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2021 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement: winners announced and live online literary panel

News: 3 November 2021

Creative NZ media release.

A prolific writer for young adults, an award-winning poet and one of New Zealand’s most distinguished historians are being honoured in the 2021 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.

With interests spanning ecology, resilience and resourcefulness, and the Treaty of Waitangi – Creative New Zealand is pleased to announce this year’s recipients:

Poetry: Anne Kennedy – an award-winning poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher.

Non-fiction: Dame Claudia Josepha Orange PhD OBE DNZM – one of New Zealand’s most distinguished historians and an award-winning author best known for her 1987 book The Treaty of Waitangi.

Fiction: David Hill MNZM – an award-winning writer and teacher, renowned for his young adult fiction.

Winners of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement (L-R) Anne Kennedy, Dame Claudia Orange and David Hill. Image courtesy of Creative New Zealand.

The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, says, “I’m thrilled to offer my congratulations to Anne Kennedy, David Hill, and Dame Claudia Orange – each renowned for work across multiple areas. Supporting these awards is an honour and they truly are an annual highlight for me.”

Due to COVID-19 complexities, the usual Unity Books lunchtime in-store event will once again move to an online panel so that these outstanding writers can be acknowledged for their contributions to New Zealand literature.

The recipient of the 2021 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship, Dr. Monty Soutar, ONZM (Ngati Porou, Ngati Awa, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Kahungunu) will also take part in the online panel, hosted by writer, historian and former journalist Paul Diamond.

“While COVID means we can’t gather in person to congratulate these outstanding writers, I know the online panel event, which will also acknowledge the 2021 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, leading historian Dr Monty Soutar, will provide the opportunity for a great celebration,” adds the Prime Minister.

Arts Council Chair Caren Rangi echoes the Prime Minister’s sentiments: “On behalf of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, I’m so excited to offer our warmest congratulations to David, Anne and Dame Claudia – such treasured and accomplished writers drawn from across the motu, with diverse tales to tell. Thank you for your continued passion, skill and devotion to New Zealand literature.”

“While COVID-19 may have foiled our plans for an in-person awards ceremony, I’m looking forward to acknowledging these recipients, along with Dr. Soutar, during our online literary panel – what a rich kōrero that will be!”

Each recipient of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature.

The awards 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 Toi Aotearoa for approval. This year’s selection panel was David Eggleton, Anne de Lautour, Darryn Joseph, and Paddy Richardson.

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

Additional notes: author biographies 

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement – Poetry  
Anne Kennedy (Auckland) 

Anne Kennedy is an acclaimed poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher, known for her innovative, ambitious writing. Her poetry awards include New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry, 2013, for The Darling North, the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry, 2004, for Singsong, and most recently she was shortlisted for the 2020 Ockham NZ Book Award for Poetry for her most recent collection, Moth Hour. The Sea Walks into a Wall (Auckland University Press) is Anne’s most recent book of poetry which was published in October 2021.  

Anne has also won the ICI Writer’s Award, 1989, for Musica Ficta, a novel, and the BNZ/Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, 1984, for Jewel’s Darl. Her novel, The Last Days of the National Costume, was shortlisted for the 2014 NZ Post Book Award for Fiction and made the IMPAC-Dublin Award for Fiction Longlist in 2015.   

Anne’s screen credits include the adaptation, The Monkey’s Mask, and Crush, co-written with director Alison Maclean. Anne has edited literary journals including Ika, Trout, Best NZ Poems, JAAM and Landfall. She has taught fiction and screenwriting at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa and at Manukau Institute of Technology.  

Anne has appeared in a variety of festival roles both nationally and internationally and was Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa in 2006. She was awarded the 1995 University of Auckland Literary Fellowship and was the 2014 Michael King Fellow at the University of Auckland.  

In 2016 she was Writer-in-Residence at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington and in 2017 attended the Fall Residency at the University of Iowa International Writers Program. Her 2018 novel, The Ice Shelf (Victoria University Press), was an eco-comedy that explores the dangers of wasting love and other non-renewable resources.  

