a quiet town lost in a valley, two men’s refusal to reconcile their past leads to the destruction of their families’ futures. Forgiveness is a one-act tragedy about love, revenge, and how one generations’ denial of trauma can inflict irreparable damage on the next.

About the author
Piri Eddy is a writer and playwright based in South Australia. His work has been produced by Australian Theatre for Young People and Radio National. He has written for Westerly and Island magazines and the Australian Book Review. Piri holds a PhD in Creative Writing at Flinders University.


  • Karamazovs, Duncan Graham


Arts South Australia Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award

$10,000 plus publication by Wakefield Press for an unpublished, book-length manuscript by a South Australian writer.

Jelena Dinic, author of In the room with the she wolf
Wakefield Press


In the Room with the She Wolf
Jelena Dinic

This collection of poems confronts with images of war and fractured landscapes where cultures, languages and family life intersect.

About the author
Jelena Dinic arrived in Australia in 1993, during the collapse of Yugoslavia. She writes in Serbian and English. She is dedicated to working with families from diverse backgrounds, teaching Serbian language and supporting poetry communities.


  • House, Alison Flett
  • The Others, Diana Navarro
  • Temperance, Carol Lefevre


Max Fatchen Fellowship

$15,000 for a South Australian writer for young people working in the genres of fiction, drama, poetry or screenwriting, named in honour of author Max Fatchen.

Sally Heinrich, author of The rainbow thief


The Rainbow Thief
Sally Heinrich

The Rainbow Thief is a wordless picture book. The protagonist undertakes a journey to restore colour to the world. To complete it, she must conquer her own fears and the tasks it demands of her. In the end, the world is transformed, or possibly it is her view of the world that has changed. Maybe both.

About the author
Sally Heinrich is a writer, illustrator and artist, who has published and exhibited widely in Australia and Asia. She’s illustrated more than forty books as well as writing and illustrating her own picture books, novels and a non-fiction.


Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship

$15,000 for a South Australian writer working in the areas of fiction, poetry, drama, scriptwriting, autobiography, essays, major histories, literary criticism or other expository or analytical prose. Named in honour of distinguished South Australian writer and visual artist Barbara Hanrahan.

Aiden Coleman, author of Liable


Aidan Coleman

Aidan will use the Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship to continue work on Liable, an eclectic poetry collection, including an extended suite of poems, divided between Australia and the UK, which addresses the poet’s first decade of memory.

About the author
Aidan Coleman’s poetry has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Awards, the John Bray Poetry Award and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, and his third book Mount Sumptuous (2020) is published by Wakefield Press.


Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship

No applications were received for the Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship.


Contact Us

If you have any queries please contact:

AFAL Project Officer
Phone: (08) 8207 7258