My Place Competition - Read Winning Entries

2021 My Place Competition

1st Prize

Year 3 & 4 Category

Louis, Shore Preparatory School (NSW)

The Walk

If you haven’t been here before, Castlecrag seems like a strange little village full of bushland and creepy old sandstone houses, perching on a cliff next to Middle Harbour. Compared to the more modern-looking suburbs around us, we seem stuck in time.

The street names don’t help much. The Rampart, The Parapet, Sortie Port, The Barbette. Whose bright idea was it to name the streets after parts of a castle?

Our streets are full of stories, but I don’t think there are any castles involved. And not all of them have happy endings.

We’ve been doing a lot more exploring since the second lockdown started. Everyone visits here for the bushwalking, but the water is way more interesting. There are secret coves, tiny beaches and muddy flats. Around the other side of the bay there are even old shellfish middens, signs of fishing by the Cammeraygal people long ago.

We thread our way through the trees, following the shoreline back to the marina. There is a short road leading back up to the houses. It’s sealed but windy and incredibly steep. Luckily for Spotty Dog, it’s the one time she’s allowed to pull on her leash and drag me up the hill.
Turning back to gaze down, it all looks so calm and peaceful. Can this really be the place of last shark attack in the Harbour nearly 60 years ago?
I imagine the young woman paddling across Sailors Bay, her arms and feet splashing wildly. No one sees it happen, just the froth and blood in the churning water.

Desperate screams for help. A crowd starts to form and she is pulled out of the water. Someone rips up a sheet to tie around her leg to help stop the bleeding.

After an agonising wait, the ambulance finally arrives and the victim is loaded onto the canvas stretcher and placed into the back of the van.

The bystanders collapse with relief and exhaustion in the burning midday heat, she is in good hands now.
But halfway up the hill black smoke appears and the stench of burnt rubber hangs in the air.
Rockley Road lives up to its name. But back then it’s more of a track. Jagged stones and boulders make it impossible for the ambulance to make its way up. The weary crowd stagger towards the van, straining to push it.
There are more people now. Locals from the houses nearby. The crowd pull her out and carry her stretcher up the hill to where a second ambulance waits…
Spotty Dog and I are both panting by the time we get to the top. I wonder how much harder it would have been stumbling on the bare rocks, helping to carry the stretcher, willing her to just hang on.

Marcia Hathaway would be 90 now. Each time I walk down here I think about that day and wonder what would have happened if the ambulance had made it up the road.

Her story lives here, like me.

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2nd Prize

Year 3 & 4 Category

Natalie (Yarrambat Primary School, VIC)

Laughing Waters ( Garambi Baan)

Walking  through the bush land, I took in my surroundings. Beautiful trees were all around me. I loved this trail down to the Yarra River. Suddenly, I stumbled on a hidden tree root and fell. My hand slid to a small boulder I hadn’t noticed before, and suddenly a strange sensation came to me. Everything was spinning then it  went dark.

It became light again and I looked around. My head hurt but I seemed to be in the same spot as I was before. But one thing was very different. There were boys in the river that I hadn’t seen before I fell, and I hid behind a bush. They looked Aboriginal, and I remembered that this is the land of the Wurundjeri people. “Hey, Ngara!” one of the boys called. “I found a spot for the eel trap over here!” The eel trap? I knew about them but I didn’t think they were still in use. The other boy ( I suppose Ngara) swam over to him with the eel trap in his hand. They both ducked under the water, and when they re-emerged he didn’t have the eel trap anymore. “Good, Nullah” Ngara said. “That’ll catch plenty of eels.” I stood back and felt the boulder again. The sensation came to me again immediately, and all went dark.

I stood up up again and when I saw the people on the side of the river I dived behind the bushes. That was close. I peered out from behind the foliage and what I saw astonished me. There was a group of men and women, and they were all holding paint palettes. Easels stood before them, covered in an amazing display of colours and pictures. This must be the Heidelberg School of Art in the late 1880’s! I was astonished. Their paintings were incredible. I sat watching them for ages and I didn’t want to leave. But eventually I had to go back to the boulder and travel again.

I was more used to it this time, and I got up straight away. The bush that I hid behind last time wasn’t there anymore, which struck me as odd, but I found another. There were some kids splashing around in the lake, enjoying themselves. But what was strange was their bathers. They were all wearing full length suits that went down to their knees. I would say that this was about 1915. I watched the kids. They were splashing around and sitting on the rocks, just like I do. I wanted to jump in, but I felt that would scare them. It was time to get back to my time.  So I went back to the boulder and everything disappeared.

