Playwright, director and arts commentator Fleur Kilpatrick is the winner of the inaugural Helen Noonan Prize, a new $5,000 award for creative women in the performing arts who have made an outstanding contribution to female-driven storytelling.

 An initiative of the AWE Alliance, the award is given in honour of Helen Noonan, the renowned Australian soprano internationally acclaimed for her solo performance in Chamber Made Opera’s Recital,  who passed away in July 2016.

The prize was instituted in Noonan’s name in acknowledgment of her commitment to writing developing, producing and performing her own works including Voicing Emily, Peach Melba and Shakespeare’s Women. It also acknowledges her commitment to employing other artists to work alongside her as well as her recording of an album of songs by Australian female composers at a time when it was very rare to do so. Noonan’s dedication to making new work is the reason why the prize is dedicated to creative women who make new work or reimagined work.

Fleur Kilpatrick is an award-winning playwright, director and arts commentator who holds a postgraduate diploma of directing and a Masters in playwriting from the VCAM. She is also a lecturer at Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance and the co-founder of Lonely Company, an organisation working to support emerging playwrights to create sustainable careers.

The award was given to Kilpatrick in relation to her play Whale, which premiered in early 2019 as part of the Darebin Arts Speakeasy program. The participatory theatre performance, which takes its audience on an epic journey from a Town Hall meeting into the belly of a whale, features an urgent message specific to Australian audiences and awakens us to our responsibility to our Islander neighbours and the importance of empowering grass-roots change.

Shortlisted applicants for the Helen Noonan Prize included writer Peta Hanrahan for A Room of One’s Own and director Petra Kalive for Ida.