Past Pens Against Poverty Winners

Congratulations to everyone who received Pens Against Poverty Awards in 2021!

Winners listed directly below and their winning submissions can be found at the bottom of this page.

3/4 Poetry:

  • Winner: Thomas Scicluna – Reddam House, Woollahra NSW
  • Highly Commended: Arabella Hoang – Pymble Ladies’ College NSW

3/4 Short Story:

  • Winner: Anika Verma – Pymble Ladies’ College NSW
  • Highly Commended: Lilah Carpay – Canberra Grammar School ACT

5/6 Poetry:

  • Winner: Annabelle Weeks – Dubbo Christian School NSW
  • Highly Commended: Ava White – St Thomas Mores Primary School ACT

5/6 Short Story:

  • Winner: Yoav Nasayao – Wollemi College, Werrington NSW
  • Highly Commended: Acacia Winchester – St Particks Catholic Primary, Gundagai NSW

7/8 Poetry:

  • Winner: Chloe Lam – Abbotsleigh School, Wahroonga NSW
  • Highly Commended: Arpit Kaur – Merici College ACT

7/8 Short Story:

  • Winner: Anya Grace – Emmaus Christian School ACT
  • Highly Commended: Leon Gelman – The Hutchins School, Hobart TAS

9/10 Poetry:

  • Winner: Jessica Deane – Murray Bridge High School SA
  • Highly Commended: Evie Norton – Launceston Church Grammar School TAS

9/10 Short Story:

  • Winner: Gabriel Lugg-Restall – St Mary MacKillop College ACT
  • Highly Commended: Sumaya Sultana – Sydney Girls High School NSW

The Jackie French Young Writers Development Award

  • Pearl Thlork – Emmaus Christian School ACT
  • William Harris – The Hutchins School TAS

The John Foulcher Young Poet Encouragement Award

  • Lily Ward – St Michael’s Collegiate School TAS
  • Benjamin McBride – Canberra Grammar School ACT

Teaching Excellence Awards

  • Pymble Ladies’ College NSW
  • The Hutchins School TAS
  • Emmaus Christian School ACT

Winning Entries

Years 9-10 Story 

Winner: Gabriel Lugg-Restall
St Mary MacKillop College, Canberra (ACT)

The afternoon air began to bite.

The once warm footpath began to eat through my clothing, and now my bones. I covered myself with a thin worn blanket that was given to me so many years ago. My fingers looked bent and rough and I couldn’t seem to straighten them. Their colour was a shade of grey and purple, but what was this… My best mate pushed up against me, huddling to get warmer.

The low lying clouds covered the car park like a blanket which we sat beneath. Thinking hard about the good things I had witnessed today, but I dread what was to come. I became anxious as the pain entered my body and made its way around every part of me. My blood felt cold, my body shook uncontrollably and my sinuses ached like it was splintered with ice. If I just focus on the yellow street light in front of me, I can imagine warmth.

Every night feels like just another end to the chapter in my book, in my life, in both of our lives. However, I hold on to the prologue of this story and live another day in my chapter that has been written for me. The morning sun awakes, as do I. My cardboard sign that I use for cushioning is damp and a little worn, but it says what I want it to.

A coin is thrown at me and I knew it was in good jest. The ignorance of the public falls short, but it’s not his fault. Not his fault at all. He doesn’t understand why I am here, or nor does he want to. His charity had been done. He had given his spare coin to me, grateful I am. I am grateful, not for the coin, but for the happiness and completeness it brings to him. He can go on through his day believing in himself.

How one small coin can make such a wealthy man happy, but a poor man still trying to collect the coins of many a wealthy man, just to survive. They call us simple, that this is our choice. Being simple isn’t always about how we live. I am not ashamed of who I am, but rather of what I have become. It’s not fair that my mind doesn’t think the way it should, the way I want it to.

Sometimes I feel I just want to turn my mind off like you can with a T.V. remote, when everything simply goes quiet and dark and I am on my own with my mate, faithful and loyal. The yellow light seems warmer, as the cold creeps in slowly like a big cat stalking its prey. In too much pain to sleep. Carefully I place my damp and little worn cardboard sign against our bodies and it says just what I want it to, a fitted epilogue, ‘Never to feel pain again.’


