Two PM's Literary Awards Winners Donated Their Prize Money To Asylum Seekers And Indigenous Literature

Richard Flanagan. Photo: Ulf Anderson.

Richard Flanagan, the Tasmanian novelist who won the $94,000 Man Booker Prize for his wartime novel The Narrow Road To The Deep North was the joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for fiction, announced on Monday night.

Flanagan, a strong critic of PM Tony Abbott, shared the award with Steven Carroll for A World of Other People, and announced he was donating his half of the $80,000 prize to Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

“Money is like shit, pile it up and it stinks, spread it around and things grow,” Flanagan said at the ceremony.

“If me standing here means anything it’s that literacy can change lives.”

Flanagan paid tribute to his father, Archie, a prisoner of war who inspired the book and died soon after it was finished, saying “The one thing he learnt as a POW was the measure of any civilised society is to look after its weakest”.

It’s the first time the fiction prize has been split between two authors since Keven Rudd began the awards in 2008. Surprisingly, there were also joint winners in the non-fiction and history categories too.

Another winner, veteran children’s author and illustrator Bob Graham, recognised for children’s fiction with “Silver Buttons”, donated $10,000 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

The awards recognise excellence in six categories Australian fiction, poetry, non-fiction, young adult fiction and children’s fiction and history. More than 500 books were entered into the 2014 awards.

The awards caused controversy when the Prime Minister belatedly announced the judges, appointing his own publisher, Louise Adler, as chair of the fiction and poetry section, while Sydney Institute director Gerard Henderson chaired the history panel, joined by former Quadrant editor and Liberal MP Peter Coleman.

A book published by Quadrant Books, Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II, by Hal Colebatch was a joint winner of the history award.

Gabrielle Carey, co-author of the 70s teen novel, Puberty Blues, shared the non-fiction award for her moving exploration of family through a connection with the mid-century novelist Randolph Stow.

The winners of the 2014 PM’s Literary Awards are:

A World of Other People, Steven Carroll
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call, Melinda Smith

Moving Among Strangers, Gabrielle Carey
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John, Helen Trinca

Prize for Australian History
Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Joan Beaumont
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II, Hal G.P. Colebatch

Young Adult Fiction
The Incredible Here and Now, Felicity Castagna

The Prime Minister announced during the awards that he would establish Book Council of Australia to “promote Australian writing nationally and internationally and encourage and promote reading”.

The Council will “strengthen the sector’s capacity to respond to rapid change brought by new technologies”.

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