The 2016 Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize shortlist

What does a fair Australia look like, and how do we get there? The Fair Australia Prize asks writers and artists to engage with these questions and imagine a new political agenda for Australia through fiction, essays, poetry and illustrations.

Themed around ‘Our Common Future’, the 2016 prize will award a $4000 prize in each of the following categories: essay, short fiction, graphic/cartoon, poetry and Best NUW Member entry. The winners will be announced at later this month and published in Overland’s last print issue of 2016, out in December.

Overland and the National Union of Workers are pleased to announce and congratulate the following writers and artists who have been shortlisted for the 2016 Fair Australia Prize:


Michael Dulaney photo‘Sun drops and digital tomatoes’ – Michael Dulaney

On the links between a futuristic solar-powered farm, millions of tomatoes growing in the outback, the Dutch rap underground and the future of farm labour.

Michael Dulaney is a writer and reporter with the ABC in South Australia. He has won several awards for his reporting, including a WA Media Award for his feature writing on remote Aboriginal communities in the Goldfields.


kanjere‘The Trouble with compassion’ – Anastasia Kanjere

Compassion as a feeling of sympathy for the needy is often invoked as a basis for solving political problems – in fact, it entrenches precisely the divisions of power we should be struggling against.

Anastasia Kanjere is a Narrm-based writer, researcher, casual academic and activist. Her various writings on race and borders, gender and motherhood can be found at Going Down SwingingThe PinWriting from Below, and Crossborder Operational Matters. She tweets at @a_kanjere


Flanagan‘Bring up the Bodies: Framing the Future of Work’ – Frances Flanagan

In a hotter and highly automated world, our political project must be animated by a powerful moral vision for work and labour.

Frances Flanagan is the Research Director at United Voice and an affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute. Her book, Remembering the Revolution: dissent, culture and nationalism in the Irish Free State was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize in 2016.


Stephen Wright‘On Setting Yourself on Fire’ – Stephen Wright

About Nauru, political protest, the destruction of the common good, and the limitations, helplessness and uses of literature when confronted with the things it won‘t talk about.

Stephen Wright’s essays have won the Eureka St Prize, the Nature Conservancy Prize, the Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize and the Scarlett Award, and been shortlisted for several others. He was writer-in-residence for the 2015 Mesmerism new music festivals and his non-fiction novella A lantern carried down a dark path is forthcoming from Tiny Owl.


Cartoon and graphic

Nagorcka‘Stop the bots’ – Sarah Nagorcka

Technology is generating profound change in the workplace, reactions of fear are natural.

Gorkie is an artist and cartoonist based in Melbourne. Her illustrations appear regularly in Lateral Magazine and occasionally pop up on Reddit. She recently published ‘The zine that got me out of a $223 tram fine’ zine. You can find her on Instagram @gorkiegork.


Burnett‘Let’s Map Our Futures’ – Alex Grilanc and Poppy Burnett

Inspired by psychogeography and the playful mapping of urban environments, this work suggests a hopeful vision for the future of our cities where heart and connection are valued over the mundane and commercial.

In between pouring pinots at their casual bartending job, artist Alex Grilanc and spoken-word poet Poppy Burnett found common artistic and political ground and joined forces to combine Poppy’s words with Alex’s spraypainting skills.


Merv Heers‘Imagine a better future’ – Merv Heers

Merv Heers is a comic book artist originally from the western suburbs of Brisbane who currently resides in Melbourne. He started his artistic journey as a juvenile delinquent and vandal in the western suburbs of Brisbane. Through this exposure to the world of underground art he eventually moved to Melbourne and branched out into other forms of expression including music, drag and small press. He has now devoted himself to making comic books.


Nicky Minus‘Untitled’ – Nicky Minus

This comic is about how we recognise and exist within different structures of power in our everyday lives, the way these structures overlap and link and the cumulative effect this has of wearing down a person’s spirit through resignation, apathy and distraction, helping to ensure the dominance of these power structures and highlighting the continued need for resistance.

Nicky Minus is a Sydney-based cartoonist whose work explores issues of feminism and sexuality, and more recently, with politics as a whole. She has self-published three comic books, regularly contributes to The Lifted Brow and her comics work ‘Shame Self Portrait’ is currently on exhibit in Belfast, Northern Ireland.



