Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain Wins the Inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize

The inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize has been awarded to Brisbane-based Mirandi Riwoe for her novel Stone Sky Gold Mountain published by University of Queensland Press.

You can watch the video broadcast of the awards ceremony via the HNSA YouTube channel or click on the video below.

The Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA), in partnership with ARA Group, presented the $60,000 prize via live broadcast from the official award ceremony held last night at the State Library of New South Wales.

Riwoe was awarded $50,000 as the overall prize winner, with $5,000 awarded to each of the shortlisted authors: Sienna Brown for Master of My Fate (Penguin Books Australia) and  Catherine Jinks for Shepherd (Text Publishing).

The ARA Historical Novel Prize is the most significant genre-based prize in Australasia. It is designed to give historical novelists the opportunity to be recognised in a class of their own — for the first time ever as part of an Australian and New Zealand literary award.

About Stone Sky Gold Mountain

Selected from more than 185 entries, Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain recreates the experiences of Chinese siblings, Ying and Lai Yue, struggling to survive on Northern Queensland’s goldfields in 1877. The richly imagined novel explores themes of identity, racism, colonialism and gender—all of which are relevant today.

Speaking on behalf of the ARA Historical Novel Prize judging panel, Chair Linda Funnell said Riwoe’s skill at presenting diverse viewpoints in intricate detail made her novel stand out in a very strong field.

Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a layered novel that transports us into the heat and chaos of the Palmer River goldfields of Far North Queensland, with its three central characters depicted with sensitivity and clear-eyed empathy. The harshness of the goldfields is vividly recreated, contrasting the hopes and dreams of the protagonists with the realities of violence and hunger.

“The historical detail is deftly woven into the narrative through the perspectives of the three characters, showing a depth of understanding of the period and its attitudes. It is both intimate in its exploration of character, and epic in its depiction of the enormous social and economic movement of people and resources into Far North Queensland during the gold rush. Stone Sky Gold Mountain encompasses racism, snobbery and sexual violence, alongside moments of tenderness and connection in prose that is immediate, vivid and poignant.”

Mirandi Riwoe on Historical Fiction

Drawn to stories of the culturally marginalised, Riwoe — who studied politics and holds a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies — tackles a past rarely portrayed in Australian fiction.

Mirandi Riwoe said: “Historical fiction allows us as readers and writers to know more about the past, and those who weren’t written about or investigated, such as women and the working class or the culturally diverse. It can often reflect contemporary concerns and show how far we’ve come as a society, but also illuminate how far we have to go.”

“An award like the ARA Historical Novel Prize is essential in supporting and promoting historical fiction as a genre and its authors, and there was quite a bit of excitement for this generous new prize, especially for historical fiction. I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring.”

To hear more from Mirandi, take a look at our two recent interviews with her:

Illuminating Pockets of Little-Know History

HNSA Chair and author Elisabeth Storrs said: “On behalf of the HNSA, I’d like to congratulate Mirandi Riwoe on winning the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize for her exceptional novel. Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a shining example of how historical fiction can illuminate pockets of little-known history in a way that enlightens readers and creates empathy for those whose stories have been erased or forgotten.”

ARA Group Founder, Executive Chair and Managing Director, Edward Federman said: “It’s been a pleasure to award the first ever ARA Historical Novel Prize to a truly deserving author. On behalf of the ARA Group, we’re thrilled to make a significant impact on the lives of those in the literary community with $60,000 awarded between the winner and two shortlisted entrants — particularly during what continues to be an incredibly difficult time for authors whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Further Information

For further information about the inaugural ARA Historical Fiction prize, visit:

Photos from the Award Ceremony

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