Winners announced for 2021 Banjo Paterson Writing Awards

Three incredible writers have made history by becoming the first joint winners in the Short Story Section of the Banjo Paterson Writing Awards.

James Page.

The joint winners are:

  • Out of Africa by Sagamba Muhira of West End, Queensland and James Page of Eventide, NSW
  • Laughing like Children by Carmel Lillis, of Yarraville, Victoria

Orange Mayor Reg Kidd thanked everyone who entered and said the quality of the entries received from across the country were testament to the awards’ high regard within the writingcommunity.

“I understand the judge’s decision was extremely difficult this year in the Short Story section due to the number of high calibre entries,” Cr Kidd said.

“Out of Africa tells the story of one man’s experience of war and devastating ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and his eventual resettlement, with his sister, as refugees in Queensland.

Sagamba Muhira.

“Laughing like Children traces an escape from a different kind of terror, domestic violence.

“Both are stories of escape from violence and, despite the devastation each of the narrators endures, they are ultimately both stories of hope and gratitude, too.”

Entries were received in three categories: Short Story, Contemporary Poetry and the ABC Radio Children’s Awards.

The Contemporary Poetry award was won by Mark O’Flynn of Katoomba with his poem Interesting times we could all do without.

Carmel Lillis.

The ABC Radio Children’s Award was won by 11-year-old Lola Stafford of Billywilliga, NSW, with her story One Land Two People. Second place went to Sybilla Chapman of Bathurst with her poem Our Underwater Aussie Garden and third place to Luke Favantines of Mount Victoria with his poem Light and Dark.

Orange City Council’s Services Committee Chair Cr Scott Munro said an award presentation could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but all winners had received their prizes and certificates.

“All of the winning entries can be read on the Central West Libraries’ website and I encourage everyone to take the time to read these outstanding works,” Cr Munro said.

Judges’ comments on the winning works

The judges for the 2021 awards were author Kim Kelly (short story), retired Orange teacher and long-time judge Deborah Smith (contemporary poetry) and Central West Libraries’ reading and writing coordinator Jasmine Vidler (children’s award).

Out of Africa by Sagamba Muhira and James Page

“The narrator’s steady, gentle voice takes us into the beauty and plenty of his homeland: “Almost anything will grow there … If one had to choose a part of Africa in which to live, then, at least under normal circumstances, one would logically choose North Kivu.” As his story unfolds within the carefully crafted, sparse prose, we are given just enough political and geographical information to make sense of the senseless: a vicious eruption of hatred that results in his legs being broken and all of his family killed – apart from his one sister.”

“Throughout, the narrator’s steadiness and gentleness remains. His reunion with his sister is as simply, directly told as all other events in the story, avoiding all emotionalism where no emotion can adequately describe what it must have felt like in reality to lose everything, and to live in such ceaseless fear. Equally poignant in simplicity is the narrator’s eventual arrival in Australia, where he is “safe and free”, and where he now has “a wonderful wife and two beautiful children.”

Laughing like children by Carmel Lillis

“A nameless woman contemplates yesterday’s flight from home with her two children, a social worker driving them through the night to deliver them to a refuge. Her children, now safe, squabble and fight, mimicking their parents’ constant conflict, and she asks, “What other way do they know, these fledglings who’ve fled, yet again, with their broken-winged mother.”

“The children are drawn realistically, in all their vulnerability, at once sweet and frightened and worryingly violent themselves. They wear their treasured football jumpers, symbols of both the kindness and obliviousness of strangers keen to help”.

“There is a sophisticated multilayering of character and themes in this story, especially within the narrator, who reveals her contradictions of sensitivity and bitterness through voice and action rather than exposition.

“The underlying message that true refuge – and hope – is found in the solidarity of women, no matter their backgrounds, is a profound and timely one. And the observation, “How powerfully the lure of bland suburbia beckons for those denied it,” is acute.”

Mark O’Flynn.

Interesting times we could all do without by Mark O’Flynn

“There are strong images that enhance the mood of the reading and create clarity.

The sustained and consistent use of precise words and phrases and the relationship between these images is original. Your poem has an emotive depth that displays insight whilst still allowing the reader their own personal thoughts and reflections.”

Lola Stafford.

One Land Two People by Lola Stafford

“Told in an engaging and conversational tone, the four vignettes portray the different feelings of the two characters – a European girl and an Aboriginal girl. Each vignette reflects the feelings of the characters about the landing and their reactions to it. This is emphasised by the cleverly repeating lines at the end of their soliloquies.”

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