Anne’s other sector contributions include judging for the Ockham NZ Book Awards (Poetry award), and the National Schools Poetry Award, and project mentoring and assessing in the film industry including for the NZ Film Commission. Anne will be part of NZ Festival of the Arts’ writing programme in March 2022. 

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction  
Dame Claudia Orange PhD OBE DNZM (Wellington) 

Dame Claudia Orange is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished historians. After publishing her first award-winning history, The Treaty of Waitangi in 1987 (revised edition 2011), she became General Editor of the award-winning Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, released in five volumes with the Māori biographies also in te reo Māori, released as Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau.  

A director of collections and research at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for many years, she is currently a research associate at the museum.  

Dame Claudia has received many awards and honours for her contribution to a wider understanding of New Zealand history, which includes research for exhibitions at Waitangi’s Te Kōngahu museum and He Tohu in National Library, Wellington. 

Her most recent book, The Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi: An Illustrated History (2021) is widely acclaimed. In the 1993 New Year Honours, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for services to historical research. She was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, also for services to historical research, in the 2009 New Year Honours. She accepted re-designation as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in August 2009 following the restoration of titular honours by the New Zealand government.  

In 2018 she was made a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, receiving their Pou Aronui Award in recognition of her work to improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi, of New Zealand biography, and of the role of museums in communicating New Zealand's story. 

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement – Fiction 
David Hill MNZM (New Plymouth) 

David Hill is a prolific and highly regarded New Zealand writer, playwright, poet, columnist and critic. Best known for his popular and award-winning body of work for young people, ranging from picture books to teenage fiction, he has published more than 40 titles, including: See Ya, Simon, Coming Back, Right Where it Hurts, and Take It Easy. 

His novels have been published internationally and translated into several languages, and his short stories and plays for young people have been broadcast here and overseas. His first novel for teenagers, See Ya, Simon (1992), about a boy with muscular dystrophy, was shortlisted for major awards in New Zealand and the UK and won the 1994 Times Educational Supplement Award for Special Needs. Enduringly popular, and still used as a class text in high schools all over New Zealand, it was awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book in 2002.  

In recent years, David has also produced a widely acclaimed series of picture book biographies of famous New Zealanders for young children, in collaboration with illustrator Phoebe Morris. 

Alongside his many writing projects, he regularly visits schools, leads professional development for teachers, mentors new and emerging writers and tutors creative writing. In 2003 David was the Robert Lord Writer in Residence in Dunedin, and in 2010 attended the International Writers Programme at the University of Iowa.  

In 2013 My Brother's War won the Junior Fiction Award at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, and also the children's choice award in that category. In 2019 he was announced as the 2019-2020 New Zealand Society of Authors President of Honour, bestowed in recognition of his contribution to writing and writers and the literary arts sector in New Zealand.  

In 2004 David was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2005 he was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, acknowledging his significant contribution to children's literature in New Zealand.

2021 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship 
Dr Monty Soutar, ONZM (Ngati Porou, Ngati Awa, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Kahungunu) 

Amongst many literary achievements, Dr Soutar has published two major research and publication projects; Nga Tama Toa: Price of Citizenship: C Company 28 (Maori) Battalion 1939-1945 and Whiti! Whiti! Whiti! E! Maori in the First World War.  

These projects have established his position as one of New Zealand’s leading historians. He has also made a significant contribution as a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and in the development of the Te Tai Whakaea: Treaty Settlement Stories Project at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.  

In 2015, the Te Reo Maori version of Dr Soutar's Nga Tama Toa was the supreme winner of the Ngā Tohu Reo Maori: Maori Language Awards and he was in the New Year’s Honours list as a member of the Order of New Zealand Merit ‘for services to Māori and historical research’ and named as ‘the foremost Māori scholar with respect to the study of warfare and Māori involvement in the World Wars.’ 


Updated on 17th November 2021