Varuna Residential Fellowships for Writers 2019

Supporting the best in new Australian writing.

Each year since 1991 Varuna has offered at least 25 Residential Fellowships for Writing Retreats. Over this time Varuna has developed a unique environment encouraging sustained work, conversation and community among writers. Varuna Fellowships for Writing Retreats offer writers a residency in an environment wholly dedicated to writing, with accommodation and full board provided, to develop an established writing or illustration project.

Residential Fellowships are available to be taken between January and May each year.

  • Varuna Residential Fellowships and Varuna Second Book Fellowships are both for two weeks.
  • The Henry Handel Richardson Flagship Fellowship is also for two weeks and includes a cash award of $1000 to cover travel costs and additional expenses. You can find out more about the Henry Handel Richardson Society here.
  • The Dark and the Hewett Flagship Fellowships are each for three weeks.

Flagship Fellowships and Second Book Fellowships are awarded by the Peer Selection panel as part of the assessment process and do not need a separate application.

Program Details

Each year Varuna awards 30 Residential Fellowships including the Second Book and Flagship Fellowships.


Varuna Residential Fellowships offer a writer independent writing time, accommodation and full board at Varuna, the Writers House in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia.


The residency provides a dedicated writing environment allowing intensive work, conversation and community.


Varuna Residential Fellowships are taken between January and end of May each year.


Flagship Fellowships are offered to writers whose work shows a striking and original voice in fiction, non-fiction, environmental writing and/or poetry.


The Flagship Fellowships are:

  • Eleanor Dark Fellowship - Fiction: Established in memory of Blue Mountains writer Eleanor Dark, this writing fellowship will be awarded to a fiction application of outstanding quality.
  • Eric Dark Fellowship - Non-fiction: Established in memory of Blue Mountains writer and social activist Eric Dark, this writing fellowship will be awarded for a non-fiction application of outstanding quality in social, historical or political writing.
  • Dorothy Hewett Fellowship - Poetry: Established in memory of Blue Mountains resident and poet, Dorothy Hewett, this fellowship will be awarded for a poetry application of outstanding quality.
  • The Mick Dark Fellowship: for Environmental Writing.
  • The Henry Handel Richardson Fellowship - Short Story Writing offered in partnership with the Henry Handel Richardson Society we established the award to promote the life and legacy of Henry Handel Richardson as a significant Australian author and to encourage excellence in Australian short story writing. This award is offered every second year commencing with the 2017 Fellowship program.


  • Second Book Fellowships are awarded to writers working towards completing their second published manuscript.


Useful information

Successful applicants need to contact Varuna as soon as possible after notification of their place, to nominate their preferred dates.

Varuna Residential Fellowships run from Mondays (arriving from 2pm) to Mondays (vacating by 9:30am).

For more information on arrival and what to expect at the house, please refer to: Residency Details.


What Writers Say


Varuna is home. A writing room with a door that locks, an energy that breathes light throughout the window filled house, presence of other writers, an awesome collection of books, local cafés and Echo Points walks are what nurtured the transition my writing went through during my stay. Having the time and space to sit, be and breathe with my novel has made a fundamental difference to the way I write and understand my process. Down to the slightest detail this place is setup and maintained by people who know what it means and feels like to write. Varuna will always be the place where I confronted the essence of my novel in and instead of running wrote with it.

Angelina Mirabito, 2009


It’s been life-altering. I’ve been able to truly centre the writing in my life. I think this is Varuna’s greatest gift. This isn’t just the distance Varuna provides from all the other parts of a writers’ life, the weight lifted from the mundane and the petty distractions. For me it’s been the walking in this special place, when I think and dream words; the tangible presence of Eleanor and her own preoccupations; and the fine, fine company of other writers. It’s also been very special for me to be able to share the excitement of the Barbara Jefferis Award with you all.….I felt I had the generosity and spirit of two extraordinary women at my elbow, telling me to keep going.

Kristina Olsson, 2009


Who can apply?

We offer Varuna Fellowships for all genres of imaginative writing, including fiction, narrative non-fiction, poetry, genre writing, writing and/or illustrating children's books, graphic novels, dramatic/screen writing, writing for radio, translation, essays or short fiction.

Writers may be at any stage of career development, working with commitment at a professional level.

Committed writers engaged on a major project are encouraged to apply for Varuna Residential Fellowships.

Varuna Residential Fellowships for Writers & Illustrators are available to Australian citizens or permanent residents 18 years and over.

Writers who have previously been awarded a fellowship are required to wait three years before applying again.

Important Dates

Applications for the 2019 residency program will open 16 June 2018 and close midnight on 30 July 2018 (AEST).
Results will be available on the Varuna website by 14 September 2018.
Fellowships can be taken between January and the end of May 2019.

Selection Criteria
  • Varuna aims to achieve a balance of new, emerging and established writers from all states and territories, according to their merit.
  • Applications are sought from new and emerging writers who can demonstrate the viability of their writing project.
  • Applications are sought from established writers who can demonstrate achievement, professionalism and clear goals for using the Writing Retreat period.
  • Writers cannot apply specifically for the Flagship Fellowships - rather, they are offered to individuals whose applications are a ‘striking and original voice in fiction, non-fiction or poetry. If no application of outstanding merit is received within a category, the selectors may choose not to award a Flagship Fellowship for that category.
  • If you have at least one book published you may also be considered for a Second Book Fellowship - please select 'Yes' on the application form.
  • Applications for Fellowships for Writing Retreats are assessed strictly on the writing material submitted rather than on references.


Selection Process

Selections for the Varuna Residential Fellowships for Writers are made by a committee of four qualified selectors from the Varuna Alumni Association.

Candidates for the Flagship or Second Book Fellowships are chosen by the selection panel from the list of writers who apply for the Writing Retreat Fellowships.

All decisions are final and no correspondence about the selection process or results will be entered into.


Costs to Applicant

$60 per application. Fees cover administrative costs and help sustain this program.
Successful applicants are required to contribute $315 per week of Fellowship residency (NB this fee is waived for the recipient of the HHR Flagship Fellowship).

Varuna now has The Varuna Travel Assistance Fund which you can apply for, if eligible, and State and Territory arts departments are often willing to provide a contribution for travel expenses to support genuine professional development opportunities.