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Writing Tips from our Judges

Writers always need ideas. To get you started in thinking, visit some of the websites below for writing tips and help getting started.

Teachers, we’ve thought of you too and many of the links below may give some ideas to help get your students writing.

Learning About Poverty

The judges look for writing that primarily shows a developing awareness of poverty and homelessness. Overly simplistic writing, where an easy solution is found, gives away a lack of understanding of these issues.

While it is understood that young students are still developing in their understanding of these complex issues, teachers can actively and sensitively guide students to raise their awareness of poverty and homelessness. Age-appropriate reading, research and discussion can be used to explore these issues before and throughout the writing process.

Reading Suggestions for Years 5-10

Reading Suggestions for Younger Primary

2020 Winners

Congratulations to everyone who entered the Pens Against Poverty Writing Competition in 2020!

3/4 Poetry:

  • Winner: Emma Stone – Canberra Grammar School ACT
  • Highly Commended: Benjamin McBride – Canberra Grammar School ACT

3/4 Short Story:

  • Winner: John Nikias – Canberra Grammar School ACT
  • Highly Commended: Harry Hitchcock – St Bede’s Primary School ACT

5/6 Poetry:

  • Winner: Pascale Gallen – Christmas Island District High School WA
  • Highly Commended: Katherine Lee – Pymble Ladies College NSW

5/6 Short Story:

  • Winner: Jezanna Louise Winchester – St Patricks Gundagai NSW
  • Highly Commended: Hugo Carpay – Canberra Grammar School

7/8 Poetry:

  • Winner: Zoe Tammer – Telopea Park School ACT
  • Highly Commended: Kahlia Hitchcock – Arndell Anglican School NSW

7/8 Short Story:

  • Winner: Cailyn Pajic – Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA
  • Highly Commended: Zoe Smith – Emmaus Christian School ACT

9/10 Poetry:

  • Winner: Carys Cherie Brown – Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA
  • Highly Commended: Peter Duncan Tate – Emmaus Christian School ACT

9/10 Short Story:

  • Winner: Miah-Tya Nungheena Gowland – Campbell High School ACT
  • Highly Commended: Raina Han – Abbotsleigh School NSW

School Participation Award

  • Pymble Ladies College NSW
    For largest number of entries from one school across the competition in all states with the high number of entries.

Rural and Regional Schools Award

  • St Patricks Gundagai NSW
    In recognition of the high number of quality offerings from one class in a regional primary school

Schools Encouragement Award

  • Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA
    In recognition of a standout high school in the state, for high number of quality entries.

The John Foulcher Young Writers Encouragement Award

  • Emily Rock – Telopea Park School ACT

The Jackie French Young Writers Development Award

  • Raina Han – Abbotsleigh School NSW

2020 Pens Against Poverty Ambassador Award

  • Reshmi Senanayake – Canberra Girls Grammar School ACT

Winning Entries

Year 3/4 – Poetry
WINNER

Name: Emma Stone
School: Canberra Grammar School ACT

‘INSIDE THE SHADOWS’

As I walk through the empty park, confused by the voices in my head,
I sense it is hiding in plain sight, without motion, and deeply in thought.
Darkness surrounds its edges, casting shadows onto the trees.
I inch closer, wanting to touch its flawless outline, but scared I pull away.

As I retreat through tall grass, once more feeling lost and alone,
I hear it calling out to me, begging me to come back.
Down by the creek line, with my shoes drenched in mud,
I slip and fall into the stream.

As the water carries me away,
I feel it gripping my shoulders, pulling me onto a boulder.
Dreading what I may see, I open my eyes. Knowing that it is there,
I see my reflection staring back at me.

 

Year 3/4 – Poetry
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Benjamin McBride
School: Canberra Grammar School ACT

‘ALL DROUGHTS HERE ARE GONE’

The rain is dripping,
The sun is fading,
A sign of a storm,
All droughts here are gone.

Flood waters flow,
In the rivers below,
Dams shall burst,
Stopping plants’ thirst.

The rain is dripping,
The sun is fading,
A sign of a storm,
All droughts here are gone.

Flowers are blossoming,
The land is gossiping,
Animals no longer scurrying,
There’s no more need for worrying,

The rain is dripping,
The sun is fading,
A sign of a storm,
All droughts here are gone.