Highly Commended: Sumaya Sultana
Sydney Girls High School (NSW)

“Under the Clock Tower”

Every single day the old man sits under the clock tower in the bustling square. The world moves in a flurried blur around him – he watches the people go by, taking in their outfits, their faces and their expressions as they see him.

Some are pitiful, some are of disgust, but they quickly fade as the passers-by move on, briskly walking to their next destination. He takes in the black and brown loafers and high heels, alongside the occasional child’s sneakers. Sometimes looking higher than their feet hurts his neck.

As soon as the nine loud chimes strike, the square goes silent. He still gets shaken up by the peals as they reverberate through the tower, and he momentarily lifts his back off the wall, not used to the feeling even after decades of sitting there under the clock tower in the empty square. No one is out now, instead pent up in little rooms in big buildings, tiredly waiting for the familiar sound that lets them go home.

The square is loud again when the clock tower strikes five. Steps are faster now, with people eager to see their families, zipping through the crowd, who all have a similar determination. Get home, be safe. The clock strikes nine again, and the square goes silent. This time, there is no one but the man present – both the buildings and streets are empty, everyone is tucked away safe in their homes. The man still sits under the clock, as the familiar, cool chill of the night sets in.

Nothing ever changes for him. … A teen boy stands in front of the clock tower. There is no one sitting under – time has changed. He sits down, letting out an emotional sigh. Change does happen, but is it good enough? It’s time for good change.


Years 9-10 Poetry 

Winner: Jessica Deane
Murray Bridge High School (SA)

‘She lies on the ground..’

She lies on the ground and wait
Like a wounded seagull for food
The passers-by looking down
Not shedding her a tear
Avoiding her existence
Ignoring her desperation
All alone

The girl will wait
Just wishing for a meal
Or a friend
Or anyone to see

At just 16
She shouldn’t be sitting
On the cold, hard ground
Winter wind bites her ghostly skin
Blanket worn, clothes a shred, stomach less than empty
Sounds of the street, sirens, stomping
Never waiting for her


Highly Commended: Evie Norton
Launceston Church Grammar School (Tasmania)

‘Vivid City Lights..’

Vivid city lights, stop-signs reflecting the soft moonshine
Cracked and worn asphalt, uncomfortable and harsh
Ah, this city is no home – these streets are no home,
Yet for us, they are all we can call home.
Weeping softly in the alleyways, cold and lonesome
The monster in our stomach won’t stop snarling for more,
Flailing and wailing, destroying us from the inside out,

But, ah, there is nothing we can give to the creature that feeds.
And in the evening, we gaze longingly upon skyscrapers gleaming like the sun,
An overpass comprised of gold bars, a glossy brand-new car flying down the city boulevards, And observe as sprightly eyes spare nothing more than a glance – not a penny, not a smile At the pair made of skin and bones, with hollow despairing eyes

Perhaps, if one day, someone were to spare something more than an offhanded stare, Would there be something more than these empty sidewalks and alleyways to call home? Would there be more than grime-stained skin and cold hands searching for warmth?

Would there be freedom from the ceaseless struggle to live and survive?
But for now, alone we shall stay.
Us, and our desolate home on the city walkway.


Years 7-8 Story 

Winner: Anya Grace
Emmaus Christian School, Dickson (ACT)

“Think outside the box”

“That box was the only good thing that happened to me in those days. Grabbing my phone and using my precious data sparingly, I would call the Canberra Relief Network for a box to be delivered to our apartment. After an anxious wait, I received the box like a child receiving a Christmas present. I hastily emptied the box onto the kitchen bench, salivating over the food. Glorious, healthy, free, food.

Those boxes were the only thing that kept me going, working at Seven-Eleven paid little to nothing. After all, who would want to pay much to an underqualified 15-year-old?

I could never afford to invite my school friends over and avoided any question about my home life. I may not have looked like I was poor as my “Vinnies sponsored” wardrobe hid my reality. Every day after school I would run to the Seven Eleven a few blocks away, quickly squeeze in some homework, then rush into my uniform and work my shift. After work, I would run home in the dark, late as usual and hand over most of the money I earned that day to my older sister. My sister would snatch it up and tell me to make my own dinner since she was going out with her boyfriend that night, even if we could barely afford it. I hadn’t eaten anything since my 6:30 am breakfast and I was starving. That was my day-to-day routine, never broken, never changed.

