2019 My Place Competition
Year 3 & 4 Category
Year 5 & 6 Category
Year 3 & 4 Category
Leni, Pleasant St Primary School (VIC)
As I peer through the branches of the beautiful old fig tree, I hear footsteps coming my way. I crawl to the middle of the thick trunk and reach for my iPhone, determined to catch a glimpse of whoever is littering my place. Oh, my name’s Leni and this is my place, not theirs!
Gently, I flick the screen to camera mode and then I wait, like a lion waits for its prey. With trembling fingers I click, but I don’t dare to look at my photo. Shaking, I jump to the hard earth below and sprint home, not even stopping to take a breath. Finally, I look…On the screen before me, I’m faced with an image that won’t be easily erased from my mind. Dirt covered her face, rags on every inch of her body, what was she or who was she?
“Mum”, I bellowed at the top of my lungs so I could get her attention, “look at this photo closely.” Mum barely reacted. “Oh, she is probably a homeless person, they’re everywhere these days, where did you see her?”
“At the fig tree”, I replied shocked.
As Mum went back to vacuuming with her shiny new Dyson, I looked at the photo again thoroughly. I noticed her tattered clothing and filthy old pair of runners with holes at the tip of her toe. Her dirty face made me feel guilty as I recalled the 20-minute shower I had had this morning. I peered down at my shoes and my stunning new dress from MYER, realising how lucky I was to have anything at all, and at that second the only thing I wanted to do was help.
That night, as I lay in bed under my thick warm covers, squeezing my Beanie Boo tightly, I envisage what it would be like to be unkempt, unclean and unloved, living in the alleyways of the terraces. Tossing and turning I struggled to get to sleep. How could people be homeless in 2019?
As I awoke the next morning, the aromas from breakfast drifted towards my bedroom. Getting out of bed was easy knowing that there was a warm meal waiting on the table. While my stomach grumbled, a grim thought popped into my head, I get hungry every hour; imagine what it would be like not having a meal for days. Tucking into my smashed avocado and crispy bacon, I suddenly had an idea. I’ll cook, cook for the homeless!
I prepared a large batch of soup and soundlessly slipped out the door. Hurriedly, I raced to the tree, where I’d last seen the homeless girl. I gently placed the thermos of soup next to her sleeping bag, then I was off, hopeful that I had just made that person’s day and perhaps even invited them back to our place.
Year 3 & 4 Category
Chelsea, Woollahra Public School (NSW)
My place is no ordinary place. It smells like an ordinary place with wandering whiffs of garlic and disinfectant. My bedroom is cosy; my garden is rosy. But…my treehouse is no ordinary treehouse. In fact, my treehouse is nestled amongst the sturdy, nurturing and trusting fig tree branches in our backyard. It is amongst these sturdy, nurturing and trusting branches that I’ve been making amazing memories. My name is Chelsea and this is my place.
My parents moved into this place after they married. Being Greek, they love figs and perhaps that’s why they bought it. Dad runs a café in the city selling coffee and Greek sweets.
My treehouse is my sacred place, my hideout for when I’m angry or sad. I’m now waiting sadly for the day when I move. My parents can’t afford the house repayments so we are moving to Central Coast where houses are cheaper. This means I’d have to leave my BFF Matilda (Tilly) and our neighbour with two adorable Jack Russells. How can this happen? So I decide to write an email:
“Dear Bank Manager, PLEASEEEEEE lower your fees so I don’t have to move house. Moving means leaving behind my friends as well as our invaluable fig tree, my oasis where I laugh, cry, hide and imagine. I’d truly be heartbroken.”
As I put on my unicorn onesie and tuck into bed, I wonder if the bank would respond and lower our fees. That’s the only way we could stay, dad keeps suggesting.
It is a new morning. The sun beams down at my room as I despairingly pull on my school stockings. At school, Mrs Lingard greets me with a warm smile.
“For Geography, we’re going to build special places from around the world using recycled materials.” A cacophony of noise erupts from around the classroom.
“My favourite place is the Eiffel Tower! I’m going to build the tallest tower,” boasts Ned.
“I’d love to build the London Bridge!” exclaims Georgina.
Meanwhile, all I could think of is my fig tree. I don’t have to travel far to get to my special place. My special place is right in my backyard. I glue my tree and let it dry.
After school Tilly runs up to me and asks if we could have a playdate. Mum agrees, and whispers that I have some surprising news at home.
The Sydney Morning Herald is on the table. On front page, there’s a message from the bank, in bold: “Reserve Bank rates cut to historic low of 1% - Great news for families.”
I grab mum’s iPhone and hysterically face-time dad. “Dad, the bank manager read my email. I told you I’ll fix everything!” I shriek.
I run to the backyard and tell Tilly I won’t be moving. We both squeal with delight as we climb the fig tree. At the top we do a one and only dab. Our dab is a signal of happiness and triumph.
This will forever be my place.
Year 3 & 4 Category
Levi, Morphett Vale East Schools R-7 (SA)
Pow, pow, bang. “Game over,” said Thomas’s X box machine as he ran out of time. “Nooooo!” Thomas screamed in an annoyed tone of voice. “Are you ok?” asked Thomas’s mum. “Yes,” replied Thomas in a calmer tone than before: ”Beep, beep beep!” Three rude and offending messages popped up making him feel lonely and depressed inside. It was Sunday and it was about twelve past ten when he decided he would play video games for the rest of the day.