When I was back, I went down to the riverside and replayed the images that I had just seen through my mind. I guess Laughing Waters has been popular for hundreds of years.

 

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3rd Prize

Year 3 & 4 Category

Bianca (Woollahra Public School, NSW)

MY PLACE IN WOOLLAHRA

Hello, my name is Bianca! I am 8 ½ years old. I live in a suburb of Sydney called Woollahra.

The Aboriginal meaning of the word ‘Woollahra’ is a meeting place. I moved here when I was 5 ½ years old with my parents and my little sister. Our family are only the second owners of our house. We are in one of 11 terrace houses in a row near the top of the hill that were built in 1903.  Before then, the land was part of Cooper Park. There is a natural creek running down through the park that has existed since the Jurassic period. When we walk on the bush paths and explore around the creek, it feels like a different world to the traffic, shops and people that are only a few blocks away. I have spotted eels dancing in their rubbery skins, turtles wading through the gentle stream, and lots of lizards basking on sunny rocks. I can imagine the traditional owners of the land, the Gadigal people, meeting here to enjoy the water source and the wonderful trees and wildlife.

There are lots of gum trees and native Australian plants around our street. At night time, brush tail and ring tail possums climb on the branches or carefully balance on the electric wires like crazy tight rope walkers. They often scamper noisily across our roof when I am in bed and it sounds as if they are having a disco up there.  In our neighbour’s yard there is a really tall palm tree that I can see swaying from my bedroom window. Outside our lounge room there is a tree with bright yellow leaves that I don’t know the name of. In summertime, the red flowers on our deck in front of the yellow leaves look so colourful against the blue sky. Just up the road a Moreton Bay fig tree stands tall with branches like an enormous umbrella and huge serpentine roots sticking out of the ground that are fun to balance on.

I am really fortunate because my father is a carpenter and he built our house. The front part is original but the back part is new. My father’s own father, who I would have called Opa, also constructed his family home in the 1950s. Opa had come to Australia from Germany to have a better life after the war. My mother’s side of the family are Asian. Whenever we have a family gathering everyone brings food and there is usually lots to eat. We often host Christmas and birthday parties at our house because it is easy for everyone to get around, especially for my auntie who is in a wheelchair.  We rearrange our furniture and have a great time with my cousins from both sides of the family. When I think about our family history and how we came to be here, I have realised that my home in Woollahra really is a special meeting place!

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1st Prize

Year 5 & 6 Category

Elaina (Porepunkah Primary School, VIC)

Under Our Feet

1.6 million years ago
Large, slow feet pad across my surface. Small, quick feet scurry around them. Brightly coloured insects zip through the air. Huge birds screech above them. Fish and reptiles lurk in the water. A giant wombat-like creature takes a drink from the bend in my river. With a spray of water, a giant monitor lizard-like animal erupts from the river, its huge teeth glinting in the hazy sunlight. Startled, the giant wombat turns and runs. The giant monitor lizard gives chase, lunging out of the water after its prey.

10 thousand years ago
Small, bare feet run over my surface, along with big, bouncing feet and even smaller, shuffling feet. Emus, kangaroos, echidnas, koalas, wombats and . . . something else. They are nothing like I’ve seen before. They are different. But they live side by side with other animals. Adults and children. Predator and prey. They both hunt for food in my river. They both collect fruit from my bushes. They both make homes out of branches and bark from my trees. But they are still different. They tell stories. Stories about me. I listen.

210 years ago
Big, heavy-boot covered feet march meaningfully across my surface. An axe splits a trees rough bark. I feel the tree cry out. Another swing at the axe. And another. Eleven agonising cuts later, the tree falls. It is cut up into smaller pieces and dragged away. Tall, wooden stakes hammer into me. Long, thin wire is threaded around them. A fence. I feel a herd of cloven hooves running into the area inside the fence. Once the woolly creatures have calmed down, they look around, seemingly interested in where they are. Then they eat the grass. They’re not interested.

170 years ago
I feel lots of feet on my surface. In the shallows of the water. Standing at the banks of my river. And all over the grass on my exterior. Shovels dig into my river banks. Shouts and exclamations go up. Suddenly, they have all got shovels and pans. They hunt. A few of them hold up, and admire, the small, shiny pieces of the metal that used to be inside of me. They glint in the sunlight. They capture. I am curious. I don’t understand why they like this tiny, gold-coloured metal that was formed deep down inside of me.

115 years ago
Heavy, bulldozer-tire ‘feet’ rumble across my surface. They uproot any plants in their way. I feel the plants’ pain. Lots of boots come through and plant seeds. They are all the same kind of seeds, but I don’t know what type they are. I have never seen these before. I am confused but relieved that not all the plants will be gone. The seeds grow. The trees are small but many. Machines come again. They clear half of the trees. Why? The rest keep growing. The trees are tall and strong. But they are still young. The machines come. They cut them all down.

