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Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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Canberra students take up ‘Pens Against Poverty’

Students from over 30 schools across the Canberra region and now across Australia put pen to paper in support of Anti-Poverty Week (11-17 October) as part of Anglicare’s ‘Pens Against Poverty’ schools writing competition.

Entries were judged by Australian children’s author, Jackie French.

Canberra Girls Grammar School student, Reshmi Senanayake, received the Pens Against Poverty 2020 Ambassador Award. Other ACT winners include: John Nikias, Emma Stone, Benjamin McBride, and Hugo Carpay, from Canberra Grammar School; Harry Hitchcock, St Bede’s Primary School; Zoe Smith, and Peter Duncan Tate, from Emmaus Christian School; Zoe Tammer, and Emily Rock, from Telopea Park School; and Miah-Tya Nungheena Gowland, Campbell High School. Several of the winning entries are published below.

Interstate winners include: Jezanna Louise Winchester, St Patrick’s Gundagai NSW; Pascale Galen, Christmas Island District High School WA; Katherine Lee, Pymble Ladies College NSW; Cailyn Pajic, Carys Cherie Brown, Frederick Irwin Anglican School WA; Kahlia Hitchcock, Arndell Anglican School NSW; Riana Han, Abbotsleigh School NSW.

The School Participation Award went to Pymble Ladies College, NSW; Rural and Regional Schools Award to St Patrick’s Gundagai, NSW; and Schools Encouragement Award to Fredrick Irwin Anglican School, WA.

The initiative, begun in 2015, gives school students the opportunity during Anti-Poverty Week to write for a cause, use their imagination, and express their thoughts about social issues.

The competition theme was ‘Lost and Found’ inspired by the book by Australian children’s author Shaun Tan, called The Lost Thing. Submissions were received from school students from grades 3 to 10 from over 20 schools across the Canberra region, NSW and Western Australia with creative entries ranging from poems to short stories. 

“As in previous years, Canberra schools were well represented and include entries from the Public, Catholic and Independent sectors,” says Jeremy Halcrow, Anglicare CEO.

“This year, despite the challenges of remote schooling and social distancing, the competition has gone national with further entries from schools in wider NSW and in WA. It’s inspiring to see the next generation develop compassion and understanding around issues of social justice and inclusion.”

The competition, which looks set to continue having a national presence, was the initiative of a local Canberra teacher and supported by a range of Canberra-based community sector organisations including Anglicare ACT, ACTCOSS, Red Cross, Marymead, Woden Community Centre and St Vincent de Paul. Major prizes were sponsored by Gallagher Insurance and HESTA.

YEAR 3-4 POETRY ENTRY – WINNER

Emma Stone, Year 4, Canberra Grammar School

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 SHORT STORY – WINNER

John Nikias, Year 3, Canberra Grammar School Red Hill

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 tired. But then school started and the bike jumps were lost again. 

Then Covid hit and everyone was stuck inside with their eyes glued to their 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 too 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 they 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 7-8 POETRY WINNER

Zoe Tammer, Year 7, Telopea Park School

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 9-10 SHORT STORY WINNER

‘Untitled story’

Miah-Tya Nungheena Gowland, Year 10, Campbell High School

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.

For more information about Pens Against Poverty, visit pensagainstpoverty.org

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