The lost then found,
Is on this fresh ground.
All droughts here are gone.

 

Year 3/4 – Short Story
WINNER

Name: John Nikias
School: Canberra Grammar School ACT

‘THE BIKE JUMPS’

“Ohh my God look Marly” I said “there in the bush, are those…. bike jumps”, “yeah huge jumps”. I’m John and I’m 12 and me and my best friend have just found these massive jumps, we go and explore. “Woah these must be like 100 years old,” says Marly “yeah they must have been lost forever” “we should come here another time and bring some shovels and rebuild the jumps,” I say “ Okay cool” so Marly and I come back the next week and get to work. “Okay let’s start on that one the small one with the big landing” “sounds good”. Marly and I get all our friends to come to help build and by the end of the holidays there a bunch of massive bike jumps we would bring shovels rakes and sometimes a wheelbarrow, we would come home just before dark dirty, smelly and tried. But then school started and the bike jumps were lost again.

Then Covid hit and everyone was stuck inside with there eyed glued to there computer and at the end of the school day, we wanted to go outside. So I asked Marly if he wanted to go for a ride up red hill and of course, he said “yes”, so we went for the ride and on the way started talking about the old bike jumps and how we would go back. “Yeah it would be a great idea, just you and I can go up and build” “ okay let’s do it” so every day after our endless zoom calls Marly and I would escape to our bike jumps. Then others started to find these jumps to
and in the middle of Covid, there were millions of bike jumps some fully made and some still being built and a lot of happy kids. Sometimes we would stay out there until 7:30 with head torches on working and building so that after school the next day we could go jump, laugh and have fun.

Then the Rangers came and said it was illegal to build because it was private property but we didn’t care we still did our thing, and soon after there would be at least 100 people there every afternoon building and playing. We had so much fun but the rangers came back and said “that they would knock them down” we said “no they won’t, why would they ruin these kids fun” but sure enough the came back and destroyed our favourite place on earth The Bike Jumps, and we were stuck inside back on our laptops.

During Covid, we lost our desire to look at laptops, phones and other devices but found the desire to be outside in nature building bike jumps having fun and making friends.

 

Year 3/4 – Short Story
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Harry Hitchcock
School: St Bede’s Primary School ACT

‘LOST AND FOUND’

It was a cold wet night when I was on my bike when I saw a thing that looked lost. I came closer. It scared me. I got back on my bike and rode away but it followed me. I said “go back lost thing”. It just stopped, turned around and went back into the gloomy distance. “Come back”, I said. It stopped and came back. “You can come home with me”. The lost thing looked gray with no colours but when I turned on the lights so many colours sprang into the room. There was red, blue, orange and green. It was amazing! I asked “where did you get all these bright colours?”. He did not answer. It was a bit late and I had to go to bed. The thing slept too. 7:30am. Ring! Ring! That was my alarm clock. When I got up the lost thing was not there! I panicked. I quickly went to get on my bike and rode around. I could not see the lost thing so I anxiously went back home. I went to the kitchen and I heard something. I peeked in and I burst with excitement. It was the lost thing! I ran up to it and gave it a gigantic hug. He made breakfast for me then I went to the place that the lost thing told me to go to. When I opened the door, there was so many lost things. Maybe my lost thing belonged. I went back home I asked the lost thing “do you want to go where the other lost thing are?” He said “yes”. I was sad to let him go but I knew this is where he belonged.

 

Year 5/6 – Poetry
WINNER

Name: Pascale Galen
School: Christmas Island District High School WA

‘A LOYAL COMPANION’

She slept
And it calmed her.
She had an imagination
Like no one else.

She escaped.
Into the jungle,
Where nature lay.

Green limes, bobbing a citrus melody,
Drum-stick leaves, brushing a percussion rhythm
The fig tree’s root strings, plucking pizzicato.
It sang a message to her,
That no one else could hear.

In her mind, she needed a friend.
A loyal companion.
Someone who would mend her thoughts with reality,
Help her comprehend.

One day she heard a crow.
Then another
Then another
Then another
And it calmed her.

She felt relaxed.
She understood.
It made sense.

She made them listen.
She told them her discovery.
They understood,
It made sense to them.