All of a sudden the boxes stopped coming, disappeared, retired, spent, however you want to say it. I called CRN the following Monday asking about the boxes, but I got no reply. My weekly saving grace was gone. I was terrified of what this would mean for our current situation.

I soon figured it out. More shifts, more stress and more arguments. I hated the government for this, how could they take this one good thing away from us?! It all went downhill from there. My sister’s boyfriend was coming over more and more and I could never sleep on the nights he was here. One night I got so fed up I decided to stand up for myself, I needed food. I made some posters out of the boxes I scavenged from work explaining how the service had stopped and the trouble it was causing me.

My phone number was included in case someone wanted to contact me to help me and others who were in need. I posted them up around The Canberra Centre in Civic. A week later, I got a call from the local MP.

She knew what had to be done, it was time to think outside the box by bringing the boxes of joy back.”

“Thank you for that moving story, the next speaker will now present…”

I walked off the makeshift stage feeling proud. I hoped my story had made a difference and raised awareness about the wonderful work that Canberra Relief Network does.



Highly Commended: Leon Gelman
The Hutchins School, Hobart (Tasmania)

‘When I was a little boy…’

When I was a little boy, I lived out on the streets. Me and my mother would sleep in a pile on the street. It wasn’t always like that though. Four years before our story takes place, I actually had a home. I was a happy and content child and I lived in a high-rise apartment with my parents. My dad divorced my mum and moved out of the house.

As part of the divorce papers, he would pay rent for the apartment for the next six years. He purposefully didn’t pay the rent and before we knew it, we were evicted from our apartment. I resent my father to this day and still have not forgiven him. Fast forward a few years where me and my mother would live and sleep under the stars in the famous Central Park in New York.

I would wear a ragged old anorak, shorts with no underwear, and socks. No shoes. I managed to get off the streets thanks to one of my best friends today, Josh Parker. Let me tell you how it all began. Torrential rain sloshed down onto the city of New York. Me and my mother curled up and held onto each other under a tree in central park. We had around five blankets around us, but we were still freezing cold. We had used the blankets so many times that they had become thin and shrively. We hadn’t had dinner, lunch or breakfast so we were famished.

My mother stood up and stiffly walked over to a cherry tree. After a few minutes of picking, she came back soaking wet but with a handful of cherries. We devoured them within a matter of seconds. As we were gorging on our cherries, a man timidly walked up to us. He was a large fella, but he seemed to be a lovely man.

“Are you hungry?, he asked, standing there awkwardly.

“Yes. Very.” my mother replied exhaustedly.

The stranger briefly fumbled with his jacket and then nervously replied. “Well then, I’d like to take you two to dinner”, he replied.

His big, jolly character was coming through.

“Oh my goodness, thank you so much!” my mother cried, flinging her arms around me.

We followed the stranger to a gourmet indian restaurant. I knew it was good because I had been there with my mother and father before they were divorced. As we ate, my mother told the man our story. He was a good listener and when my mother had finished, the man was shocked to the core.

“Wow,” he whispered to himself. “That really is quite the story,” he mumbled again.

He reached into his pocket and took out a card. He gave it to us. It had a smiley face, a phone number and a message.

It said ‘Whenever you need, whatever you need.’

“Here. Take this,” he mumbled yet again. “I own this restaurant and I told my employees to remember you. Next time if you need anything, just call. You can use the restaurant’s phone,” he said sturdily. My mother was speechless. So was I.

Smiles slowly crept onto our faces and we threw our arms around the man. Me and my mother were fully motivated to get off the streets.

We spent a few months occasionally eating at the restaurant, and eventually scraped together enough money to get me some clothes and a job at a coffee shop. After that, things got better at a rapid pace. I started going to school, made friends and they sometimes let me and my mother stay at their houses for a few days at a time. They are still good friends of mine to this day.

Before I knew it, my mother got a job at the same cáfe and when the manager retired, she gave the job to my mother! After a few years we were able to buy an apartment again. I couldn’ t be happier. Epilogue: Today I am a happy man. I live in a nice home, I have a beautiful wife and three gorgeous children and Josh Parker is the godfather. I implore you, to next time you see a homeless person, ask them if they are alright, ask them if they want food or spare clothing. Or maybe even give a card. I still have that card to this day, and it is my most prized possession.



