Winners of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2024

Congratulations to all the winners of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2024!


WINNER OF POETRY AND WINNER OF THE OVERALL VICTORIAN PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

Chinese Fish by Grace Yee

When Ping leaves Hong Kong to live in Aotearoa New Zealand, she discovers that life in the Land of the Long White Cloud is not the prosperous paradise she was led to believe it would be. Every day she works in a rat-infested shop frying fish, and every evening she waits for her wayward husband, armed with a vacuum cleaner to ‘suck all the bad thing out’. Her four children are a brood of monolingual aliens. Eldest daughter Cherry struggles with her mother’s unhappiness and the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings, especially the rage-prone, meat-cleaver-wielding Baby Joseph.

Spanning the 1960s through to the 1980s Chinese Fish offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of women and girls in a community that has historically been characterised as both a ‘yellow peril’ menace and an exotic ‘model minority’.


WINNER OF FICTION

Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko

When Mulanyin meets the beautiful Nita in Edenglassie, their saltwater people still outnumber the British. As colonial unrest peaks, Mulanyin dreams of taking his bride home to Yugambeh Country, but his plans for independence collide with white justice.

Two centuries later, fiery activist Winona meets Dr Johnny. Together they care for obstinate centenarian Grannie Eddie, and sparks fly, but not always in the right direction. What nobody knows is how far the legacies of the past will reach into their modern lives.

In this brilliant epic, Melissa Lucashenko torches Queensland’s colonial myths, while reimagining an Australian future.


WINNER OF NONFICTION

Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity by Ellen van Neerven

Sport is such a big part of ‘Australian’ life and identity but one that is rarely unpacked or questioned. With the incredible upsurge in the popularity of women’s sport comes the potential to reshape the narratives around sport and culture. As Personal Score examines, many athletes challenge mainstream views of gender and sexuality, and use sport and their role within it to effect change not only in their own sporting realm, but more broadly in the wider culture and society.

Moreover, van Neerven interrogates the implications of playing sport on stolen land and how this complicates questions of identity around sport, who plays it and where. Thus, Personal Score is also a meditation on Indigenous connections to place and land, examining the earliest sports played here, and paying tribute to influential First Nations sportspeople.


WINNER OF INDIGENOUS WRITING

Close to the Subject: Selected Works by Daniel Browning

Chronicling his career since 2007, Close to the Subject presents a selection of pieces from Daniel Browning’s stellar career as a journalist, radio broadcaster, critic and interviewer. Alongside conversations with the likes of the late Archie Roach, Doris Pilkington, and Vernon Ah Kee, the book contains a series of critical essays displaying Browning’s talent as an Australian cultural critic and public intellectual.

A range of previously unpublished poetry, memoir, art writing and play script is also presented, highlighting his vulnerable and passionate creative side in its own right.


WINNER OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

Ghost Book by Remy Lai

Twelve years ago, the boy and the girl lived. But one was supposed to die ...

July Chen sees ghosts. But her dad insists ghosts aren't real. So she pretends they don't exist. Which is incredibly difficult now as it's Hungry Ghost month, when the Gates of the Underworld open and dangerous ghosts run amok in the living world. When July saves a boy ghost from being devoured by a Hungry Ghost, he becomes her first ever friend. Except William is not a ghost. He's a wandering soul wavering between life and death. As the new friends embark on an adventure to return William to his body, they unearth a ghastly truth – for William to live, July must die.


WINNER OF WRITING FOR YOUNG ADULTS

A Hunger of Thorns by Lili Wilkinson

Maude is the daughter of witches. She spent her childhood running wild with her best friend, Odette, weaving stories of girls who slayed dragons and saved princes. Then Maude grew up and lost her magic – and her best friend. These days, magic is reduced to glamour patches and psychic energy drinks found in supermarkets and shopping malls. Odette has always hungered for forbidden, dangerous magic, and two weeks ago she went searching for it. Now she’s missing, and everyone says she’s dead.

Storytelling has always been Maude’s gift, so she knows all about girls who get lost in the woods. She’s sure she can find Odette inside the ruins of Sicklehurst, an abandoned power plant built over an ancient magical forest – a place nobody else seems to remember is there. The danger is, no one knows what remains inside Sicklehurst, either.


WINNER OF DRAMA

The Jungle and the Sea by S. Shakthidharan & Eamon Flack

When violence escalates between the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a Tamil mother vows to remain blindfolded until her family is together once again. Gowrie, Abi and Madhu search the jungles of northern Sri Lanka for estranged son Ahilan, while Siva and Lakshmi migrate to Australia for safety, awaiting their family's reunion. Separated by the ravages of civil war but buoyed by humour, playfulness and love for each other, so goes the story of many a migrant family that has wound up in Australia.

Co-writers S. Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack continue their collaboration that began with Counting and Cracking, threading personal testimony from the Sri Lankan civil war with two ancient epics – the Mahabharatha and Sophocles' Antigone.


WINNER OF THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD

The Palestine Laboratory by Antony Loewenstein

For more than 50 years, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has given the Israeli state invaluable experience in controlling an 'enemy' population, the Palestinians. It's here that they have perfected the architecture of control, using the occupied Palestinian territories as a testing ground for weaponry and surveillance technology that they then export around the world.

The Palestine Laboratory shows in depth and for the first time how Israel has become a leader in developing spying technology and defence hardware that fuels some of the globe's most brutal conflicts - from the Pegasus software that hacked Jeff Bezos's and Jamal Khashoggi's phones, and the weapons sold to the Myanmar army that has murdered thousands of Rohingyas, to the drones being used by the European Union to monitor refugees in the Mediterranean who are left to drown.


WINNER OF UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT

Panajachel by Rachel Morton


Visit the Wheeler Centre website to learn more about the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and this year's winners.

Cover image for Chinese Fish

Chinese Fish

Grace Yee

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