Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2021

Your definitive guide to Australia’s best writing.

VPLA 2021 Artwork with rainbow outlines of a book next to the words 'Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2021'

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour literary achievement by Australian writers. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The winners of the main suite of awards – Fiction, Non-Fiction, Drama, Poetry, Prize for Indigenous Writing and Writing for Young Adults – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Award for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000. 

The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000. This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be named alongside the general category winners, and will receive $2,000. Voting has now closed.

This year's shortlist was announced below on 7 December 2020.

Winners were announced at a special digital event on Monday 1 February 2021.

The judges

Fiction: Mark Brandi, Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Peggy Frew, Sonia Nair (convenor)
Non-fiction: Shakira Hussein, Crusader Hillis, Yves Rees, Sami Shah, Jacinda Woodhead (convenor)
Drama: Patricia Cornelius, Jacob Boehme, Samah Sabawi (convenor)
Poetry: Evelyn Araluen, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Andy Jackson (convenor)
Writing for Young Adults: Jackie Tang, Rebecca Lim, Michael Earp (convenor)
Indigenous Writing: Crystal McKinnon, Yvette Holt, Carissa Lee (convenor)
Unpublished Manuscript: Alison Evans, Elena Gomez (convenor)

Submissions from publishers and writers are open in September each year for titles published between 1 January and 31 December of the same year.

Tweet about the shortlisted titles using the #vpla2021 hashtag.

Winners of the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

Victorian Prize for Literature
The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (Victoria, Scribe Publications)

Prize for Fiction
The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (Victoria, Scribe Publications)

Prize for Non-Fiction
Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us by Paddy Manning (NSW, Simon & Schuster Australia)

Prize for Drama
Wonnangatta by Angus Cerini (Victoria, Sydney Theatre Company)

Prize for Poetry
Case Notes by David Stavanger (NSW, UWA Publishing)

Prize for Young Adult Writing
Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore (Victoria, Text Publishing)

Prize for Indigenous Writing
Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music by Archie Roach (Victoria, Simon & Schuster Australia)

Unpublished Manuscript Award
Anam by André Dao (Victoria)

People’s Choice Award
Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice by Louise Milligan (Hachette Australia)

Read more here.

The shortlist





Writing for Young Adults

Indigenous Writing

Unpublished Manuscript

Highly commended


  • Revenge: Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim (Transit Lounge)
  • Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan (Brio Books)


  • After the Count by Stephanie Convery (Penguin Random House)

  • Hazelwood by Tom Doig (Penguin Random House)
  • People of the River by Grace Karskens (Allen & Unwin)
  • British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, intercolonial relations and the Empire by Kama Maclean (NewSouth Publishing)


  • Wherever She Wanders by Kendall Feaver (Griffin Theatre Company and Currency Press)

  • Torch the Place by Benjamin Law (Melbourne University Publishing)


  • Of Memory and Furniture by Bron Bateman (Fremantle Press)

  • Turbulence by Thuy On (UWA Publishing)

Young Adult

  • The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell (Text Publishing)

  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

Indigenous Writing

  • Late Murrumbidgee Poems by John Mukky Burke (Cordite Books)

Unpublished Manuscript

  • Children of Tomorrow by J.R. Burgmann
  • Goblins by Patrick Hunn
  • The Guest House by Kylie Mirmohamadi

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist