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Announcing the winners of the 2022 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement

By December 1, 2022No Comments

Pictured from left: James Norcliffe, Stephanie Johnson, Vincent O’Malley

Spanning an impressive range of genres, the work of the three recipients of the 2022 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement represents some of the very best in New Zealand literature.

Fiction writer Stephanie Johnson, poet James Norcliffe, and historian Vincent O’Malley have been named as the winners of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement for 2022.

Each writer will each receive $60,000 in recognition of their significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the areas of fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

Prime Minister Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern said, “Every year I’m delighted to have the opportunity to honour the incredible contribution of three of our most talented writers. Congratulations to Stephanie Johnson, James Norcliffe and Vincent O’Malley. The awards recognise not only their literary achievements, but also the significant impact their work has had on the cultural landscape of Aotearoa.”

Arts Council Chair Caren Rangi said, “Warmest congratulations to Stephanie, James and Vincent. Your work across all genres has been vital in helping readers to see themselves, to advance important cultural discussions, and to bring moments of joy, humour and beauty.”

The three winners will be honoured at a special lunch hosted by the Prime Minister in March 2023.

Members of the public will also get the chance to enjoy readings and discussions from the winners in a separate online event in February. More details to come.

About the Awards

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a New Zealand writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. Writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.

Nominations are assessed by an external expert panel and recommendations are forwarded to the Arts Council of New Zealand for approval. This year’s selection panel included Gavin Bishop, Gina Cole and Siobhan Harvey.

A full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.

Author’s biographies

Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Fiction
Stephanie Johnson (Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland)

Stephanie Johnson is a writer of novels, short stories, and poetry and she has also written for stage, television and radio.

Her many novels include The Shag Incident, which won the Montana Deutz Medal for Fiction in 2003; The Whistler, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Montana Book Award for Fiction; and Belief, shortlisted for the 2001 Montana Book Awards.

In 2000 she was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship in Menton, France, and in 2001 was made a Literary Fellow at Auckland University.

Several of her novels have been longlisted for the prestigious IMPAC Awards in Dublin. She was a recipient of the Bruce Mason Memorial Playwright’s Award in 1985, and her novel, Crimes of Neglect, was shortlisted for the Wattie Book Awards in 1993.

With Peter Wells, Stephanie founded the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 1998. She has been guest speaker at numerous festivals, both in New Zealand and internationally, has taught a broad range of writing classes and is involved in ongoing mentorship and manuscript assessments. Stephanie was the 2016 recipient of both the Randell Cottage Writer in Residence in Wellington, and Alumna Merita Award, Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland.

In 2019 Stephanie was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.

Her non-fiction includes Playing for Both Sides (BWB, 2016), a personal exploration of the Australia-New Zealand relationship; and West Island: Five Twentieth-century New Zealanders in Australia (OUP, 2019). Stephanie edited Good Dog! New Zealand Writers on Dogs (Penguin Random House, 2016), and her most recent work, the novel Everything Changes (RHNZ Vintage, 2021) won the 2021 New Zealand Society of Authors Heritage Prize for Fiction.


Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Poetry
James Norcliffe (Ōtautahi/Christchurch)

James Norcliffe is a poet, fiction writer and educator. He has published 11 collections of poetry, a short story collection, a novel, and several award-winning novels for young people.

James has had a long involvement with takahē poetry magazine including as editor and was president of the New Zealand Poetry Society from 2005-2007. He has had a decades-long association with the Christchurch School for Young Writers. He has also edited anthologies of poetry and writing by young people, notably (with Glyn Strange, Tessa Duder and currently Michelle Elvy) the long-running ReDraft annual anthologies.

He co-edited the major anthologies Essential New Zealand Poems – Facing the Empty Page (Godwit/Random, 2014), Leaving the Red Zone – Poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes (Clerestory Press, 2016), and Ko Aotearoa Tātou / We Are New Zealand (Otago University Press, 2020).

James has won a number of awards for both his poetry and prose. With Bernadette Hall, he was presented with a Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award for lasting contribution to literature in the South Island, New Zealand, and in 2012 he was awarded the Lincoln University Medal.

James has been awarded writing fellowships both in New Zealand and overseas including the Burns Fellowship, the International Writers’ Programme Iowa Residency, and residencies at Massey University, Otago University College of Education, and in Hobart. His work is published in journals worldwide and has been translated into several languages. In 2018 he was the Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writer in Residence.


Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction
Vincent O’Malley (Te Whanganui-a-Tara/ Wellington)

Vincent O’Malley is a founding partner of HistoryWorks, a group of historians specialising in Treaty of Waitangi research. He is the author of a number of books on New Zealand history including The Meeting Place: Māori and Pākehā Encounters, 1642–1840 (Auckland University Press, 2012), which was shortlisted in the general non-fiction section at the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2013, and Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The Contest for Colonial New Zealand (Bridget Williams Books, 2014).

Dr O’Malley’s landmark book on the Waikato War, The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, was published to acclaim in 2016. Spanning nearly two centuries from first contact through to settlement and apology, this remarkable and best-selling history focuses on the human impact of the war in the Waikato, its origins and aftermath. It was followed in 2019 by The New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, that provides a highly accessible introduction to the causes, events and consequences of the New Zealand Wars.

At the 2022 Ockham NZ Book Awards, Dr O’Malley won the general non-fiction category for his book Voices from the New Zealand Wars / He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa (Bridget Williams Books). With Professor Joanna Kidman, he is co-Principal Investigator on the Marsden Fund project ‘He Taonga te Wareware? Remembering and Forgetting Difficult Histories in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, a three-year study into how the nineteenth century New Zealand Wars have helped shape memory, identity and history.

Photo credits: James Norcliffe (image supplied), Stephanie Johnson (image credit: Maeve Woodhouse), Vincent O’Malley (image credit: Hagen Hopkins Photography).