Jane‘Choice Comes From the Gut’ – Jane Fitzgerald

Mrs Maybe knows about her right to be heard and treated fairly and has a platform and a voice but Dylan does not and sometimes what is not said comes out in other ways.

Jane Fitzgerald lives and works in Adelaide. She has worked for many years in the public health system and is currently a PhD candidate at Flinders University doing research into policy and practice in relation to the promotion of mental health and well-being. She has recently found time to indulge her love of writing poetry and the odd short story.


Bill Collopy- casual‘Burned Fingers’ – Bill Collopy

Sharing a house with other refugees, a young man from Africa learns that the past cannot be separated from his present reality.

‘Walls of Glass’ – Bill Collopy

Purchased as a bride from Thailand, a woman discovers that the true nature of Australian life – and of her husband – is not what she’s been expecting.

Bill Collopy is the author of one novel, one non-fiction book, and various essays and works of short fiction. For many years he has managed welfare programs in Melbourne. He has disappearing hair and keeps running out of bookshelves.


Laura Elvery (1)‘Dots and Spaces’ – Laura Elvery

Iris’s day at work is clarified when she gets a message from the past.

Laura Elvery’s fiction has been published in The Big Issue Fiction Edition, Kill Your Darlings, Award-Winning Australian Writing, and Griffith Review. This year she was an emerging writer finalist in the Queensland Literary Awards for an unpublished manuscript.



Pete Smiley Headshot‘The Pickers’ – Peter Smiley

The Pickers explores life in a post-automation economy.

Peter Smiley grew up in Northwest Tasmania, and studied English and Political Science at the University of Tasmania. He has lived variously in Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, New York, and the oil sands of Fort McMurray. He now lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and son, where he practices law and writes fiction and essays. He has been published in The Guardian, and is a frequent contributor to the Toronto Review of Books. He tweets at @pete_smiley.


Helen Booth 2.jpg‘Taking care of country’ – Helen Booth

As global temperatures and tempers rise, survivors from the planet’s oldest continuous culture inspire the world to adopt a new economy where enough is plenty and time together is everything.

Helen Booth has worked as a corporate writer, teacher and singer. She enjoys writing fiction and non-fiction stories inspired by nature, travel and things that make people connect and grow. Helen has had two stories published in the Geelong Writers Anthology: ‘For no good reason’, 2015 and ‘Magical Old Homes’, 2016.


Rachel_Kirk_Headshot‘Blood sugar’ – Rachel Kirk

Three women challenge a vindictive boss in a dystopian story of inequality and chocolate.

Rachel Kirk is a Canberra-based English and law student who somehow still finds the time to write. Her work has appeared in Voiceworks Magazine, Woroni, and Demos Journal, and she has previously been shortlisted for writing prizes including the Questions Prize for Future Leaders 2016.


Olag Parenta‘Amos’ – Olag Parenta

Created to replace human labour, a super-robot turns against its capitalist masters.

Olag Parenta was born in Yugoslavia in 1977. He studied political economy in Brisbane and is raising two little comrades with comradess. He is holding on to a boring and insecure job, but heard there was serious money in Australian literature.



Jenny Pollak‘: a cap   a cover up    a sealing off of’ – Jenny Pollak

I began this poem after hearing news coverage of the abuse of kids in remand in the Northern Territory earlier this year and wanting to speak to the way in which white Australia has used silence to suppress the history of abuse of the Aboriginal population for over two centuries.

Jenny Pollak is a full-time practicing artist, working in photography, sculpture and, more recently, video installation. For a period of ten years she also performed with various Latin American bands as a percussionist and flautist, touring Australia and Latin America. In 2012 she began writing poetry.


Omar Sakr‘Among blind oracles’ – Omar Sakr

This poem is the past is the present is the future; to ignore one is to actively wound, is to warp the world as it is and as it will or may be.

Omar Sakr is an Arab Australian poet. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and is anthologised in Contemporary Australian Poetry, as well as Best Australian Poems 2016. His debut collection These Wild Houses is forthcoming from Cordite Books (2017), and he is the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow.


Overland pic Joel Ephraims‘Chalcedony South’ – Joel Ephraims

‘Chalcedony South’ challenges the everyday, common unfairness of our country as it operates throughout our society in terms of wealth, gender, sexuality, immigration and child detention, entangled as part of our common democratic character and perpetuating into our questionable future as a geological continuation of our European past and capitalist ideology.

