Nine Australian writers have been shortlisted for the 2016 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship $10,000 award.
In its fifth year, the Fellowship attracted an exceptionally strong field of high-quality proposals from writers and biographers across Australia.
Works about Australian writers, artists and visionaries feature in this year’s shortlist, which also includes European and American subjects.
“I’m so impressed by the range and quality of the proposals”, said Janine Burke, one of the judges. “There’s imagination, passion and serious scholarly research evident here. It’s going to be tough choosing the winner. But it means that the art of biography is thriving in Australia.”
The Fellowship, established to commemorate the life, ideas and writing of Hazel Rowley (1951–2011) awards $10,000 to an Australian writer to support the writing and research of a biographical work. The intention is to encourage risk taking and travel in order to immerse writers in their subject’s lives and culture.
Arnold Zable, who is also a judge for the 2016 award, commented that “the range, diversity and quality of the short-listed entries reflect the impact of visionary and innovative biographers such as Hazel Rowley, and they confirm how fitting it is to have this prize in her name”.
The nine shortlisted writers are:
- Alec O’Halloran (New South Wales) for a biography of the life and art of Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, a Pintupi man and award-winning Papunya Tula artist from the Western Desert region of Central Australia.
- Eleanor Hogan (Victoria) for her work ‘Into the Loneliness: The Literary Alliance of Ernestine Hill and Daisy Bates’.
- Jacqueline Kent (New South Wales) for a biography of Robert Helpmann examined through his friendships, especially with women.
- Jeff Sparrow (Victoria) exploring the legacy of the African-American singer Paul Robeson.
- Kitty Hauser (New South Wales) for a biography of the visionary art teacher Geoffrey Bardon, who was influential in the Western Desert art movement at Papunya, NT.
- Matthew Lamb (Tasmania) for a cultural biography of Australian writer Frank Moorhouse.
- Philip Dwyer (New South Wales) for the third volume in his work on Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Shannon Burns (South Australia) for his biography of Australian writer Gerald Murnane, including his place in Australia’s literary and cultural life from the 1970s.
- Sharon Huebner (Victoria) for her work on the life of Noongar woman Bessy Flowers, a cultural story of identity.
The winner of the 2016 Fellowship will be announced on Wednesday 9th March at a special event, ‘The Art of Biography’ featuring a panel of previous Fellowship recipients. Maxine Beneba Clarke, Stephany Steggall, and Caroline Baum will discuss the challenges and pleasures of writing memoir and biography. This free event will be hosted in partnership with The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne from 6.15pm-7.45pm.
The 2016 Fellowship will be judged by writers Janine Burke and Arnold Zable along with Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan, Hazel’s close friend and fellow initiator of the Fellowship.
About the previous Fellows
In 2015, the Fellowship was awarded to Caroline Baum, who is working on a biography of Lucie Dreyfus (1870-1945).
The 2014 Fellowship went to Maxine Beneba Clarke to re-trace her parents’, grandparents’ and ancestors’ migration journeys for her upcoming autobiography, ‘The Hate Race’, a memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.
Stephany Steggall used the 2013 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship to write a biography of Thomas Keneally. Stephany’s book ‘Interestingly Enough…’ was published by Black Inc in September 2015.
In 2012, the inaugural recipient of the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, Mary Hoban, writing about Julia Sorell, used the Fellowship to travel to the Balliol Library in Oxford and the Turnbull Library in Wellington to research early Tasmanian history.
About Hazel Rowley
“My books are about people who had the courage to break out of their confined world and help others to do the same” – Hazel Rowley
Before her untimely death in 2011, Hazel wrote four critically acclaimed biographies: Christina Stead: A Biography (1993), Richard Wright: The Life and Times (2001), Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (2005) and Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage (2010). Erudite and accessible, these studies brought fresh attention to the lives and works of significant figures both nationally and internationally.