The annual Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship commemorates the work of Hazel Rowley (1951–2011).
Hazel benefited in her early career from such a fellowship. When researching the Richard Wright biography, Hazel won a fellowship grant that enabled her to travel to the USA to access the Wright papers at the University Library in Austin, Texas. The Fellowship offers an emerging or established writer a similar opportunity to enable them to research or progress their writing.
Through her work Hazel Rowley explored the lives of courageous people who all, in some way, felt ‘outsiders’ in society and were willing to lead unconventional lives. They were all passionate people, risk-takers, who cared about the world and felt angry about injustice. Hazel saw her books as ‘voyages of discovery’ and aimed to inspire and enrich her readers.
“My books are about people who had the courage to break out of their confined world and help others to do the same.”
Hazel herself was a risk-taker. She was ambitious in her choice of subject matter for her biographies and threw herself into their worlds, be it Australia, France or America.
“I moved to Paris, rented a fifth-floor walk-up, filled it with my books, and went out to talk to those who remained from Beauvoir and Sartre’s intimate circle.”
The Fellowship is open to Australian citizens and permanent residents. Up to $15,000 is awarded for travel and research to further a writing proposal or work in progress.
The focus is on biography, but extends to an aspect of cultural or social history compatible with Hazel’s interest areas. Preference is given to projects that are about ‘risk-taking’ and expanding horizons, promote discussion of ideas, and make a significant contribution to public intellectual life.
Applications open each year in October and close on 16 November, the shortlist is announced in the following January and the Fellowship is awarded in March. For more information visit Writers Victoria.
In an article in The Age on 16 October 2016 journalist Jane Sullivan acknowledged the positive impact the Hazel Rowley Fellowship has had on promoting and supporting the writing of Australian biography.
The four-member judging panel consists of two judges from the Hazel Rowley Literary Committee and two guest judges who are established writers. The Hazel Rowley Literary Committee is made up of Della Rowley (Hazel’s sister), Lynn Buchanan, Irene Tomaszewski and John Murphy (all friends of Hazel’s).
The judges for the 2017 Fellowship are Arnold Zable, Jenny Hocking, Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan.
Since the Fellowship was established in 2011, guest judges have been:
Jenny Hocking (2017)
Professor Jenny Hocking is Research Professor in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. She is the author of several books, including The Dismissal Dossier: Everything You Were Never Meant to Know About November 1975 (updated edn, 2016), the award-winning two-volume biography Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History (2008) and Gough Whitlam: His Time (2012), Frank Hardy: Politics Literature Life (2005) and Lionel Murphy: a Political Biography (1997). Jenny is currently working on an ARC Discovery Grant project, From Sarah Wills Howe to Thomas Wentworth Wills: An Australian Family Biography, a biographical study of the Wills family, a significant yet overlooked colonial family.
Arnold Zable (2016, 2017)
Arnold Zable is an award-winning writer, storyteller, educator and human rights advocate. His books include Jewels and Ashes (1991), which won five Australian literary awards, and depicts his journey to Poland to trace his ancestry. His best selling novel, Cafe Scheherazade (2001), which was shortlisted for the 2002 NSW Premier’s Award, depicts the lives of former refugees who meet in a coffee shop in a seaside suburb in Melbourne. The Fig Tree (2002) is a book of true stories set in Greece, Eastern Europe, inner Melbourne and outback Australia. Other novels include Scraps of Heaven (2004), set in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton, and Sea of Many Returns (2008). Set on the island of Ithaca, it was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. Violin Lessons (2011), which was shortlisted in the 2012 NSW Premier’s Awards, is a collection of stories set in many parts of the globe. In 2016 Arnold published The Fighter, a biography of Henry Nissen, a champion boxer from Carlton, Melbourne. The Fighter was shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Award, and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2017 Multicultural NSW Award. In 2013 Arnold was awarded the Voltaire prize for the advancement of freedom of expression.
Janine Burke (2014, 2015, 2016)
Janine Burke is an art historian, curator and award-winning novelist. She has published 20 books, including Joy Hester (1983), Australian Gothic: A Life of Albert Tucker (2002) and The Heart Garden: Sunday Reed and Heide (2004). In 2006 she published The Gods of Freud: Sigmund Freud’s Art Collection and she curated Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing for the Freud Museum London (2014). In 1987 she won the Victorian Premier’s Award for her novel Second Sight. In 2012 Janine published Nest: The Art of Birds and curated an exhibition of the same name for McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery. Janine also curated Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals for McClelland. In 2014, she was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Established Writers grant. With Helen Hughes, she co-edited Kiffy Rubbo: Curating the 1970s (2016). Dr Burke is Honorary Senior Fellow, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
Jim Davidson (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Jim Davidson has been a professor of history, a magazine editor, and an opera critic. He has held academic posts in England and South Africa and the Australian National University as well as in Melbourne. From 1974 to 1982 he edited Meanjin. Jim’s books include a set of interviews with writers, Sideways from the Page, a history of Australian tourism, but in particular two biographies. These are Lyrebird Rising: Louise Hanson-Dyer of Oiseau-Lyre, the life of a musical expatriate, and A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian WK Hancock. Together they have won six prizes between them. These include the Prime Minister’s Prize for History (2011) and The Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year (twice).