Then they got her one.
A friend,
A loyal companion,
Someone who would mend her thoughts with reality,
Help her comprehend.

It was white
It was fluffy
It was wild
It was curious

She loved it.
Her loyal companion.

 

Year 5/6 – Poetry
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Katherine Lee
School: Pymble Ladies College NSW

‘WAR TORN’

I am lost
And I will never agree that
In war, humans can still be lovely, splendid and soft
I currently know that
Luck happens with just a few fingers crossed
Is untrue and that
I am not worth the cost

I’m in a place filled with darkness and fear
And I will never believe that
My joy and glee are near
The truth is
I am completely worthless compared to my peers
It’s a lie that
I don’t get unpleasant and harsh sneers

Just a hopeless person from a violent war
I doubt I’m
A cheerful person who can blissfully soar
I must understand I’m
Nothing but a useless person who is poor
I’ll never believe I’m
Adored

My confidence is extremely low
And I refuse to believe
I’ll be rescued by a bright glow
I realise
My corrupted life will never be able to flow
Don’t try to convince me that
I don’t have any vicious foe

I am just a purposeless child, someone who can’t be bold or strong
It is untrue that
I’ve benefited all along
I believe
There is nothing in this world that could help me as I’ve done everything wrong
It is a lie that
I belong

My head is filled with regret
It is false that
I don’t get daunting threats
I think
My fate was originally set
Don’t convince me
I’m not in debt

Maps and pathways will no longer help me find the way
It is a lie that
Things will get better in just a quick day
It is the truth when I say
Everything in this world seems to fade and grey
It is false when I say that
I was never betrayed

Everything here reminds me of a life before and bloodshed
It is wrong to think
I will be led out of this misery
I believe
I’m filled with anguish and dread
Never say that
I’ve not been misread

I’m all alone with barely anything to eat
It’s wrong to think that
My cheerfulness will be complete
It is true that
I’m just a filthy freak
Don’t convince me that
I’m not weak

I have nothing more than yells as sounds
It is untrue that
Kind and caring people will surround me
I know
I have been downed
It is a lie that
I am found

 

Year 5/6 – Short Story
WINNER

Name: Jezanna Louise Winchester
School: St Patrick’s Gundagai NSW

‘UNDER THE COVERS’

Normal lives
I’m under the covers as a newborn. Cute & cuddly, sweet lullabies to rock me to sleep.

Dirty dreadful lives
I’m under the cardboard as freezing as can be, alone in the dark with crickets & drops of water under the slippery cold bridge.

Normal lives
As a toddler, I’m a pretty princess but a rock chick anyway. I’m Alice Ray Tomsin, a beautiful, rocking, honest girl.

Dirty dreadful lives
Crawling on the muddy sloppy graves of my mother & father, cuddling “floppy” (her bunny). I don’t have a name.

Normal lives
Now I’m a teen, rocking at concerts, being me, going to places I’ve never been before & helping others in need.

Dirty dreadful lives
I’m cold & alone, no one to look after me, no one to talk to, alone in the dark.

Normal & dirty dreadful lives
(Alice) As I walk along with the dirty mud, I hear noises ahead as I walk faster to the moaning creature. It was a girl about the same age as me. I kneel down and she shuffles back. “I won’t hurt you, I promise”.

(girl) I back away as she comes closer “go away” I scream. I quickly scurry up the ladder. I run in the middle of the road as a car speeds past… Aarrgghh!

I ran towards her as she lay there asleep, alone in the dark forever. I call my mum & run with her on my back yelling out: “help!”

I scream in pain as my legs ache. A person shoves a liquid in my mouth & I fall asleep. As I wake up I’m covered in blankets & pillows. I go to stand up but fall back. I scream in pain as I fall on my knees.

I ran to my room to see the girl on the floor. “Umm are you ok?”

I yell out “Why do you care? You took me away from my parents, you should have left me to die alone in the dark & go to heaven.” Her mum runs up to the room and helps me up & says politely: “Would you like to have a bath & get all that mud off you.”

That’s when I realized that I’d love her as a mother. I said: “Can you be my mother from here onwards.” She looked at the other girl & said: “Yes & this is my daughter Alice & she’d love to be your sister.” I cried so much & I was so happy to have a family again. My new mum did love me because of how I am, not how I was.

