From 280 submissions, the 2019 judges - University of Sydney Lecturer in Creative Writing Beth Yahp, writer Bernard Cohen and writer and 2017 Charles Perkins Centre Writer in Residence Mireille Juchau - selected a shortlist of five that they said: "vividly explore diverse aspects of human experience – at home, in the world or in other worlds.
"All take us to sharply drawn, unexpected places: a mesmerising desert landscape; the cryptic zones of the online world; the solitudes of illness in a foreign city; dinner party rituals and revelations in a cramped Russian apartment; a frenetic afterlife. Each story has a singular voice, a unique perspective, and a distinctive style and tone," the judges said.
Claire Aman won the award for her story If there are Zebra Finches. She shares the award with Katherine Brabon, for The Pool.
Claire said she was "amazed and thrilled that my story has found a place in this award." She plans "to use some of the money to help fund a community writing project I’m involved with, 'The Long Way Home'."
The judges described If there are Zebra Finches as "...a story of remarkable lightness and movement, beautifully imagined and written with deceptive simplicity."
Katherine Brabon said that winning the award was "a surprise and an affirmation" and that this year she has taken time off work to write so "the generosity of the prizes comes at a time when she really needed it."
"It is a rare writer who can balance a story-of-ideas with expressive detail, movement and fully realised characters as Brabon’s evocative story The Pool effortlessly achieves," the judges said.
The other shortlisted submissions were (in alphabetical order):
Presented by the Department of English at the University of Sydney, this $12,000 prize has been made possible by a generous gift to the University by David Harold Tribe, author and humanist, to promote the writing of fiction in Australia.
The winning stories will be published in Southerly in 2020.
Claire Aman grew up in Melbourne but settled in Grafton NSW. She has worked at many jobs, the longest as a town planner. Her short story collection Bird Country was published by Text in 2017. Her stories have been published in Australian journals and anthologies and have won the E.J. Brady, Wet Ink and Hal Porter prizes.
Katherine Brabon is a writer from Melbourne. Her debut novel The Memory Artist won the 2016 The Australian/Vogel Literary Award. She is currently working on her second novel.
Image caption: L-R: Helen Anne Bell Poetry Award finalists Jen Crawford and Emily Stewart; Associate Professor Kate Lilley; Helen Anne Bell Poetry Award winner Melinda Bufton; Pam Brown; Mireille Juchau; Beth Yahp; Claire Aman; and Bernard Cohen. On screen – Katherine Brabon. Image: Talin Roche.