Belinda Chayko receives $30,000 Mona Brand Award

Belinda Chayko.

Screenwriter Belinda Chayko, known for her work across television series Stateless, Fires, and Prosper, is the 2024 recipient of the State Library of NSW Mona Brand Award for women stage and screenwriters.

Awarded biennially, the $30,000 prize is named after the Australian poet, author, and playwright whose plays, which often addressed socially relevant and controversial topics, were widely performed on stage, radio, and television in Australia, the UK, Eastern Europe, and India.

In a statement, the judging panel of Lingo Pictures producer Helen Bowden, multidisciplinary artist Anchuli Felicia King, and actor and writer Carissa Lee said Chayko’s writing “seamlessly” merged the political and the personal as she explored the profound, unresolved events of our time — going to war, surviving bushfires, rescuing refugees.

“She tells gripping stories that explore morally complex ideas and characters,” they said.

“Who is right or wrong is never as important as truthful explorations of how people behave under pressure, and what their decisions say about them. And nothing is more important than their humanity.”

Hannah Carroll Chapman

The award also includes a $10,000 Early Career Writer Award, which went to Heartbreak High creator Hannah Carroll Chapman. The judges described the reboot of the teen series as “a funny and heartfelt exploration of diverse stories surrounding teenage drama, sexuality, and body positivity … [that] sets the standard for how young people can be better represented in Australian television”.

Slovenian-Australian screenwriter and director Sara Kern received a Highly Commended in the category for her work on Moja Vesna.

Nominations for the 2024 Mona Brand Early Career Prize more than doubled from 2022, with the judges “blown away” by the quality and breadth of new writing for screen and stage.

“[The contenders] are at the top of their game, they are on fire both nationally and internationally,” they said.

“What a very exciting time for Australian writing.”

The award was possible through a bequest to the State Library of NSW Foundation by the late Mona Alexis Fox nee Brand (1915–2007).