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Close date: Friday 13 August, 5pm AEDT.

Early-career writers of migrant background are invited to apply for the 2021 Deborah Cass prize.

The winning writer will receive a cash prize of $3,000 plus a three-month mentorship with an established writer. The winning manuscript will be presented to Black Inc. publishers for consideration. The award package is designed to help an early-career writer finish their manuscript and get their book published.

Deborah Cass (1960-2013) made significant contributions to legal scholarship, and focused on creative writing after retiring from her academic position. The Deborah Cass Prize was established in 2015 by Deborah’s friends and family. As the granddaughter of European refugees, the family felt that Deborah would like one of her legacies to be the nurture of writing talent in people whose voices would add fresh perspectives on Australian culture.

Now in its seventh year, the prize, which is administered by Writers Victoria, has already kickstarted many successful literary careers among its winners and runners up.

The 2021 prize will be judged by Melanie Cheng, Lee Kofman and Sisonke Msimang. 

For more information, visit the Writers Victoria website.



In order to be eligible, all applicants must provide a writing sample of no more than 3,000 words and a writer’s statement of no more than 400 words. The writing sample must not contain the name of the applicant. Applicants agree that their entry will be shared with Black Inc, the publishing partner of the Deborah Cass Prize. The winning writer will promote the prize and we cannot take anonymous entries. The winner will work with a mentor for three months paid by the Prize towards completing their work within two years, at which point it will be submitted to Black Inc.

Applicant requirements

  1. Applicants must be early-career writers with 10 or fewer publications (articles, short stories or poetry) and no full-length book published or contracted for publication.
  2. Applicants must either have been born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas.
  3. Applicants agree to being promoted if they are the winner or selected for special mention by the judges.
  4. Employees and Board members of Writers Victoria are not eligible to enter.

Application requirements

Please take note of the application requirements carefully, as Writers Victoria is unable to accept entries or notify entrants who do not follow all the terms and conditions correctly:

  1. The writing sample must be no more than 3,000 words (being either one continuous extract of a longer work or a complete work). It should reflect at least in part on the migrant experience.
  2. Entries must not have been published or accepted for publication by a recognised publisher, in print or online. They can have been published in community publications, local independent publications or blogs.
  3. The writing sample will be judged by readers of English.
  4. The writing sample must include the title of the work in the header.
  5. The writing sample must not include the name of the applicant.
  6. The application must be submitted online through this form (no printed or emailed applications will be accepted).
  7. Applicants may submit a maximum of one entry.
  8. The application must include a supporting statement of no more than 400 words. 

Supporting statement

Please avoid biographical details that are likely to identify you, where possible. It is useful for the judges if you can address these issues:

  1. Is your entry complete or an extract from a larger work? If the latter, please briefly describe your concept for the larger work.
  2. What motivates you to write?
  3. What are your short to medium-term writing goals (2 to 5 years)?
  4. If you won the prize, would you  have time to substantially work towards completing a larger work (novel, memoir, film script, play, short story or poetry collection etc.) over the following two years?


  1. Entries will be independently judged.
  2. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  3. The judges may select applicants for special mention and runners up, who will be promoted.

Winners and runners up

  1. The name of the winner and runners up selected by the judges will be announced on the Deborah Cass Prize website, Writers Victoria website, and associated media.
  2. The winning story will be published on the Deborah Cass Prize website.
  3. The winner must acknowledge the Deborah Cass Prize in any publication resulting from work created as a result of the prize.
  4. The Winner will write a 200-word testimonial about winning the prize for publication on the Deborah Cass Prize website and/or media releases.
  5. The Winner will write a 300-word article about winning the prize for publication on The Victorian Writer magazine and/or Writers Victoria website.
  6. The Winner may choose to accept a mentor chosen by the Prize who will work with the winner for a period of no more than 3 months.
  7. The winning manuscript will be presented to a publisher. The writer agrees to show the publisher the full manuscript when it is completed and give them first right of acceptance (within three months of viewing the full manuscript).
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