Identity, and a strong sense of the past, present and future, inform many of the winning Year 9–10 entries in this year’s Student Poetry Competition.
Congratulations to Ally Russo (Balcombe Grammar School), Arooj Bilal (Sirius College), Katherine Lam (Presbyterian Ladies’ College) and all of those who received honourable mentions.
The competition, part of the Arts Learning Festival, was open to students from all school sectors, and attracted almost 600 entries.
Ally Russo, Balcombe Grammar School
Here I stand along the shore
the tide drifts lazily back and forth
as my shallow breaths gulp in hazy air
I stare out to a sight devoid of life
A mourning stretch of sky
resides with a sigh over the ocean
an ocean that once induced a familiar warmth
now an empty hollow within me
The water dead, dull and grey
lulled to its grave by fumes
it’s roars snuffed by burning factories
the life our ignorance helped to kill
My heart aches and it trembles
longing for the world we have lost
with its soaring sapphire skies
and wistful warmth of sun
When there were birds singing in the treetops
flowers danced contently to their song
their petals flung loose into the breeze
floating ever so daintily away from home
I miss the picturesque sunsets that painted our skies
a symphony of reds, pinks, and oranges
splashed vastly over the horizon
just a sign of another day to come.
And the ocean, oh the ocean
how I yearn to feel it’s cool calming touch
once more caressing my burning body
to feel the relief entangled within its depths
If I close my eyes, it all rushes back
the soft crumble of sand beneath my toes
the lingering perfume of crisp salty air
and the sound of the tumbling waves
I recall the serene spread of water
a sheet of glass that seemed to stretch into forever
broken only by the splashes of leaping fish
that dare to venture from the hidden wonderland below.
But I open my eyes and it all disappears
and the returning vision of our mistakes
well, it smacks me in the face
telling me to wake up, to look at what we’ve done
We drained the beauty from our planet
we stole the sacred homes of flora and fauna
we burnt the wonder of nature to the ground
and we corrupted the pure blue of the ocean
The ambition that manipulated our minds
and the greed that blinded us to our errors
that led us down the inevitable road of destruction
yet by the time we stopped to look around
the damage had already been done.
Arooj Bilal, Sirius College
The sun-kissed land down under,
where kangaroos frolic in golden haze,
I emerge as a member of my generation,
bearing the weight of ancestral days.
As a child of diaspora,
my skin is kissed by foreign lands,
I find myself confronting bigotry’s cruel embrace
that seeks to murder where heritage stands.
How does the world perceive me,
my soul straddling two shores?
Do they question my brown skin
that my heart has been taught to adore?
Often perceived as ‘whitewashed’,
my cultural roots remain unseen,
Am I condemned to wander,
lost in the spaces of in-between?
My parents, seekers of dreams anew,
embarked on a journey, hopes shining through.
To Australia’s shores, they set their sights,
but racism’s shadows marred our sacred rights.
I hear whispers of our ancestors’ strife,
grandparents on bicycles, carving a life.
Pedalling to school, determining their guide,
so I could ride in cars, a privileged ride.
Their slippers, worn and weathered by time,
paved a path for me, my footsteps sublime.
They wore them so I could wear boots of gleam,
but does the world see beyond this superficial sheen?
And what of the mere bread they consumed,
while I feast on meals, full-course and presumed?
Their sacrifices, etched in each humble slice,
yet often forgotten in my privileged paradise.
Their mud houses, humble and meek,
while I live in an air-conditioned comfort’s creek.
Do I comprehend the depth of their sacrifice,
or has their struggle faded, lost in time’s vice?
Like a prism refracting light,
my existence is a dazzling blend,
Yet ignorance casts shadows,
grappling my neck with its brawny hands,
bringing me close to the end.
Must I carry the weight
of my parents’ struggles and pride?
Or am I expected to conform
and have my identity standardised?
Do I yearn to embrace my heritage,
nourishing roots long denied?
Or am I encouraged to assimilate,
setting my uniqueness aside?
Why do I have to say I’m Indian, Pakistani, or any other label?
Why can’t I simply say, “I am a human too” and be able,
To exist in this world without prejudice and bias,
where acceptance and compassion fuel the brightest fires?
In the labyrinth of my existence,
as a second-generation migrant’s child,
Confusion wraps its tendrils tightly,
leaving me bewildered, beguiled.
Caught between two worlds,
like a river split in two,
I navigate the murky waters,
unsure of what to hold onto.
In Australia’s embrace, discrimination marks its cruel reign,
Indian and Pakistani communities face challenges, stark and plain.
Job rejections, racial slurs, scars that run so deep,
injustice’s wounds, restless nights, it’s difficult to sleep.
In my tear-filled eyes,
the flames of unwavering resilience ignite
because I witnessed the ancestral dreams,
pining to ascend in flight.
How can I shatter the suffocating confines,
the judgments that invade?
Will society ever perceive
the boundless richness beyond colours that degrade?
Caught in this swirling confusion,
can empathy replace casting blame?
Can we create a world where acceptance
and unity are not mere names?
For within us Gen Z warriors
lie stories waiting to be heard,
our voices struggle to break free,
to be cherished, to be spurred.
Let us bridge the gaps, unite our hearts,
and strive for a world refined,
where our vibrant spirits can flourish,
leaving racism behind.
Katherine Lam, Presbyterian Ladies' College Melbourne
- Rania Aldanu, Sirius College – ‘And We Hear’
- Victoria Clark, Ballarat Grammar School – ‘Battle of the Beach’
- Zoe Deane, Our Lady of Sion College – ‘Hero’s Quest’
- Britney Disher, Taylors Lakes Secondary College – ‘The Joy of Living’
- Talia Gul, Sirius College – ‘Timid Beauty’
- Khaled Mohamed, Australian International Academy – ‘Inner Beauty’
- Ethan Molyneux, Ballarat Grammar School – ‘Thorn of Hearts’
- Sarah Shaik Abdul Kader, Sirius College – ‘Stolen silence’
- Yasmine Thabet, Caulfield Grammar School – ‘The Journey of Life’
- Leona Twist, Toorak College – ‘Journeys of Insignificance’
- Meika Varga, Our Lady of Sion College – ‘Swim, don’t sink’
- Alisa Villani, Ave Maria College – ‘The Complexities of a Teenage Brain’
- Maya Zeine, Genazzano FCJ College – ‘A Letter to my Mother’
- Annie Zhou, Caulfield Grammar School – ‘Winter Flower’
- Yolanda Zhu, Presbyterian Ladies’ College – ‘A Collage of the Poet’