This was a big year for the Dorothea MacKellar Poetry Awards, marking its 29th birthday with a very healthy turnout; 10,000 budding poets from over 700 schools submitted work of a precociously high standard, another ringing endorsement of poetry’s popularity among young writers.

Winners were announced at the National Presentation Ceremony, which was held at Gunnedah on Friday 30th August, the town from where Dorothea MacKellar drew much of the inspiration for her iconic verse.

The judges this year expressed their amazement at the standard of work submitted, which both delighted them and made the task of selecting a winner for each category that much more difficult.

Entrants were given the option of writing to a theme, ‘Wherever the Wind Blows’ or on any topic they wanted. As a result there was a vast array of topics and forms submitted for judging.

Author Sally Murphy, a well-known figure in children’s literature and judge of the secondary schools category said, “Because poetry is, by its very nature, subjective, what appeals to one will not necessarily appeal to others, because poetry is successful when it speaks to the reader or listener in some way. 

“The poems which rose to the top in this year’s awards were those which offered the reader (in this case, me) the chance to look at something in a new way, or experience something new. This happens via two means: what is said about the subject, and how it is said. Together those two elements combine to create a third: an impact on the reader.”

Judge of the primary section Glenda Millard, who returned for a second time this year, was equally impressed 

“The poems which I selected for awards of commended or higher ranged in topic, in form and in length. There were lengthy poems and haiku, highly rhymed and structured forms and free verse and experimental.

“This being my second year as a judge, I am better acquainted with the awards, and so in some ways I was more prepared for the deluge of entries as they arrived. But I think it would be impossible for me to ever be prepared for the joy I feel when I read an entry which is unique and well-written. 

“Like precious jewels, cut and polished until they gleam, they excite and inspire and remind me of why I agreed to take on this task once again. I must admit to feeling awed at the quality of some of this year’s poems.

“I must reiterate how very difficult it is to judge entries of this magnitude and quality. Because of this, it can be as little as a spelling mistake or a typographical error, which distinguishes one poem over another,” she said.

A stirring piece on the Hiroshima bombing from Jobelle Roscas took out the Senior Secondary prize and is a good example of the evocative, sensitive work submitted. It is powerful stuff, on which the judges commented, “This is a poem which is spine tingling. To be able to deal with such a disturbing topic in a way, which embraces the reader shows great maturity. Images of fathers, mothers, children turning instantly to ash are wonderfully powerful, made more so by little details such as a kiss on the cheek which make these real people rather than simply numbers.”

As an indication of the breadth of topics and variance of form of the poems submitted, Alpay Filizkok’s ‘Bees’ which won the Learning Assistance and Special Education Primary Category, captured its subject in a perfectly-formed seven lines.

“The poet has used wonderfully graphic language. Is tornado the collective noun for bees? If not, it should be. Wonderful!” was the judge’s comment.

Prizewinners in recent years have been presented with individual mementoes, designed and crafted by members of Gunnedah’s art community. This year’s trophy is a linocut ‘Blowing in the Wind’ by Gunnedah artist Anne Pickett who works in ceramics, watercolours, pencil and printmaking.

The awards’ overarching mission is to propagate poetry in schools and the resources for teachers on the website offers some invaluable advice from some of our best authors in how to approach the writing and teaching of poetry, see http://www.dorothea.com.au/resources.php

This year’s winners

Senior Secondary – Jobelle Roscas Tas

Junior Secondary – Elisabeth Sulich NSW

Learning Assistance and Special Education,

Secondary – Benjamin Gibson, NSW

Upper Primary – Jarrod Hoy NSW

Lower Primary – Josiah May NSW

Learning Assistance And Special Education, Primary – Alpay Filizkok NSW
Community Relations Commission (NSW) Award – Mele Fifita NSW

The Sheelah Baxter Award For Primary Schools

Oxford Falls Grammar, Oxford Falls NSW

Schools’ Award, Secondary

Youth Education Centre Cavan SA

This year’s runners up:

Senior Secondary – Rani Jayasekera Vic 

Junior Secondary – Simone Engele Vic

Learnng Assistance And Special Education, Secondary –Theophilus Din NSW

Upper Primary – Prajusha Mukhopadhaya NSW

Lower Primary – Elaine Hansen ACT
Learnng Assistance And Special Education, Primary – Snigdha Singh NSW

Schools’ Award, commendations

Saturday School of Community Languages, Smiths Hill High School Keiraville NSW

MLC Burwood NSW

Hornsby Girls’ School Hornsby NSW

Mackellar Girls’ High School Manly Vale NSW

Redeemer Baptist School North Parramatta NSW

Griffith Public School Griffith NSW

Tamworth Public School Tamworth NSW

St Patrick’s Parish School,Gundagai NSW

Senior Secondary Category

WINNER

Jobelle ROSCAS, 16

Rosny College

Rosny Tas

Hiroshima

At 8.15 in the morning 

on August 6th, 1945 

the clocks froze 

in Hiroshima. 

I can’t remember 

at what temperature 

the air boiled that morning 

when the day had barely begun, 

but I know it was hot enough 

for the fathers stepping out of their homes 

the mothers kissing their husbands goodbye 

the children on the street 

to instantly turn 

to ash. 

When Death shuffled along the road that day 

collecting souls in his arms, 

He walked quietly and carefully 

not knowing who it was He was stepping on. 

Even He shed a tear. 

How deceiving the dust of humans looked 

dancing through the air 

falling on half-melted roofs 

like snow. 

On a wall somewhere, 

the outline of a person
still remains. 

the only reminder 

they left behind. 

No, Hiroshima. 

God was not punishing you 

for whatever sin you may have committed

once long ago. 

No amount of sin could equal this tragedy. 

This was made by people 

just like you. 

I bet those men in their tin cans, slicing through the air, 

cradling that bomb in the belly of their plane 

that morning, had no idea 

how devastating this could be. 

Yet three days later 

they dared to drop one more 

on Nagasaki. 

And if they knew, 

I know they’re kicking themselves now. 

Sometimes I can hear those men crying 

on the laps of their mothers 

asking, what did we do? 

what have we done? 

Hiroshima, I imagine your streets in the days that followed. 

How the ashes waltzed in the breeze 

and formed hands outstretched like wings, 

how shadows on walls 

rose to their feet and walked instinctively 

home, closing a door that was once there 

on the day 

they wish never happened.

There is word in Japanese

that literally means

 ‘explosion-affected people.’ 

Years later, 

we are writing your stories. 

We are thinking of you. 

We are all 

hibakusha.