Thelma Plum wins first place in Vanda & Young songwriting competition

The songwriter will receive a $50,000 cash prize for 'Better in Blak', while runners-up include Baker Boy and Ruel

Thelma Plum has won first place in the 2020 APRA AMCOS’ Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition. Plum will receive a $50,000 cash prize for her song ‘Better in Blak’.

Released in 2019 as the third single of Plum’s debut studio album of the same name, the triumphant ‘Better in Blak’ was written about asserting singer’s identity as a Gamilaraay woman in the Australian music industry.

“I am so honoured that ‘Better in Blak’ has won the Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition, I can’t even really describe it,” Plum said in a statement.


“My heartfelt thanks to [collaborators] Alex Burnett and Oli Horton for their creativity and to everyone who connected to a song that is deeply personal, written when I was feeling very alone. I don’t feel alone today.”

Plum’s Vanda & Young win comes eight years after she was named a runner-up in the contest, taking second place in 2013 for her song ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’.

Baker Boy – aka Danzal Baker – came in second place with his song ‘Meditjin’ featuring JessB, which features lyrics in both English and the Yolngu Matha language. He will receive $10,000.

“It feels really special that my Yolngu Matha lyrics are getting this kind of recognition,” Baker said in a statement. “Couldn’t have done it without my co-writers: JessB, Jerome Farah, Dallas Woods and Dion Brownfield.”

Ruel, meanwhile, will receive $5,000 for coming in third place with his song ‘Painkiller’. Taken from his ‘Free Time’ EP, the song was written alongside producer M-Phazes and songwriter Sarah Aarons.


“I’ve been working hard to improve my songwriting every day, so it feels amazing to be recognised at this level and be mentioned alongside incredible artists like Thelma Plum and Baker Boy,” he commented.

Other winners in this year’s competition include Carla Geneve, who will take home the $5,000 AMPAL Emerging Songwriter Prize for her song ‘The Right Reasons’. The track is taken from Geneve’s recently released ‘Dog Eared’ EP. Previous winners include Mallrat and Kaiit.

For the first time in the competition’s history, 10 runners-up from the top 40 shortlist will also take home $1,000 in cash thanks to an anonymous donation. Winners of that prize include Gordi, the Teskey Brothers, Lime Cordiale, Shannen James, Annie Hamilton and more.

This year’s judging panel included songwriter Lior, Dallas Frasca, triple j Unearthed’s Dave Ruby Howe and producer Robert Conley.

All proceeds from the competition’s $50 entry fee have been donated to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia. Due to a record number of entrants, the contest was able to raise $203,000 for its partner charity.