• literature
  • regional

31 January 2020

An epic play set in Australia and Sri Lanka has won Australia’s richest literary prize at the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

6 people standing in a row

From left: S.Shakthidharan, Helena Fox, Christos Tsiolkas, Rhett Davis, Chloe Higgins, Charmaine Papertalk Green. Photo: Hashem McAdam

Counting and Cracking, by S. Shakthidharan with associate writer Eamon Flack, the winner of the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, from a shortlist of 23 exceptional works published in Australia last year.

In addition to taking out the top honour, Counting and Cracking, a story of love and political strife, was awarded the Prize for Drama.

Christos Tsiolkas took out the Prize for Fiction for the second time with his ambitious historical novel on the development of the early Christian church, Damascus. Tsiolkas’ The Slap won the Prize for Fiction in 2009.

Christina Thompson was awarded the Prize for Non-Fiction for Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, which looks deep into the past to uncover who first settled the islands of the remote Pacific.

The Prize for Poetry went to Charmaine Papertalk Green for Nganajungu Yagu, a moving exploration of maternal love, while Helena Fox’s debut novel How It Feels to Float won the Prize for Writing for Young Adults.

Geelong based Rhett Davis took out the coveted Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript for Hovering, a novel about three people looking to find meaning in their lives. This award has launched the careers of successful Victorian writers including Jane Harper, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Graeme Simsion.

More than 1000 people voted for the People’s Choice Award, which this year goes to The Girls by Chloe Higgins, a powerful memoir and story of loss.

Established in 1985, by the late Victorian Premier John Cain, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards celebrate the best contemporary Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

Winners of the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards


Victorian Prize for Literature

Counting and Cracking by S. Shakthidharan. Associate Writer Eamon Flack (Belvoir and Co-Curious)

Prize for Fiction

Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas (Allen & Unwin)

Prize for Non-Fiction

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson (HarperCollins Publishers)

Prize for Drama

Counting and Cracking by S. Shakthidharan. Associate Writer Eamon Flack (Belvoir and Co-Curious)

Prize for Poetry

Nganajungu Yagu by Charmaine Papertalk Green (Cordite Books)

Prize for Writing for Young Adults

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript

Hovering by Rhett Davis

People’s Choice Award

The Girls by Chloe Higgins (Picador Australia)