Announcing the 2023 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 all writers living in Australia and elsewhere, and at any stage in their writing career. This year, first place receives $5000 and publication in Overland, while two runner-up stories will be awarded $750 each and published online, coinciding with the print edition.

Thank you to everyone who entered the prize. The quality of the work we received was very high. We’d also like to recognise the hard work of this year’s fantastic panel of judges: Patrick Lenton, Alice Bishop and Sara Saleh. They rose to 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 2023 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize:

Madeleine Rebbechi

‘A Map of Underneath’

A woman reflects on her unique relationship with the sea as her partner becomes increasingly drawn to a life on land.

Madeleine Rebbechi is a writer based in Naarm/Melbourne. She is the 2024 recipient of the ASA/Varuna Ray Koppe Fellowship for Young Writers and was most recently published in the Kill Your Darlings anthology New Australian Fiction 2023. She is currently completing a Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing at the University of Melbourne.


Photo by Jacquie Manning

Sheila Ngọc Pham


A journey to Việt Nam to reckon with the consequences of war – and take tea with the enemy.

Sheila Ngọc Phạm is a writer, editor, producer and curator working across the arts, media and public health. She has been shortlisted for the Walkley-Pascall Prize for Arts Criticism and Woollahra Digital Literary Award. Sheila is currently developing her first mainstage play. 


Photo by Louise Coghill

Madison Godfrey


An experimental story in which girlhood’s yearning is the aerobic output of a bird.

Madison Godfrey is a writer, editor and educator. Their second poetry collection Dress Rehearsals (Allen & Unwin, 2023) has been described as “fiercely punk and undeniably powerful” by ArtsHub and “sensual and often funny” by The Guardian. Madison lives on Whadjuk Noongar land with a rescue cat named Sylvia. 


Annie Zhang

Who rattles the night?

In their new home, a couple learns to live with ghosts.

Annie Zhang is a writer and editor living on unceded Wangal land. Her work has been published by IslandKill Your Darlings and The Big Issue, among others. She has been a WestWords Western Sydney Emerging Writer Fellow. Annie is interested in monsters, hauntings and surreal encounters.


Photo by Sam Cox

Gillian Hagenus

‘Ad Nauseam’

Muddy has been terrifying the artists working out of a former factory for years, when one day he is transported to a shopping centre and the demon finds himself unable to haunt it.

Gillian Hagenus is a writer, literary festival organiser, hotel receptionist and occasional pet-sitter working on Kaurna land in South Australia. She is the editor of Strangely Enough, an anthology of kooky tales published with the 2023 Australian Short Story Festival and her own short fiction has been published widely across Australian venues.


Bridget Webster


A chef takes a job at a remote wellness retreat in an ill-fated attempt to sober up.

Bridget Webster writes on unceded Wurundjeri Country. She was awarded an Emerging Poet prize and first publication by Liquid Amber Press in 2022, and in 2023 completed a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne. She writes across poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and for stage and screen.



James Fatchen

Grace Fatchen

‘Mandarin Skins’

‘Mandarin Skins’ is a sketch of solo travel and the South Australian desert – it brings together aspects of memory, anxiety, and the loneliness of indescribable beauty.      

Grace Fatchen is an emerging writer currently living and studying in Adelaide. Last year, her short story ‘Something Blue’ was shortlisted for the 2023 Tasmanian Writers Prize. Grace publishes her work online at and takes her inspiration for writing from the simplicity of her ordinary life.


Huette Hamersley


Uprooted, disoriented, a man stumbles through a dust storm.

Huette Hamersley lives on Gadigal country, Sydney. Her work focuses on decay and disconnection, and against the odds it’s sometimes funny. She writes plays and has won awards for her screenwriting and non-fiction essays. She has a BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Sydney.


Congratulations again to these exciting new writers. Final results will be announced at Overland soon!

The Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize is supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation

Editorial Team


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