Lorna McDonald Essay Prize


The Arts Central Queensland Lorna McDonald Essay Prize 2020 is now open. This annual essay prize celebrates Lorna McDonald’s efforts in collecting, interpreting, recording and writing the history of the Central Queensland region. The first prize is $2,000 with a runner up prize of $500.


The competition is open to essays of 3000 to 5000 words exploring any aspect of Central Queensland’s story. It’s free to enter, there is no age limit, and there are no geographic boundaries in which entrants must live as long as the work is specific to some aspect of the Central Queensland region.


The Central Queensland region covers the Local Government Areas of: • Banana • Barcaldine • Barcoo • Blackall-Tambo • Boulia • Central Highlands • Diamantina • Gladstone • Issac • Livingstone • Longreach • Rockhampton • Winton.


Newly expressed or previously overlooked cultural experiences are very welcome. These may include history, whether social, economic, or political, but also embrace the arts, Indigenous experience, natural history, marine science, geology, land use, land care, or any matter pertaining to the region.


All essays should be coloured by personal, memoirist experience, at once literary and imaginative, as covered by the broad term ‘essay’, which implies personal connection and strong feeling, as well as broader perspectives.


This is an opportunity for academic writers to reveal their personal connection and passion for their subject and for memoirists to expand their personal story by researching and writing on broader aspects of life in CQ.

A Little About Lorna


Lorna McDonald was born Lorna Lorraine Bucknall at Portland, Victoria, on 10 August, 1916, and grew up at “Clifton”, Drik Drik. She married Hugh Fraser McDonald, from Rockhampton, in 1938.


After raising three sons, Donal, Roger and Gavin in country NSW and in Sydney, Lorna and Hugh moved to Rockhampton in 1963. Here Lorna undertook study as a mature age student, beginning in 1967 with matriculation, and continued through to undergraduate and postgraduate study as an external student, University of Queensland, gaining her PhD in 1986.


With her appointment by Rockhampton City Council as Rockhampton Historian 1976-80, and by Gladstone City Council as Gladstone Historian 1984-87, she became a professional public historian, and continued as a freelance public historian until 2016, when she announced her retirement with the publication of the last of her many books mainly about the Central Queensland region.


In 1995 she was awarded the OAM, in 2000 a D.Litt., Central Queensland University, and in 2007 the John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction, Royal Historical Society of Queensland and Professional Historians’ Association (Qld).


Lorna McDonald died on 25 June 2017 in Rockhampton, the city at the centre of the region she had grown to know intimately through her study and writing, and to love.

Take the opportunity to read previous winning essays here:

Winner 2019 Growing Up on the Capricorn Coast by Nicola Apps

Winner 2018 Ructions and Resilience: A Family Crisis and the Meteor Park Orphanage, 1916 by Lesley Synge

Winner 2017 Woolwashing by Amanda Goodwin

Or read one of Lorna’s final essays: Australia’s Back Roads

Enter now

Lorna McDonald Essay Prize

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