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9 November 2016

The winner of the inaugural Mona Brand Award for Women Stage and Screen Writers is Victorian playwright, novelist, poet and screenwriter – Joanna Murray-Smith.

Joanna Murray-Smith and Billie Pleffer at the State Library of NSW

Highly Commended writer and director Billie Pleffer (left) and the winner of the Mona Brand Award Joanna Murray-Smith (right). Photo: Courtesy of Arts Hub

Well-known and revered at home and abroad, Murray-Smith's expansive body of stage work has been performed to local and international audiences and featured the likes of Meryl Streep, Laura Linney and Sir Trevor Nunn.

The playwright's latest theatre work, Switzerland (2014) was delivered by Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and Geffen Playhouse to much acclaim.

The $30,000, biennial Mona Brand award seeks to recognise an outstanding Australian woman who writes for the stage or screen. Presented by the State Library of NSW, the award is named in honour of the late Mona Brand (1915–2007), a trailblazing Australian poet, author and playwright.

The judges have commended Murray-Smith for her undeniable talent and magnetic appeal. "Her works are marked by a singular voice which imbues strength of character in all the personalities who populate her work in vivid, memorable, beautifully written pieces. Her works challenge, amuse, inspire and deliver unforgettable theatre which has drawn the attention of directors and theatre companies, critics and audiences, internationally."

A second award with a $10,000 prize, named the Mona Brand Emerging Writer Award recognises fresh new talent and this went to Cleverman actor Jada Alberts for her first produced play, Brothers Wreck. Award-winning Directing Graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts,  Billie Pleffer was also Highly Commended for her screenplay, Baby Baby.

The Mona Brand was presented by the State Library of New South Wales on 7 November.