Years 7-8 Poetry

 Winner: Chloe Lam
Abbotsleigh School, Wahroonga (NSW)

‘The Cold Light of the Station…’

The cold light of the station
Falls immaculate on the platform.
Falls on the cigarettes,
Pressed into the concrete and rubbed of their colour.
Falls on the hardened gum,
That some private school boy had spat into the ground.
Falls on the trains that
Come and go and come and go.
All the world is on their phone and

Everybody knows nobody
Except for suits and ties and expensive watches
Or stockinged legs in clacking high heels,
Or wind-rumpled scarves and stray whisps of hair.
All the world lowers their faces to the ground and
Everybody knows nobody
Except for the spitting of gum
Or the taking of a cigarette with smoke curling from greyed lips
Or the incessant tapping of thumbs against weakly lit screens.

I curl up into the lonely cold, Into the lonely cold of the station.
I curl up against the unfeeling footsteps,
Against the unseeing eyes of the station.
And the artificial voice on the loudspeakers
Pronounces her words with
Meticulous exactness.


Highly Commended: Arpit Kaur
Merici College, Canberra (NSW)

“It’s alright, Ma”


It’s alright Ma
It’s only the grumbles of my hungry stomach,
A grey-blue pit
Cuts on hands, and bruises on souls
It’s alright Ma,
I’m only bleeding
It’s alright Ma
It’s only that I hear gunshots
Hitting, fighting, completely diminishing
I only feel the crumble of sand Its colour indistinguishable from my hands
My daily job causing us shame
It’s alright Ma, I’m only sobbing
It’s alright Ma
It’s only that my heart longs to know
What is said in those heavy bonds of pages I see them carry

It’s only that my heart turns redder
Than it does with blood
Flowing with envy at their beautiful sacks
It’s alright Ma, I’m only uselessly dreaming
It’s alright Ma
It’s only that I dream if we could go to sleep
With shelter above our head
Sure that our hunger won’t eat us up
Like the hungry wolves outside
Calling it shameful for a girl like me to be begging
Saying I’m a liar, a cheat, to get out and not care
It’s alright Ma, I promise I won’t stop trying
But it’s not alright Ma
Because I still hope you don’t stop breathing
Please don’t leave me alone to fight my treacherous fate I know your pain, spending long painful days in bed
It’s alright Ma
I’m sure I’ll find a way I’m sure you will get better I will find what they call it?- pills
I’ll make you feel better
It’s alright Ma, I know you’ll breathe, because you know I’m breathing
It’s alright Ma I’ll keep hoping, keep dreaming I’ll continue to be strong and to fight I’ll be the lock, and craft the key of change
And someone who was once shamed for working shameful jobs
Will bring pride to us all
It’s alright Ma I won’t hope for change
I’ll be change
But it’s alright Ma,
I’m only the grumbles of dreams.



Years 5-6 Poetry 

Winner: Annabelle Weeks
Dubbo Christian School, Dubbo (NSW)

‘Stranded on the streets…’

Stranded on the streets,
Helpless on the curve,
Homeless, hungry, harmed,
Surely not deserved.
Tears gliding down his cheeks,
His clothes were worn and torn,
Wretched, ragged, rough,
No hope in sight, forlorn.
A cup perched next to him,
Hoping for some change,
Begging, pleading, crying,
Yearning for an exchange.
Freezing cold outside,
Snow drifting from the sky,
Chilly, cool, crisp,
Wishing he might die.
A small, abandoned child,
An unfit, unworthy state,
Tired, terrible, tragic,
A long foreboding fate.


Highly Commended: Ava White
St Thomas Mores Primary, Campbell (ACT)

“This perfect image of poverty”

When I look in the mirror, I see despair.
When I see my reflection,
Ragged clothes and messy hair.
And sometimes I wonder,
Who else sees me,
As a perfect image of poverty.
I wonder if they understand.
How hard I worked,
To get to this land.
And on that boat,
Across the sea
Who’d ever have thought this is where I would be?
This perfect image of poverty.
I have not a penny,
In this miserable life.
Memories of pain,
Of worry and strife.
And when I escaped,
I thought I was free.
But here I am,
A perfect image of poverty.
And my loyal companion,
Seems to be silence.
Never leaves my side,
Always with me here, hence,
I see myself,
As others must see me.
As a perfect image of poverty.
Once upon a time, I was happy and young.
My life was filled
With family and fun,
And on that boat, I was told,
That I would thank them
When I grew old.
When that ship
Docked at the shore, I thought I could never become this poor.
And yet here I am,
Cold and lonely.
A perfect image of poverty.
And my greatest desire,
Is for somebody kind.
Somebody loving,
Who brings peace of mind.
Will someday be different,
I hope and I pray.
Someone might smile,
Perhaps maybe, today.



