ACT Book of the Year

Winner 2018


Paul Collis
Dancing Home
Univeristy of Queensland Press



'When he was in jail, he'd begun to prepare himself for the fight of his life, a showdown with the policeman, McWilliamsa In Dubbo, he reckoned, he'd face life with death, and see who blinked first.' Blackie and Rips are fresh out of prison when they set off on a road trip back to Wiradjuri country with their mate Carlos. Blackie is out for revenge against the cop who put him in prison on false grounds. He is also craving to reconnect with his grandmother's country. Driven by his hunger for drugs and revenge, Blackie reaches dark places of both mystery and beauty as he searches for peace. He is willing to pay for that peace with his own life. Part road-movie, part 'Koori-noir', Dancing Home announces an original and darkly funny new voice in Indigenous Australian writing.


Paul Collis is a Barkindji man, born in Bourke in far western NSW on the Darling River

Paul worked in Newcastle for much of his young adult life in the areas of teaching and in Aboriginal community development positions. He has taught Aboriginal Studies to Indigenous inmates at the Worimi and Mount Penang juvenile detention centres and in Cessnock and Maitland prisons.

Paul has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a doctorate in Communications. He lives in Canberra and works as a Creative Writing academic at the University of Canberra. Dancing Home is his first novel and won the national 2016 David Unaipon Award for a previously unpublished Indigenous writer.

Shortlist 2018

 Merlinda Bobis
Accidents of composition: ... there could be accidents of kindness here
Spinifex Press                                          


The eyes catch a black bird close to an eerie sun. Instantly, a poem: an accident of composition. Or a tree, rock, light from a story heard, dreamt, read or remembered returns as if it were the only tree, rock, light in the planet. The poet is caught, returned to her first heart: poetry. after four novels, Merlinda offers seventy-six poems from the stillness of contemplation to the spinning of tales, then to passage across different histories. Glass becomes eternal greens underwater, fish gossip about colonisation, a gumnut turns dissident, and the dreams of Captain Cook and Pigafetta circumnavigate the globe leaving a trail of blood, beads, and the scent of cloves. But between, the port hopes: 'there could be accidents of kindness here.' In her latest collection of poetry, award-winning author Merlina Bobis traces the accidents of art and life. Drawing on the journal of Pigafetta whose writings have become an accident of history, Merlinda Bobis composes with an attuned ear and her poems are rich with imagery; with breath and heart.


Merlinda Bobis grew up in Albay, Philippines at the foot of an active volcano, which figures prominently in her writing and performance. As a child her main interest was painting, but at age ten she began writing poetry because ‘painting with words’ was cheaper.

She has published novels, short stories, dramas and poems. Her plays have been produced/performed on stage and radio in Australia, the Philippines, Spain, USA, Canada, Singapore, France, China, Thailand and the Slovak Republic. She has performed some of her works as theatre, dance and music.  For ten years Merlinda taught Literature and English at Philippine universities before coming to Australia in 1991 on a study grant.

She completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong where she taught creative writing for more than twenty years. She continues to dream new stories in Canberra. Her novel Locust Girl. A Lovesong was shorlisted for the 2016 ACT Book of the Year.

 Jacki French
Facing the Flame
Angus and Robertson


There have been fires before, but not like this. In 1978, as the hot wind howls and the grass dries, all who live at Gibber's Creek know their land can burn. But when you love your land, you fight for it. For Jed Kelly, an even more menacing danger looms: a man from her past determined to destroy her. Finding herself alone, trapped and desperate to save her unborn child, Jed's only choice is to flee - into the flames. Heartbreaking and powerful, this is a story of the triumph of courage and community, and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can erode it.


Jackie French AM is an award-winning writer, wombat negotiator, the 2014–2015 Australian Children's Laureate and the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.

In 2016 Jackie became a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to children's literature and her advocacy for youth literacy.

She is regarded as one of Australia's most popular children's authors and writes across all genres — from picture books, history, fantasy, ecology and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction for a variety of age groups. ‘Share a Story' was the primary philosophy behind Jackie's two-year term as Laureate.

 Omar Musa
Penguin Random House


A collection of love poems and fierce raps, Millefiori is Omar Musa’s third book of poetry. Both dream-like and gritty, it also includes illustrations and draft poems from Musa’s notebook. Heartbreak, drugs, colonial violence, memory and cave paintings: this is a world full of unbearable beauty and brutality.


Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper and poet from Queanbeyan,

He is the former winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. He has released four hip hop records, three poetry books (including Parang and Millefiori), appeared on ABC's Q&A and received a standing ovation at TEDx Sydney at the Sydney Opera House.

His debut novel Here Come the Dogs was published by Penguin Australia in 2014.  It was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year 2015. Musa was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelists of the Year in 2015.


Rachel Sanderson
The Space Between
R.L. Sanderson



Annotation. 'For a moment I imagine that she'll be sitting there on her bed listening to music through her headphones. She'll look up at me and smile. Her absence makes me dizzy. It's almost like I'm seeing two different things at once: a world with Daina and a world without Daina. How could she be so close, almost here, and completely out of my reach?' When seventeen-year-old Daina Valaitis vanishes without a trace on a weekend camping trip, her best friend Erica finds herself falling apart - and falling in love with Daina's brother. Through the turmoil of grief and guilt, Erica is desperate to know the truth about what happened to her friend. But what she discovers - about Daina, their families, and herself - will change her life forever. This gripping, heartbreaking debut young adult novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Ampersand Prize.


Rachel Sanderson writes contemporary young adult stories based in Australian settings.

She has a PhD in Australian environmental history. Rachel co-wrote the documentary film, The End of the Rainbow, about a gold mine that was moved from Kalimantan, Borneo to Guinea, West Africa, which won the First Appearance Award at the 2007 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Her first novel, The Space Between, was shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize in 2016