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Helen Garner – Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature



Helen Garner is one of Australia’s most cherished writers. She is known and admired for her fearless honesty in both her fiction and non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Prize for non-fiction. Her novels include Monkey Grip, The Children’s Bach, Cosmo Cosmolino and The Spare Room.

Monkey Grip became the Australian realist novel for a generation. As Bernadette Brennan writes in her biography A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work, the publication of Monkey Grip was a watershed moment for our culture, charting “the complex female experiences of motherhood, sexuality and desire, within the changing social contexts of the seventies, and … explod[ing] notions of literary decorum”.

In her five non-fiction books, stories and numerous pieces of journalism, almost all touch on the darkness found in Australian suburbia. Her non-fiction is crafted with a novelist’s deft skill for character complexity, scene-setting and emotional depth.

Garner is much loved by Australian readers, writers and festival audiences. Her work, spanning more than four decades, has helped Australia define its identity and has created a genre all of its own.


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Learn more about the 2020 Australia Council Awards.