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Katherine Smith, University Media Unit (0402 460 147)

Dr James Waghorne, Australian Centre (8344 4154)

Australian writers were today presented with $65,000 worth of literary prizes at a gala event at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

The five national cultural awards awards from the University of Melbourne’s Australian Centre in the Faculty of Arts were presented to six winners from across Australia.

The winners are:

Warwick Thornton
, who was awarded the $25,000 Kate Challis RAKA Award, presented for best script by an Indigenous writer, for Samson and Delilah. The judges praised it as ‘one of the most important scripts to be produced in Australian film history’.

Lily Chan was awarded the $15,000 Peter Blazey Fellowship, for biography or life-writing, for her memoir of her Grandmother. Chan was praised by the judges as ‘a young writer with a fresh voice that holds out the promise of a career in which great things may be achieved’.

Sara Knox’s The Orphan Gunner and Shirley Walker’s The Ghost at the Wedding: A true story shared the $10,000 Asher Award for books by women which carry an anti-war theme. Both outstanding books were commended for their ‘poignant’ portrayal of the aftermath of war.

Elizabeth Campbell
was awarded the $10,000 Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, which this year supports an Australian poet to visit Ireland (the prize alternates annually to support an Irish poet’s visit to Australia). The judges commended this work as ‘exceptional’ above a field of works reflective of Australia’s ‘vibrant poetry scene’.

Gretchen Shirm
was awarded the $5,000 DJ ‘Dinny’ O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship, for emergent writers. The judges praised her ‘closely observed and poignant stories that reveal ordinary lives in all their complexity’.

The judging panels were:
* Kate Challis RAKA Award: Therese Davis, Gary Foley, Kim Kruger, Emily Smith, Sara Wills
* Peter Blazey Fellowship: Crusader Hillis, Jennifer Kloester, Dr Graham Willett, David Williams
* Asher Literary Award: Deirdre Coleman, Kate Darian-Smith, Lucy Sussex
* Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize: Kevin Brophy, L.K. Holt, Chris Wallace-Crabbe
* DJ ‘Dinny’ O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship: Meg Mundell, John Murphy, David Ryding, Aviva Tuffield