The NSW Premier’s Literature Award 2023

In conjunction with the annual Sydney Writers’ Festival, the NSW Government and the State Library of NSW in association with Create NSW award a number of prizes across a range of categories. Their aim is to “honour distinguished achievement by Australian writers, and literary merit“.

Senior Judge Jane McCredie said,

This year’s awards celebrate the courage, diversity and sheer brilliance of contemporary Australian writing. Our judges assessed a record 856 entries exploring a huge range of style and subject matter. It’s exciting to see so many debut works recognised this year, and we look forward to hearing more from these writers in the future.

In 2023, for the first time in the 44-year history of this award, the Book of the Year is a title that has won across four different categories. This means that four independent judging panels (35 judges in all) concluded thatWe Come With This Place was an exceptional book written by an exceptional author. The award ceremony can be watched on Youtube when you have a spare hour and a half.

Debra Dank has created an extraordinary mosaic of vivid episodes that move about in time and place to tell an unforgettable story of country and people.

Dank calibrates human emotions with honesty and insight, and there is plenty of dry, down-to-earth humour. You can feel and smell and see the puffs of dust under moving feet, the ever-present burning heat, the bright exuberance of a night-time campfire, the emerald flash of a flock of budgerigars, the journeying wind, the harshness of a station shanty, the welcome scent of fresh water.

We Come with This Place is deeply personal, a profound tribute to family and the Gudanji Country to which Debra Dank belongs, but it is much more than that. Here is Australia as it has been for countless generations, land and people in effortless balance, and Australia as it became, but also Australia as it could and should be.

Congratulations to Debra Dank and Echo Publishing, a small independent publisher based in Sydney.

Kim @ReadingMatters wrote a review for this book last month.

The 2023 prize winners are: 

  • Book of the Year ($10,000)
    We Come With This Place by Debra Dank (Echo Publishing) 
  • Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)
    Women I Know by Katerina Gibson (Scribner an imprint of Simon & Schuster Australia) 
  • Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction ($40,000)
    We Come With This Place by Debra Dank (Echo Publishing) 
  • Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
    The Singer and Other Poems by Kim Cheng Boey (Cordite Books) 
  • Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)
    The First Scientists: Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First Peoples by Corey Tutt and Blak Douglas (Hardie Grant Explore) 
  • Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)
    The Upwelling by Lystra Rose (Hachette Australia) 
  • Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)
    Whitefella Yella Tree by Dylan Van Den Berg (Griffin Theatre Company/ Currency Press) 
  • Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)
    Blaze by Del Kathryn Barton and Huna Amweero (Causeway Films) 
  • Indigenous Writers’ Prize ($30,000)
    We Come With This Place by Debra Dank (Echo Publishing) 
  • Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000)
    The Eulogy by Jackie Bailey (Hardie Grant Books) 
  • NSW Premier’s Translation Prize ($30,000 — biennial award)
    People from Bloomington by Budi Darma, translated by Tiffany Tsao (Penguin Classics) 
  • UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5,000 — sponsored by UTS)
    We Come With This Place by Debra Dank (Echo Publishing) 
  • University of Sydney People’s Choice Award ($5000 — sponsored by University of Sydney)
    Every Version of You by Grace Chan (Affirm Press) 
  • Special Award ($10,000)
    Bankstown Poetry Slam 

This post was written on Ngaro Country around the Whitsunday Islands and the mainland coastlines of northern Queensland. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are our first storytellers.

4 thoughts on “The NSW Premier’s Literature Award 2023

  1. It *is* an exceptional book. I loved it. It’s a love letter to Country and First Nations culture but doesn’t shy away from the brutal truths. But it’s so warm hearted and forgiving. EVERY Australian should read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been in my wishlist since reading your review. Obviously holiday mode made me forget about linking your post. I’ll do it later tonight when we’re back at base camp 😊


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