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2015 PMLA judges revealed; Henderson, Murray out

The judging panels for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (PMLAs) have been revealed on the PMLA website, showing few changes to the 2014 panels.

Sydney Institute executive director and Weekend Australia columnist Gerard Henderson and 2014 nonfiction and history chair is listed as being on a ‘leave of absence’. Last year Black Inc. director Morrie Schwartz and Black Inc. publisher Chris Feik said Henderson’s inclusion as chair of the panel ‘seriously damaged’ the integrity of the awards, and urged the PMLAs to publish a list of submitted works to increase ‘the accountability of the nation’s richest literary prizes’. Schwartz and Feik cited concerns over Henderson’s ‘history of incessant and obsessive criticism of leading Australian writers and commentators with whom he disagrees politically’.

Only three judges are named on the nonfiction and history panel, with each returning after serving in 2014: writer, reviewer and broadcaster Ross Fitzgerald; doctor and political commentator Ida Lichter (2015 chair); and writer, journalist and former NSW Liberal Party politician Peter Coleman.

2014 judge and author and historian Ann Moyal is missing from this year’s nonfiction and history panel. In January confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald she was ‘not staying on and nothing would induce me to’, after previously claiming the other judges ‘had worked “as a team” and insisted on including Hal G P Colebatch’s “poorly constructed and poorly written” Australia’s Secret War as history co-winner with Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation’.       

On the fiction and poetry panel, Des Cowley, manager of the State Library of Victoria’s History of the Book collection, joins Melbourne University Publishing CEO and Australian Publishers Association president Louise Adler; poet, editor and frequent Quandrant contributor Jamie Grant; and poet and author Robert Gray. Adler, Grant and Gray served on the panel in 2014.

Poet and critic Les Murray and documentary filmmaker Margie Bryant have left the fiction and poetry panel after serving in 2014. Murray was critical of the Prime Minister’s decision last year to select Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage) as a joint winner after the fiction judges unanimously recommended Steven Carroll’s A World of Other People (Fourth Estate). Murray told the Australian ‘it was nasty the way it was done on the night’.

The children’s and young adult fiction panel is unchanged from 2014, and features former Melbourne Writers Festival program manager Mike Shuttleworth (chair), University of Canberra children’s literature professor Belle Alderman, Bloomin’ Books owner Kate Colley, children’s book author and former Children’s Book Council of Australia president Mark Mcleod, and children’s book author Irini Savvides.

The judging panels are responsible for making recommendations to the Prime Minister for the shortlists and winners across each of the six categories, however ‘the Prime Minister makes the final decision’. The Australian has reported that this year’s awards will be presented in Sydney on 7 October and broadcast live on SBS and Sky News. An Arts Ministry spokesperson confirmed to Books+Publishing the awards will be announced on 7 October, with shortlists to be announced ‘soon’.



Category: Local news