I found a family that loves me. I found that no matter what happens in the darkest of times there’s always light.

 

Year 5/6 – Short Story
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Hugo Carpay
School: Canberra Grammar School ACT

‘FOUND’

As you round the corner you see him. The old man with wrinkled, streaky skin. He is in his usual spot, wrapped in a ragged blanket, just metres from the aroma of bacon, eggs and coffee – holding his sign. But this time something is different. This time something is missing. He is alone. His happy, bouncy little dog is not beside him.

As you get closer you see the man’s face, it is reddened by tears. He looks heartbroken. The piece of old cardboard that usually asks for food money, now says “please help me find my dog, she is lost.”
You look into his deep blue eyes and see more than sadness. There is panic. There is desperation. This is his only family. Your heart feels like lead.

Most weekends your mum gives you a gold coin for the man’s upturned hat, but this time he needs something else. This time he needs you to act on his behalf.

You offer to help. You summon the courage to suggest ideas. You are nervous at first, but the man’s face lights up a little. He recognises you – the boy who doesn’t turn away. You know what to do. You tell him you will make posters and place them everywhere, amazing, awesome posters with bright colours that stand out against the dull concrete of the city. Your mum will register the little dog on a website for lost animals. His dog’s name is Bess, he says. She’s been with him a long time.

He tells you his name is Bill.

Later, you think about the old man, Bill, sleeping on the hard pavement. Has he found shelter on this biting cold night? Has Bess returned? You wait for news from the websites, wanting to fix this, to find her. There is no news, but you are hopeful. And while you may not have found her yet, you realise something. Something unexpected.

You’ve already found something else – you’ve found a friend.

 

Year 7/8 – Poetry
WINNER

Name: Zoe Tammer
School: Telopea Park School ACT

‘WE ARE LOST’

When the dawn breaks ,
And the shadows escape,
We are left with a broken world,
This could have been prevented eons ago.
Now the world is in pieces,
Like the islands in an archipelago.
We have lost something along the way,
Our minds, ours souls, our humanity,
Now everything has gone away.
Now the shadows are everywhere where everything once was,
When we still had what we have lost.
The trees, the birds do not dance and sway,
For they have gone away.
Lost in a world in pieces,
Bad things happen, crimes, misdemeanours,
We have lost ourselves in this big world,
Afraid of everything, everyone,
We thought we could only trust ourselves.
The nations have long disappeared,
The community fuelled by fear,
We have lost everything to our want, our greed,
Now we have not what we need,
Now, here we are, lost in this world
We are not welcome anymore,
We have caused pain and suffering on all creatures,
And in the end what was it for,
We are lost,
We refuse to be found,
We are gone.

 

Year 7/8 – Poetry
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Kahlia Hitchcock
School: Arndell Anglican School NSW

‘STOLEN’

I used to wonder why was I different.
Why I didn’t have the shiny school shoes.
Why I didn’t have toys to play with.
Why my backpack was always empty.

Where was my toy,
The one I could love and play with?
The emptiness of my bag
Weighed more than a full one.

But today something was there.
It was red and shiny
With clean wheels and a white tin roof.
It was priceless in my eyes.

I got to take it home
To play with it for hours
To pretend
That it was mine to keep.

But it wasn’t.
It was found, perceived
To be stolen goods.
I had to give it back.

With my head down,
I handed it to my teacher.
Other children played with it in the playground,
But I had to stay inside.

Year 7/8 – Short Story
WINNER

Name: Cailyn Pajic
School: Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA

‘2AM IN TOKYO’

