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ARA Historical Novel Prize Shortlist Banner


In a year bearing bad news for the arts, with funding cuts and COVID-19 significantly affecting authors’ ability to promote their work or earn a living through appearances, the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize has given the industry something to celebrate.

Building on a strong foundation of supporting the arts, and literature in particular, ARA Group’s partnership with the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) in launching a new major literary prize has been something we’re truly proud of in 2020.

The three shortlisted authors are now in the running for an overall first prize of $50,000 — the most substantial financial incentive for any genre-based award in Australasia — with each of the remaining two shortlisted authors set to receive $5,000 for their outstanding contributions to the genre.


After receiving nearly 200 entries, ARA Group is proud to announce the 2020 shortlist:

Master of My Fate by Sienna Brown (Penguin Books Australia): Debut historical novelist, Sienna Brown, tells an unknown coming-of-age survival story about a Jamaican slave transported to New South Wales in the 1830s as a convict. Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica and grew up in Canada. But it wasn’t until she moved to Sydney that she discovered William Buchanan’s story while working at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks. Brown was captivated by William’s story and the way it intersected with her own cultural background.

See the long-list interview with Sienna Brown:

by Catherine Jinks (Text Publishing):
One of Australia’s most well-known writers for children and young adults, Catherine Jinks has written a riveting, fast-paced adult historical thriller that brings the brutality and courage of Australia’s colonial frontier vividly to life. Set in rural New South Wales in the convict era, the novel features a young boy hunted down in an ancient land by a brutal killer seeking revenge. Jinks was born in Brisbane, grew up in Papua New Guinea and studied medieval history at the University of Sydney.

See the long-list interview with Catherine Jinks:

Stone Sky Gold Mountain
by Mirandi Riwoe (University of Queensland Press):
Mirandi Riwoe recreates the experiences of two Chinese siblings struggling to survive on the North Queensland goldfields in 1877. Richly imagined and eloquently expressed, Stone Sky Gold Mountain depicts a past too rarely portrayed in Australian fiction. Drawn to stories of the culturally marginalised, acclaimed author Riwoe explores big questions of identity, racism, colonialism and gender, with richly drawn characters and beautiful writing. Born in Brisbane, Riwoe studied politics and also holds a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies.

See the long-list interview with Mirandi Riwoe:

ARA Group Founder, Executive Chair and Managing Director, Edward Federman — who enjoyed reading all three of the previously longlisted books — admired the commitment to research and detail that went into the entries.

“I congratulate the three talented novelists shortlisted for the 2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize. It’s a pleasure to be involved in what we hope will be a long-lasting contribution to the arts, to a genre which has, until now, perhaps not received the attention it rightly deserves.”

“Art and literature are great passions of mine, and I hope to continue doing my part in fostering the arts in Australia and New Zealand and rewarding and recognising excellence in writing. There has never been a more important time to celebrate and capture the rich tapestry of Australia’s history.”

The announcement of the prize shortlist follows ARA Group’s decision to double its funding for the inaugural award, increasing the total prize monies to $60,000 in a bid to celebrate and support authors working across all facets of the literary community whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many authors have been significantly affected by COVID-19 to the extent where they’ve been forced to give up their craft. The prize money from this award aims to create a truly meaningful impact on the life of the winning author and inspire others in the process.”

The winner of the ARA Historical Novel Prize will be announced by both video broadcast and live stream in Sydney on the evening of Tuesday, 10 November 2020.

More information about the prize can be found at


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