Awards Judges Make Their Comments

After announcing the shortlists for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards yesterday, today we’re publishing the judges' comments for each title. Click here to be taken to the VPLA page and click on a title to view the comments.

The judges of three of the categories provided us with summaries of their observations.


The judges for the Louis Esson Prize for Drama - Richard Watts (convenor), Wendy Lasica and Jason Whittaker - noted: “The 2011 Louis Esson Prize for Drama attracted 25 entries, ranging from works staged by mainstage companies and independent theatres to intimate radio dramas. The best entries told their stories imaginatively and originally, were intrinsically and uniquely theatrical, and boasted rich and full characters that leapt off the page into the mind of the reader. Many of the works under consideration were reflective, questioning perceptions of self and longing for another time – another life, when dreams still seemed possible. The three shortlisted scripts carry the weight of history yet connect with contemporary audiences in profound ways; all are propelled by strong, authentic voices that resonate in the here and now.

“The judges also wish to commend The Wild Duck by Simon Stone with Chris Ryan, after Henrik Ibsen (Belvoir Street Theatre). Stone’s recreation of The Wild Duck is as brutal as it is precise, stripping bare Ibsen’s narrative, couching its story in contemporary vernacular and behavioural mores, and revealing the stark cost of the quest for absolute truth.”


The judges for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction - Matthia Dempsey (convenor), Stephen Armstrong and Tony Birch - noted: “In assessing the entries for this year’s Vance Palmer Award for Fiction, the judges were particularly impressed with the quality of the debut novels submitted. Two of these, The Amateur Science of Love (Craig Sherborne, Text) and The Roving Party (Rohan Wilson, Allen & Unwin), made it onto the judges’ shortlist, but the assurance and originality shown in novels such as Stephen Daisley’s Traitor (Text), Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows (Hachette Australia), Corey Taylor’s Me and Mr Brooker (Text), John Tesarch’s The Philanthropist (Sleepers) and Meg Mundell’s Black Glass (Scribe), augur well for the future of Australian literary fiction.”

Young Adult

The judges for the Prize for Writing by Young Adults - Mike Shuttleworth (convenor), Leesa Lambert and Andrew McDonald - noted:

“The universe of young adult literature continues to expand in interesting and exciting ways. This year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award is an opportunity to assess some of these developments - in particular, those books that express and explore the specific aesthetic potential that writing for young people affords. This year, 68 titles were submitted to the award. The committee noted the continuing publication of nuanced realistic fiction, especially dealing with the intersection of identity, gender, family and community. Also evident is the emergence of urban fantasy. We applaud those authors whose work seeks to develop a unique voice and identity within the urban fantasy genre.

“A shortlist of just three titles cannot fully represent the developments and tensions within the broad field of Australian young adult fiction. We therefore note the following titles as important achievements in a year of quality writing and lament that that the shortlist is just that. Inspired by Charles Blackman’s paintings, The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky beguiles readers with a haunting story of memory and loss. Scot Gardner’s chiseled writing charts the dramatic life of a marginalised young man in The Dead I Know. Rebecca Burton’s closely observed story of obsession and desire in Beyond Evie and Laura Buzo’s assured debut Good Oil point to writers with a serious future. Lili Wilkinson showed a light touch, exploiting the tropes of domestic crime fiction in A Pocketful of Eyes. Leanne Hall’s debut novel This is Shyness introduces a boldly imagined world of dark urban fantasy. Rebecca Lim’s impressive novel Mercy blurs a realistic world with a story of angels and romance. Marianne de Pierre’s novel Burn Bright also tells a dark, dramatic story with arresting literary skill.

“Final decisions were not in any way easy, however, the panel agreed warmly on three shortlisted three novels. Each of these novels takes risks with the form of storytelling, show exceptional control of the material, and in doing so challenge notions of what fiction for young people can be.”

Non-Fiction & Poetry

The judges for the Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction were Robyn Annear (convenor), Damien Carrick, Monica Dux, Toni Jordan and Stuart Macintyre.

The judges for the CJ Dennis Prize for Poetry were Paul Kooperman (convenor), Bel Schenk and Alicia Sometimes.

The judges in these categories did not provide a summary of their observations, but did provide comments for each of the shortlisted titles.

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