Joel Ephraims lives on the South-East Coast of NSW. In 2011 he won the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize and in 2013 his first collection of poetry Through the Forest was published as part of Australian Poetry and Express Media’s New Voices Series. His poems have appeared in Voiceworks, Overland, Seizure, Cordite, Kindling and Mascara. He was recently commissioned to write a series of poems for The Red Room Company’s The Disappearing.


JENNIFER_COMPTON‘The Old Man and The Tower’ – Jennifer Compton

The Old Man and The Tower is about carrying the weight of the past – and the next step.

Jennifer Compton was born in New Zealand and now lives in Melbourne. She is a poet and playwright who also writes prose. Most recently her book of poetry, Now You Shall Know, was published by Five Islands Press, and her verse novel, Mr Clean & The Junkie, was published by Makaro Press.


Corey in robe‘r > g’ – Corey Wakeling

‘r > g’ ponders the chief deleterious effects on labour and spirit of what economist Thomas Picketty has formulated as capital’s unrestrained downward spiral by the powers of this excruciatingly implacable truth: the rate of return on capital exceeds growth.

Corey Wakeling lives in Nishinomiya, Japan. He is the author of Gargantuan Terrier, Buggy or Dinghy (Vagabond Press, 2012), Goad Omen (Giramondo, 2013), and The Alarming Conservatory (Giramondo, forthcoming). With Jeremy Balius, Corey co-edited Outcrop: radical Australian poetry of land (Black Rider Press, 2013).


alison whittaker‘START UP // WHITEWORK’ – Alison Whittaker

START UP // WHITEWORK maps out the newest terrains of old colonial capital.

Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi poet and law graduate living on Wangal lands. She is author of the award-winning collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Magabala Books, 2016).


Best NUW Member entry

Tomas  LambePoem: ‘Cards’ – Tomas Lambe

A poem which explores how playing the cards you’re dealt is sometimes easier said than done.

Fiction: ‘Working it out’ – Tomas Lambe

Our PM has an uncomfortable meeting with an anonymous man in black who informs him of a change in policy in regards to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Tomas Lambe is a member of the dandylion collective based in Adelaide. During the 2016 Australian election campaign he wrote a political poem-a-day on his blog caretakermode. Now, more than ever, he believes writers & artists should be tackling the tough political issues of our time in creative & insightful ways.


KennedyEssay: ‘Single cones for everyone’ – Eleanor Kennedy

‘Single cones for everyone: the case for ice cream and the universal income’ explores neoliberalism’s need to control how the poor spend their money, and contends that we should all probably eat ice cream every day as an act of defiance.

Eleanor Kennedy is training to value herself through her leisure activities rather than her paid labour. To which end she is someone who likes patting every doggie on the street, learning languages, swimming, basketball and reading things. When she has to engage in paid labour she is a trade unionist.


tom_martinGraphic/ Cartoon: ‘Filling the Fat’ – Tom Martin

This oil painting depicts a worker emptying 15kg blocks of Palm Oil in to a vat, for the production of compound chocolate. I always found the vision of a worker surrounded by a towering, chaotic, expansive mountain of empty boxes, a remarkable image which may symbolise the overwhelming chaos of modern society.

Tom Martin is a 30-year-old progressive activist. He is also an artist and graphic designer. His left values were gained working in non-union manufacturing and construction over a number of years. The ruling class doesn’t hate workers, it just loves money and power. In order to create a more equal society, workers must organise and use their collective strength to win.


Many thanks to this year’s judges: Melissa Lucashenko, Ellena Savage, Emma Kerin, Sam Wallman, Safdar Ahmed, Toby Fitch, Carina Garland, Rebecca Giggs, Godfrey Moase and Jacinda Woodhead!


About the NUW

The prize is supported and funded by the National Union of Workers, a large union that is made up of workers in a diverse number of industries including warehousing, cold storage, poultry, pharmaceutical, dairy and market research. Increasingly, NUW members are dealing with insecure and precarious work.

The NUW stands for jobs that all workers can count on, whether permanent, casual, contract or labour hire. NUW workers and community members collaborate and organise to build a fair Australia inside and outside the workplace.

The NUW believes that a union must be part of a broad social movement to create democratic change, equality and sustainable jobs.

Editorial team

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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