The Crocodile Prize is Papua New Guinea’s national writing competition. It was established in 2010 to encourage creative and critical writing in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and to provide Papua New Guineans with access to home-grown literature. A writing competition and a publishing program were initiated in 2010 with the first awards made in 2011. The Program is managed by the Crocodile Prize Inc.
The Crocodile Prize Story
The Crocodile Prize was established in 2010 by Mr. Phil Fitzpatrick and Mr. Keith Jackson, both of whom have worked for many years in PNG. Mr. Fitzpatrick worked as a patrol officer while Mr. Jackson worked as a broadcaster and journalist. The Crocodile Prize evolved from the popular PNG Attitude blog, which has a practice of encouraging and publishing Papua New Guinean contributors. the concept of a national literary competition was triggered by Fitzpatrick’s concern that creative writing in PNG had fallen upon hard times. It was understood that this was a significant aspect of culture that needed to be addressed.
The first awards were presented in 2011, a year of determining whether or not a project of this kind could be managed successfully given geographical and financial challenges, as well as the constraints of a voluntary organisation.
Using PNG Attitude as a vehicle for publicity and initial publication, Fitzpatrick and Jackson soon discovered an enthusiastic and rapidly emerging body of Papua New Guinean writers.
These writers were assisted greatly in the early stages by material and financial support provided by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby and later from various sponsors, mostly PNG-based. The financial support made it possible for a range of writing associated activities to be instituted in addition to the Prize, including an awards ceremony, the publication of an annual anthology and the initiation of writer’s forums.
After the first awards in September 2011, it was agreed that the Prize should become a permanent part of the literary landscape of PNG. Under the management of a group called the Crocodile Prize Organising Group (COG), the Prize went from strength to strength. the year, 2015 marked its fifth year of operations. The COG was a working committee of Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers (SWEP).
The Crocodile Prize comprised of:
- Essay & Journalism,
- Heritage Writing,
- Book of the Year,
- Writing for Children,
- Women in Writing,
- and Emerging Young Writers.
Each section of the literary material had on offer as a prize a total of PGK 5,000.00 awarded together with a commemorative trophy and guaranteed publication.
This year 2017, The Crocodile Prize has two new categories: Script Writing which will be sponsored by Moresby Arts Theatre and the Facebook & NBC Radio Competition which is being sponsored by the Haltmeier Family.
Other selected entries from those submitted literary materials were published in the Annual Crocodile Prize Anthology.
Following a 500 page blockbuster 2014 Anthology, the quality and volume of submissions for the 2015 Anthology warranted the introduction of an even more stringent selection process resulting in a ‘best-of-the-best’ collection of short stories, poems, and other submissions. All yearly anthology annual editions are available through Amazon.com in hard copy and digital versions. In addition, an estimated 1,000 copies are distributed free of charge to libraries and schools in PNG.
Each year the Prize receives an increasing number of entries from established and emerging writers, in 2014 there were more than 600 entries. The following year, 2015, a total of over 800 entries were received.
Many writers have contributed to the Success of Crocodile Prize in the last 5 years. These writers themselves have gone on to be successful in their careers. There is a strong sense of determination among Papua New Guineans to continue the Crocodile Prize through Crocodile Prize Inc. The selected outstanding writers are already finding themselves sought after commercially and even internationally as the reputation of the Prize spread. The Crocodile Prize has improved its reputation as an event that brings together the best in research and writing among Papua New Guineans. This is giving recognition and respect within PNG and Internationally.
PNG ‘s Minister for National Planning, Charles Abel MP, has described the Prize as an “important contribution to our national culture” and “a remarkable success”.
Dame Carol Kidu, former PNG Opposition Leader, has observed that “every nation needs its own characteristic voice” and that there is “a great need for a stronger national literature to parallel economic development and to reinforce social development …”
Dame Carol says she believes the Prize “will assist define a coherent Papua New Guinea identity.”
With the Prize now in its sixth year, the many writers who have contributed to making it such a great success are certainly doing that.