Significant stories: Entering the State Significance award

The top prize in the Queensland Literary Awards is worth twenty-five thousand big ones (pineapples). The Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance is hotly contested each year. But what makes a contender? What are the judges looking for? And who has won in the past?

With nominations for the Queensland Literary Awards closing on Friday 29 April, take a quick look below to see if your book (or your best friend’s book!) might be eligible. And here’s a sweetener: in 2022 State Library will waive the nomination fee for this category if the same title is also entered into another category.

All shortlisted titles in the 2021 Queensland Literary Awards

In the past few years, authors of a range of novels, short story collections, poetry collections and non-fiction books have made the shortlist for the Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance. The prize is awarded to an outstanding work by an Australian writer, focused on documenting, discussing or highlighting a uniquely Queensland story, or an outstanding work by a Queensland author if it has increased the awareness and profile of Queensland writing.

Melissa Lucashenko at the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards (credit: Joe Ruckli) and her winning novel Too Much Lip


For decades, Melissa Lucashenko has been one of our most prominent authors, and she took out the State Significance award in 2019. Lucashenko’s searing and deeply funny novel Too Much Lip begins with the main character, Kerry Salter, racing out of Queensland on her Harley Davidson, headed for northern New South Wales.

Queensland author Mirandi Riwoe’s stunning historical fiction novel Stone Sky Gold Mountain is about north Queensland during the often-brutal gold rushes of the 1870s. Riwoe tells us she “was interested in exploring the lives of Chinese people during the Australian gold rush. We have always heard of ‘the Chinese’ coming here as a horde, but rarely, in fiction, do we read about the individuals”. Stone Sky Gold Mountain was named a finalist in the State Significance award in 2020.

Trent Dalton (credit: Lyndon Mechielson) and his novel Boy Swallows Universe, which was shortlisted for the State Significance award in 2019

Beloved Brisbane locals Krissy Kneen and Trent Dalton have also made their way onto the finalist podium. Kneen was shortlisted for Wintering, a mysterious, sensuous tale set in Tasmania, and Dalton for everybody’s favourite novel about Darra/Dutton Park/Bracken Ridge/The Gap with Boy Swallows Universe.



Strong non-fiction winners of the past few years include Biting the Clouds by Fiona Foley, Heartland: How Rugby League Explains Queensland by Joe Gorman, and We’ll Show the World: Expo 88 by Brisbane historian Jackie Ryan (also the only book on this list to include a copy of the author’s Expo 88 photo ID).

Brisbane-based writer and historian Jackie Ryan (credit: Carody Culver) and her non-fiction title We’ll Show the World: Expo 88, a big winner at the 2018 awards

Poetry, short story and memoir

Two poets with connections to Queensland have also been shortlisted for the State Significance award: Jake Goetz for meditations with passing water and Jaya Savige for Change Machine, which the judges called “eloquent … playful and technically robust”. In 2021, Brisbane-based writer Laura Elvery’s short story collection Ordinary Matter was a finalist.

In 2021, Lech Blaine was shortlisted for his memoir, Car Crash, which the judges called a “perceptive and intelligent investigation of the buccaneer masculine culture that dominates young Australian men”. And in 2020, Jessica White’s beautiful Hearing Maud was shortlisted – White’s work of creative non-fiction is part memoir, and part exploration of the nineteenth century Deaf Queenslander novelist Rosa Praed.


And remember! Fees are waived in 2022 when the same title is entered in another category. Entries close 29 April! With its top prize of $25,000, who do you think will win?


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