The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing.
The prize is named after one of Australia’s iconic female authors, Stella Maria ‘Miles’ Franklin, and was awarded for the first time in 2013. Both non-fiction and fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry.
The Stella Prize seeks to:
recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literature
bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales
provide role models for schoolgirls and emerging female writers
reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing
The Stella Prize runs events and lectures at bookshops, festivals and universities around Australia. We also compile the annual Stella Count, tracking the number of books by men and women reviewed in our major newspapers and literary magazines.
For updates on the Stella Prize’s events and activities, and to receive notifications of our longlist, shortlist and winner as soon as each is announced, please sign up for our enewsletter.
The Stella Prize story
Dreams of the Stella Prize emerged in early 2011 out of a panel that was held at Readings, an independent Melbourne bookstore, on International Women’s Day. The panel was partly a discussion about the underrepresentation of women on the literary pages of the major Australian newspapers, both as reviewers and as authors of the books reviewed. For example, in 2011 70% of the books reviewed in The Weekend Australian’s books pages were written by men.
The panel also discussed the underrepresentation of women as winners of literary prizes—at that point, in early 2011: only 10 individual women had ever won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, over its 54-year history. (Since the inception of the Stella Prize, women have subsequently won the Miles Franklin in both 2012 and again in 2013 – and this year there was the first-ever, all-female shortlist.) But this trend is evident across all the major prizes. In general, women have won the fiction components of the Premier’s Literary Awards about one-third of the time, and fiction is an area that women are associated with as writers; the statistics for non-fiction are even worse.
After the panel at Readings, a group of us met to decide what to do next. We felt as though we were always whingeing about these issues of gender inequality and women’s underrepresentation in the literary world and we agreed that we wanted to do something positive. And thus plans for the Stella Prize were born: a major prize for Australian women writers, along the lines of the UK’s very successful (then) Orange Prize. The prize would celebrate the best book by an Australian woman, whether fiction or non-fiction, in the previous calendar year. For the prize’s name we reclaimed Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin’s first name for our purposes.
The Stella Prize board then began our journey up a big learning curve. We were so lucky to meet with lots of kind people who offered us advice and/or seed funding. We were also blessed to be introduced to Ellen Koshland, a well-known educational and arts philanthropist, who shared our vision and passion immediately and became our Founding Patron. Ellen was instrumental in finding us some other key donors—and the rest, as they say, is history.
On the 16th of April this year, just over two years on from that International Women’s Day panel, the inaugural Stella Prize was awarded to Carrie Tiffany for her second novel, Mateship with Birds.
The Stella Prize forever
We have been humbled by the kindness and generosity of our donors and sponsors who made it possible to launch the prize. But our work is not done. Virginia Woolf’s words that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own' to write ring on in our ears. We hope that the Stella Prize will become a permanent feature on the Australian literary landscape. To do this, we need support.
To keep the Stella Prize going, we need to build an endowment fund that will ensure the security and sustainability of the Stella Prize forever. Donations to the Stella Prize can be made here. All donations big and small are fully tax deductible, and donors are gratefully acknowledged on our website here.
We want the Stella Prize to give Australian women writers a chance to build brilliant careers, and have their work recognised, celebrated and read for many years to come.
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