Winning entries 2023

View full summary of winners in the 2023 Competition


Years 3 – 6

Moments on the Murrumbidgee
by Eric Yin

Beneath the Australian sky, vast with a cyan hue. 

Murrumbidgee’s waters offer a fantastic view. 

In nature’s warm hand sits serenity and grace. 

Inside this tranquil haven, the peace we embrace. 

In the golden dawn, the river slowly descends. 

Reflections dance as the day gently amends.  

In time, the breeze and the gum trees start to sway. 

In this timeless moment, nature’s art is on display. 

With joyous glee, kookaburras share a chuckle. 

The sun’s setting paints the sky a subtle buckle. 

The evening sky reveals a tapestry of dazzling colours. 

Our soaring spirits fly so high, some higher than others.  

We cherish our moments by the river’s gentle side. 

Beauty, nature and love miraculously collide.  

The Murrumbidgee’s banks guide us on a trail. 

The river flows as our hearts sway, a timeless tale.

Years 7 – 9

Fire of Life
by Vaylia Sunderland

We didn’t start the fire,

yet we let it burn.

The flames engulfing us,

flooding us with easy warmth.

We fed it,

Let it burn

And watched the glimmering sparks fly by.

We crowd around the friendly warmth,

Watching the fiery light,

Listening to the timber crackle and fight,

As it turns to ash.

We let the flames consume us,

Till nothing is left but dirt.

The rich red dirt of our motherland,

The land that never gets hurt.

We work our 9 to 5

Just to survive

Letting the flames lick but never consume,

the well our society dug.

To provide a sancturary,

an island away,

far, far at sea.

Away from the heat and the pressue

The motherland provides for thee.

To be or not to be,

That is the question,

To let the flames swallow us hole,

or provide life for every soul.

To blossom in its warmth,

Or shrivel like the ash,

To be reborn like a pheonix,

Or die like the fool.

No one will ever know,

How to be reborn

Away from life’s troubles,

And the swirling storm,

No predators and no death,

A final reesort for thee,

To come back to the tree,

that fueled the fire

Years 10 -12

River of Gold
by Isabella Carr

Take my hand
and follow me down
Down to the river
The River of gold.

Feel the sand
between your toes.
Watch on
as the river flows.

Drink the river
from your hands
Feel the water
reach your glands.

Take my hand
and follow me in
Into the river.
The river of gold.

Feel the water
splash you skin.
Let the gold
draw you in.

Let the sand
grab your hand
And pull you down
deep, deep down.

Take my hand
I’ll drag you in.
Into the river.
The river of gold.

Local – Adult
Big Muz
by Sally Keatinge

This poem was the Highly Commended Champion Poem (read on Champion page)

Open – Adult
Murrumbidgee Living  by Jan Pittard

This poem was the Champion Poem (read entry on Champion page)


Year 3 – 6

Fishing on the Murrumbidgee
by Ruby Lucas

We arrived at the wonderful river called the Murrumbidgee. Apparently, it is one of the biggest rivers in Australia. I could see flowing water going down the peaceful stream. I could hear frogs croaking. We packed our fishing rods. Dad is crazy about fishing, not to mention very competitive.

He saw a post on Facebook that there was a fishing competition and of course, he wanted to join even though we were in the middle of week five at school. Mum is crazy busy at her work so she insisted we go and she’d stay at home. I have two younger sisters and one older brother so I am stuck in the middle.

The next day, we got dressed in appropriate fishing clothes and set off on our adventure. If the truth be known, I am not a massive fan of fishing. It’s a bit boring for me. However, it means three days off school which is good because I’m not really fussed about school either! My two younger sisters are only two months apart and like exactly the same things. One of those things is walking. I know it sounds boring but anything to make them happy. Let’s not talk about Harry, my older brother. He’s in his teenage years. All he likes is his food and gaming, but yep he got pulled along like the rest of our family did!

Dad is pumped. He’s filled his 5 L drink bottle up with cordial, his favourite! We arrived at the fishing competition spot. There are signs everywhere saying:

“ What would you choose, a John Deer Tractor or a big Yeti Pack?”

I don’t want to jinx us by saying this, but my dad is a pretty good fisherman and I think I know what he’s going to pick. My dad claims he is a farmer because he’s always doing stuff with our 30 sheep.

