Gunnedah's 2018 Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards

Poetry in all its forms were celebrated at the Dorothea Mackeller Poetry Awards on Friday.

The annual national awards were held in the Civic, with award winners and their families, and local students and community representatives coming together in honour of the Australian poet’s memory and her famous work My Country.

Kate Brenner reads her poem Soul of the City.

President of the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society, Tom Plevey, said through My Country, “Dorothea managed to eloquently capture a timeless vision of an entire land” and “her words are timeless enough to still ring out today”, inspiring generations of young poets. 

“Poetry like that doesn’t just come easily, nor does it come instantly,” he said.

“All art is giving a piece of your soul up to the world, and poetry is no exception.

“These poetry awards seek to honour Dorothea by giving young poets a platform for their voice.”

Winners were chosen from Victoria, NSW and Queensland, with many attending to receive their awards and read aloud their poems. More than 9000 entries were received.

James Knight and poetry winner Hope Job demonstrate the power of words.

This year’s guest speaker was author and former Gunnedah man James Knight who shared many humorous stories, engaging the award winners and emphasising the “power of words”.

“Stories help us make sense of every single day. Stories help us make sense of the world,” Mr Knight said.

“Stories have a power all in their own right, so does poetry.

“Anything is possible in the world of words.”

Mr Plevey backed up Mr Knight’s sentiments by reminding the poets that “your words have meaning and your words have power but not if you keep them inside”.

Amy Kwak reads her winning poem Autumn.

This year, the judges of the primary sections were Catherine Bateson and Leonie Tyle (absent) and the secondary section judge was James Roy. The patrons were Mark Vaile and Susan Duncan.

Secondary judge Mr Roy said there were a number of stand-out poems in the secondary categories that “could have made it over the line” but “the ones I chose in the end were very powerful”. He also said that the Tasmanian schools “punched well above their weight this year” and the students had been “well mentored” by their teachers.

Primary judge Ms Bateson said there were very few opportunities to validate young poets in Australia, so the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards were significant.

“There are very few national awards for young writers and even less national awards for young poets,” she said.

“This national award plays a crucial role in our literary culture.”

Ms Bateson said “it’s a very hard gig” to be a professional poet in Australia and it was important for poets to “make a stand for those qualities which uphold civilisation”.

The author said poets were important because they take “small pauses where we can look out on the world and appreciate a still moment”.

St Mary's vocalists sing Take Me Home.

St Mary’s vocal ensemble performed two songs at the end of the awards presentation and memorial society president Tom Plevey thanked awards project officer Brittany Riley for her work in organising the event.

“She has been the glue that geld this whole event together,” he said.

List of Winners

Primary

Winner – Upper Primary:Morning, Subai Ma, Ravenswood School for Girls, Gordon, NSW

Winner – Lower Primary:Poetry in the Sky, Adele Scully, Prouille Catholic Primary School, Wahroonga, NSW

Winner – Assisted Learning Primary:Autumn, Amy Kwak, Redeemer Baptist School, North Paramatta, NSW

Secondary

Winner – Senior Secondary: Borders, Tess Harkin, St Michael’s Collegiate, Hobart, TAS

Winner – Junior Secondary: Soul of the City, Kate Brenner, SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Darlinghurst, NSW

Winner – Assisted Learning Secondary: Loneliness, Lily Rout, Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, QLD

Schools’ Award

Winner – Primary: Cherrybrook Public School, Cherrybrook NSW

Winner – Secondary: St Michael’s Collegiate, Hobart, TAS

Multicultural NSW Award

Desi Woman, Wadia Mubashira

David Maher Award

Narn’s Boots, Hope Job

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