Years 5-6 Story

Winner: Yoav Nasayao
Wollemi College, Werrington (NSW)

‘The night was bitter…’

The night was bitter and the sky was dim. The clouds began covering the bright moon and twinkling stars. As soon as the clouds completely covered the sky, it began to rain. Not a lot of rain, just a light drizzle.

The rain pitter-pattered as everyone in the town began scurrying back into their homes for shelter. The rain gradually fell harder and harsher. The wind became stronger and more violent.

Then, “Crash! Boom!” went lightning and thunder. The lightning showed off its flashy display in its time of glory and the thunder followed soon after, rumbling like an avalanche. It was a thunderstorm. A very strong one.

Yoav was making his way back home since there was a sudden storm. He briskly walked as fast as he could, making sure to dodge any puddles and preventing himself from slipping. He had an umbrella with him which was literally about to fly away because of the wind.

Yoav was about to go into his house when he saw a man on the pathway, opposite of the one he was currently in. The man was wearing a thin jacket and was sitting on cardboard. He had his face in his knees and looked like he was trying to sleep. He must be homeless, thought Yoav to himself. Yoav felt bad about what the man had to go through.

He debated with himself on whether he should go and give something to the man or if he should just leave him alone and go into the house. Yoav usually left homeless people alone but this time, it felt different from before.

Maybe, just maybe… it’s time for change, he thought.

Yoav carefully walked across the road towards the man. He leant down to get a better look at the man. He looked like he had been homeless for a long time. Yoav decided to sit right next to him.

“Hi,” Yoav began, “I’m Yoav. What’s your name?”

The man remained unchanged and speechless.

“Oh ok,” said Yoav, “I was about to go into my house but before I do so, I just want to give you an umbrella for shelter from this storm.”

Yoav slowly made the umbrella lean on the wall so that it could shelter both him and the man. They both sat quietly for a few moments until Yoav eventually broke the silence.

“I see lots of people, who take refuge by the streets every day,” started Yoav, “I would normally leave them alone but this time, I thought that… I should help you. I thought that… It is time for change. In fact, I think it is time for everyone to change, it is time for us to help people in poverty to get back up on their feet because they all deserve a house like ours, food like ours, safety like ours. I should get going now. Stay safe.”

The man gradually lifted his head. “Thank you,” he said.


Highly Commended: Acacia Winchester
St Patricks Catholic Primary School, Gundagai (NSW)

‘Attitude Mystery…’

As Grace walks in the room mum says “Can you go out and get the clothes off line please”. And Grace says “sure” (rolls eyes, drops head) in an attitude voice.

Grace walks in the door and says hello in a different voice, and storms to her bedroom, sits on her phone and gets dresses and goes outside. When her sisters tell her something, Grace pretends she never heard them.

Creak, the door opens and Grace walks in and says “hello”. Mum says “hello”.
And she storms into the bedroom and doesn’t come out. Mum starts sobbing with tears rolling down her face. I walk in the room and I run over to her and I know exactly what was wrong. It was Grace. I run into Grace’s room and tell her off, “you don’t need to be like this mum just broke down into tears because of you”, I said.

Grace walks in and the time she doesn’t say hello she says “sorry”. And hugs mum, she stays outside and plays with her sisters and goes inside and talks to mum. Grace learnt her lesson and won’t do it again she said.

But we still wonder from this day what started this.




Years 3-4 Story

Winner: Anika Verma
Pymble Ladies’ College (NSW)


As she gazed out the window at the city she had been lost in, she thought about what her life had been. For all her life, she had experienced only famine and homelessness. She had roamed the streets, scavenging dumps for the pitiful morsels of food that she lived on. She always felt like she didn’t belong.