Mum won’t let him have a tractor, I don’t know why. It would get him out of the house a bit more. Dad gets his fishing rod ready by putting some shrimp onto his “professional hook.” I didn’t know there was such a thing! He reels his fishing rod into the dirty water. “Oh, Oh I think I’ve got something!” he calls out. He pulled it out but it was just a big twig. If you catch a twig it symbolises good luck, dad really needs good luck at the moment. It’s been two hours since we got to this fishing spot and I am roasting. I just want Dad to catch something, soon!

It got to the point I was just too hot so I walked along the river bank until I found a good swimming spot. I take my work shirt off and stripped down to my shorts. I jumped in. It feels amazing!! It’s shallow enough that my feet touch the soft golden sand underneath. I kept my hat on the whole time Dad was fishing since it was by his command but now, I feel safe to take it off and it feels amazing!!

Not long after I hear my younger sister shouting and cheering. This could be it, I quickly jump out of the water, dry off, and run back to the fishing spot. This really is it! A miracle! Dad has caught the one and only golden perch!! My dad was crying, I don’t really think that’s absolutely necessary but it’s just like me finally getting 100% in my maths test I guess. I pat Dad on the back as I say “ Well done Dad, I really think you deserved it!” A man with a microphone comes over to Dad and shouts

“What are you going to choose?” Dad replied, as I suspected, the John Deere tractor!

I could tell Dad was so excited because he was jumping up and down like a five-year-old when their parents told them they could stay up a bit longer!

Wow. What a day. Now I see Dad driving that John Deere tractor around with the biggest, proudest smile. Well, maybe fishing isn’t so boring after all.

Year 7 – 9

Moments of the Murrumbidgee
by Roman Ruskin

As the waves splashed against the sand of the Murrumbidgee river banks, the apex of the wave hit my toes, then travelled to my ankles. I looked along the bend in the river, and a power boat roared along the right bank, the one I was standing on. It came to rest against the bank, sand scraping against the underside of the boat. I hopped over the gunwale and into the boat, and it roared through the bends of the river, going under the bridge that spans the small floodplains. We travelled for a couple hours, and around a small deviation of the river, the sun was coming up, and it was so beautiful, the orange of the sunrise, the birds flying across the sun, the taste of spring and joy in my mouth. A kookaburra started singing, and we glided along the slow expanse of the river.

As the days grew older, it started to get warmer. Before I knew it, it was thirty degrees, and I was lathering sunscreen all over my face, arms and legs. We coasted up to a clearing of forest where there was just fresh-looking green grass, and the buzzing of cicadas.

We jumped off the boat, me and my stepfather. We walked in the grass, and froze. There was a hissing noise, and I saw a black and red snake coiling up on top of a rock. I took my small metal camp shovel, and pointed the glare from the shovel towards the snake’s eyes, and it writhed away from us, and glided through the green, luscious grass.

Then after the encounter with the red bellied black snake, as I thought of it later, we walked through the bush, magpies cawing and kookaburras laughing.

As we arrived at the camp spot, I started to dig a drainage trench, just in case it started to rain. We set up the tent, and by that time, the sun was going down and the mosquitos were coming out.

We got our gas stovetop and a pot and set some water to boil. We found some fish in the Murrumbidgee and caught them, then skinned and scaled them, put them in the pot with the boiling water and added some salt and spices and had some fish soup for dinner.

As I lay in the tents, I thought about how quiet it was, no cars, no people talking, just the quietude of the Australian bush. But then I realized, it’s not that quiet. There’s birds singing, the occasional magpie, the burbling of the Murrumbidgee river. There is noise, only if you listen for it.

As we sailed back from the camping trip, I spotted a herd of kangaroos, drinking at the water’s edge. We sailed past them, the kangaroos gazing at us. Up above them, nestled in the eucalyptus tree overlooking the whole scene of tranquillity, was a group of gray koalas.

When we got back to the boat ramp, and attached the boat on the trailer, we started to drive back, and I asked, “can we do that again?”