The tune of my favourite song plays in my ears, drowning out the sound of faraway cars.
I didn’t know why I was awake so late, but I didn’t mind. Tokyo looked nice from the balcony of my apartment. Lights dance around the city buildings and stars illuminate the night sky.
My unfinished university assignment sits on my desk inside. Everything is so much more difficult since moving to Japan. Going to a Japanese Performing Arts University when you can barely speak the language is terrifying.
Making music is what I wanted to do, but lately I’d rather sleep. Though I wouldn’t have a bed to sleep in without this scholarship. It’s the only thing that keeps me going. Even Tokyo isn’t beautiful enough to keep me happy. I wish I was thirteen again, when I visited Japan back then, this city seemed so much more magical.
But I’ve lost the magic of being a child.
Honestly, all I really want now is some coffee and my music.
With nothing else to do, I go back inside at get changed into a hoodie and some sweatpants. I grab the envelope with yesterday’s paycheque before heading out of my apartment.
Where was I going this early in the morning?
The question stays like my biology homework- unanswered.
I take a train to Taito City and begin walking down the streets aimlessly. I know that I’m heading to a specific location, but I’m too caught up in my mind to know what it is.
As the streets become less dense and I can gather my thoughts properly, I see how the streets become more familiar. I search my brain, and I can vaguely remember coming here as a child. Looking for a corner that I can calm down and hopefully light a cigarette, a tiny café catches my eye. It’s still open.
Something about it is so familiar I find myself wandering inside.
I’m immediately hit with the welcoming aroma of cinnamon and coffee, followed by a truckload of memories. I’d been here before. I could almost see my younger self sitting at one of the pale blue coffee tables and eating pastries from the confectionary cabinet beside the register. The lady standing behind it sends me a warm smile, and I decide to order something. Getting out some leftover change from the train ticket, I buy a caramel latte and sit down in a corner, as far away from other customers as possible. Although I couldn’t precisely remember, I knew I’d been here before.
Though it was nearly 4am, and I was as exhausted as ever, I felt thirteen again. I had my coffee and my music. I had found something familiar in this foreign country. And even though it was barely there, I had found a bit of childhood magic. Fate had led me here. I take a sip of the warm coffee, a smile playing at my lips.
Maybe I would come back again tomorrow.

 

Year 7/8 – Short Story
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Zoe Smith
School: Emmaus Christian School WA

‘PASSION, ILLUSION AND VALIDATION’

I wonder what it feels like to walk into a store, without feeling that all eyes are on your every move. I wonder what it feels like to order food without stuttering, even when you practise 100 times over. I wonder what it feels like to tell others what you’re feeling, without the constant fear that your opinion isn’t good enough. How I yearn to remember. Only a few years ago was I blessed with the gift of charisma. I was talking to anyone, saying anything, trying everything. I was free of the prison that is validation. I was curious and loud and confident. I was passionate. Then, something changed. I was no longer praising myself but was instead bitterly yelling. ‘You’ve done better, so do better’, ‘you don’t belong here’, ‘you’re an inconvenience’. I had to do something, so I fought the only way I was trained. I hopelessly surrendered. I dropped out of my piano classes because my teacher was ‘too good for me’. I stopped telling people what I wanted, and even worse, what I needed. I hid my identity and became a master of illusion. My facade of normality fooled almost all that I encountered.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t fooling myself. My thoughts manifested in my brain; for the first time in my life, I felt lonely. My passion for meeting new people, the love that had once sparked my joy, was now lost. I felt senseless, irrelevant, a side character in my own story.

One night I had listened to enough of my thoughts and turned on a podcast instead. I blasted the noise at full volume hoping for a glimpse of insight on what it’s like to be so full of passion. The man spoke, and I listened. ‘I personally believe that doing what you love is what you need to do; you’re most attractive to be around when you’re genuinely loving what you’re doing. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true.’

I sat with the idea for about a week, and when I listened again, a flitch switched on. It was so abrupt. I took his words as a challenge. I had decided I was no longer going to play ‘hide your feelings and seek acceptance’. I was going to make a change. Of course, such fear and anxiety doesn’t just pick up and leave when it is told; however, there were steps I could take to accept myself slowly. I joined an acting class, started therapy, started learning guitar and ukulele and was finally honest. I am still recovering but sharing my experiences and being open about my feelings helps me move forward with a better headspace. I owe a high debt to the man on that podcast, and I miss him every day, maybe one day, I will be able to thank him.

 

Year 9/10 – Poetry
WINNER

Name: Carys Cherie Brown
School: Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA

‘The Gap’

I inhabit the lonely street corners,
swarmed by the misery of cold hands
and penny smudged pockets.

I am a lost thing
with a hungry stomach,
tired eyes and a cardboard sign.
I watch as people pass me by.

I don’t know what’s worse.
The ones who glare at you,
like a speck of dirt on their new car.

