PRIZE WINNER: Proud mum Nicola Apps in her permaculture garden at son Leo's Tropical Bloom festival
PRIZE WINNER: Proud mum Nicola Apps in her permaculture garden at son Leo's Tropical Bloom festival

Yeppoon’s Nicola Apps wins 2019 Lorna McDonald Essay Prize

Reflections on growing up on the Capricorn Coast and misadventures in the Central Highlands minefields have won this year's Lorna McDonald Essay Prize.

The annual prize honours the work of late historian Dr Lorna McDonald OAM, who brought the history of Central Queensland to life through her meticulous research and gift for storytelling.

The $2000 first prize went to Yeppoon's Nicola Apps for ​Growing up on the Capricorn Coast, a piece looking back at life in the 70s when Nicola moved with her family from Papua New Guinea to Australia.

Ms Apps' essay is also a meditation on nostalgia and belonging, and looks towards building a just and sustainable future as well as reflecting on the past.

Ms Apps was 13 when her family left Papua New Guinea, a cultural change she likened to a "ball jar of depression that took at least a decade to lift".

They arrived in Yeppoon the year before Cyclone David, "three pretty new girls to play with and two worldly adults bent on bringing their sophisticated party culture to a sleepy seaside town".

She describes her teenage years watching movies at the Roxy Theatre and dancing to live music, and losing her mother to cancer at 24.

Ms Apps' essay also acknowledges the traditional owners of Darumbal land, and the loss of habitat since colonisation.

"The beach I've been walking for forty-five years keeps changing - creeks don't flow the way they used to, pandanus are swallowed by the sea," she said.

"Thirty years ago, at Great Keppel Island, my second beloved husband and I honeymooned under the melaleucas, which were inland then, behind the dunes.

"Now those same trees are falling into the sea, as is the restaurant."

Last year's winner Lesley Synge is represented again, winning the $500 runner up award for ​My Year with Lasseter's Grandson on the Central Highlands Goldfields.

This personal account documents a tumultuous year in the early 1980s on a mining lease near Clermont with Lesley's then-partner Alaister.

Alaister was grandson of Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter, who claimed to discover a vast - and never again found - gold deposit in Central Australia known as Lasseter's Reef.

Prize judge Roger McDonald, Miles Franklin Award-winning author and Lorna's son, said the judging panel were very impressed by the quality of this year's entries, with several essays in the running for the main prize.

The prize-wining essay can be read on the ArtsCQ Inc. website at


Lorna McDonald Essay Prize 2019 winners

• First prize ($2000) Nicola Apps, Yeppoon Growing up on the Capricorn Coast

• Runner up ($500) Lesley Synge, Highgate Hill My Year with Lasseter's Grandson on the Central Highlands Goldfields

• Highly commended Donald Richardson, Yeppoon, Built on Clay

• Julie Davies, Coowonga A Love Letter

• Julie Davies, Coowonga Advance Fair Australia