Year 10 – 12

Memories of Her
by Isabella Carr

‘Every sunset promises a new dawn.’, she whispers in my ear. Her breath is warm against my skin. Her touch soothing. I try to open my eyes. Flashes of bright colour come into view. Her blue eyes stare back at me longingly. She smiles softly at me, her tired wrinkles deepen. ‘What does that mean?’, I ask. She frowns at me like she can’t understand, a scream fills my ears. ‘What’s that noise?’, but the screams only grow louder. Concern fills her eyes and she looks away, somewhere beyond my eyeline. I see her mouth moving, forming strange shapes, but I can’t hear anything; the noise is too loud. Then suddenly I’m moving. His skin is rough, his face is dusted with flecks of greying hair. I move side to side, like a pendulum. My heart burns, a raging fire spreading to my lungs making it hard to breathe. People are rushing past me, but the noise isn’t coming from them. It’s me. I’m the one screaming.

Ma’s favorite place was a small bank on a river that ran behind our house. It always caught the last light of the sun before it dipped behind the horizon, its waters reflecting the sky of colors. I remember her taking her camera out there in the afternoons; she used to tell me that she was ‘capturing memories’. Ma and I would spend hours down by the river, her showing me how to make and capture memories. Now I look back, wishing I could have more of those moments. More of those captured memories, her dark freckles splashed across her cheeks, her loose hair moving with the wind. The gold necklace that was always strung around her neck. Her blue eyes absorbing the oranges that held us together.

My voice wavers at the edges, I close my eyes and take a deep breath – hearing her voice in my ear, ‘You can do this Ellie’. I swipe at my eye quickly, before scanning my eyes back down the page.

My Ma told me that her days were growing darker, her sunsets growing brighter. At the time, I didn’t understand what she was telling me; I didn’t understand that she was telling me her time had come. I didn’t want to understand, it couldn’t be true. ‘Grace, it’s only a matter of time.’ It was like someone had gripped my heart in their hands, strangling it. My throat closed up, choked sobs forcing themselves out of me. It couldn’t be true. Tears blurred my vision, spilling over, leaving hot angry trails behind. A hand reached for me but I pulled away. ‘Ellie-‘. No. No, I couldn’t look at her. Couldn’t watch her ocean blue eyes fade away to gray. I couldn’t let her days grow darker and her sunsets grow brighter. I couldn’t.

25 sunsets had passed, we watched all of them together. On the 25th night we sat down by the river, a blanket draped over the two of us. Together we watched on as the sky was painted with palettes of pink, orange and yellows. Our eyes followed the sun as it dipped beneath the horizon, the bright colors replaced with the twinkling stars. I felt Ma shiver next to me as she reached up to pull her beanie down further over her ears. I moved in closer to her, pulling the blanket right up to my chin. She leans in close, her warm breath tickling my skin. ‘That was the brightest one yet.’ I looked up at her, a single tear trickling down her cheek. ‘No Ma, not yet.’, I begged. Ma placed a hand on my cheek, ‘Ellie, it’s okay. It’s time. Remember what I told you.’ I remembered, but my heart hurt too much to answer. She nuzzles in close, ‘Every sunset promises a new dawn.’

I look up and everyone is gazing at me. Their eyes are red, black smudges underneath them. I swipe at my eyes, trying to stop the tears from overflowing. I reach for the necklace, feeling the cool metal between my fingers. ‘Sunsets are proof that even endings can be beautiful.’ Lines of pink, orange and yellow fold in around the ceremony, and that’s when I know that Ma is here painting the sky how she liked it

Local – Adult

A Chorus of Cicadas
by Erryn Lee

This was the Champion Short Story (read entry on Champion page)

Open – Adult

Buried Secrets
by Sue Osborn

‘Tom’s dead.’

Her sister’s voice was flat, emotion zipped tight. ‘Tractor accident. He died this morning.’

Jillian dropped the phone on the desk. Tom was dead. She sat, hands pressed against her lips, the words spooling through her mind in a continuous loop.

She stood up and moved to the window. Outside the Canberra autumn was in full colour, the reds, golds and browns of the falling leaves adding seasonal richness to the man-made landscape of concrete and steel. Soon the trees would be stripped bare, the grass shrivelled to dull brown, and the birdsong silenced. Dead. Just like Tom.

Once again, a death had cleaved her life in two. Life before and life after. She closed the computer and walked out of the office.

She sat on the park bench, oblivious to the afternoon joggers and young mothers pushing prams. She was back in Gundagai.

Back in Gundagai in the summer of 2007. Sixteen and in love because on New Year’s Eve, Tom Sharpe had walked into her life. Good-looking Tom Sharpe cloaked in the privilege and power that came from belonging to one of the wealthiest pastoral families in the district.

