Nance Donkin, AM, (1915–2008) was a pioneer and leading light in the world of Australian literature for children, especially historical fiction. Many people will fondly remember reading The Maidens of Pefka, Patchwork Grandmother, Johnny Neptune and Yellow Gum Gil; her retelling of We of the Never, Never for children; and the series of books about life in Australia, including Sheep and Sugar. While some of her books seem dated now, having been published over sixty years ago, Nance’s legacy endures.
Nance began her writing career at the age of sixteen as the Maitland Daily Mercury’s first female journalist. She moved to the Newcastle Herald and later, having married and settled in Melbourne, continued her career in journalism on ABC radio and television.
Alongside journalism, Nance was a prolific writer of children’s books and she was actively involved in a number of organisations. As president of the Victorian branch of the Children’s Book Council from 1967–1975, she initiated a period of development, pushing for travel grants to enable authors to visit country schools, and to the Society of Women Writers Victoria she was greatly valued as a long-term member, supporter and benefactor.
Nance was a reader and a writer who held strong feminist and political views. She opened her mind to current issues and was not afraid to challenge those she did not agree with. Through her series of CAE lectures of women in Australia history, Nance was able to bring to light previously overlooked and unrecognised women. These lectures resulted in two books about the roles of women.
In 1986, Nance was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the community in the fields of children’s literature and adult education and in 1990, she was awarded the Society’s prestigious Alice Award.
With the support of Nance’s family after her death, the Society of Women Writers Victoria established the biennial Nance Donkin Award for Children’s Literature, a fitting memorial to her contribution to the children of Australia and validation of the importance of writing for children.
The Award itself is a statuette of a child sitting beneath a tree and reading a book, imagined, designed and crafted by sculptor Lisa Herbert. It was first awarded to Dr Ruth Starke in 2009, and since then, has been awarded to Isobelle Carmody, Cassandra Golds, Roseanne Hawke, Anna Walker and Dianne Wolfer.
By Dr Caroline Webber, President, Society of Women Writers Victoria
Anna Ciddor announced as the winner of the Nance Donkin Award for children’s literature
Melbourne-based children’s author Anna Ciddor has been awarded the Nance Donkin Award for Children’s Literature during an event celebrating Australian children’s literature.
Ciddor is the seventh person to receive the biennial award which was established in 2009 following the death of writer and journalist Nance Donkin, OAM, a long-term member and supporter of the Society of Women Writers Victoria and past president of the Victorian branch of the Children’s Book Council (1967 – 1975).
Nance was determined to validate authors of books for children and to encourage and make known a good writer for children deserving more recognition, and the Nance Donkin Award, established in her memory, does just that.
Former maths teacher, Anna Ciddor, turned her hand to writing after the birth of her children. Writing became a way to satisfy her fascination with the gossipy details in history, not the boring facts of kings and queens and wars won or lost, but the ins and outs of the lives of the people of that time.
It is this fascination that has kept her motivated throughout her career of thirty years as a writer. She writes with a liveliness that is captivating, even addictive, not just for children but also for the lucky adults who also find themselves reading her books – again and again. This is especially true of Anna’s latest publication, ‘The Boy who Stepped Through Time’.
When Perry steps into a crumbling ruin while on holiday in France, he is not expecting to be transported back 1700 years to Roman times. While he hunts desperately for a way home, he must blend in as a slave – even if it means eating mice for dinner!
Gradually, Perry is caught up in the fascinating world of grand Villa Rubia and a life he could never have imagined. But when he makes a new friend, he thinks he might already know her terrible fate.
Perry is faced with an impossible choice: to find his way home or stay and guard his friend’s life – and risk being trapped in the past forever…
Anna joins a list of illustrious past winners, including Dr Ruth Starke, Isobelle Carmody, Cassandra Golds, Rosanne Hawke, Anna Walker and Dianne Wolfer.
Congratulations Anna on being the 2021 recipient of the Nance Donkin Award.