Or the ones who don’t look at all.

I am asking for human kindness.
For after all,
Giving never made anyone poor.

But ignoring the suffering,
will make it is worse.
The plague of poverty,
will run rampant through cities.

I am one of 3 million people.
Asking.
Pleading.
Begging for help.

 

Year 9/10 – Poetry
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Peter Duncan Tate
School: Emmaus Christian School WA

‘WASTED ON THE YOUNG’

I was born in a house made of butterflies
I dreamt of sweet breeze and daisy dreams
In roses, I nested, quilted with silk
But everyday I grew bigger until my head was pierced by thorns
They say that childhood is wasted on the young

I grew too big for my bed made of roses
I explored the green field leaves and creamy frees
My white skin spouted freckles
like wildflowers in spring
And people started looking at me differently

I spend my days with like-minded trees
I watched the arm of a clock tick over noon
Raindrops falling down my window
Which raindrop would fall first?
For only the children knew the things no one would know

I trekked the orange dust road to know dirt
I lay in a bed of sun to know light
Taste touched my tongue that no one would have tasted
And I knew the smell of my mother’s jacket that is now unknown to me
But what use is the knowledge of a child’s in an adult’s world?

I watched shows and I didn’t get to stay up late
I watched crabs burrow in the sand to wake up early
But, now I stay up late to finish my contracts
And wake up early to ride the train I hate
How wonderfully stupid to live in an adults world.

Year 9/10 – Short Story
WINNER

Name: Miah-Tya Nungheena Gowland
School: Campbell High School ACT

Ponytail swinging as she skipped along, the girl caught sight of her bright, beating heart hovering over by the trees. The girl giggled and whispered with her friends as they walked over to the grove to spot the new kids. A boy, whose smile left indents in his cheeks and had a playful heart, looked at her and laughed, blushing and running away. The girl caught her breath, and she swore she could hear her heart snickering as it flew back to her and took its place, beating far too loud.

The bell rang, and the girl hurried out into the hallway. The world was brighter, her happiness seeming to seep into the world and give it vibrant, joyful colour. She stumbled around the corner, lost in the bubble of blushes and giggles. But then the crowd parted for the couple. The girl froze, eyes on their entwined hands. Her world seemed to stop. The colours suddenly dulled as her bubble of joy seemed to pop. But the crowd didn’t stop for this now lost girl, her body being shifted and pulled with the un-knowing crowd.
“Oh.” she felt hollow. “So that’s what it feels like?” she thought, having lost hope already and not wanting the question to be answered.
And her heart left, taking the brightness with it.

Over the years, her heart kept letting her down, and it drifted further away.
She lost trust in it, lost faith in her future,
and the next time she caught a glimpse of her heart, spinning and glowing and shining on the face of someone new, saying “This one, this one is The One, trust me.”
She looked down, and walked away, leaving her heart behind.

The girl had nothing wrong. She had worked long and hard for her job, she had wonderful friends and a loving family. Everything was perfect.
But her heart was lost.
She was so lost.
She found herself wandering alone, knowing no one will find her.
Losing sight of her wild heart.

Sometimes when it got quiet, she would think of her heart. That bright presence, the glow it brought to her life. Every now and again it would flicker at the edges of her view, but she had become accustomed to the empty space inside her; there was no time to follow her silly little heart.

The girl dodged pedestrians as she strutted down the sidewalk, shooting off texts and hurrying to her interview. She was brimming with nerves, and the excitement was almost enough to fill the empty space. To let her forget for one blessed moment. To let her concentrate on something she loved.
But then, out of the corner of her eye she saw it and that moment ended.
The hollowness hit her full force, her feet stumbling. Her confidence slipping from her fingers. The red ruby heels didn’t catch her and she crashed to the ground.
No one helped her, or stopped for a moment. Caught up in their lives.
She saw her heart, rather felt its glowing, pulsing love.
The girl had sworn to never trust her heart again, but she had been feeling so lost for too long.
And when a hand reached towards her:
Dark, slender, glistening with golden rings.
Their hands sliding into place, the other girl yanking her upwards, holding the heart in her other hand.
She thought her heart was foolish and vain, but when her eyes met the deep brown of the girls’, she decided it had grown up like her. And it was time to trust it. To finally feel found.

