Australia’s richest poetry prize: $40,000 to celebrate Australian women’s poetry in 2021

Presented by the Department of English at the University of Sydney, the Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award is funded by the generous bequest of former student of the University, Helen Anne Bell.

This year the award offers an increased prize of $40,000 for a collection of poems by an Australian woman poet and its publication by Vagabond Press. This is the fourth biennial award made under the bequest as Helen Anne Bell's legacy continues to recognise, support and celebrate Australian women poets.

We invite women poets to submit a collection of poems between 50 to 80 pages to the award. The work should broadly deal with Australian culture in some way; otherwise there are no restrictions on subject matter.

The award is judged by three distinguished Australian women poets. The judges for the 2021 award are: Kate Lilley, Pam Brown and Melinda Bufton.

Important Dates

  • Entries open on 20 May 2021 and close on 20 August 2021, 11.59pm (AEST).

How do I enter?

  • Ensure your work complies with the Conditions of Entry below.
  • Complete the required sections below then click the Submit button at the bottom of the page. You will receive confirmation of your entry once it has been submitted.

What is the prize?

  • There is a cash prize of $40,000 for the award winner. The winning entry will be published by Vagabond Press.

Want more information?

** Please read the full Conditions of Entry below before submitting your work.**

Conditions of Entry

  • Closing date for submissions is 20 August 2021, 11.59pm (AEST).
  • Entry is FREE.
  • Only ONE entry per person will be accepted.
  • The award is for an original, previously unpublished collection of poems between 50 - 80 pages, “about Australian culture”, broadly defined.
  • Applicants must be Australian women over the age of 18.
  • Individual poems can have been previously published or won prizes, but the manuscript, as a whole, should be unpublished.
  • Entries may be under consideration for publication elsewhere, but if an offer to publish the manuscript is accepted elsewhere, the applicant should immediately withdraw from the award.
  • The writer must present the entry under her own name and NOT under a pseudonym.     
  • The entry must be typed (12 point) and submitted in one Word or PDF document.
  • The judges will short-list applications and select a winner. The decision of the judges is final, and no further correspondence will be entered into.
  • Applicants may reapply for a subsequent award provided that they have not previously won the award.
  • The winner must agree to give a public reading of the works at University of Sydney.
  • Late entries will not be considered.
  • Entries will not be accepted by post, email or fax.
  • All entries to be submitted to:
  • The winning manuscript will be delivered in its final form to Vagabond Press in November 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can enter this award?

Women poets. This includes poets who identify as women.

Can anyone living in Australia enter?

The award is only open to Australian citizens.

I’m an Australian based overseas, can I still enter?

Australian citizens may enter, regardless of where they live, as long as their work is about Australian culture, broadly understood.

What age can enter this award?

You need to be 18 years or over at the date of entry.

What does 'unpublished' mean?

‘Unpublished’ means your collection of poems has not been published in any form of publication, printed or online, by a registered publisher who is not paid by you to publish your work.

Does self-published count as already published?

No. You may enter the award if you have self-published your collection.

Are there any restrictions on formatting?

Entries must be typed and be between 50-80 A4 pages. Please upload a single pdf or Word document for your whole manuscript. We only accept .doc, .docx, .pdf file format. Font size and style is your choice.

Are acknowledgements/title/content pages etc. included in the page count?


Can I include illustrations/drawings/photos in my work?

Yes. These will count towards the maximum number of pages allowed (80). Illustrations/drawings/photos must be your own or that you have been legally granted permission to use.

I have entered or been shortlisted before, am I eligible to enter this time?

Yes, you can. Only previous winners cannot enter.

Can I include poems written by other people?

No. The award is for a collection of poems by an individual poet.

How many times can I enter?

One entry per person.

How do I know my entry has been successfully submitted?

You will receive a confirmation email via the Submittable system when you submit your work.

Can employees of the University enter the award?

Yes. Employees directly connected to administering or judging the prize may not enter.

When is the closing date/time and will late submissions be accepted?

20 August 2021, 11.59pm. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Can I query why my manuscript has not been selected or ask for feedback?

No. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into either prior to or after the winner is announced.

For any further enquiries please email (with Helen Anne Bell in the subject line).

School of Literature, Art, and Media – University of Sydney