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McKay wins $100k Victorian Prize for Literature

Laura Jean McKay has won Australia’s richest literary prize, the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, for her debut novel The Animals in That Country (Scribe), at this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (VPLAs).

The novel, about a pandemic that renders humans able to understand what animals are saying, also won the $25,000 fiction category.

‘McKay’s novel is daring, original and ambitious, with a highly inventive use of language—the dialogue of the animals reads like a strange kind of stop-start poetry,’ said the judges.

‘A story about a pandemic is incredibly prescient in 2020 but the novel’s focus is largely on the ethics of human-animal interactions, raising pertinent questions in a non-didactic way. The reader is taken on a breakneck journey that becomes more disorientating as Jean becomes almost a wild animal herself. The novel is written with energy and profound empathy, provoking the reader to consider their place in the world, and ensuring they will never see animals in the same way again. McKay takes risks with language and structure to create a unique, brave piece of work that speaks to our world at this time.’

The winning titles in each category are:


  • The Animals in That Country (Laura Jean McKay, Scribe)


  • Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us (Paddy Manning, S&S)


  • Wonnangatta (Angus Cerini, Sydney Theatre Company)


  • Case Notes (David Stavanger, UWA Publishing)

Writing for young adults

  • Metal Fish, Falling Snow (Cath Moore, Text)

Award for Indigneous writing

  • Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and Music (Archie Roach, S&S)

Unpublished manuscript

  • ‘Anam’ (André Dao)

People’s choice

  • Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice (Louise Milligan, Hachette).

The winners were announced at an online ceremony on 1 February 2021. The winner of each category is awarded $25,000, except for the unpublished manuscript prize winner, who receives $15,000, and the winner of the people’s choice award, who is awarded $2000.

Winners were chosen from shortlists announced in December 2020. For more information about the awards, visit the Wheeler Centre website.

Pictured: VPLA 2021 winners. Top row L to R: Laura Jean McKay, Paddy Manning, Angus Cerini, David Stavanger. Bottom row L to R: Cath Moore, Archie Roach, André Dao and Louise Milligan.



Category: Awards Local news