Denise Leith by Brigid Arnett

Denise grew up in Sydney and over the course of her career has worked in a number of jobs including on a production line in a factory, as a waitress, a receptionist, a counsellor for child abuse prevention and in stockbroking - she was the first woman to be trained as an 'operator' on the Sydney Stock Exchange floor.

Denise has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which she taught at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her special interests are the politics of war, human rights and humanitarian action, peace keeping and peace enforcing, Middle East Politics, the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations and US foreign policy.

She served on the management committee of International PEN, Sydney Centre for six years, and as a member of that committee in 2004 shared the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community Award from HREOC for PEN's 'effective campaign of raising asylum seeker issues within the Australian conscience and...bring(ing) national and international pressure to bear in seeking the release of asylum seekers in (Australian) detention (centres)'. In 2009 she received the Sydney PEN Award.

Denise has two published non fiction books, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press 2002) and Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists (Random House 2004) and the novel, What Remains (Allen & Unwin 2012). She is also a contributor to the anthology Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Pan Macmillan and Picador 2010) and A Country Too Far (Penguin 2013). She is the ghost-writer of two non fiction books.

Denise writes articles (political, book reviews, travel) for newspapers, journals, serials and on line web sites. She has given conference papers around the world, chaired and been a participant on various panels, has facilitated writing workshops and is a guest speaker in her capacity as an author and academic. For the last five years she has mentored women writers in Afghanistan in both fiction and non fiction.

Her first novel, What Remains was shortlisted for the Asher Award and the Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards - Christina Stead Award.

Denise Leith’s second novel, The Night Letters, a bittersweet love letter set in Afghanistan, will be released by Ventura Press in October 2020.


  • 2013 'What Remains' Shortlisted for the Asher Literary Award
  • 2012 'What Remains' - Shortlisted and Commended for the 2012 Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards - Christina Stead Award
  • 2011 Vermont Studio Centre, Johnson, Vermont, USA
  • 2010 Winner Berkelouw Books Short Story Competition
  • 2009 International PEN, Sydney Centre Human Rights Award
  • 2009 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre Manuscript Development Program for Fiction Writers
  • 2007 Ledig House, Art Omi International Arts Centre, Columbia County, New York residency
  • 2007 Australia Council for the Arts, Literature Board Skills and Arts Development Grant
  • 2004 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community Award (as committee member of International PEN, Sydney Centre for work with refugee writers held in Australian detention centres)
  • 1998 Macquarie University Postgraduate Research Fund Award
  • 1997 Australian Government Postgraduate Award Scholarship