‘Mum, do you know where the sunscreen is?’ she had shouted over the top of the vacuum cleaner. Her mother hit the power switch. ‘Where are you going?’

‘Tom’s picking me up. We’re going down to the river,’ she replied.

‘Whereabouts? Deightons?’ asked her mother referring to the small sandy beach that edged the Murrumbidgee outside town. Jillian nodded.

‘I wish you wouldn’t see so much of him, Jill. In a few weeks’ time, he’ll be back at his expensive boarding school in Sydney, and you’ll be here. By Easter, he will have forgotten about you.’

‘It’s not like that, Mum. We really like each other and once he goes back to school, we’ll Facetime,’ she said, the sharp tone of her voice betraying her defensiveness.

A horn tooted. ‘That’s Tom. I’m off,’ Jill said.

Her mother watched her skip down the hallway, yellow daisies dancing splashes of sunniness against the white background of her T-shirt. She didn’t hear her mother’s muttered warning, ‘I just worry you’ll end up hurt.’

But they didn’t go to Deightons.

‘Too crowded at Deightons,’ Tom said. ‘Let’s escape further along the river. I know a track that leads down to the water. Goes past Old Paddy’s shack. I’ve snuck Dad’s gun out of the cabinet. I can do a bit of shooting.’

‘No please, let’s go to Deightons. Everyone will be there.’

But Tom was insistent, so they sped off down the highway, sun beating on the windscreen and music blaring.

They had just passed the Farewell to Gundagai sign when Tom suddenly braked and swung off the highway on to a bush track barely visible amongst the undergrowth. A short way in, he stopped the car. ‘Here, you drive,’ he said, grabbing the gun from behind the seat.

‘Please no,’ pleaded Jillian, ‘I’ve only just got my learners. I don’t really know what I’m doing.’ ‘You’ll be fine. Come on, let’s go.’

She took the wheel while Tom set himself up in the passenger seat, gun resting on the open window. She crawled along carefully picking her way along the barely discernible track. They drove deeper into the undisturbed bush.

‘There’s Old Paddy’s shack,’ said Tom pointing to a rough wooden hut almost hidden by a giant blackbox.

Jillian turned her head.

The tree stump caught the front wheel and the car jolted forward. Her foot slipping and hitting the accelerator. An explosion from the gun. A cloud of galahs rising in the sky, their raucous screams a discordant cacophony A dull, thick thud as something hit the front bumper bar.

She found the brakes and the car shuddered to a halt. Tom got out and walked to the front of the car. Had she hit a roo? She hadn’t seen anything. Maybe it was small wallaby. What if she had killed it? What if she hadn’t killed it and it was in pain?

Tom wrenched the driver’s door open. ‘You’ve fucking killed him!’. He ignored her shaking hands and trembling lips. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’

‘It was the gun. I got a fright.’ She started crying. ‘I mixed the pedals up. You shouldn’t have made

me drive. I told you but you didn’t listen.’

‘Geez, Dad’ll kill me if he finds out I took the gun without his okay. And the cops will have a field day—no licence for the gun, letting you drive when I’m only on Ps. What a fucking mess.’

He paced back and forth, and Jillian sat, hands clenched on the steering wheel. ‘We have to get rid of Paddy,’ he said. His voice was cold and distant. ‘There’s a shovel and crowbar in the back of the ute.’ Jillian looked at him, her eyes wide with fear.

They drove back into town, not speaking. Jillian knew their lives were irrevocably bound forever but never as a couple. They were tied by their monstrous secret but Tom would never be hers. That dream was as dead and buried as Old Paddy.


Tom married Kate. Jillian was never sure whether he loved her or whether it was a calculated move to buy her silence, knowing she would never destroy her sister by spilling their secret. Tom self-medicated with alcohol. She buried herself in work, haunted always by the fear that in a drunken outburst Tom would tell what happened the day Old Paddy went missing.


Jillian stood and stretched. She was free, the terrible secret to be buried forever with Tom. A new beginning. She smiled. She would go back, attend the funeral, and then start her new life, released from the black dread which had hung over her for the past sixteen years. She hummed to herself as she left the park.

Her dreaming abruptly interrupted by the ringing of her phone.

‘Tom left a letter, Jillian. You better come home.’