Shortlist announced for prestigious Tasmanian book prize

The three books shortlisted for Tasmania’s most significant literary prize shed light on the Black War, the fate of child convicts and a prominent colonial figure.

The Dick and Joan Green Family Award for Tasmanian History is a $25,000 biennial award recognising works that make a significant contribution to our understanding of Tasmania’s past.

It seeks to celebrate books on the island’s history and cultural heritage.

Revealed today, the shortlist consists of:

Bound By Every Tie of Duty: John Lewes Pedder, Chief Justice of Van Diemen’s Land by Jacqueline Fox (Australian Scholarly Publishing Pty Ltd)

Judges’ comments: Explores the complexities of politics, justice and morality in the colony. Fox’s deep and passionate examination of Pedder is not a conventional biography, but offers a wider legal history, explaining how the practice of law in the colony could be out of step with contemporary reforms and moral shifts in London.

The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens: How the British Empire turned artful dodgers into child killers by Steve Harris (Melbourne Books)

Judges’ comments: An accessible and engaging book that examines child transport to Australia and the establishment of the first juvenile prison in the British Empire in 1834. Harris takes readers from the prison hulks of Dickensian London to the Tasman Peninsula, clearly explaining social and economic circumstances that led to the systematic incarceration of thousands of British children.

The National Picture: The Art of Tasmania’s Black War by Tim Bonyhady and Greg Lehman (National Gallery of Australia)

Judges’ comments: Published to accompany the exhibition of the same name, The National Picture stands alone as a book of impressive scholarship that provides new insights to our knowledge of Tasmania during the 1820s-1840s. The authors remind readers that historical sources are not only written records but also paintings, photographs, drawings, prints, maps and objects.

The winner of the award, which is managed by the University of Tasmania, will be announced in June.

The judging panel consists of Executive Dean of the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania, Professor Kate Darian-Smith (chair), past award recipient University of Tasmania Senior Research Fellow Associate Professor Rebe Taylor and Nicholas Heyward, Chair of the National Trust and former Managing Director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

“The writers skilfully delve into the complex history of our island, which encompasses the extremes of human experiences, genocide and the inhumanities of transportation, enriching our understanding of our place and its people,” Professor Darian-Smith said.

About the award

The award was set up to commemorate and celebrate the contribution Joan Green, and her late husband Dick, made to Tasmania.

The Greens were key players in the establishment of the National Trust in Tasmania and have been strong supporters of the arts and many community organisations.

Dick Green was a former Mayor of Launceston and served on various boards, while Joan Green was a champion golfer and, for more than 50 years, has contributed to a variety of organisations.

Speaking on behalf of the Green family, Caroline Johnston, one of Dick and Joan’s daughters, said:

“It is exciting to see the release of the shortlist, and we thank the judges for their ongoing deliberations. Joan, and the other family members, join me in congratulating the authors of these three very special works.”

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