Ulrick awards showcase literary talent

Josephine Ulrick poetry and literature prize winners Amanda Johnson and Mark Smth.

Two Victorian writers have taken out this year’s Josephine Ulrick Literature and Poetry prizes.

Among the richest literary prizes in Australia, the Josephine Ulrick awards were announced at a ceremony at the Gold Coast Arts Centre on Friday, May 8.

“The awards are now an Australian tradition,’’ said Professor Nigel Krauth, judging co-ordinator and head of Griffith University’s creative writing program.

“They recognise established writers as well as fostering the talents of early career writers.”

Mark Smith, a writer, educator and surfer from Anglesea won the literature prize for his short story Manyuk, while University of Melbourne academic Dr Amanda Johnson won the poetry prize for her suite of poems, The Book of Interdictions.


Manyuk tells the story of a young Indigenous woman in Darwin living away from her country and wanting her newborn daughter to know and understand her culture against the wishes of her white husband.

Already an accomplished writer with other short story competition awards and work published in Best Australian Stories, The Australian and Great Ocean Quarterly, among others, Mark said he was ‘still in shock’ about the win.

“This is such a prestigious prize. I am very hounoured to win it and extend my congratulations to the other shortlisted writers. I hope it will generate interest in the novel I have just completed.”

The director of an outdoor educational residential campus on Victoria’s west coast, each year Mark takes a group of students to the Nauiyu community in the Northern Territory where the students spend time with elders and learn about their culture.

Mark plans to donate half his $10,000 prize money to the Indigenous Literary Foundation.


Amanda Johnson’s suite of short poems The Book of Interdictions reflects on asylum seeker issues.

The poems deal specifically with naval interdiction, the towing back of boats, and the surveillance of refugees by drones. They deal with various aspects of incarceration and the impact of mediated images of detention environments

“Wining the poetry prize is a great honour,’’ she said.

“Poetry is on fire in Australia at the moment, which is very exciting for communities of writers and readers and students of poetry and poetics.

“It is such a rich field. I feel enormously encouraged by this award and I want to congratulate all the other poets on the shortlist.”

A writer and artist, Amanda lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. Her work has been exhibited in Australia and overseas and her poetry published in many anthologies. She hopes to donate a portion of her prize to Melbourne organisations supporting Asylum seekers.

The Josephine Ulrick Literature and Poetry prizes are sponsored and managed by Griffith University.