40 years ago
Small, excited feet run along my surface. What I can feel of it, anyway. Part of me is covered in concrete. Another part, bark and metal. A carpark rests on me, as well as a playground. Trucks have rolled over me, digging their tires into the grass, creating large, muddy tracks. People have stomped over me, yelling and making a mess. I hadn’t known at the time, that I was going to be the base for a piece of play equipment for little kids so I was curious. Now, though, kids run over me, shrieking and laughing. That didn’t happen when the playground wasn’t on me. What happened?


0 years ago
All different feet walk, run, jog, amble and wander over my surface. Some people even glide along it on wheels. The playground is always teeming with children. The carpark is usually full of cars. The footpath has always got people walking or riding on it. The road has usually got cars driving up and down. Everyone seems happy and content (except the screaming toddlers when they drop their ice-cream). I am not content, but I’m not furious. I’m in the middle. The biggest problem is plastic. It kills my animals. It pollutes my river. It destroys the ecosystem. This is a problem that must be solved, before it’s too late.


THE END

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2nd Prize

Year 5 & 6 Category

Sasmitha (Harrisdale Primary School, WA)

An alternate history

As I stood in the tall grass of the stream, water lapping around my bare feet, I glanced at the setting sun. I imagined the countless people who had stood on the rock, gazing at the yellowy orange fireball. Fish darted between my toes, as they had for thousands of other people for years. This was what calmed me, the goodness of pure nature.

The stories Gran used to tell me were of rushing chases through the dense and wild bush, and of kangaroos hopping past the sun haloed tall grass of the bush. The history I learned in school was about a man named James Cook, and how he colonised Australia and brought life to Australia. When I asked Gran about this, she smiled and gazed off into the distance. I’ll never forget that smile. That warm smile, which seemed to radiate and bring life to the earth.

I remember Gran passing on accounts of terrible things the colonists had done, like when Stirling and other fellow colonists launched a raid on the traditional people of Pinjarra, all for stealing a sack of flour, and how they shot them with muskets and rifles. Even though Gran got a little teary, she told me about the atrocities, which proved what a great person she was.

Gran’s great aunt told her how the British had come along with their bayoneted guns and fenced off sacred land. Any sign of resistance, and down Indigenous people fell, a metal capsule lodged in their head. No amount of traditional healing and medicine could revive the poor people from the wrath of the bullet, gun, and soldier. They could do nothing about the eons of sacred ground that had been turned into mere grazing fields for cattle and lamb.

Over the span of Gran’s life, governments had made many changes and introduced many laws. They had turned from killing menaces into caring people. Some land has been given back to Indigenous communities, and the whole community rejoiced. The 13th of February, 2008, is an important date. This was the day when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gathered in parliament and made a statement. This was the day that Australians apologised for every hurt, trauma and injustice that had brought upon all aboriginal people. This was the day Australia said ‘Sorry’. I remember Gran and I sitting on the couch with ma, dad and little Shelby with our eyes glued to the LED screen. “...That today we honour the traditional peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.” At this point Gran burst into tears. I squeezed her hand as I put my other arm around her. As much as the prime ministers apology was sincere, it would probably take decades of healing for, all the other traditional owners of the land to recover from the trauma.

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3rd Prize

Year 5 & 6 Category

Lucy, St. Joseph’s Primary School, East Maitland (NSW)

Maitland River Lights Festival

Along the Hunter River bank the water flows freely, the green grass grows and the lanterns float softly down the river. The sky is pitch black but the dim light of the lanterns shines bright on this evening night at last. I think to myself this is my place. As the crowds of people swarm into the festival they get given a blank lantern that can be designed in any which way they choose from a range of colours, patterns and shapes. Gently place your candle in, but wait my friend, do not light it, as it is still before sunset you must wait for the sun is set and when the moon is shining bright way up high in the sky then you can light it. While you are waiting you can explore traditional foods from the many cultures that call Maitland home. You can enter competitions, raffles to win prizes that are drawn at the end of the night. You can also take this time to socialize, connect with friends and family but also meet new and interesting people, the children can play and enjoy themselves and just enjoy the atmosphere as this event that only comes once a year.

