Unpublished Indigenous Writer - David Unaipon Award

The David Unaipon Award is designed to foster emerging Indigenous voices and open up exciting career pathways for new writing talent.

This award is open to all unpublished Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers who have written manuscript in any genre.  For the purposes of this award, unpublished means you haven’t published a full-length book. If you have published articles or stories or poems in magazines, online, or in journals you can still enter. The prize is designed to help you publish your first major work. Some writers may have had short pieces published but are still considered ‘unpublished’ for this award.

The winner receives $15,000 prize money and a publishing contract with the University of Queensland Press.

Previous winners of the award include Ellen van Neerven, Tara June Winch and Larissa Behrendt, all of whom have gone on to become some of Australia’s most successful Indigenous writers.

The David Unaipon Award is sponsored by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and supported by the University of Queensland Press.

Can I enter?

If you’d like to enter the Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award, you’ll need to be:

  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (prize winners may be asked to provide a Confirmation of Aboriginality)
  • living in Australia
  • over 18 years of age (or provide a consent form from a parent or guardian)
  • living at the time of the award closing date
  • unpublished—this is defined as a writer who has not had any significant work (book, published script/play, collection of poetry or collection of short stories) commercially published by a trade publisher or other conventional publisher, does not have an existing binding publishing contract or is not in current contractual negotiations.

Please note that if you have previously self-published a full-length work with an ISBN, you are ineligible to enter.

If you have any questions at all about your eligibility, please get in touch by phoning 07 3842 9486 or send an email to qla@slq.qld.gov.au. We can help with any questions you may have.

What sort of manuscript can I submit?

We accept children’s books, young adult books, fiction, novels, memoir, history, non-fiction, collections of poems, collections of short stories, travel writing, plays or scripts.

Your manuscript must be:

  • an original work
  • an unpublished work
  • Entries should be between 40,000 and 100,000 words. Entries of less than 5,000 words will not be considered, other than children's book and poetry collections.

Your entry can also be co-authored, as long as all authors comply with all eligibility criteria.

If you’ve previously submitted a manuscript to this award, you may re-enter with the same manuscript, or with something new.

How do I enter?

You can enter during the nomination period from April to May each year.

During the nomination period, you can find the full entry requirements and step-by-step instructions on how to submit your nomination in the Guidelines, Terms and Conditions and FAQs on the QLA website under the section: How to Enter.

Where can I get feedback on my writing?

Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) is an excellent source of information, advice and support for writers at any stage of their career. As the state’s leading support and resource centre for writing and writers, QWC offers a range of comprehensive online and in-person services, including a year-round program of events, workshops and seminars, with discounted rates for QWC members. Find out more about QWC or contact it directly at 07 3842 9922 or admin@qldwriters.org.au.

How do I write a synopsis or summary?

A synopsis should summarise your novel and give an overview of your main character/s, the central conflict they face over the course of your narrative and how that conflict is resolved (yes, that means revealing your ending!). Here are some tips to make your synopsis stand out:

  • Keep it brief – around one single-spaced A4 page or 500–600 words.
  • Emphasise what’s fresh or original about your story – what sets it apart from other novels in the same genre?
  • Give readers enough detail to intrigue them and leave them wanting more (that is, to read the book!)
  • Focus on style as well as content – the synopsis is your chance to show how you write as well as what you’re writing about. Aim for active voice, third person (even if your novel is first person) and present tense.
  • Remember to capture your characters’ feelings and emotions as well as describing your plot – this will help make your synopsis a compelling read.
  • Your synopsis needs to be short, so you won’t have time to delve into every subplot or narrative detail. If it doesn’t directly affect the story’s outcome, don’t include it.

How should I format my manuscript?

It’s generally best to present your work in a way that is clear and simple so it is easy to read.

  • Include a cover page that details:
    • the manuscript's title
    • the author's name
    • a synopsis or summary of the manuscript (max. 500 words)
    • any biographical information relevant to the manuscript (max. 200 words)
  • Type or word process your manuscript text suitable for A4 size paper
  • Use a plain font such as Times New Roman or Arial, 12 point font size.
  • Use double line spacing with a three centimetre page margin.
  • Pages must be numbered.
  • If submitting illustrations, please do not send originals.

Can I enter if my manuscript isn’t finished yet?

Yes. However, for your best chance of success in the award, the manuscript you enter – whether it’s finished or unfinished – should be as polished as it can be, so it’s strongly recommended that you self-edit and proofread your work before you submit.

If you have any questions at all about how to enter, please get in touch by phoning 07 3842 9486 or send an email to qla@slq.qld.gov.au. We can help with any questions you may have.