31 January 2017
Writer, director and actor Leah Purcell has won Australia's richest single literary prize – the Victorian Prize for Literature – for her play, The Drover's Wife, a dramatic reimagining of Henry Lawson's celebrated short story.
Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley tonight named Purcell the major prize winner at a ceremony to mark the 2017 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.
In addition to the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, Purcell was named as the winner of the Prize for Drama, for which she won a further $25,000.
In the words of the judging panel, Purcell's play "explodes out of the blocks with a moment of stark brutality and never lets up". Purcell also played the title role in the play, which was a part of Belvoir Theatre's 2016 season.
Purcell's script is the second play to take out the major award. It was chosen from a shortlist of 21 works, across five main award categories.
The Prize for Fiction went to Georgia Blain, who passed away in December 2016, for her novel Between a Wolf and a Dog, a riveting portrayal of family relationships in the face of terminal illness.
Minister Foley presented the Prize for Non-Fiction to Madeline Gleeson for Offshore: Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru; and the Prize for Writing for Young Adults to Randa Abdel-Fattah for When Michael Met Mina. When Michael Met Mina also took the 2017 People's Choice Award.
Victoria's Maxine Beneba Clarke received the Prize for Poetry for Carrying the World. Beneba Clarke, who was also shortlisted in the Non-Fiction category for The Hate Race, has a strong history with the Awards; her debut novel, Foreign Soil, took out the Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2013 and launched her writing career.
Also in the running for the Victorian Prize for Literature were the previously announced winners of the 2016 Unpublished Manuscript Award, Melanie Cheng for Australia Day; and the 2016 Award for Indigenous Writing, Tony Birch for Ghost River.
The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards were established 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.