Magarey Medal for Biography

Magarey Medal for Biography

The Magarey Medal for biography is a biennial prize. The prize is awarded to the female author who has published the work judged to be the best biographical writing on an Australian subject in the preceding two years. The awarding of the prize is administered and judged by a panel set up by the Association for the Study of Australian Literature and the Australian Historical Association. The prize is very generously donated by Professor Emerita Susan Magarey.


Award: The prize will be presented at the Australian Historical Association and Association for the Study of Australian Literature conferences.



The judging panel for the 2020 Magarey Medal for Biography are:


  • Sheila Fitzpatrick (AHA)
  • Kate Fullagar (AHA)
  • Demelza Hall (ASAL)


The shortlist for the 2020 Magarey Medal for Biography 


  • Helen Ennis, Olive Cotton. A Life in Photography
  • Mary Hoban, An Unconventional Wife. The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold
  • Suzanne Robinson, Peggy Glanville-Hicks: Composer and Critic
  • Angela Woollacott, Don Dunstan: The Visionary Politician Who Changed Australia
  • Clare Wright, You Daughters of Freedom: The Australians Who Won the Vote and Inspired the World




The judging panel for the 2018 Magarey Medal for Biography are:


Gillian Whitlock (ASAL) Chair
Chris Lee (ASAL)
Fiona Paisley (AHA)


Winner: Alexis Wright, Tracker (Giramondo, 2017).


Citation: Alexis Wright’s Tracker is a significant achievement, providing a complex historical, social and personal account of a remarkable Australian, and innovating the conventions of biography with Indigenous knowledges and perspectives. Tracker is a bespoke biography which crafts its form to fit with its individual subject, while respecting more collective responses which are important to the Indigenous life story. The author calls it ‘consensus storytelling’ and locates its conventions in the decision-making practices of indigenous community. Tracker Tilmouth was an extraordinary Australian who worked across the complex organisational networks of business, government, politics and wider society to improve the well-being of indigenous Australians – he was a tireless and influential advocate and actor who inspired people and projects. To tell such a story Wright curates a range of different perspectives from a remarkably diverse set of people who were chosen by Tracker to contribute to his story. The book artfully organises these recollections along with interviews with Tracker himself. The overlapping, re-storying, and meshing together of different perspectives on indigenous experiences and histories, and the irreverent humour that recurs throughout make a powerful statement about a life expressed as purpose, imagination, action, resilience, and connection. Not only does it provide insight into individual and collective views of a remarkable Arrente man, Tracker also provides a complex appreciation of the challenges, labours, achievements and capacities of Indigenous Australians. It is a clear and worthy winner of the Magarey medal.


Highly Commended: Judith Brett, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (Text Publishing, 2017).


Shortlist for the 2018 Magarey Medal for Biography

We are delighted to announce the books that have been shortlisted for this year’s Magarey Medal for Biography.


  • Bernadette Brennan, A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work (Text, 2017).
  • Judith Brett, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (Text Publishing, 2017).
  • Suzanne Falkiner, Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow (UWA Publishing, 2016).
  • Cathy McLennan, Saltwater: An Epic Fight for Justice in the Tropics (UQP, 2016).
  • Alexis Wright, Tracker (Giramondo, 2017).


The judging panel commends all the authors whose books are shortlisted this year, and both ASAL and AHA thank the judges for their work. The winner of the Magarey Medal will be announced at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 3 July, on the opening night of the 2018 Literary Convention, at the ANU in Canberra.


For more details click here

More Information:

Previous Winners

Previous Winners

2010  Jill Roe, Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography, Fourth Estate
2008 Slyvia Martin, Ida Leeson: A Life, Allen and Unwin
2006 Prue Torney-Parlicki, Behind the News: A Biography of Peter Russo, UWA Press
2004 Heather Goodall and Isabel Flick Isabel Flick: The Many Lives of an Extraordinary Aboriginal Woman, Allen and Unwin

Previous Reports