The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a significant cultural achievement and is a testament to the commitment of its sponsor – the University of Newcastle – to celebrate literary excellence in Australian poetry.
In September 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park, Newcastle, during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems from local Hunter writers, with contributors ranging in age from six to eightyone. This humble anthology paved the way for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, which has gone on to become the most prestigious poetry competition in the country, and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Today the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calender in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation.
Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names and no less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries. The association with Newcastle is no accident. The Hunter Region has a long history of fostering poetry and an active community of local poets who punch above their weight nationally in awards, publication and events. In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”. Co-ordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre (a not-for-profit organisation since 1995), the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most important literary competitions in Australia. This is made possible through the generous provision of the prize money by the University of Newcastle and through funding from Create NSW.