Australian awards

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This article discusses Australian awards for achievement in science fiction, fantasy, horror or sf fandom.

Bill Wright's Summary

The following text is based on a May 2011 report for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation board by Bill Wright, which updated a report originally prepared by Bill for Anticipation (68th WorldCon, Montreal, August 2009). It has, itself, been subsequently updated.


Australian SF fandom recognises excellence in professional science fiction and fan achievement through the Ditmar Awards (Australian national SF awards), the William Atheling Jr Award for critical works and the Australian Science Fiction Foundation’s prestigious A Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in Australian science fiction. Various publishing houses and authors groups also sponsor awards, the best known and closest to fandom being the Aurealis Awards, which are regarded as complementing the Ditmars.

Following are details of major Australian speculative fiction awards either sponsored directly by Australian SF fandom or closely associated with it.

A Bertram Chandler Award – premier Australian Science Fiction Award for Lifetime Achievement

In 1991 the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) set about establishing a new award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction’.

In recognition of the contribution that science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler made to Australian Science Fiction and because of his patronage of the Foundation, the new award (after gaining the approval of Bert's widow Susan) was called the Chandler. Unlike the Ditmars, this award is decided upon by a jury. Although nominally an annual award presented in conjunction with the National Science Fiction Convention, it is not necessarily presented every year.

The first Chandler Award was given in 1992 to Van Ikin at the National Science Fiction Convention, SynCon '92. Subsequent winners have been Mervyn Binns, George Turner, Wynne Whiteford, Grant Stone, Susan Batho (Smith-Clarke), Graham Stone, John Bangsund, John Foyster, Lucy Sussex, Lee Harding, Bruce Gillespie, Rosaleen Love, Damien Broderick and Paul Collins.

Norma K. Hemming Award

Whereas North American fandom has long since introduced awards and activities that deal specifically with issues of race, gender, class and sexuality, there has been no Australian 'feminist' award – using the word in its broadest sense in terms addressing discrimination against minorities. To redress this omission a new award suggested by the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundations and strongly supported by SF fandom’s academic stream was referred to the Australian Science Fiction Foundation for implementation.

The inaugural award, specifically designed to promote positive images of racial, social and sexual minorities in Australian fantasy and science fiction and sponsored by ASFF, was presented at Aussiecon 4 (68th Worldcon in Melbourne in 2010).

The Norma K Hemming Award is named after Norma Kathleen Hemming (1927-1960), an Australian femme fan and author from the 1950s whose work was informed by her experiences as one of the few women then active in science fiction.

It is a jury award marking excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, class and sexuality in the form of science fiction and fantasy or related art work or media. In 2011, disability was added as an additional criterion. To be eligible, works must be on topic, of a sufficiently high standard, produced either in Australia or by Australian citizens and be first published, released or presented in the calendar year preceding the year in which the award is given.

See also the ASFF's information on Norma K Hemming and the history of the award.

Ditmar Awards

The Ditmar Awards are non-jury awards determined by the votes of SF fans that have been given at Australian National Science Fiction Conventions since 1969 in order to recognise achievements in Australian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. They are named after Melbourne fan Martin James Ditmar (“Dick”) Jenssen who supported them financially in their early years.

Aussie fan icon John Bangsund writes about Ditmar Jenssen in his essay 1968 and All That

One night Dick Jenssen came to see us, a fairly rare occurrence. As I recall, the committee organizing the 1969 Melbourne Easter convention met at our place, and Dick may have been a member of that committee. Dick (more formally Ditmar) is something of a legend among older Melbourne fans. Along with Mervyn Binns, Race Mathews and others, he was a founder of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club in 1952. A meteorologist by profession, at the least prompting he would talk about the geometry of art, or classical music, or the secret life of Ludwig of Bavaria. But his most passionate interests were science fiction and film. What he had to say that night, this cheerful, unfathomable man, was that Australia should have its own equivalent of the Hugo Awards, to recognize Australian achievement in science fiction and to provide a distinctive Australian recognition of world achievement in sf. If fans could work out a system of awards, he would put up the cash for the trophies. “You could call them Ditmar Awards”, he said, with just the hint of a twinkle in his eyes.
That is why, over forty years later, we still have the Ditmar Awards. (Nowadays Ditmar creates computer-generated graphics for fanzines and small press publishers in Australia and overseas).