Her scrawny figure lay slumped uncomfortably in the train station, sleeping, invisible to the eyes of the people who thought only of their needs. It was just a normal, hungry, thirsty day the same as any other, but this day would change her life.

She woke early in the morning and squeezed further back into the crack in the wall of the train station, trying not to be noticed by the trickle of traffic waiting for trains. Her hunger and exhaustion were unbearable and she was covered only in filthy rags that didn’t at all protect her from the biting cold or chilling gusts.

Suddenly, one person in the frantic crowd swept his piercing stare across the station, and finally looked right into her eyes. In a few brisk strides, the tall imposing man walked directly towards her, his boots softly tapping the ground.

Terrible thoughts had flashed through her mind at that moment. She was petrified and her heart was pounding vigorously. Then, quite unexpectedly, he kneeled down, and there was kindness in his eyes.

“Come with me”, he said gently but firmly, and she anxiously obeyed.

His huge, strong hand held hers as he led her away from the hustle of trains and people. They were moving towards the part of the city where there were large suburban houses and neat gardens with trimmed lawns, the part that she had always avoided for the fear of being noticed. After what she felt to be a long walk, they arrived at a large building, an orphanage. The man put a steadying hand on her shoulder and steered her through the open door, into some kind of reception.

Without stopping, they proceeded to the next room which — to her surprise — was occupied by a huge table laden with all kinds of food that she had never dreamed of. She inhaled the delicious aroma, and her mouth hung open with delight.

“Help yourself”, announced the man in his gentle voice, smiling, but she hardly heard in her bliss. That had been the best meal she had ever tasted.

After the feast, the man took her up a staircase and down a hallway to a room with a comfortable bed and a bench. The man invited her to sit on the bed and sat himself on the bench. She couldn’t imagine what would have happened to her without this man, and his kindness to take her in to this safe haven.

While she was thinking this, the man (who was director of the orphanage) began to say the words that changed everything for her.

“You have a home now.”



Highly Commended: Lilah Carpay
Canberra Grammar School (ACT)


The clink of money in my container makes me look up. It’s her again.

Each week she’s here with her mum and each week she gives me something. Not just something: money. Money that will buy me lunch and, if I’m lucky, some dinner. Maybe even some food for the stray cat who hangs around the alley. I look down to see that she has given me $2.00. I’m so happy.

So, putting all my coins together that makes six dollars. I pull myself up and head to the bakery. I buy a sausage roll with sauce. Not much, but to have lunch means everything to me. I try to savour the flavour, but I’m so hungry I can barely taste it. Before I know it, it’s gone and I’m staring at the flakes of delicate pastry left in the paper bag.

I lick my finger and pick up each one, making sure not a single flake is wasted. Each one melts as it hits my tongue. Then there’s nothing left. Now all I can do is wait.

I used to eat without thinking. Food was left on the plate, cooling gravy and wasted vegetables. I pushed aside food that wasn’t my favourite, because I always had enough. I was never hungry back then.

Lots of people are like I was. I watch, with ravenous eyes, people throw food away; half eaten meals, whole sandwiches unwrapped. Especially the school kids on their way home. I can tell they have never known hunger. I sometimes fish their unopened lunches out of the bin like treasure. It’s night now and the stray cat from the alley is curled in my lap. It’s dark and the concrete I am sitting on is damp. Cold seeps into my bones despite my thick puffa.

The cat purrs loudly. I stroke it gently. Its fur is thick and soft, but its body beneath is thin and weak. The cat stares up at me, I realise we have a lot in common. I didn’t have enough money to buy her food today. Tomorrow, I’ll build up a little more and this time I’ll make sure I am buying food for both of us.



Years 3-4 Poetry

Winner: Thomas Scicluna
Reddam House, Woollahra (NSW) 

Powerlessness of poverty is so much more than having no money
Empathy for all humankind will overcome this epidemic
Now is the time to act, open our hearts and share, as
Solitude and loneliness are
Gorgons who turn hearts to stone and the greatest poverty of all.

