National Biography Award

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The National Biography Award, established in Australia in 1996, is awarded for the best published work of biographical or autobiographical writing by an Australian. It aims "to encourage the highest standards of writing biography and autobiography and to promote public interest in those genres".[1] It was initially awarded every two years, but from 2002 it has been awarded annually. Its administration was taken over by the State Library of New South Wales in 1998.

History of the Award[edit]

It was originally endowed by private benefactor, Dr. Geoffrey Cains, and the original prize money was $12,500. In 2002, Cains said of endowing the award that "I wanted to give back to literature something, it had given me so much; besides, philanthropy in this country is so overlooked and diminished".[2] In 2005, the prize money was increased to $20,000 with the support of Michael Crouch.[3] Belinda Hutchinson, former President of the Library Council of NSW, expressed gratitude for this increase to "an award that celebrates the Australian psyche through distinguished biography writing."[3]

In 2012 the prize money for the Award has been increased to $25,000. Since 2013, each shortlisted author receives $1,000.[4]The judging panel varies from year to year.

The shortlist is announced in early July each year, followed by the winner announcement in early August.


National Biography Award Lecture[edit]

In 2003, the National Biography Award lecture was instituted. It is associated with the award, and was also sponsored by Cains and Crouch. It is given annually, but takes place during the same week as the announcement of the winner.[1]

  • 2016: For better or worse: The relationship between biographer and subject, by Philip Butterss[11]
  • 2015: Biography and me: notes on the wonders of others (and some on self), by Kim Williams AM[12]
  • 2014: Based on a true story, by Linda Jaivin[13]
  • 2013: A different perspective, a shared story, by John Elder Robison[14]
  • 2012: Looking for Eliza by Evelyn Juers[15]
  • 2011: Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, by Don Watson
  • 2010: Biography: The Art of the Impossible, by Hilary McPhee AO
  • 2009: ‘Truth’ as applied to biography and autobiography, by Raimon Gaita
  • 2008: Biography, Autobiography and Memoir: Presidential Bests and Worsts, by Bob Carr[16]
  • 2007: Biography: The Impossible Art, by Inga Clendinnen [17]
  • 2006: Materials for Life: The Enduring Value of Biography, by Robyn Archer
  • 2005: Personal Drama: David Williamson on Self-depiction, by David Williamson
  • 2004: The Observed of all Observers: Biography in Poetry, by Peter Porter (poet)
  • 2003: Goethe's Two Left Feet: Reflections on the Hazards and Liberties of Biography, by Peter Rose (writer)


  1. ^ a b State Library of New South Wales
  2. ^ Angela Bennie. They're six of the best. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 2002
  3. ^ a b State Library of New South Wales (2005)
  4. ^ "National Biography Award - About the award". Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  5. ^ "‘Mannix’ wins 2016 National Biography Award | Books+Publishing". Books and Publishing. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "2016 - National Biography Award". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "National Biography Award 2015 Winner". State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Begley, Patrick (4 August 2014). "Alison Alexander wins National Biography Award for The Ambitions of Jane Franklin". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Steger, Jason (5 August 2013). "Frank Thring double bill wins biography award". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "Dr Martin Thomas wins 2012 National Biography Award". Australian National University. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "National Biography Award Lecture 2016". State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  12. ^ "Lecture by Kim Williams AM as part of the National Biography Award Lecture Series". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  13. ^ "National Biography Award Lecture 2014". Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "2013 National Biography Award Lecture John Elder Robison - A different perspective, a shared story". Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "National Biography Award Lecture: Looking For Eliza". History Council NSW. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  16. ^ National Biography Award Lecture 2008
  17. ^ Inga Clendinnen on the impossibility of biography

External links[edit]