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Nature Writing Prize 2021


CONGRATULATIONS to Gregory Day for winning the 2021 Nature Writing Prize for his essay The Watergaw.

Winner Gregory Day at the Sydney Writers Festival
2021 Nature Writing Prize Winner Gregory Day at the Sydney Writers Festival © Vanessa Billy / TNC

Gregory Day has been revealed as the winner of the 2021 Nature Writing Prize on 30 April 2021, at the Sydney Writers Festival, for his essay The Watergaw. 

The announcement event featured an interview between Ashley Hay, Editor of Griffith Review, where the essay is now published, in conversation with Gregory.

Gregory's essay was chosen by judges Tara June Winch and Geordie Williamson, out of almost 140 received in the biennial Nature Writing Prize. 

The judging process was completely anonymous. Each judge read one half of all essays received, then from each batch they choose a longlist (usually 10 essays each judge) and swap these with their counterpart. A shortlist is chosen from these, of five essays in total, with one winner and one highly commended writer agreed by both.

Congratulations to the other prize recipients:

Judge Tara June Winch said of the winning essays:

  • The Watergaw – "striking for its nuance and accomplishment in expressing nostalgia, and the language of belonging to a place. A beautiful and subtle work." 
  • The Lone Tree of Mackay – "an informative inquiry into Queensland’s history of slavery and bondage on the sugarcane fields, written with gentle meditative control." 
  • Crocodile Country – "written with depth and a strong literary quality, investigating predator and prey in the north."
Left to right: Geordie Williamson (Judge), Alison Rowe (TNC Australia Managing Director), Gregory Day (Prize Winner) and Ashely Hay (Griffith Review Editor)
2021 Nature Writing Prize Left to right: Geordie Williamson (Judge), Alison Rowe (TNC Australia Managing Director), Gregory Day (Prize Winner) and Ashely Hay (Griffith Review Editor) © Vanessa Billy / TNC

The Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize was created to promote and celebrate the art of nature writing in Australia as well as to encourage a greater appreciation of Australia’s magnificent landscapes.

The winner will receive $7,500 prize money and be published in Griffith Review online. The highly commended writer will receive the Rosina Joy Buckman Award, which is a two-week residency at Life at Springfield, in the NSW Southern Highlands.   

The Nature Writing Prize has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the McLean Foundation. The Rosina Joy Buckman Award has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Life at Springfield. 

Past Prize recipients include Annamaria Weldon, Stephen Wright, Nick Gadd, Sophie Cunningham, Jenny Sinclair and Sue Castrique.

Read the shortlisted essays:


For enquiries about the Nature Writing Prize please contact ausdevelopment@tnc.org.

For full terms and conditions please click here


About the writers

Gregory DayThe Watergaw

Gregory Day is a novelist, poet, essayist and musician from the Eastern Otways region of south-west Victoria.

He is a winner of the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, the Elisabeth Jolley Prize, and his latest novel, A Sand Archive, was shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Award. In 2020 Gregory received the prestigious Patrick White Award for his ongoing body of work.

Gregory Day is a novelist, poet, essayist and musician from the Eastern Otways region of south-west Victoria.

Michael Bradley, Crocodile Country

Michael Bradley is an ecologist based in North Queensland. He studies how rivers, forests and reefs support diverse communities of fish, and how they in turn support people through rich and varied fisheries. Michael has worked across the tropical landscapes of the Indo-Pacific for more than ten years, with a focus on northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

He is a lecturer and research scientist at James Cook University, where he works with government and non-government organisations to better manage coastal ecosystems. In his first piece of nature writing, Crocodile country, Michael grapples with working alongside animals that see us as prey, and the very real possibility of becoming part of the food-chains he studies.

Dave Witty, The Lone Tree of Mackay

Dave Witty is an emerging writer, currently finishing a book on the storytelling power of trees. He moved to Melbourne in 2014 after spending several years living in Central Queensland where, among the gaunt eucalypts of the Peak Ranges, he developed his love of the Australian landscape. 

An urban planner during the day, Dave enjoys leaving the city behind at the weekend and exploring the bush. He also volunteers for the Hobsons Bay Wetlands Centre.

Marian McGuinness, Meditation in Stone

Marian McGuinness is a Sydney-based freelance writer. From the Antarctic to the Arctic; from skull-riddled catacombs to ice cathedrals; from French wine caves to opal-bearing tunnels. 

Marian’s interest in landscape and culture has seen her award-winning travel stories bunker down in major Australian newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Her recent story launched BBC Travel’s latest series, Nature's Curiosities.

Jenny Sinclair, Twelve and a Half Kilometres of Road

Jenny Sinclair is a Melbourne writer. Her work has appeared in Griffith Review, Meanjin, Best Australian Stories, The Age, Island, Verandah, The Lifted Brow, The Big Issue and on ABC radio. Her non-fiction books are Much Ado About About Melbourne (2015) and A Walking Shadow (2012). She has been on staff at The Age and has written for a wide variety of publications. 

She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, currently teaches writing at the university and was the co-winner of the 2019 Nature Writing Prize. 

She lives and works on Wurundjeri and Dja Dja Wurrung land, with frequent excursions to the traditional country of the Djab Wurrung.


About the Judges

Tara June Winch

Tara June Winch is an Aboriginal Australian writer based in France. Her first novel Swallow the Air, (UQP) 2006 was critically acclaimed. In 2008, she was mentored by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The novel has been on the HSC syllabus for Standard and Advanced English since 2009 and a tenth-anniversary edition was published in 2016. 

The short-story collection After the Carnage, was published in 2016 also to critical acclaim. In 2018 she wrote the script for the Indigenous dance documentary Carriberrie

Her current novel The Yield was published in 2019 and won the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson is the publisher of Pan Macmillan’s Picador imprint. He is the former chief literary critic of the Australian newspaper and his essays and reviews have been appearing in newspapers and magazines here and in the UK for over a decade. 

In 2011, he won the Pascall Prize for criticism, Australia’s only major national prize awarded for critical writing. He published The Burning Library, a collection of essays on neglected Australian writers, in 2012. 


Past Winners

Annamaria Weldon won the inaugural prize for her piece ‘Threshold Country,’ which the judges described as "a marvelously orchestrated, complex meditation on belonging. It is at once assured and yet gently voiced." 

The second biennial prize was awarded to Stephen Wright for his essay ‘Bunyip’ which explored the culture and fate of Indigenous communities and early European settlers as they navigated the landscape of south east Queensland. Victorian author Nick Gadd won the third prize for his essay â€˜A landscape of stories’ â€“ a reflection on walking through the industrial landscapes of Melbourne and the fresh ways of seeing an unplanned or unfamiliar route can create.

The 2017 prize was awarded to Sophie Cunningham for her essay Biyala Stories, a beautiful account of the natural and social history of the red gums and waterways of Melbourne’s landscape that serves as an eloquent reminder of the degree to which the survival of the trees and the rivers is connected to our own. 

The 2019 prize awarded two winners - Jenny Sinclair’s An Orchard For My Father, a lyrical and personal essay that leaves us with a sense of bittersweet hope in the smallness of our human selves, and Sue Castrique’s On the Margins of the Good Swamp, which turns its focus onto urban or disturbed landscapes and reflects on how water wilfully asserts an ancient topography even in the heart of the city.


Thank you

The prize has been made possible thanks to the vision—and a generous donation—from The McLean Foundation, which promotes and celebrates the literature of nature and literature in nature in Australia. The Rosina Joy Buckman Award has been generously donated by Life at Springfield.


For enquiries please contact ausdevelopment@tnc.org