Alex Miller (2012, 2013)
Alex Miller is the award-winning author of 11 novels. He is published internationally and widely in translation. He is twice winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 for The Ancestor Game. His fifth novel, Conditions of Faith, won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the 2001 NSW Premier’s Awards. In 2011 he won this award for the second time with his novel Lovesong. He was awarded the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Literature in 2012. His most recent novel is Coal Creek, which won the 2014Victorian Premier’s Award. His collection of essays and short stories, The Simplest Words, was published by Allen and Unwin in 2015. His 12th novel, The Passage of Love, will be published in October 2017. Alex is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
2017 | Ann-Marie Priest
Ann-Marie Priest (Queensland) was announced as the winner of the 2017 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship at the Adelaide Writers Festival on 9 March 2017. The announcement followed the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture, given by Maxine Beneba Clarke, the 2014 recipient of the Fellowship for her memoir The Hate Race.
Ann-Marie will use the $15,000 Fellowship to write a biography of Australian poet Gwen Harwood (1920-1995). She will spend time in Tasmania to immerse herself in the places where the adult Harwood lived, worked and wrote.
Ann-Marie works part-time as a lecturer at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton. She has previously published a book on the love lives of 20th century writers, called Great Writers, Great Loves: The Reinvention of Love in the Twentieth Century. Her forthcoming book, A Free Flame, on the role of vocation in the lives of four Australian writers (including Gwen Harwood), will be published by UWA Publishing.
2017 | Highly-commended award
For the first time, in 2017 the Fellowship has also made a highly-commended award of $3,000 to Suzanne Spunner (Victoria), who is writing a biography of East Kimberley artist Rover Thomas. Rover Thomas was one of Australia’s most successful Indigenous artists and his works command record-breaking prices. Suzanne is a playwright and art historian.
2016 | Matthew Lamb
Matthew Lamb (Tasmania) was awarded the 2016 Fellowship for his proposed cultural biography of the Australian writer Frank Moorhouse.
Matthew was announced as the winner of the 2016 Fellowship at an event at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on 9 March. At the same event three previous recipients of the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship – Stephany Steggall, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Caroline Baum – spoke about the Art of Biography on a panel chaired by Janine Burke, one of our judges.
Matthew is the editor of the Review of Australian Fiction, which he founded in 2012. Since 2013 he has also been the editor of Island magazine, a role he left in order to work on the Moorhouse biography, among other writing projects.
2015 | Caroline Baum
Caroline Baum (New South Wales) was announced as the winner of the 2015 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship at the Adelaide Writers Week on 4 March 2015. The announcement followed the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture, given by David Marr .
Caroline was awarded the Fellowship for a proposed biography of Lucie Dreyfus (1870-1945). Lucie Dreyfus was married to Alfred Drefyus, the French artillery officer who was at the centre of one of the most divisive political scandals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Caroline is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She is Editorial Director of Booktopia, Australia’s largest online bookseller.
2014 | Maxine Beneba Clarke
Maxine Beneba Clarke (Victoria) was announced as the winner of the 2014 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship at the Writers Victoria Salon on 11 March 2014.
Maxine used the fellowship to work on her proposed autobiography, The Hate Race – a memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia. The Hate Race was subsequently published by Hachette in August 2016. In 2017 Maxine won the Multicultural NSW Award for The Hate Race in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. The Hate Race was also shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for non-fiction, the Indie Prize, the Stella Prize and the ABIA 2017 Biography Book of the Year.
The fellowship allowed the Caribbean-Australian writer to ‘go back to where she came from’ – to travel from Australia to England re-tracing her parents’ journey, from England to the Caribbean re-tracing her grandparents’ migration, and from the Caribbean to Africa in search of the ancestors transported to the Caribbean as slaves.
“The opportunity to research and re-trace my family’s migration path will not only be momentous on a personal and emotional level, but will, I hope, result in a work of non-fiction which significantly contributes toward contemporary post-slavery dialogue on race, migration, colour, ancestry, genocide, and the various places we think of as home,” Maxine said.
In 2013, Maxine won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript with her debut short story collection, Foreign Soil (published by Hachette Australia in May 2014). Maxine is also the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron is on Parole and Nothing Here Needs Fixing, as well as being an Australian slam poetry champion.
2013 | Stephany Steggall
The 2013 award went to Stephany Steggall (Queensland) for a biography of Australian writer Thomas Keneally. Her book Interestingly Enough…the Life of Tom Keneally was subsequently published in 2015 by Nero.
The presentation of the award to Stephany followed the 2013 Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture given by Alex Miller at Adelaide Writers Week on 6 March 2013 and reported on in The Age.
Alex Miller’s lecture has been published in his book The Simplest Words (2015, Allen & Unwin) in the chapter ‘A Circle of Kindred Spirits’, p.299. The lecture was also published in Southerly magazine in 2013 (Vol 73, No 3).
Stephany has previously published biographies of Colin Thiele (2004), Ivan Southall (2006) and Bruce Dawe (2009). She has worked at AustLit as a research assistant and at the time of winning the Fellowship was working on a history of the Australian Society of Authors, Status and Sugar, which was published in 2013.
2012 | Mary Hoban
The inaugural winner of the 2012 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship was Mary Hoban (Vic) who is writing a biography of Julia Arnold, née Sorell (1826-1888). Although not a well-known figure herself, Julia Sorell was famously well-connected. Born in Hobart, Julia was the granddaughter of Lieutenant Governor William Sorell. She was the daughter-in-law of Reverend Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School (as pictured in Tom Brown’s Schooldays) and sister-in-law to the poet Matthew Arnold. Her daughter Mary was the famous Victorian novelist Mrs Humphry Ward and her grandchildren were novelist Aldous Huxley, scientist Julian Huxley and author Janet Penrose.
Mary spoke about her project with Jim Davidson and Della Rowley on Books and Arts Daily with Michael Cathcart on 15 March 2012. Click here for Podcast.