The Best Australian Yarn 2024: Short story competition back with more money, a new judge and a new comic prize

Alison Wakeham
The West Australian
6 Min Read
The Best Australian Yarn judges: Seven West Media’s Director of News and Current Affairs and Editor-in-Chief Anthony de Ceglie, Children's Book Council of WA's Kris Williams, author Holden Sheppard, author Rachael Johns, Navitas chief executive Scott Jones and Education Minister Tony Buti.
The Best Australian Yarn judges: Seven West Media’s Director of News and Current Affairs and Editor-in-Chief Anthony de Ceglie, Children's Book Council of WA's Kris Williams, author Holden Sheppard, author Rachael Johns, Navitas chief executive Scott Jones and Education Minister Tony Buti. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Australia’s most popular short story competition, The Best Australian Yarn, has returned for 2024 with a bigger prize pool, a new addition to the Prize Jury and an exciting new category.

For the first time, prizes will be awarded for the best comic story, both in the general section and in the two Youth sections.

The decision to include the new categories recognises the rapidly growing appeal of graphic novels and reflects the competition’s aim to provide opportunities to all storytellers.

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Leading education provider Navitas has again partnered with Seven West Media to sponsor the contest — the richest short story competition in the world — and deliver an astonishing $80,000 prize pool.

Best Australian Yarn judge Rachael Johns.
Best Australian Yarn judge Rachael Johns. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The overall winner will receive $50,000 while the runners-up prize money has been increased to $4000. All the prize winners will be announced at an awards night at the State Library of Western Australia on November 22.

Australia’s leading writer of romantic fiction, WA author Rachael Johns, has joined returning judges Robert Drewe, Terri-ann White, Rachel Bin Salleh and Holden Sheppard on the Prize Jury.

Johns, whose latest novel The Other Bridget is a runaway success, said she was thrilled to join the judging panel and support the competition.

The introduction last year of the Navitas English as a Second Language Prize and the First Nations Storytelling Prize created great interest in 2023 and both categories will feature again this year.

The popular Youth Prizes remain divided into two categories — one for those aged 12 to 14 and the other for those aged 15 to 18.

Seven West Media’s new national platform The Nightly joins the competition as a supporting partner together with the WA branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Writing WA, the Perth Comic Arts Festival and the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage of WA.

The Youth Prizes are again supported by the Education Department through the Premier’s Reading Challenge.

The competition for published and unpublished writers is the brainchild of Seven West Media’s Director of News and Current Affairs and Editor-in-Chief, Anthony De Ceglie, who wanted to inspire people who had a passion for writing and help put arts and culture at the forefront of Australia’s identity.

De Ceglie, who will chair the Prize Jury, said he was thrilled Navitas was back on board in 2024 adding that its valuable sponsorship would allow the competition to continue to grow.

Writers from around the country have embraced The Best Australian Yarn in its first two years, submitting 4700 entries in 2022 and a staggering 5500 entries last year.

The inaugural competition was won by WA writer David Harris while Jacqueline MacDonald, from Tasmania, was named the second winner for her story Split Life.

The dystopian story about a worker who wrestles with doubt as the rich and powerful are increasingly able to clone themselves, impressed the Prize Jury with its ambition and range.

Best Australian Yarn judge Holden Sheppard.
Best Australian Yarn judge Holden Sheppard. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Navitas chief executive Scott Jones said the company was thrilled to extend its support to the competition once again.

“This year marks a special milestone for our business as we celebrate 30 years in operation,” he said.

“As a global education provider, we remain committed to offering the best opportunities for our students to grow and succeed every day.

“Similarly, The Best Australian Yarn provides writers of all ages and backgrounds across Australia with a platform to showcase their creativity and explore their talent as authors and storytellers.

“This shared goal of helping others reach their potential makes Navitas and The Best Australian Yarn an ideal partnership.”

Mr Jones said Navitas was privileged to continue to support the English as a Second Language Prize category of the competition after the tremendous interest it gathered in its inaugural year.

“Through our programs, we are proud to support new migrants to Australia on their education journey and I know from my own interactions with students and staff members from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds that there are some wonderful people with unique and interesting stories just bursting to be told,” he said.

“The English as a Second Language Prize creates an opportunity to hear migrant voices through storytelling and the ‘yarns’ created and shared by this group will no doubt broaden our understanding of important lived experiences which add to the richness and vibrancy of Australian culture and community. I can’t wait to read the top submissions from this category.”

Basim Shamaoan and Miles Hitchcock have worked extensively in the ESL field with Navitas and will again lead the judging for the ESL Prize. Both are published authors.

Emma Garlett, Indigenous affairs advocate and columnist for Seven West Media, returns as the ambassador for the First Nations Storytelling Prize and will help judge the category.

She will be assisted by acclaimed WA authors Professor Kim Scott and Associate Professor Elfie Shiosaki and the winner of last year’s First Nations Prize, Sharleigh Crittenden.

Best Australian Yarn judge Children's Book Council of WA's Kris Williams.
Best Australian Yarn judge Children's Book Council of WA's Kris Williams. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The head judge in the Comic Story categories is Associate Professor Stuart Medley, a co-founder of the Perth Comic Arts Festival who has worked extensively as a professional illustrator and graphic designer.

Education Minister Tony Buti said it was important people learnt to love writing and reading from a young age and The Best Australian Yarn did a great job supporting this.

“The competition continues to go from strength to strength and it was truly inspiring seeing the quality and diversity of stories that emerged from last year’s program,” Dr Buti said.

“I am very excited to see the Comic Story Prize being included in the two Youth sections this year, which I am sure will be embraced by young people across the country.”

Kris Williams, WA branch president of the Children’s Book Council, said its purpose was to enrich young lives through Australian stories.

“Stories have the power to transform across generations,” she said.

“As an organisation we celebrate and advocate for the value of stories and what better way to do that than support The Best Australian Yarn.”

Johns is an award-winning writer who has successfully established her career from her Swan Valley base.

She said she was very keen to give back to the WA writing community after volunteering for many years with Romance Writers of Australia.

“I’ll be looking for a strong narrative voice, a story that really draws you in and leaves you wanting to read more even though you have come to the end,” she said.

“I also love a good twist.”

She said those considering entering should first read plenty of short stories because they could teach you so much.

“And when you come to write, don’t think about the people who will read it,” she said. “I know that sounds a bit weird but really put your heart and soul into your story. Write it for you and enjoy it, don’t think about someone judging it.”

All Australians aged 12 and over are eligible to submit an original, unpublished work of fiction of no more than 2500 words by the closing date - Monday, August 12.

The best entries will be compiled into a longlist of 50 stories by a panel of The West’s writers and authors, which will then go to the Prize Jury.

Each of the category winners is eligible to be named in the Top 10.

To enter and to read all the terms and conditions go to bestaustralianyarn.com.au. Entry is free.

THE $80,000 PRIZE POOL

Overall Winner: $50,000

Runner-up: $4000

The other eight finalists shortlisted for the overall prize: $1000 each

Regional Prize winner: $3000

Navitas English as a Second Language Prize winner: $3000

First Nations Storytelling Prize winner: $3000

Comic Story Prize winner: $3000

Comic Story Youth Prize winners: $1500 each (12-14 years old & 15-18 years old)

Youth Prize winners: $1500 each (12-14 years old & 15-18 years old)

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