SA’s top literary awards to be uncoupled from Writers’ Week
South Australia’s most prestigious literary awards have undergone a major revamp, with the winners to be announced at a stand-alone event rather than during Writers’ Week and ‘Adelaide Festival’ dropped from the prize title.
South Australian author Karen Wyld is presented with the Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship at the 2022 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Photo: James Field / supplied
The biennial awards have been known as the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature and announced at Writers’ Week during the Festival since their inception in 1986, with high-profile winners over the years including Helen Garner, Frank Moorhouse, Peter Carey, Dorothy Porter, Richard Flanagan and, most recently, The Yield author Tara June Winch.
The State Library of South Australia, which administers the awards, has announced that they will now be known as the South Australian Literary Awards. The 2024 winning authors will be revealed at a ceremony in the library’s Mortlock Chamber in November next year.
A total prize pool of $167,500 is offered across six national and five South Australian categories, including the $25,000 Premier’s Award for the overall winner.
State Library director Geoff Strempel said the changes heralded a new era for the awards, which “shine a light on the best writing talent both here in South Australia and nationally, while also supporting the literary community”.
The State Library took over administration of the awards from Arts SA in 2020. Strempel said that after presenting them in 2020 and 2022 based on the same formula that had been used previously, it decided it was time for “a refresh and a rethink”.
“In thinking about how best to showcase this literature awards event, we had a look at how it sits inside Writers’ Week and the whole festival month in Adelaide, and realised that compared with other states we don’t get a lot of coverage,” he told InReview.
“It’s usually the last Saturday of Writers’ Week at 4pm and the energy of Writers’ Week has almost dissipated and then we’re doing what is the state’s premier literature award. We just felt it wasn’t really getting its dues compared to others when you look interstate.”
Strempel said that after seeking advice from members of the local literary community, it was agreed that having the awards as a stand-alone event would increase recognition for both the award event itself and also for the winners.
“And having moved it out of that location, then it’s not part of Writers’ Week and it’s not part of the Adelaide Festival,” he explained of the name change. “The [new] name reflects the names in other states as well.”
Jointly funded by the State Government and the Libraries Board of South Australia, the South Australian Literary Awards offer national awards in six categories: Premier’s Award ($25,000), Children’s Literature Award ($15,000), Young Adult Fiction Award ($15,000), Fiction Award ($15,000), John Bray Poetry Award ($15,000) and Non-Fiction Award ($15,000).
The five South Australian awards and fellowships are the Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award ($12,500), Arts South Australia Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award ($10,000), Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship ($15,000), Max Fatchen Fellowship ($15,000) and Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship ($15,000).
There will be no change to the individual awards or prize money for 2024, Strempel said.
“However, we also would like to think about how would we expand the program and the awards that are available so we can do more to encourage local emerging artists… but in this first instance we went for the big structural date, name, location change and then we’ll look to how we use that as a formula for making further additions to it.”
He added that the changes were not expected to negatively affect the number of applicants.
“We’ve always had a great pool of people applying for it and, if anything, we’d see this as giving it greater stand-alone cachet on its own.”
Asked for comment on the revamp, Adelaide Writers’ Week director Louise Adler said the awards play a significant role in advancing the careers of South Australian authors, and “the rebrand aligns with the State Library’s forward-looking vision”.
“We look forward to the announcement of the 2024 winners.”
Applications for the 2024 South Australian Literary Awards are open until 5pm on December 15.