Announcing the 2020 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize shortlist

Supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation and named after the late novelist and poet, Neilma Gantner, the Overland Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize seeks moving, powerful and original short fiction of up to 3000 words themed loosely around the notion of ‘travel’. The competition is open to writers residing in Australia and at any stage in their writing career. This year, first place receives $5000 and publication in the autumn 2021 issue of Overland, while two runner-up stories will be awarded $750 each and published at Overland online, coinciding with the print edition.

Thank you to everyone who entered the prize, the quality of the work we received was very high this year. We’d also like to recognise the hard work of this year’s dedicated judges: Mirandi Riwoe, Jeanine Leane and Wayne Marshall. They had the daunting task of reading, considering and narrowing over 500 entries down to a shortlist of eight outstanding pieces.

Congratulations to these eight writers who form the shortlist for the 2020 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize:

Adam Thompson


A naive young man discovers love on a greyhound bus as he journeys across

Adam Thompson is a pakana writer from Launceston, Tasmania. He is a fellow of the inaugural The Next Chapter initiative through The Wheeler Centre. Adam has been published by the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Griffith Review and Kill Your Darlings. Adam’s debut short story collection, Born into this, was published by UQP in February 2021.

Nicholas Duddy

Six Facts about Monarchs

On the morning of his new life, a teenager confronts a tragedy of love, loss and monarch butterflies.

Nicholas Duddy is a writer and theatre-maker from the Adelaide Hills. Supported by a John Monash Scholarship, he is now undertaking a PhD in English.

Amanda Niehaus

‘Genesis: A Field Study’

In the Sonoran desert, a young biologist learns more about life than lizards. 

Amanda Niehaus is a writer, scientist, and author of The Breeding Season (Allen & Unwin, 2019) — a story of love, loss, and resilience based on the reproductive biology of northern quolls. Her essays and stories have been published in Griffith Review, Nature, The Guardian, Creative Nonfiction, Best Australian Essays, and more, and she won the 2017 Victoria University Overland Short Story Prize. Amanda studies fiction as a form of science communication at the University of Queensland.

Laurie Steed

‘The Butterflyfish’

A man treads water in the depths of the Swan River in the hope of bringing his friend back to shore.

Laurie Steed is a writer living and working on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people. He is the author of You Belong Here, published in 2018, and his short stories have been published in The AgeBest Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, and The Sleepers Almanac.

Tricia Dearborn

‘The Case of G: A Child Raised by Trains’

A psychologist details the extraordinary case of an abandoned, ‘feral’ child found living with a family … of trains.

Tricia Dearborn has won national awards in both short story and poetry competitions. She is the author of four books, most recently Autobiochemistry (UWAP, 2019). Her work has featured in literary journals such as OverlandMeanjin, Southerly and anthologies including The Anthology of Australian Prose PoetryContemporary Australian Poetry and The Best Australian Poetry.

Alison Martin

‘Kaleen Means Water in Wiradjuri’

In a near-future dystopian Australia, an old woman writes: we can dynamite the past, or let it die slowly, one wilting breath at a time, but either way it never leaves us.
Alison Martin is a writer and humanitarian worker previously based in Palestine, South Sudan and Indonesia, now in Australia. She has been shortlisted for the Peter Carey Short Story Award and the Margaret River Short Story Competition, and published in Westerly, Seizure, The Guardian, Huffington Post, and the collection Lost Boy and Other stories.

Madison Griffiths

‘And Then There is Pink’

‘And Then There is Pink’ is a playfully haunting look at gender-reveal parties, death and what happens when the two collide.

Madison Griffiths is a queer writer, artist and producer. Their writing has appeared in GuardianVICE, The AgeSBSOverlandMeanjin, The Saturday Paper and more. Their essays have been shortlisted for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize, the Overland Fair Australia Prize and the Voiceless Media Awards for digital journalism.

Allison Browning

‘Anchor Point’

At the end of a call a woman traumatised by her past finds herself able to consider surviving.

Allison Browning is a writer and mental health worker from Perth who now lives in Melbourne. Her work has appeared in publications including Best Australian Poems, The Big Issue Fiction Edition, Kill Your Darlings, Australian Love Stories and Going Down Swinging. She is currently working on her first novel.


Congratulations to those shortlisted! Final results will be announced at Overland soon.

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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