THE Melbourne writer Chloe Hooper has won the inaugural John Button Prize for her book The Tall Man, about the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island.
The $20,000 award for Australian public policy and political writing was announced at the Melbourne Writers Festival last night.
The judges, the former NSW premier Bob Carr, the ABC broadcaster Kerry O'Brien, the political scientist Judith Brett, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist J.M. Coetzee and the Miles Franklin Award judge Morag Fraser, settled on The Tall Man (Penguin) from a long-list of 31 books and essays on public policy and politics.
Of Ms Hooper's book she said: "It was a very brave piece of research that gave a strong sense of what it was like to be inside fractured communities."
O'Brien praised Hooper's use of fictional techniques in a "journalistic exercise".
"She made a subject that a lot of people had given up on as too hard, live again," he said.
The prize commemorates the life of the politician and writer John Button, who died last year. In his retirement he wrote three books on politics and a Premier's Prize-winning Quarterly Essay on the Labor Party.