Tusiata Avia, Lee Murray and Linda Tuhiwai Smith receive Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement

Congratulations to the 2023 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement (PMALA). This is the first year that all three achievement awards have been made to women writers.

Clockwise from top left: Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Lee Murray and Tusiata Avia

Lee Murray the award-winning writer of speculative fiction and horror has been awarded the PMALA for fiction. Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith CNZM the academic and author recognised internationally for her contribution to scholarship on indigenous thought has been awarded the PMALA for non-fiction. Tusiata Avia the award-winning poet, author of The Savage Coloniser Book and Big Fat Brown Bitch, known for her dynamic, and defiant performance of her work has been awarded the PMALA for poetry.

Since these awards began, 26 of the 63 awards made have been presented to women.

Not only is this the first year in which all three recipients are women but other firsts this year relate to the cultural identity of the recipients. Lee Murray is a third-generation Chinese New Zealander and the first person of Chinese heritage to be recognised. 

Tusiata Avia is the fourth person and first woman of Pasifika heritage to receive a PMALA after David Eggleton (Poetry) in 2016, Albert Wendt (Fiction) in 2012, and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (Poetry) in 2005.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith CNZM is the first wahine Māori to receive the Non-fiction award, following Sir Tīmoti Kāretu (2020), Gavin Bishop (2019) and Dr Ranginui Walker (2009).

Arts Council Chair Caren Rangi reflected on this milestone in the history of the Awards, “We think of 21 as a being a marker of maturity, and these writers reflect that in our literary scene. Each of these women is fearless in different ways, through experiment with genre, theory, and form. They have been recognised because they have each forged distinctive styles in their respective areas of practice.”

The Awards will be marked with an event early in 2024, with details to be confirmed.

Read more about the 2023 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement on the Creative New Zealand website here.