 

Year 9/10 – Short Story
HIGHLY COMMENDED

Name: Raina Han
School: Abbotsleigh School NSW

‘COLOURS’

We are born to see colour.

To embrace the soft hues of the sky at dawn before the world is awake. To stare at endless fields of flowers, blooming with brightness, watching them stretch row upon row. To notice the intricate flecks of gold in a lover’s eyes when the light hits them just right.

This life-enhancing ability is tied to something beyond our control. The moment when the universe lines up and two people are linked. To be connected to this person within your very soul. To lose someone so precious would shatter you. And cost you this power.

When this person is torn from you, in a slashing swipe of a scythe, the world fades to black and grey. You can see the realisation in the way a widow smiles into the distance, longing, watching, trying to remember. You can see it in the way a grandparent blinks when their grandchild presents an artwork from school, covered and splattered with neon paint. The monochrome filter can’t be removed. They learn to live in eternal chiaroscuro.

When this loss is overcome, a blanket of tacenda is draped over them. This loss is an unspoken matter. We are left to figure it out for ourselves. No string of words could ever describe the emptiness one feel’s inside.

No one will understand why I have crumpled to the ground, sobbing and shaking. Fellow museum- goers glance at me, concern and confusion afflicted upon their features by my sudden hysteria. Just moments ago I was gazing at a painting, admiring how moonlight reflecting onto water had been depicted onto canvas. I turned my head and the walls turned ashen. Colours disintegrating into mere tints and shades of grey, white and black. My tears are metallic blotches on the polished marble.

I’m mourning for someone I haven’t even met.

 

The John Foulcher Young Writers Encouragement Award

Name: Emily Rock
School: Telopea Park School ACT

‘LOST AND FOUND’

Your words make it feel like a wave has crashed upon the shore that I call my home,
It sucks me out into the dark swirling water, your anger reflected in the crashing chaos of the sea.
As much as I know it’s tearing the clothes off bones, I’ve lost the urge to fight, I’ve lost the urge to swim against the rip back to shore. So I simply let it take me, let you take me, down, down, down, into the swirling mess of the sea and the sky. Just as you allow the waves to slow, I’m lost. I see my very core floating away with the tide, waving goodbye with an absent minded smile.

In a year, maybe more, I will walk along the sand, admiring the shells and sea glass that have been pulled up from the depths. Maybe you’ll be there, maybe you won’t, it’s always been hard to tell with you. Maybe you’ll hold my hand as we walk along the rock platforms, maybe you’ll pull me back from the roaring tide. But, then again, maybe you won’t, it’s always been hard to tell with you. I will walk along, following the footsteps of a stranger that went before me and I will sit in the scorching sun, my toes in the grains of sand and my eyes watching a far away swell start to form.

Hidden in the sand will be something glinting in the light. It’s me, the one I lost so long ago, here hidden in this same beach. I‘ll turn myself over, inspecting myself like a smooth pebble in the hand of a child but, just like a mother tells her daughter, ‘leave it here darling, allow others to see the beauty of it’. So I‘ll drop her, and without a second thought continue my walk along the beach.

 

Jackie French Young Writers Development Award

Name: Raina Han
School: Abbotsleigh School NSW

‘THE LOST THINGS’

Some lost things don’t come home.
Not because they can’t.
Because they choose not to.

I chose to be lost.
So I could be free.
But it wasn’t really a choice was it?

I adapted to being lost.
I lived and breathed it.
Convinced myself I wanted to be.

But no-one does.
Being lost is disorienting.
I want to go home.

They’re bowing their heads to a stone
my name engraved upon it.
What have I done?

I didn’t want it to be like this.
To cause pain and suffering.
To see tears being shed over me.

The black on their backs radiates
Such emptiness and sorrow.
I caused this.

They sing the mourners’ anthem.
One of grief, regret and guilt.
I’m sorry.

I wish to speak but they can’t hear.
I wish to smile but they can’t see.
I wish to console but they can’t feel.

I severed the line that tethered me to their world.
Not even divine intervention can tie it back together.
Not anymore.

In order to be found, one must be lost.
But this time they won’t find me.
Ever.

Some lost things don’t come home.

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