An exhibition opened recently at the City of Perth Library showcases the West Australian
winners of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards (BOYA). Over the past few years, the West
Australian Branch members have gathered a full complement of CBCA BOYA winners’ books
which are used for display at their various events and now this exhibition is bringing some of
that collection to the wider public. Gail Spiers and Jan Nicholls have been instrumental in
putting the exhibition together which includes in addition to the display of winning books,
artefacts, biographical information and a digital slideshow on the enormous video wall in the
The very first Award in 1946 was won by West Australian Leslie Rees for The Story of Karrawingithe Emu, a salute to our unique wildlife. This was followed a few years later in 1954 with Australian Legendary Tales, stories of the Euahlayi people of North-Western NSW, collected by K. L. Parker, edited by Henrietta Drake-Brockman and illustrated by Elizabeth Durack. These works are steeped in Australian culture and its natural wonders and reflect the tropes of Australian publishing at the time. As the books showcased at the library range from 1946 up to 2022 the exhibition is a stark snapshot of trends in publishing, both in the physical attributes of the book and in the changes in subject matter.
Over the following decades, West Australian creators have won in most categories of the
Awards. Jan Ormerod, won Picture Book of the Year in 1982 with Sunshine. This work without
written text, is focused on the child in a domestic setting. Jan won again in the Early Childhood category in 2014 with The Swap, illustrated by Andrew Joyner and in 2011 with Maudie and the Bear, illustrated by Freya Blackwood. In 1998, Elaine Forrestal’s issues-based work, Someone Like Me which focused on bullying won the Younger Readers’ category. Twenty years later in 2018, Bren MacDibble’s work How to Bee, an ‘issues’ book of its day, this time climate change, was the winner in that same category.
In 1999, Shaun Tan won Picture Book of the Year with The Rabbits. This work, written by John
Marsden is a searing tale of colonization made more powerful by Tan’s surreal illustrations.
Tan’s signature talent was recognized in the Picture Book category again in 2007 with The
Arrival, in 2014 with Rules of Summer and in 2019 with Cicada. In 2009 his Tales from Outer
Suburbia which features fifteen short illustrated stories based on Tan’s memories of growing up in suburban Perth won the Older Readers’ category.
Local creators have continued to shine in the Picture Book category with winners in 2003, In
Flanders Fields illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever and text by Norman Jorgensen, and in 2021
How to Make a Bird with Matt Ottley’s illustrations and Meg McKinlay’s text. In 2021 Davina
Bell became the state’s second winner in the Older Readers’ category with The End of the World is Bigger Than Love. In that same bumper year of firsts, No! Never!, by Libby Hathorn and Lisa Hathorn-Jarman, illustrated by Mel Pearce, won in the Early Childhood category. The most recent winner in 2022 is A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr in the Younger Readers’
The exhibition which runs until the end of October is worthy of attention not just because it is a visual feast of local talent but it is also a fascinating historical insight into how our writers
reflect so tellingly the societal concerns and issues of their time. It is as much a sociological
history as it is one of publishing trends reflecting the interests and concerns of readers. Some of these books are out of print and the exhibition is an opportunity to promote the works and
their successful West Australian creators.