Anna Barnes wins $30,000 Betty Roland prize for ‘Safe Home’

Aisha Dee in 'Safe Home'.

Safe Home writer and creator Anna Barnes has beaten out the likes of Warwick Thornton and Tony McNamara to win the $30,000 Betty Roland prize for scriptwriting at last night’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Barnes was recognised for the first episode of the Kindling Pictures’ drama, which follows a twenty-something professional who leaves her job at a prominent law firm to work at a struggling family violence legal centre.

The award is offered for the screenplay of a feature-length fiction film, the script of a documentary film, a play or documentary for radio, or a television program (whether fiction or non-fiction).

The shortlist for this year’s prize included features, The New Boy, Late Night with the Devil, Shayda, and Poor Things, and the documentary The Giants, with the first episode of the Amazon series The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart receiving a Highly Commended.

A judging panel comprising screenwriter, director, and playwright Katrina Irawati Graham (chair), performer and writer Jenevieve Chang, and film critic Richard Kuipers paid tribute to Barnes for managing to “move between storylines beautifully, ensuring that one propels and interweaves with the other in emotionally logical ways that do not intersect, yet remain true to theme”.

Anna Barnes (centre) with the other winners from the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

“These storylines effectively juxtapose two different facets of family violence — the horrific mundanity of harm embedded in the plodding nature of daily legalities and the urgent complexity of lived experience,” they said.

Barnes, who has previously been nominated for an International Emmy and Rose D’Or Award for vertical series Content, told IF she was “so thankful and thrilled” to receive the honour.

“The nominees are all such incredible screenwriters and it’s an honour to even be mentioned in the same breath as them – so it was very surreal to hear my name read out,” she said.

Safe Home was such an important show for me and so many of our team, so it’s lovely to have it honoured on such a big stage.

Administered by the State Library of NSW in association with Create NSW, this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards featured winning works across 12 prize categories from 834 entries, with Ali Cobby Eckermann taking out Book of the Year for She is the Earth.

NSW Arts Minister John Graham congratulated the winners for creating “exceptional” work that “captivates and entertains readers far and wide”.

‘For 45 years now the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards — the longest-running state-funded Awards in the country — have celebrated the extraordinary achievements of both established and emerging writers in Australia,” he said.