Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Award Winners

Last Friday I was in Gunnedah for the prestigious Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards Presentation Ceremony. It was an honour to be asked to judge the Primary category – and a joy to meet and mix with committee and community members, award winners, and their families. I am so proud of these amazing kids, and I’m thrilled to be able to share the winning poems and poets with you. (Shared with permission.)

Lower Primary Winner:  Lincoln Cecil -“The Beat

The Beat

Harsh rays on wrinkled skin.
Lungs suffocated, breathe out.
Callused hands scarred deeply.
Vision forced through cracks.
Hope strangled and choked.
Life turns lifeless.

The heart beat stops.
Joyful rhythms pour down.
Drops dancing on rusted hope.
Falling from prayers passed down.
Veins of water stretch out flowing.
Ancient arteries filling,
Bringing family trees to life.
The heart beats again.

Judge’s Comment: So many phrases take my breath away. The imagery, vocabulary and maturity in this evocative poem is astounding – especially in such a young poet! A poem written from the heart of experience.

Lower Primary Runner-Up:  Eric Qiu -“Dark


I’m not scared
Of many things:
But I don’t like
The dark.

It’s always there,
Inside boxes, waiting
To get out,
Waiting patiently
For the day to go
So it can seep down
From the sky;
It’s there,
Under my bed, waiting
For me to turn out
The light
So it can jump out
And frighten me…

It even follows
Me around.

My shape

A sound.

Judge Comment: A deceptively simple poem with a clever twist to end. Well crafted!

Upper Primary Winner: Sanu Kariyawasam -“The Earth is in Good Hands

The Earth is in Good Hands

Earth is in good hands…
It’s not
it’s too late now.
Don’t tell me
We can still save our earth
We can take a step forward
That we can still stop
You know
It’s too late.
They say
We’re getting there.
You know
It’s a lie.
We’ve gone too far.
We can’t stop now.
Every day you hear how
Animals are killed.
Wildlife is burned.
We need to take-action,
We can’t just hope.
That’s what they say…

Earth is dead. It’s the end.

(now read from bottom to top)

Judge’s Comment: I am in awe of this young poet, who has crafted a reverso that reads fluently both ways. The form is perfect for this topic – first portraying a bleak reality, then rereading it with shades of hope. Having attempted a number of reversos, and completed three, I fully appreciate and admire the skill that went into crafting this masterpiece.

Upper Primary Runner-Up: Henry Maning -“I think my teacher is Cinderella

“I think my teacher is Cinderella”

It’s not just
that she drives to school in a carriage,
or that she wears a tiara.

It’s not just
the way she mops the floor
and lets us treat her like a slave.

It’s not just
the way she talks to mice
or when she chats to the prince she blushes.

What gives her away
at the end of the day
is how she leaves
her glass slipper at the gate.

Judge’s Comment: Perfect use of repetition and rule of three. Every word working to earn its place. The rhyme to build to climax. And humour! Simplicity at its finest.

Assisted Learning Primary Winner: Felix Liu – “Untouchable


The apricot on the table was my heart’s desire,
But there was no right way this extravagant fruit
Could ever enter my covetous mouth.
I tried, I dared.
I resisted, I stared.
Like a diamond just out of reach.
As rare as gold.
However, I couldn’t give in.
Until finally …
Temptation overcame me.
I felt as black as the devil,
Yet as rich as a king,
It was as sweet as honey,
As soft as marshmallows,
As astonishing as the universe.
This amazing fruit,
Had corrupted my mind,
And made me forget,
That it wasn’t mine.

Judge’s Comment: This poem is delicious! It weaves similes, rhyme, alliteration and rich vocabulary into a tightly controlled poem, with the inevitable ending looping neatly back to the start.

Assisted Learning Primary Runner-Up:
Jasmine Safrglani – “Artistry


When the rain falls from the sky
A rainbow appears.

The sun grabs the rainbow
And uses it
As its pallet.

Judge’s Comment: There is beauty and poetry in the simplest, quietest moments. This poem makes me look at rainbows in a different light.

David Maher Award for Small Schools Winner: Lachlan Spence -“Forgotten Tree
Awarded to the best individual entry from a small school (less than 25 enrolled students)

Forgotten Tree

I hear a loud noise to my side,
I fly towards it, using sound as a guide,
The land is barren and no good for crops,
Then all of a sudden the noise stops,
I land on a branch so I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

A rusty ute was making the sound
A man steps out, onto dry ground,
His ute must have run out of fuel,
I notice his finger bares a jewel,
It glitters in the sun so I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

If I could swoop right down with speed,
I’d grab that jewel a prize indeed,
I need to think of a masterplan,
To steal it from this lonely man,
It would be easy I can see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I see his face and it looks sad,
if I steal that jewel, I will feel bad,
I realise that this man is alone,
And a long way from his home,
His life is the same as mine I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

For days on end I watch this man,
I see him suffer, his face is bland,
The process is so very slow,
Oh how I wish he would just go,
In the night he dies, I see,
Alone in my forgotten tree.

I watch the Goanna’s feed on him,
The foxes too, when the light is dim,
His memory is haunting me,
Alone in my forgotten tree,
There I see his bones sink in,
I choose to leave the ring with him,

Alone in my forgotten tree.

Judge’s Comment: A complex poem from a bird’s eye view, exploring the use of symbolism, rhyme and repetition.

Chatting to Lachlan over breakfast, I was so pleased to hear that his poem was written outdoors – when the class was taken out to the long paddock to sit and be inspired by nature as they wrote. This is such a valuable exercise, and I am so glad there are schools who still see worth in it! And look at the poetry it produced! I know my first national competition win came with poems I’d drafted on a Yr 10 school writing excursion; scratching away in my notebook whilst poised on a rock in the middle of a trickling stream, as others perched in tree branches, or sprawled on the grass. If we value writing and creativity, we will value excursions that release their creativity! I spent considerable time tramping paddocks with my nose in my phone screen (thankfully not snake season!) and propped up under a tree, judging the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards. As an author, I head for the hills if I’ve got a mental block or need to ponder plot problems. Fresh air and country vistas release word snarls.


Award winners at the ceremony – with Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society President, Juliana McArthur, Kate Neasey (Cottage School, Tasmania – winner of the Primary Schools’ Award) Primary judge Kathryn Apel, Secondary judge Meredith Costain and guest speaker Gabrielle Chan. (Photo credit:


Don’t forget to read the Secondary Award Winners poems from 2019. Janiru Liyanage brought tears to my eyes with his stirring presentation of his winning poem, whilst Amelia Neylon blew me away with her slam poetry performance. Don’t miss the full list of Secondary poems, as judged by Meredith Costain. Wonderful works!

The Dorothea Mackellar Society is already in planning for next year’s competition. Start writing now – and watch this space for more information.


  1. Pingback: Gunnedah to Gayndah « Kathryn Apel

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