I can remember the very first time that I went to The River Lights Festival. I was only little and could see a hub of activity all around me. There was a man on stilts dressed as a person from the circus. There were lanterns on tables as far as the eye could see as the sun was setting over the horizon. It was a picturesque moment in time. To think we had never heard the term covid-19! That moment in time was captured in my memory, it was wonderful. The memory of decorating my own lantern, I drew a rainbow and put shapes and patterns all around it. I enjoyed that experience so much. We then walked along the mall one street over from the riverbank and got some food to eat for dinner. Next we walked over to the riverbank. We then sat on the grass shoreline and I ran and played and waited until dark. When it was time, I got my lantern with my parents, and I can remember looking up at the sparkly moon and waiting for a cow to jump over it because my parents read me that story and I thought it was true. We lined up on the riverbank and gently placed our lanterns on the water. I gave mine a push then stepped back. I watched my lantern float all the way down the riverbank and waved and said goodnight lantern. It was time to go home... until next year!

The Maitland Lights festival is an annual event and an experience to remember from that day forth. Every year we make it a tradition to go to the lights festival. Every year it was even better than the last, more exciting and fun but every year my favourite thing about going is the fact that you get to make your own lantern. I love doing that and then watching it float softly down the river. That feeling of joy and happiness it fills you up and side and makes you feel happy and content.
The Maitland River Lights Festival also celebrates the diverse side of the culture we have today, it celebrates the people that come to Maitland and helps them to be welcome this is a celebration of diversity and welcoming new people in the Hunter Community and treating them as equals. My dad was born in Sydney and my mum here in East Maitland and my dad's family relocated and they met here, and they have made a wonderful home in East Maitland and are proud to be here this helps others to understand that it is ok to move and relocate and still be celebrated even if they are a migrant from other countries or city even a state, we are all Australian and should be treated that way.

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1st Prize

Special Education Category

Ellie (Faith Christian School of Distance Education, QLD)

THE STORY OF MY GOD PARENTS

Imagine your child handing you a letter that reads: “You have 48 hours to get out of the country or we kill you or a member of your family”. What would you do? Well, let me introduce you to my grateful, generous and gifted god parents, and what they did when they received this letter.

Dalio and Areli Mira are both kind and welcoming people. Every time I visit them, they welcome me with a warm smile. It feels like my heart has been washed with rays of sunshine. I’ve always known Areli as a talented artist. Her creativity and imagination attract other creative people just like her and me. I sit patiently with her as she teaches me how to mosaic. She explores art in a variety of ways, like mosaics, decoupage, oil, acrylic painting and garden art, plus she is a great cook. Dalio diligently tends to their horse, geese, ducks, chickens and dogs on their large property. They were born in El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, but fled due to the civil war.

Dalio an agricultural engineer was working for the Salvadorian Department of agriculture and livestock as a researcher at the time the war began. One day a letter was sent home with his oldest daughter. A letter saying that they would kill him or one of his family members. It stated that he had 48 hours to leave the country. At the time the country was going through a change in government and they were able to stay another 5 years. I can’t imagine the stress of being threatened in my own country. As the war erupted, things around them became worse. Fierce gun fire and bombs were a common occurrence. They had comfortable jobs and their children were in catholic schools, but every day they feared for their lives. “We never knew if one of us would never make it back home that day” Areli says.
They hesitantly applied for refugee status, knowing they may never see their family, and they faced uncertainty about their future. They did not have any friends or family in Australia.
The couple travelled with Areli’s mum Rosa Graciela, as well as their three children, Liz was 17 years old, Ernesto 13, Dania who was 11 at the time. Moving away from their home country and travelling to keep their children safe. Dalio left six brothers and sisters behind. While Areli was torn apart from her two sisters, whom she had strong connections with. Imagine the overwhelming feeling of leaving your country and the people you’ve known all your life. What strength and courage it must have taken to escape the clutches of corruption and violence and move to a whole new country.

They safely arrived in Brisbane, Australia on the 30th of November 1989. They found relief in escaping safely, but at the same time the future that followed was frightening. Areli and Dalio had some previous knowledge of American English, but it was different to the way Australians’ spoke. So, they still had a huge language barrier. They enrolled in English classes while looking for work, but it was still hard to find a job. Areli decided to volunteer her time instead.

Dalio with his agricultural knowledge set up his own garden and mowing business. Areli was accepted to volunteer at the Queensland Museum, Entomology department. Having a degree in Biology with 25 years of experience in entomology previously from El Salvador. Later they would employ her casually as a curator research technician in entomology, classifying and creating display cabinets for their insect collection. She was offered employment at the CSIRO, and was put to work on a project that included the biological control of noxious weeds that had been brought from all over world into the Australian environment, including the Mimosa pigra. People thought it was a stunning plant with its violet and lilac petals and the pistons are like golden bells, so they brought it here to Australia. The problem was that it was taking over our native plants, stealing the nutrients from the soil.
Areli was added to the team whose job was to find the right species of insect that could kill this plant without causing other damage.

