A young asylum seeker who has been learning English for only nine months had a shock win in the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards, announced this morning in Gunnedah.
Maryam Sathat Sobhani took out first place in the Learning Assistance and Special Education Primary category.
The 12-year-old fled Iran with her parents Sayed and Roya two years ago.
They arrived in Indonesia before boarding a boat destined for Australia but were intercepted by the Australian Navy and sent to Christmas Island.
The small family were held there in immigration detention before being sent to Manus Island and eventually to Melbourne.
The Sobhani family are on bridging visas and had to seek permission to travel to Gunnedah for the poetry awards.
Maryam’s poem, Me, had the judges in raptures and explored themes of identity, wonder and displacement.
Judge Corinne Fenton said the poem was “beautiful”, “simple” and “heartfelt”.
“This poem is a universal question which has been asked by generations of people from all over the world for as long as time,” she said.
“This young student has expressed it so succinctly and so well that it makes the reader stop and wonder.”
Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards committee member Philippa Murray said it was heartwarming for one of the nation’s newest residents to be awarded in a competition named after the poet of My Country, the quintessential Australian poem.
This year marks 30 years of the awards, with more than 8500 poems entered from 600 schools writing to the theme “What shall we tell you?”
I wonder who I am?
Or where I am meant
Or where I could be?
Or how to leave?
Or how to be a true
I wonder how I can fit in this world
Or how to be right?
But no one can answer my questions.