Rebecca Macfie has won the $25,000 Writers’ Award for her biography of Helen Kelly – the first woman to lead the New Zealand labour movement.
“Helen Kelly modernised the union movement and took a special interest in improving worker health and safety. The biography is in the capable hands of an experienced journalist and author.”
– Neville Peat, 2019 judge.
The 2019 Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) and New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) $25,000 Writers’ Award is one of the investments made through the CLNZ Cultural Fund and is open to writers of any genre of non-fiction, including writers of education material. The award enables the successful applicant to devote time to a specific writing project.
Rebecca Macfie has been a journalist for three decades, including eleven years as a senior writer for the New Zealand Listener, a job she left in March 2018 to research and write the biography of Helen Kelly.
“It is a huge honour to receive this award, and I am immensely grateful to CLNZ, NZSA and the judges. Financially, it is a big help, but more importantly it is a really heartening endorsement of the project itself,” says Rebecca.
“This is the most challenging piece of work I have ever taken on, with a large amount of archival material, historical context and interviews to grapple with and weave into a readable and relevant story. This award is a great confidence booster for me, and affirms my belief that Helen Kelly’s story is one that New Zealanders will want to read.”
Rebecca has also written for the New Zealand Herald, Independent Business Weekly, National Business Review, Unlimited Magazine, and Safeguard Magazine. She is the author of Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and why 29 men died, which was published by Awa Press in 2013. She lives in Christchurch.
The CLNZ/NZSA Writers’ Award 2019 judging panel said that Rebecca’s project stood out among a strong field of over 40 applications.
“Not only is its primary subject an important figure in modern New Zealand public life, whose memory is still fresh in people’s minds, but her story amounts also to a crucial piece of contemporary social and political history. Rebecca is a writer and journalist with an admirable record already, and this project clearly deserves to be supported,” said judge Finlay Macdonald.
Judge Rebecca Priestley agrees saying, “This is an extremely strong project by an established and acclaimed writer. It meets all the criteria for the award and was an easy first choice.”
Congratulations to Shortlisted Authors, Dr Sarah Jane Barnett and Nick Bollinger
The judges also highlighted Dr Sarah-Jane Barnett’s project Hidden Women: New Narratives of Middle Life and Nick Bollinger’s Revolutions Per Minute: the Counterculture in New Zealand, 1960-75 as strong, creative projects with wide appeal. The judges hope to see all three projects published in the future.
CLNZ and the NZSA are delighted to assist New Zealand authors through the Writers’ Award. Funding comes from CLNZ’s Cultural Fund which derives revenue from CLNZ’s licensing activity in New Zealand. The licensed copying of copyright material is helping to fund the creation of new work.
The 2019 judging panelists were Rebecca Priestley, Finlay Macdonald and Neville Peat.
NZSA was proud to administer the CLNZ/NZSA Writers’ Award this year. CLNZ and NZSA would like to thank all the writers who took the time to apply.