Tony Birch

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Tony Birch
Melbourne, Victoria
OccupationAuthor, academic
EducationPhD in Urban cultures and histories
Alma materThe University of Melbourne
Notable awardsPatrick White Award
Years active1989-

Tony Birch (born 1957) is an Indigenous Australian author, academic and activist. He regularly appears on ABC local radio and Radio National shows and at writers’ festivals. He was head of the Honours programme for creative writing at the University of Melbourne before becoming the first recipient of the Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship at Victoria University in Melbourne in June 2015.

In 2017 he became the first Indigenous writer to win the Patrick White Award.

Heritage and early life[edit]

Birch's maternal great-grandfather was an Afghan, who migrated to Australia in 1890, who had to get exemption from the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 to take his wife home to meet the family. He also has Barbadian convict (James "Prince" Moodie, transported to Tasmania for 14 years for "disobedience") and Indigenous heritage.[1]

He grew up around Fitzroy, a working-class suburb of Melbourne considered a slum.[2] After being expelled for the second time, he left school aged 15 and became a telegram boy on a bicycle.[1]


After spending a decade as a firefighter, Birch attended Melbourne university as a mature student when he was 30 years old. In 2003 he was awarded the Chancellor's Medal for the best PhD in Arts.[1]

Birch has appeared on ABC radio on shows such as Conversations with Richard Fidler,[2] Life Matters[3] and RN Afternoons.[4][5]

He became the first recipient of the Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship at Victoria University in Melbourne in June 2015[6] and as of June 2018 is still a research fellow there.[1] His work involves academic research, creative writing projects, student mentoring, lecturing and community engagement.[6]


Birch is politically active in the climate change and Indigenous title movements. In his novels, he has incorporated themes affecting Indigenous people, such as colonial oppression, dispossession, the Stolen Generations and generational violence, but weaves them creatively into the stories.[1] He donates a portion of any prize money to the Indigenous youth organisation dedicated to climate justice, Seed.[7][8]



  • Blood (2011) ISBN 978-0-7022-4759-0
  • Ghost River (2015) ISBN 9780702253775
  • Shadowboxing Scribe Publications Pty Limited, 2006, ISBN 9781921753909; Scribe Publications, 2010, ISBN 9781921640155
  • The White Girl University of Queensland Press, (2019)

Short story collections[edit]


Awards and honours[edit]

  • Shadowboxing 2006 shortlisted Queensland Premier's Literary Awards — Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Australian Short Story Award
  • Shadowboxing 2011 Commended, Kate Challis RAKA Award
  • Blood 2012 shortlisted Miles Franklin Literary Award
  • Blood 2012 finalist Melbourne Prize — Best Writing Award
  • Blood 2012 winner Melbourne Prize — Civic Choice Award
  • Blood 2011 highly commended The Fellowship of Australian Writers Victoria Inc. National Literary Awards — FAW Christina Stead Award
  • The Promise : Stories 2014 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary AwardsPrize for Indigenous Writing[9]
  • The Promise : Stories 2014 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards — Australian Short Story Collection - Steele Rudd Award
  • Became the first recipient of the Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship at Victoria University, Melbourne, June 2015[6]
  • Ghost River 2016 longlisted Miles Franklin Literary Award
  • Ghost River 2017 winner Victorian Premier's Literary Awards — Prize for Indigenous Writing[10]
  • Patrick White Award 2017 (the first Indigenous writer to receive the award)[8]
  • Common People 2019 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary Awards — Prize for Indigenous Writing[11]
  • The White Girl, 2020 winner, Indigenous Writers' Prize, New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards[12]
  • The White Girl, 2020 shortlisted, Miles Franklin Literary Award[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Daley, Paul (7 June 2019). "Tony Birch on The White Girl: 'No Aboriginal person I know is intact'". Books. The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Tony Birch". ABC RN. Conversations with Richard Fidler. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Meet Tony Birch". ABC RN. Life Matters. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  4. ^ "UQP - Author - Tony Birch". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Tony Birch (Australia)". Internationales literaturfestival, Berlin. 11–21 September 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ a b c "Tony Birch joins VU as research fellow". Victoria University. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  7. ^ "home". Seed. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b Steger, Jason (15 November 2017). "Tony Birch wins the Patrick White Award". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Lucashenko wins 2014 Vic Prem's Literary Award for Indigenous Writing". Books+Publishing. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  10. ^ "Birch wins 2016 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Indigenous Writing". Books+Publishing. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2019 shortlists announced". Books+Publishing. 12 December 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  12. ^ Evans, Kate Evans (26 April 2020). "Novel celebrating Wiradjuri language wins Book of the Year at major literary awards". ABC News. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Miles Franklin Literary Award 2020 shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.