Always show respect for others and feel
Gratitude for what we have, in a world so overwhelmingly large,
Acts of kindness multiply exponentially and we all reap the benefits
Instantly, a glimmer of hope that calls out loudly to each of us
No money, no clothes, no shelter, no food but even worse is no spirit, no friends and no family,

Solidarity of will to vanquish this silent beast, we join together as one
The smallest acts: of smiling, a hug, a kind word, can do so much to heal the pain
Power of the pen and the power of the human spirit to
Overcome adversity, like on Australian Survivor, no obstacle too difficult, no hurdle too high

Vanquished we refuse to be, as we
Embrace change and
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, we can rally our resources, so we can be victorious

Tears pour like a cascading waterfall as we open our eyes, ears and hearts and weep together.
Shared despair turns to shared courage
Yes, we can do anything together, replace the cries with laughter and be richer with love, and richer with compassion.
Let poverty be a dim historical memory.
This is the world I dream of and we can all have.



Highly Commended: Arabella Hoang
Pymble Ladies’ College (NSW)

“Four Walls”

Four Walls
In Lockdown
My life upturned in a single day.

COVID took my mother’s job,
And forced us out of our driveway

I sleep on an old, rickety bed,
Sharing with my mother
Surviving on nothing but an egg and a slice of bread.

We leave Woolworths with an empty cart.
I’m hungry… I’m angry… I’m annoyed,
I want to tell my mum but I don’t want to break her heart.

Information on COVID is hard to grasp.
Any information we get, we hold it tightly
To our minds, with a small mental clasp.

Wi-Fi flickers fleetingly
When the bill comes, mum breaks down
Trying not to disappoint me
To live in poverty is tiring and hard.
Not even mum can bring me to laugh,
And a sense of hope will always be charred.

COVID plays with people’s minds, their lives it does rearrange.

Thousands have been thrown into the whirlwind of poverty
But now it’s time for change.
It’s time for change.



Jackie French Young Writer’s Development Award

Pearl Thlork
Emmaus Christian School, Canberra (ACT)

 ‘You know when you tell jokes…’

You know, when you tell jokes to people and you get to see their faces brighten up like the sunrise each morning. Greeting everyone and hearing them respond back? When one of your friends tries to scare you but instead the friend next to you ends up getting scared, and everyone bursts into laughter together. It felt comforting to be welcomed in a group that makes you feel important. But when that thing hits you out of nowhere, a thing that pulls you away from a feeling of belonging… Well that’s what I feel, this intense pain that rushes through my body messing with everything from the mind, to the body, and to the breath.

Throughout my days and nights, the desire to leave this pitch of doom. While being told you’re abnormal, this sensation you’d feel from those words makes me feel out of place, broken. Then I’ll start to question my reality and worth. Why? Why did I come to this world, to fear the unknown and feel castaway from society, words I would utter to myself?

Now you’d think that the worst part is over, but it has just started. This self-doubt leading to deep regrets, is so harmful to the body and mind that I didn’t know until it was too late. I thought, if I let my mind run free about why I’m wrong all the time, why I’m not worth it, telling me that every bad thing which happens to me is acceptable as punishment for all the horrible things… I’m so numb to all of this pain, it aches, my mind destroying itself so effortlessly.

I used to have dreams. I was thrilled with any activities given to me, dislikes and likes… All at once, it turned into the aftermath of a horrifying warzone. It hurt. Well, it used to. I wish. I want to. I have to get out of this pit of uncertainty. Every month is like floating over a gentle water bed but then out of nowhere I’m being drowned in the ocean, suffocating me so much that I want it to stop, and I try to escape it. Should I? After many attempts, I knew I couldn’t, I realised that there were lots of people around me who are like me. They are just hiding it better than I am, because society thinks the things going on in the mind are not as rough as the physical pain. As my conscience will not affect my reality, it’s just something you think. Something you think.

Perhaps the things you think made people leave this world. Is that why there aren’t many records of people with mental illness in poverty, thanks to the result of what goes through their mind?

The conclusion I have given myself is that if I can’t end it all, I need to help change the way people perceive mental illness. I want to help them. Those in darkness, confused and alone.


