Oh, what a night was had at the announcement of the 2016 Premier’s Literary Awards at the historic State Library of NSW last night! Moving, inspiring, entertaining with some of the most amusing speeches I have ever heard at a literary award ceremony – this was an epic night of literary celebration and I was glad I didn’t miss it. Thank you for the invite State Library of NSW.

There was quite a buzz in the room as we waited for the night to begin. Not only were the excited and talented award nominees gathered, including Magda Szubanski and James Bradley, but also Thomas Keneally and Wesley Enoch, plus many more. And, of course, The Honourable Mike Baird, Premier of NSW was in attendance since he had to be, but he certainly looked very happy to be there.

Amongst the crowd there were two other VIP’s, me – and Angela Long, my fellow contributor at Welcome to My Library. We sat in the 3rd row, tweeting and taking notes to record some of the nights events. We tried to look very busy and important. We have decided we helped the night trend on Twitter. Go #PremiersLitAwards !!

The night began with the sounds of the didgeridoo from Matthew Doyle from the Gadigal people, the original custodians of the land, followed by the Welcome to Country.

Alex Byrne, the NSW State Librarian, then began the proceedings, followed by an inspiring speech by Wesley Enoch who described the awards as ‘a celebration of artists and artistry.’ Wesley talked of history, culture, and of what came before on the land that a city now sits. He eloquently spoke of the recognition of art, and how our ancestry ‘is a complex collection of stories..‘ and when we ‘..connect to our history we access a deeper cultural purpose.

The engaging Jennifer Byrne, journalist and host of ABC’s The Book Club, then took to the stage as MC and announced the first prize. The awards presentation began with gusto with Osamah Sami, the winner of the Multicultural NSW Award for his book, Good Muslim Boy. He was an exuberant winner, hilariously entertaining the audience for such a lengthy acceptance speech that even veteran TV host Jennifer Byrne could not make him budge.

When Osamah finally left the stage (to much applause), the night continued on with the inaugural Indigenous Writer’s Prize. Premier Mike Baird welcomed the long overdue award, commenting ‘..our history is not complete without their stories.’

Each speech of the night, from the funny Angus Cerini, to the moving acceptance speech by Merlinda Bobis, the acknowledgement of Dr. Rosie Scott AM with the 2016 Special Award, to Magda Szubanski walking to accept the award for Reckoning: A Memoir while talking to her 92 year-old mother on the phone. Mike Baird kindly held her phone up so Magda’s mother could listen to her wonderful acceptance speech. Magda described her book as ‘an attempt to bring together a sense of family.’

Towards the end, the Book of the Year was awarded to Bruce Pascoe for Dark Emu. Not only did he want go and have a beer afterwards, but he talked of the many people in the room, and that we bring our story with us. ‘I want to hear your story,’ he commented, ‘because I would be spellbound.’

Photos Angela Long
Photos Angela Long

Categories and winners:

  • Book of the Year ($10,000)
    Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books)
  • Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)
    Locust Girl. A Lovesong, Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press)
  • UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5,000 – sponsored by UTS)
    An Astronaut’s Life, Sonja Dechian (Text Publishing)
  • Douglas Stewart Prize for Non‐fiction ($40,000)
    Reckoning: A Memoir, Magda Szubanski (Text Publishing)
  • Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
    brush, Joanne Burns (Giramondo)
  • Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)
    Teacup, Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley (Scholastic Australia)
  • Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)
    Laurinda, Alice Pung (Black Inc.)
  • Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)
    The Bleeding Tree, Angus Cerini (Currency Press in association with Griffin Theatre Company)
  • Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)
    Deadline Gallipoli, Episode 4: “The Letter”, Cate Shortland (Matchbox Pictures)
  • Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)
    Good Muslim Boy, Osamah Sami (Hardie Grant Books)
  • Indigenous Writers Prize ($30,000) (NEW PRIZE)
    Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books) AND Heat and Light, Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)
  • Special Award ($10,000)
    Dr Rosie Scott AM
  • People’s Choice Award
    The Life of Houses, Lisa Gorton (Giramondo)
PLA Winners
2016 Premier’s Literary Award Winners Photo Angela Long


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