The Robert Burns Fellowship

The Robert Burns Fellowship is New Zealand's premier literary residency. It was established in 1958 by a group of anonymous Dunedin citizens to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Burns, and to perpetuate the community's appreciation of the part played by the related Dunedin family of Dr Thomas Burns in the early settlement of Otago. The Fellowship aims to encourage and promote imaginative New Zealand literature and to associate writers with the University.

The annual, 12-month Fellowship provides an office in the English Department and not less than the minimum salary of a full-time university lecturer. It is open to writers of poetry, drama, fiction, biography, autobiography, essays or literary criticism who are normally resident in New Zealand, and who, in the opinion of the Selection Committee, have established by their published work, or otherwise, that their writing would benefit from their holding the Fellowship.

Previous Fellowship recipients since 2008

See the list of all previous Fellowship recipients


Photo of Victor Rodger

Victor Rodger

Robert Burns Fellow 2016

Victor Rodger is a New Zealand-born playwright of Samoan and palagi descent. His first play, Sons, won four Chapman Tripp theatre awards, including Best New Play and Best New Writer, while his award-winning play Black Faggot has performed to sell out houses in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Edinburgh and throughout New Zealand. Victor is currently adapting Black Faggot for the big screen.

“I was on the outskirts of Paris when I woke up in the middle of the night and discovered I'd been awarded the Burns Fellowship….. I am proud to be the first writer of Samoan descent to be part of the illustrious list of awardees. And I’m excited at the thought of working on two new works which are both real departures for me as a writer,” he says.

His planned works are "Jean's", an Irish family drama, and "Bethlehem” - a dark Kiwi variation of Thelma and Louise.

He would also like to work on "Doll" , a piece that deals with race and race relations set in Scotland.

Photo of Victor courtesy of Deborah Marshall

February 2016

I’m a son of Samoa by way of my late father, but I’m also a son of Scotland by way of my late grandmother, Nora Rodger, who hailed from Broughty Ferry, Dundee.  Nan was a Robert Burns fan and she would’ve gotten a real kick out of seeing her eldest grandchild take up the Robert Burns Fellowship.   My first month here has been busy: I finished a short piece of fiction called Skip to the End which will be published in Landfall; I flew back up to Auckland for the opening of PUZZY, a new work I helped write; and last weekend I held the first in series of public play readings of my work at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.  Now it’s time to get stuck into a new play – Ua Uma (aka The End), a play I was inspired to write when I flew down to Dunedin in October to look for an apartment and came across a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit…. 

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Otago Fellows University of Otago