William Harris
The Hutchins School TAS

Hello, I’m Josh and I’ve had a hard life. I am now 12 and I used to live on the streets. My parents went to jail for secretly being drug dealers. I don’t know much about what drugs are, but I know they’re bad. There was no money for food. I had no family, so I was an orphan, but I absolutely dreaded going to an orphanage. I would often sit under the Liverpool bridge, shivering cold and wet. I would normally be there because it was raining a lot. I thought I may as well have just lived there. I used to go to school, until I was 9, then my parents went broke and did anything to get money. My parents ended up in jail while I ended up in foster care. I ran away because I hated it. No one wanted me! That was around 3 years ago now. I only got one meal a day, from the local Subway, the employees were nice enough to give me a chicken wrap and clean water every morning so I could eat the food throughout the day. I go to school now. I used to look in the window of the “Cheverton Anglican School” thinking how good it would be if I were in there. One time, a nice teacher noticed me looking through the window of her class, so she walked out of the door and asked if I needed help. I told her my story, and she seemed shocked and asked if she could help me. At that point, I ran out of words. I was also shocked. I was so excited that she wanted to help me, she said her name was Mrs. Martin. She helped me contact Family Services. And somehow, they found lovely foster parents for me. Now I live with Mr. and Mrs. Oakley. I now have a warm bed and food and drink for every meal. It is great that I’m no longer on the streets, wondering where to sleep. Or whether I would have any lunch today. Mrs. Martin organized a special scholarship for me to attend Cheverton Anglican. That’s where I go now, and I’m grateful to be here. Now I’m writing down my story for the “Pens Against Poverty” challenge so other kids can be inspired to help kids in need. After all, it is time for a change!

John Foulcher Young Poet Encouragement Award

Benjamin McBride
Canberra Grammar School (ACT)

“Changing Seasons”

How silly of me,
It is to write,
Of something I have had little experience: Time.

Time wraps itself around us all.

It is self consuming,
It is reality.
But today I am not here,
To speak of something as simple as time.
But about something that is very dear to some.

Those some are the ones who experience it first hand,
A torture for us all to hear,
But mostly a torture for,
Those who have lived it,
Continue to live it.
Those who live what I speak of,
Are all around the world.
And then there are those who help,
If they can.

Time for change,
On an August summer day.
Across the skies, A new life awaits, On an August winter night.
The living which I speak of,
Is not lived,
But endured by those in the Afghan land.

We tried to answer their calls,
Desperate pleas, In a peaceful way,
Which may not have been as peaceful as hoped.

But then,
One does not hope for war.
A war, From 2001, To 2021.
Some say,
That this was the longest war,
In the history of wars,
Which sadly felt,
Like an eternity.

Time for change,
On an August summer day.
Across the skies.
A new life awaits,
On an August winter night.
Those who are sharp,
Will have figured,
That what I speak of,
Is no less than,
The Afghan War.

Those who fought,
Bravely returned,
To homes across the globe,
From the US,
To Australia.

When the troops left,
They brought with them,
Many Afghans,
Of all walks of life, Muslims, Christians, those of all faiths,
Or maybe just those with faith in humanity.
Those who sought no more than a peaceful life.
Like the good souls they were,
The captain and crew,
Chose people over possessions.
Armoured tanks abandoned,
Too heavy a load.
Women and their children,
With heavy a heart,
Await flight.

Time for change,
On an August summer day.
Across the skies.
A new life awaits,
On an August winter night.
Malala Yousafzai,
We all heard her cries,
On that fateful day.
When the light faded.
When darkness ruled.
I am sharing this,
A story of regrets,
One of darkness,
And yet also of courage, bravery and good.
I share this with you,
The younger generation,
Who hold no regrets for the past,
Nor should,
But must learn this story,
So that we know,
And can act,
Over a new time,
A new era,
A time for change.
Time for change,

On an August summer day.
Across the skies.
A new life awaits,
On an August winter night.


Lily Ward
St Michael’s Collegiate, Hobart TAS

“Look I can fly,” he said
Through dusted gilt and tule of rose
That hung lose thread to seam
With shoes that cork and wings that spread
He once stood beside the stream
Wrapped tight in oblivious glory
That took mealy years to aid
His days raised dim and cold
As his fairy wings did fade
That dear discovered within the chest
Of wood, rust, and grime
Was a lifetime worth of joy and sharp?
Flight suspended, stuck in time
But as he stood, two feet from fate
With his wings held tight beside
The buildings he once knew and loved
Look taller from the other side
And as he inched towards the brink
With symphonies playing in his head
He turned to me with bloodshot eyes
“Look I can fly,” he said.