This project was carried out for more than 10 years. Dalio, in the meantime was also hired to work at the CSIRO, assisting with this and other projects of weed control, as well as planting to stop erosion. They both worked together for 18 years. They accomplished a lot, since coming to Australia.

Both Dalio and Areli are exhilarated to have contributed their talents and wisdom to Australia. They brought their passion for home cooked food that they love to enjoy with colleagues and sharing their culture with Australians. Dalio also brought his knowledge of agriculture. Probably one of the greatest contributions to Australia, is that Areli’s team worked together to eventually find the many species of insects, that would target and eat different parts of the Mimosa pigra. She also won an award certificate and prize money at the CSIRO for her outstanding work in this project.

In recognition of all her years of loyalty and hard work the head Entomologist at the Queensland museum, Geoffrey Monteith, having discovered a new type of insect, dedicated it and named it after her, calling it the; Drakiessa arelimira.

I am proud that these talented people are my god parents, and that I get to share their story with you. As Australians we get to share in their talents and now get to enjoy in all the hard work they have achieved.

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2nd Prize

Special Education Category

Jett, Morphett Vale East School R-7 (SA)

Bushfires

‘’Today’s news is about the bushfires, in the outer part of the city and it can be seen from Sydney Harbor Bridge.” The bushland and all the trees caught on fire from a truck full of trees. The truck driver was smoking, flicked the cigarette butt out of the window which caused a fire in the bush. The bush in the north was burning slowly.  However, the bushfires in the parkland areas were getting worse, everything was going up in flames.

“Nan do we have to go into the city?”
“Yes, Lilly we are going just in case, to be safe so pack your bags Lilly.”
Iwas devastated about the news, I love it here, there is an old gum tree where I love to go. It’s where my tree house is, it’s my special place to go especially when I’m sad or with my friends. It’s a fig tree.
It’s a dark brown tree with hundreds of branches and on the branches are light green leaves. It’s huge. My sister goes there to play games inside, there’s plastic buckets to put stuff into. It’s sad I can’t go there if we go to the city, it’s sorrowful. But I’m here to pack my stuff anyway.

I see the fire rushing up into the sky like the nuclear power plant reactor blown up by a meltdown. Quickly, I go in to my bedroom to grab my teddy bear called Blue Ted then I smell smoke.
‘’NAN!!’’ I yelled, I knew it had hit the house like a thief rushing out of a house with a flashlight. I knew It hit us bad, my bedroom walls were beginning to burn. The worst thing ever has happened, the house is on fire! Bravely I walk through the burning house but it’s hard to see.

BANG!!! I was in the bed… at the hospital. All alone I called for someone but no one came. Eventually my Nan come in to pick me up to drive me to my cousin’s house she told me everything.
10:36 pm Monday 28th of January, 2019.
It was a long drive back but we finally arrived at my auntie Ella’s. I love her so much plus my cousins too, Jeffry was there, as well as Bella, she’s so nice, she spends time with my sister Belle and I but Jeffry, well his just plain annoying.
We spent time with them over the weekend until the bushfire was over. We had no school to go to, our school was destroyed in the fire so Jeffry has a great idea. We would go to his school, Aunty Ella asked Miss Young the principal and she said we can go to her school.

8:30am Monday 25th of March, 2019
Today is the first day of this weirdly, enormous school, it’s so big there’s green boxed seats in the middle of the school, near the office for kids to have a rest. The kids here are so weird as well so I hang out with my cousin Jeffry. He has friends as well and they’re not weird like the kids in my class, in room one. The floor creaks when we step on it like paper on water going to the bottom.
Jeffry said “Did you hear the news?’’
“No,” I said.
It was heartbreaking to me so hard to hear, I broke down in tears and fell into his arms.
10:11 am Sunday 2nd of June 2019
It’s bad, the news reporter said the forest is burning and they can’t stop it. Houses burnt down, shops, gas stations and the animals got killed. I wish could move to Germany to be safe from the fires. My Pop comes from there. I just want be safe in Germany. My Pop came to Australia to begin a new life and he found Nan.
Now, I just want to go to my fig tree with the tree house on the very top. It’s beautiful there, I just want to go there.

Three weeks later there is nothing left, not even my tree house, not anything, I burst into tears when I see the sapling from the fig tree, it might sprout again I think to myself. Now we live in our auntie Ella’s house and it’s nice.
Hi my name is Lilly, but I like to be called The Boxer, it just a nickname and the fig tree was my special place, well, it was, until the fire.
                  


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