The Ditmar Awards differ from the World Science Fiction Convention’s Hugo Awards in that they focus on national works. While at times the awards have included international categories, currently they are exclusively awarded to nominated Australian citizens and permanent residents.

At Swancon 2008 (33rd annual Western Australian Science Fiction Convention, and the 47th Australian National Science Fiction Convention), the rules were changed so that the Ditmar Awards are administered by a subcommittee of the business meeting instead of by the Natcon committee.

Only members of the ‘last’ or the ‘next’ Australian National Science Fiction Conventions are eligible to vote. Voting in all categories is by optional preferential ballot.

Tin Duck Awards (Western Australia)

The Tin Duck Awards are achievement awards for Western Australian writers and artists given by the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation (WASFF) and presented at Swancon, the annual Western Australian science fiction convention. To be nominated, works must have been ‘published’ (be it written work, art or any form of performing art or convention running) in the previous calendar year and must not have been voted upon in any previous Tin Duck Award. Voting is optional preferential and is open to full and supporting members of Swancon.

Some typical Tin Duck Award categories are:

  • Best WA Professional Long Written Work
  • Best WA Professional Short Written Work
  • Best WA Professional Art Work
  • Best WA Professional Production (any medium)
  • Best WA Unpaid or Fan Written Work
  • Best WA Unpaid or Fan Art Work
  • Best WA Unpaid or Fan Production (any medium)

Chronos Awards

The Chronos Awards are presented by the Continuum Foundation (a nursery for convention organizers, convened by Danny Oz, that has run regional SF conventions in Melbourne since 2003). Both Danny and the Continuum Foundation’s awards administrator John Samuel (who live in Canberra) officiate at the Chronos Awards ceremonies that are normally held on the first night of Continuum conventions that, so far, have been held more or less annually as regional conventions in Melbourne, capital city of Victoria.

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards (,, PO Box 1394, Toowong Qld 4066) are jury awards established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, publishers of Aurealis Magazine, to recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

The Aurealis Awards complement the Ditmars and the Australian Children's Book Council Awards. Neither of those awards distinguishes between the different categories of speculative fiction. The publisher hopes that the Aurealis Awards shortlists and winners will increase the profile of Australian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and will provide an essential reading list for anyone with interests in these genres. Typical categories, each of which has its own judging panel, are:

  • science fiction novel
  • science fiction short story
  • fantasy novel
  • fantasy short story
  • horror (includes both novel and short story)
  • anthology and collection
  • illustrated book/graphic novel
  • young adult (includes both novel and short story)
  • children’s (8-12 years) (includes both long fiction and illustrated work/picture book).

The Convenors' Awards for Excellence (themselves separate categories of the Aurealis Awards) may be given at the discretion of the convenors of individual Aurealis Award judging panels. These are for particular achievements in speculative fiction or related areas in the relevant year, but may also take into account achievements over a number of years. The award may be given to a person for service to our community in promoting and encouraging speculative fiction. It may also be for a non-fiction work, a collection or anthology, an artwork, an event or workshop, a computer game or a body of work that brings credit and/or attention to the speculative fiction genre in that year, such as a television or film script.

Please note: In 2002 the Convenors' Award for excellence became the Peter McNamara Convenors' Award for excellence, but it was named back to the Convenors' Award for Excellence in 2014 to avoid confusion with the Peter McNamara Achievement Award.

Peter McNamara Achievement Award

The Peter McNamara Achievement Award is an annual award given to a professional in the Australian SF field in remembrance of the life and contribution of the late Peter Trevor McNamara. It is usually presented each year at the Australian National SF Convention in the presence of Peter's widow Mariann McNamara. To the writer’s knowledge the administrator does not encourage nominations from fans. The inaugural award was won by Paul Collins in 2002.

See also

External links