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News & Media > Alumnae Awards > 2023 Alumnae Award Recipients > Julie Koh (2001)

Julie Koh (2001)

2023 Young Alumnae Award for Cultural Contribution
Julie Koh (2001)
Julie Koh (2001)

Julie Koh has established herself as a leading Australian author and a rising star in the Australian arts community.

Commencing as a scholarship student at MLC School in Year 4 in 1993, Julie immersed herself in co-curricular activities and achieved academic success during her time at the School.

In her final year at MLC School, she was the Student Representative Council (SRC) Captain, School Captain, and Dux of the School. As the SRC Captain, she established Rainbow Week, a celebration of cultural diversity, which has become an annual event at the School. Julie also participated in extracurricular activities such as Tournament of Minds, debating, netball and cricket, as well as saxophone ensemble, concert band and choir. She was part of the first cohort to study English Extension 2 for the Higher School Certificate (HSC), and her major work, a short story, was published in the NSW Board of Studies anthology for that year.

At the 2001 MLC School Speech Night, Julie won the Prize for Modern History, The Jennifer Carr (Grant) Memorial Prize for English Extension 2, The George Brown Prize for Leadership and The George Lane Prize (for Dux of the School). In 2011, at the MLC School 125th Year Gala Dinner, Julie was asked to present the keynote address.

Julie attended the University of Sydney, graduating with a Bachelor of Economic and Social Sciences (focusing on Government and Political Economy) and a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours). She won several awards across her degrees, including the Hedley Bull Prize for International Politics, which is awarded to the top senior student studying Government and International Relations.

When Julie was halfway through university, a young film producer approached her asking if he could adapt her English Extension 2 major work as a short film. He had first encountered the short story while reading the Board of Studies anthology. Meeting this producer inspired Julie to start thinking about becoming a writer.

After graduation, Julie worked for a time as an intellectual property lawyer at a top-tier corporate law firm. Before too long, she ‘quit her career’ to pursue a career as an author of fiction.

Julie is the author of two short-story collections: her capsule collection, Capital Misfits, was published in 2015 and her full-length collection, Portable Curiosities, was published by UQP in 2016. Portable Curiosities has been recognised by numerous literary organisations: it was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016, the Queensland Literary Awards – Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award 2016, the UTS Glenda Adams Award in the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Australian Science Fiction Foundation’s 2018 Norma K Hemming Award (Long Work).

Portable Curiosities was one of the Guardian’s Best Australian Books of 2016, an Australian Book Review 2016 and 2017 Book of the Year, a Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life feminist reading pick of 2016, a Feminist Writers Festival Best Feminist Book of 2016, and an ABC Radio National 2017 Best Summer Read. Julie was named a 2017 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist for Portable Curiosities.

Julie’s short stories have appeared in the Best Australian Stories in 2014 to 2017, Best Australian Comedy Writing, the Sleepers Almanac 7 to X, the Canary Press, Liminal, the Australian, Reading the Landscape, Sydney Noir, Dear Santa, Dear Dad, Dear Mum, Dear Lover, New Australian Fiction, Everything Changes, Seizure, Meanjin, Vault, fine print, Kyoto Journal, the Fish Anthology, Silent Dialogue, Fixi Novo’s HEAT, One-Way Street Journal, the Sydney Review of Books and Griffith Review.

Outside Australia, Julie’s fiction has been published in eight countries and translated into Chinese, Indonesian and Bengali. Short films based on Julie’s stories have screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, the Good Dog! International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Julie was a co-founder of the experimental collective Kanganoulipo and collaborates on fashion projects with Tega Boniko. She has written two radio plays for ABC Radio National and the libretto for the satirical opera Chop Chef.

In addition to her creative work, Julie is actively involved in the arts community. She judged the 2017 Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing, Writing NSW’s Varuna Fellowships 2017, the 2018 Stella Prize, the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Award – Flash and Short Fiction, the 2019 Liminal Fiction Prize and the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award 2021.

Julie is a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts. In 2023, she joined Westerly magazine as Prose Editor, commencing with Issue 68.1 (June/July 2023). This year she is also one of the mentors for the July–November 2023 Kill Your Darlings Mentors Program which is designed to support early-career writers in the development of a long-form work and to help them develop strategies for navigating the path to publication.

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