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


Emily Duncan photo

Emily Duncan

Robert Burns Fellow 2019

Emily is an award-winning playwright, based in Dunedin, who first started writing for theatre in 1999.

Her recent work includes Hold Me (BATS theatre, September 2016), Shaken (2016 Wellington Short + Sweet Festival), and Fallen Angels (Young and Hungry 2017 Festival of New Theatre). She was the St Hilda’s Collegiate Inaugural Artist in Residence (2017) and in this role, she wrote the play In Our Shoes, which was shortlisted for the Adam NZ New Play Award in 2018. Eloise in the Middle (winner Playmarket Plays for the Young 2013) was to be produced at the Fortune Theatre in September 2018.

Emily says it is “wonderful” to be named as the 2019 Burns Fellow and feels honoured that her name will be added to the list of literary luminaries who have held it before.

For the Fellowship, she has three projects on the go: a playscript about Emily Siedeberg and Ethel Benjamin, commissioned by the University of Otago for its 150th celebrations; writing two follow-up seasons of the Dark Dunedin podcast, which was released in March; and, finally, she will make a departure from her playwriting to work on a book.

“People have been urging me to write this for a while, and now I’ve found my angle and the timing is right,” she says.

“It will be marvellous to have the space and security to concentrate on my work in a university environment, which will serve my proposed projects immensely.”


Otago Fellows University of Otago