WestWords/Ultimo Prize 2022 Presented by WestWords and Ultimo Press


The winner of the inaugural WestWords/Ultimo Prize is The Scope of Permissibility by Zeynab Gamieldien

In the book, a group of Muslim university students grapple with an illicit relationship within their ranks. At the centre of this story are three students – Sara, Naseem and Abida – navigating the road to adulthood, balancing desire and fidelity, ambition and faith. Set in the confines of a Sydney University, Gamieldien’s incredibly accomplished debut is a coming-of-age story told in three voices as each character searches for belonging against the backdrop of politics, race and class divisions and interpersonal relationships.

‘The Scope of Permissibility signals the arrival of a talented new voice in Australian fiction. Gamieldien’s work is smart and funny, filled with astute observations and illuminating details. Each of the three main characters are expertly drawn and fully realised with a skill that is rarely seen in a debut.’
Judges’ comments

‘Winning this prize is a wonderful surprise. This story is one I’ve been wanting to tell for some time, particularly for those who will relate to the depictions set out on the page and see parts of themselves in it – I wrote it with them, and us, in mind.’
Zeynab Gamieldien

‘First publication is a life-changing moment. WestWords’ dedication to providing pathways for new voices reaching their potential is superbly matched with Ultimo Press providing a home for the best new Australian writing. We are so pleased to be collaborating with Ultimo Press to make this opportunity possible.’
Michael Campbell, Executive Director, WestWords

‘Ultimo Press could not be more excited about this year’s WestWords Ultimo Prize. The high standard of entries is testament to the wealth of talented new authors out there waiting to be discovered, and
we cannot wait to share the stories the prize unearths with readers everywhere.’
Robert Watkins, Publishing Director, Ultimo Press

The Prize
The WestWords/Ultimo Prize is a new prize that aims to reveal the diversity of a contemporary Australia. Nowhere is the experience of a diverse culture and expeience more apparent than in Western Sydney.

The Prize welcomed submissions from emerging writers of fiction and narrative non- fiction with a previously unpublished manuscript who have a connection to Western Sydney. The winner receives $5,000, a week at Varuna, The National Writers House as part of WestWords’ writer development program and publication with Ultimo Press.

Judges’ Comments

The judges, Michael Campbell, WestWords’ Executive Director, Brigid Mullane, commissioning editor, Ultimo Press and author Sienna Brown are delighted that the WestWords Ultimo Prize attracted an incredibly high calibre of entries in its inaugural year. Pushing boundaries of form and spanning genre and generations the submissions included interconnected tales of family and community, stories of inheritance and loss, psychological thrillers, romance and short story collections among others.

The commended works

The breadth of this range is shown in the entries that were commended for the prize:

  • Samantha Lee’s moving historical fiction manuscript, Bound, which explores the familial relationships between four generations of women from China to Malaysia and London;
  • Michele Freeman’s gripping A Fractured Inheritance, which pits siblings against each other in a fight for the family home;
  • River by Belle Butler, an ambitious literary work that seeks to capture the histories and mythologies of one small town on the outskirts of Sydney’s west; and
  • Natasha Rai’s An Onslaught of Light, a multiple perspective story that follows one family’s immigration from India to Australia. Natasha’s artful description and excellent characterisation persuaded the judges to single her out as highly commended, in this already stellar shortlist