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Today we are delighted to announce the 37 writers from around Australia who have been shortlisted for the 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, one of Australia’s richest and most prestigious literary awards. 

The biennial 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. The awards also include three fellowships for South Australian writers worth $15,000 each.

The awards, being managed by the State Library of South Australia for the first time, began in 1986. They highlight the importance of our unique South Australian writers, and contribute to and support community engagement with literature. Previous winners include Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Richard Flanagan, Gail Jones and John Marsden.

Judges considered this year’s entries across many of the categories to be of very high standard. Among the shortlisted national finalists for 2020 are South Australian writers Allayne Webster in the Young Adult Fiction category, Jennifer Mills in the Fiction category, Natalie Harkin and Jill Jones in the John Bray Poetry Award and Alice Gorman in the Non-Fiction category.

Local playwrights Piri Eddy and Duncan Graham are shortlisted for the Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award, worth $12,500.

South Australian writers Alison Flett, Jelena Dinic, Diana Navarro and Carol Lefevre are shortlisted for the Arts South Australia Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award, which offers a prize of $10,000 and publication of the winning manuscript by Wakefield Press.  

“I congratulate all the shortlisted authors and their publishers. It’s a great achievement to be shortlisted as we received almost 800 entries across all award categories making it highly competitive,” said Geoff Strempel, Director State Library of South Australia. “These awards are all about the power of the written word – its ability to evoke emotions, stimulate thoughts and discussion. In this way the awards strengthen the importance of a publishing and literary culture in our community.”

Winners, including for the Premier’s Award, will be announced in a special ceremony at Adelaide Writers’ Week on Saturday, 29 February 2020 as part of the 2020 Adelaide Festival

The 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature shortlist is:

National Awards for published works

Children’s Literature Award ($15,000)

  • The elephant by Peter Carnavas (QLD) (University of Queensland Press)
  • The house on the mountain by Ella Holcombe (VIC) (Allen & Unwin)
  • Mallee sky by Jodi Toering (VIC) (Walker Books Australia)
  • Nevermoor: The trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (QLD) (Hachette Australia)
  • Winston and the wondrous Wooba Gymnastics Club by Tamsin Janu (NSW) (Scholastic Australia)
  • Young dark emu: A truer history by Bruce Pascoe (VIC) (Magabala Books)

Young Adult Fiction Award ($15,000)

  • After the lights go out by Lili Wilkinson (VIC) (Allen & Unwin)
  • Between us by Clare Atkins (NSW) (Black Inc)
  • The centre of my everything by Allayne Webster (SA) (Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Neverland by Margot McGovern (SA) (Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Small spaces by Sarah Epstein (VIC) (Walker Books Australia)
  • A song only I can hear by Barry Jonsberg (NT) (Allen & Unwin)

Fiction Award ($15,000)

  • The death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones (NSW) (Text Publishing)
  • Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills (SA) (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • The enlightenment of the greengage tree by Shokoofeh Azar (VIC) (Wild Dingo Press)
  • Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa (NSW) (Giramondo Publishing)
  • A stolen season by Rodney Hall (VIC) (Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Taboo by Kim Scott (WA) (Pan Macmillan Australia)

John Bray Poetry Award ($15,000)

  • Archival-Poetics by Natalie Harkin (SA) (Vagabond Press)
  • Blakwork by Alison Whittaker (NSW) (Magabala Books)
  • False claims of colonial thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella (WA) (Magabala Books)
  • The lost Arabs by Omar Sakr (NSW) (University of Queensland Press)
  • Music our bodies can’t hold by Andy Jackson (VIC) (Hunter Publishers)
  • Viva the real by Jill Jones (SA) (University of Queensland Press)

Non-Fiction Award ($15,000)

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

South Australian Awards and Fellowships

Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award ($12,500)

  • Forgiveness by Piri Eddy
  • Karamazovs by Duncan Graham

Arts South Australia Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award ($10,000)

  • House by Alison Flett
  • In the room with the she wolf by Jelena Dinic
  • The others by Diana Navarro
  • Temperance by Carol Lefevre

Not shortlisted Fellowships

  • Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship ($15,000)
  • Max Fatchen Fellowship ($15,000)
  • Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship ($15,000) - please note no applications were received for this Fellowship.


Neil Charter
Team Leader Marketing

State Library of South Australia
Mobile 0468 548 804

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