The judging panels for the 2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize consist of:

  • Adult Novels: Nicole Alexander (Chair), Carmel Bird and Roanna Gonsalves
  • CYA Novels: Paul McDonald (Chair), Thuy On and Catherine Mayo

Further information about each of the judges is available below.

Adult Historical Fiction Category


Nicole Alexander’s novels, poetry, travel, creative writing and genealogy articles have been published in Australia, America, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany and Canada. She is the author of ten bestselling historical novels, set predominantly in Australia. Nicole’s debut novel, The Bark Cutters was shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award and she holds a Master of Letters in creativewriting and literature. For more information, visit:


Carmel Bird is the author of more than thirty books – fiction, non-fiction, anthologies. Three of her novels have been short-listed for the Miles Franklin award, and she was the 2016 winner of the Patrick White Literary Award.

She is a popular teacher of creative writing, as well as a highly respected book-reviewer. For further information, please visit:


Roanna Gonsalves is the award-winning author of The Permanent Resident published in India as Sunita De Souza Goes To Sydney. Her writing has been compared to the work of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri. Her four-part radio series On the tip of a billion tongues was commissioned and broadcast by ABC RN. Roanna is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award and The Bridge Awards’ inaugural Varuna – Cove Park Writing Residency in Scotland. She works as a lecturer in Creative Writing at UNSW, Sydney and serves on the Board of Writing NSW. For further information, visit:

CYA Historical Fiction Category


Paul Macdonald owns the award-winning The Children’s Bookshop which has been a Sydney literary institution since 1971. Paul has a Master of Education, working almost 20 years as a teacher of Upper Primary and Secondary.

He has won numerous awards in teaching such as a Quality Teacher Award and The Premiers English Scholarship. Paul won the inaugural Maurice Saxby Award in 2012 for his contributions to raising the profile of teen fiction. Paul Macdonald also was the winner of the 2016 Lady Cutler award for services to children’s literature and literacy in Australia.

Paul not only manages The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency but is also a consultant working with numerous schools focusing on building reading cultures and he is currently completing his PhD focusing on Australian Young Adult literature. Paul is the author of the picture book The Hole Idea and has written several other academic texts. For further information, please visit:


Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist, critic and poet. She’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH, The Saturday Paper, ArtsHub and Books+Publishing. She is also the books editor of The Big Issue. Her collection of poetry, Turbulence, was published in 2020 by UWAP. For further information, please visit:

Image courtesy of Brett Rawlings photography.


Catherine Mayo is an award-winning New Zealand YA, Adult and Children’s writer with strong research interests in Ancient Greece. She completed her BA as Senior Scholar in History, later returning to university to study The Odyssey in the original Greek.

For many years, she has worked extensively as a professional musician, violin restorer and violin evaluator before embarking on her writing career. Five of her historical novels have been published internationally, and she has delivered several papers on the parallels between the Homeric world and Pasifika and Maori society and culture. For further information, please visit:

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