The Miles Franklin Literary Award
The annual Miles Franklin Literary Award is one of the most illustrious events on the Australian literary calendar.
Alec T. Bolton (1926-1996), Portrait of Frank Moorhouse, Balmain, 1985. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia: nla.pic-an14469309-1.
The award, now worth $50,000, was bequeathed by the will of Australian novelist, Miles Franklin for a 'published novel or play portraying Australian life in any of its phases'. All entries for the award must have been published in the previous calendar year.
The Miles Franklin Literary Award not only rewards Australian authors but, as Frank Moorhouse said in his winner's acceptance speech on 5 June 2001, it also 'honours the great art of story telling.'
About Miles Franklin
Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin was born near Tumut in New South Wales in 1879. Her early years were spent at the family home station (Brindabella) in the Monaro region of NSW.
After My Brilliant Career was published in 1901, Franklin tried her hand as a nurse, and then as a housemaid. Under the pseudonyms 'An Old Bachelor' and 'Vernacular', she wrote as a freelance journalist for The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald. Around this time she became involved in the early Australian feminist movement through her friendships with Rose Scott and Vida Goldstein.
Henrietta Drake-Brockman (1901-1968), Miles Franklin. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia: nla.pic-an24432289.
Franklin travelled to the USA in 1906 and worked in a secretarial and editorial capacity for Alice Henry in the National Women's Trade Union League. She then moved to England and served as a nurse in Europe during the First World War. She returned to Australia in 1933 with an established literary reputation.
Other novels, plays and essays by Franklin include My Career Goes Bung, Old Blastus of Bandicoot, All That Swagger and Back to Bool Bool.
The creation of the award
In 1948, around six years before her death, Miles Franklin established a bequest in her will, which has become known as the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The income generated from the bequest is used to finance prizes to Australian authors for the advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian Literature.
Alec T. Bolton (1926-1996), Portrait of Patrick White, Centennial Park, 1983. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia: nla.pic-an14600815-1.
First won by future Nobel Prize winner Patrick White in 1957 for his novel Voss, the award has achieved prominence around the world, recognising excellence in Australian Literature. White's prize back then was £500.
It is the essential 'Australianness' of the award that caused such a controversy when judges disqualified Frank Moorhouse from consideration of the prize for his novel Grand Days. It was seen as 'unAustralian' by the judges with its backdrop of Europe in the 1920s and the early days of the League of Nations.
Moorhouse was eventually victorious when he won the award for his novel Dark Palace in 2001.
Recognition for writers and literature
Literary awards provide writers with much needed financial and artistic recognition. If they happen to win the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award, the benefits can be particularly rewarding. Text publisher Michael Heyward says that readers generally are looking for novels by writers they know and trust. 'This is a market in which you can publish an outstanding novel and sell only 1000 copies.' (Sydney Morning Herald, 25 January 2003)
The kudos associated with awards is certainly handy to both writers and publishers. An award will bring publicity, and greatly assist in the task of selling books.
In the case of David Foster, winning the 1997 Miles Franklin Award with The Glade Within The Grove gave him the impetus - and the financial means - to continue writing books. He worked as a crewman on prawn trawlers to support his career and family and believed the $27,000 prize allowed him to continue his literary career. His win also helped the award regain some of its credibility after the 1995 Helen Demidenko-Darville fiasco.
Tim Winton's third Miles Franklin Literary Award (2002), for his novel Dirt Music, meant $28,000 and a certain increase in book sales. The award, says Jason Steger of The Sunday Age newspaper, is also 'an indication of tradition, achievement and, most important, literary worth: the Miles Franklin embodies all three, and Tim Winton is a worthy recipient'.
Kate Jennings, who was short listed for the 2003 Miles Franklin Literary Award and won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction at the 2003 NSW Premier's Literary Awards for her novel Moral Hazard, says that the best novels don't always win literary awards but acknowledges their importance to the writer. 'They are important because they bring recognition.' (Bookmunch interview, 27 March 2002.)
Award winner 2011
The 2011 winner is Kim Scott, who took out the award for That Deadman Dance.
'A powerful and innovative fiction that shifts our sense of what an historical novel can achieve. ... That Deadman's Dance tells the story of the rapid destruction of Noongar people and their traditions. At the same time, there is the enchanting possibility of the birth of a new world in the strange song, dance, ceremony and language that are produced by these encounters of very different peoples’.
Judging Panel, 2011 Miles Franklin Award.
Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance.
Previous winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award include:
- 2010 Peter Temple Truth
- 2009 Tim Winton Breath
- 2008 Steven Carroll The Time We Have Taken
- 2007 Alexis Wright Carpentaria
- 2006 Roger McDonald The Ballad of Desmond Kale
- 2005 Andrew McGahan The White Earth
- 2004 Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire
- 2003 Alex Miller Journey to the Stone Country
- 2002 Tim Winton Dirt Music
- 2001 Frank Moorhouse Dark Palace
Miles Franklin Literary Award
- Miles Franklin Literary Award
- The Miles Franklin Award
- Awards links - Internet links
- Miles Franklin Literary Award 2001: Frank Moorhouse
Miles Franklin - the author
- Miles Franklin (1879 - 1954)
- Australian Feminist Manuscripts: Miles Franklin (1879-1954)
- Australian Literature Gateway: Miles Franklin
- Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography, Jill Roe
My Brilliant Career - the film
- My Brilliant Career (1979) - National Film and Sound Archive
- My Brilliant Career (1979) - Channel 4 Film
Last updated: 1st March 2011
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