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


Albert Belz image

Albert Belz

Robert Burns Fellow 2022

The Robert Burns Fellow is actor, screenwriter, and award-winning playwright Albert Belz (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Pokai).

His work grapples with “class, gender, sexual politics, sex, religion, rock’n’roll, rhythm’n’black and all the stuff that makes us crazy”.

Albert has acted in numerous productions in Aotearoa and Australia and appeared in television shows such as Hercules, Rip Girls and Shortland Street. While he still “enjoys the opportunity to tread the boards”, he now focuses more on writing for theatre.

He is looking forward to being in Dunedin and having an immersive writing experience.

During the Fellowship, he will work on two projects examining themes including religion, the cult of personality, identity and sovereignty.

Belz says he was “snoring away through another Olympic track and field event” when news of his Fellowship came through.

“Somebody was trying to jump higher than somebody else, and there wasn’t even a ball involved – weird. Then I got the phone call, heard the news and leapt four metres in the air with joy. Suck eggs Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim.”

Belz won the 2006 Bruce Mason Award for Best Up-And-Coming New Zealand Playwright, and the 2006 Best Overall Production, Most Original New Play and Best New, New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. In 2017 he was the Cradle Song Winner of the Adam Playreading Award. His latest play, Astroman, has been produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company, Court Theatre and the Auckland Theatre Company. Belz was also creator and head-writer on the Māori comedy series Tongue Tied, which screened on Māori Television in 2018. This year his work can be seen on the second series of Head High for TV3.

He has also worked as a creative writing lecturer, tutor and mentor, and recently enjoyed lecturing in performing arts and writing at Manukau Institute of Technology and South Seas Film School.

“The very nature of teaching works the writing brain and keeps it fizzing. Being in the company of young people helps keep my work relevant (I hope) as I attempt to tap into what they’re talking about and their concerns. Not surprisingly, they are similar to what concerned people my age back in the day – though it was communicated differently.”


Otago Fellows University of Otago