He stayed up late with his family watching the News until the weather man said something about global warming. Mum appeared worried so she went to bed early. Dad noticed the time and realised it was late so the night ended annoyingly. Beep-beep, ring ring! “Oh why did I set my alarm clock so early for six am in the morning” said Thomas irritated at the sound of it! Thomas drowsily got out of bed and started getting ready for school but he actually didn’t like school. The reason he didn’t like it was because he wasn’t good at Maths, he wasn’t good at writing either but that wasn’t the worst of it, Thomas had no friends! He wanted to share his games but he did not think games were as important as friendships.
“Tick tock tick tock ringgggg!” went the lunch bell. Everybody sat up and shot out the door “Ouch,” somebody yelled in pain. Thomas heard the scream and he ran through the hallway to where someone was lying on the ground in agony. Thomas walked up to help and asked what his name was and he said it was James. Then he asked him if he wanted to go to a fig tree he had a noticed on his way to school. James cried “Yes!” in a very excited tone.
After the home bell went they got their bikes and rode off to the huge fig tree and showed each other their video games and they eventually realised that they could become best friends. They promised they would never leave each other and Thomas eventually told James about the cyber bullying and he gave him ideas about what he could do to block the bullying.
A good friendship means that when you need help there is someone you can trust to keep you safe and support you well.
The fig tree became their place to enjoy.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Manaia, Frenchville State School (QLD)
“In the Blink of an Eye”
Hi, my name is Olivia, and this is my place. Some days, (more like every day) I sit at the very top branch of the beautiful fig tree whilst peering through the window watching my two younger brothers fight over who gets the Xbox controller first. My best friend Evie and I live right next to each other on Creek Avenue. After school every day, we walk home with each other and rest in the fig tree. We’re normally dying of laughter or I’m crying over why my father left us with nothing. Evie being Evie, is usually crying in sympathy trying everything and anything to cheer me up (which works every time).
But today, my life changed forever. On a normal afternoon after school, Evie and I were climbing up the fig tree until we heard Tracey (Evie’s Mum) call for her. Evie’s Dad was coming home from work after being away for 6 months; he’s in the army.
This day felt strange, there was something about the whole day that just didn’t feel right. The weather was horrible, it had been raining heavily on and off, it was cold and extremely foggy.
As I waved to Evie and Tracey as they drove off down the street, a sense of sadness overcame me. I couldn’t explain why or what it was. My eyes welled up as I watched their car drive off down the water logged bitumen road. About an hour and a half later, from the corner of my eyes, I saw my mum sobbing to herself. I started to question myself about what was happening. I walked towards her with a troubled feeling in my stomach, a feeling I wish no one would ever experience.
Unexpectedly, my Mum’s sob turned into an eerie wail. I start to jog over but the wail gets louder and louder, so I found myself sprinting over to her and catching her before she fell to her knees. It felt as though she physically couldn’t say what she wanted to say, like her voice had been taken. Once my mum finally returned to her feet, I acted like a walking stick and carried her to the kitchen table. Eventhough I was scared to ask what had happened, I found the courage to and did it. “T- T- T -Tracey” Mum said, finding it hard to even say her name. “What about Tracey?” I anxiously asked hoping for a positive response (which at the time didn’t seem very likely).
To my disbelief my Mum told me that Tracy Turner had died, my best friend was unconscious, and Dave, (Evie’s farther) had been seriously injured. I didn’t want to belief what she had said but it was hard not to believe the truth. I felt like breaking down and crying, screaming at the top of my lungs but I knew I had to stay strong for my Mum.
Moments later we found ourselves quickly rushing to the car and driving to the hospital where Evie and Dave were. We sprinted through what felt like a labyrinth and found the floor where my best friend laid unconscious. At the time Dave wasn’t really my priority but I still felt sympathy for him. I was nervous. I felt anxious. I was worried for my best friend. I trudged through the eerie death smelling until I finally found my best friend laying there bruised and bloody. She wasn't awake but I spoke to her anyway. I told her that no matter what, she would always be my best friend, my ride or die, and the person I love the most in the world.
Despite it being such a solemn time I always felt happy when I was with her. So, I spent the night and for 9 hours I spoke to Evie. I made jokes, I cried a bit, told her memories we shared but I was still talking to myself. Each night for one week I slept in the hospital next to Evie, and as each hour passed by I told her a story about a memory we’d made together. On one special night I was staring at Evie and my eyes watered. Then, suddenly, she woke up, but she looked like she didn't know where she was or more alarmingly, who I was!
The Doctor came and told my Mum that the cause of Tracy’s death, Evie’s loss of memory and Dave's serious injuries were caused by a driver who was looking at her phone on the highway and wasn’t aware of her surroundings.
A tedious few weeks later, the doctor told us that Evie and Dave could finally come home. I felt like my fate had been turned around as I figured out that maybe, just maybe if I show Evie the fig tree, our fig tree, she would remember who I was; she would remember the 12 years we’d spent together.
I struggled to roll Evie outside as she was in a wheelchair, but I was determined. I couldn't let anything stop me from Evie remembering me, and who she was.
There, in front of the fig tree I stared at her for a while hoping her eyes would light up. Hoping she would look at me, and remember who I was. But, minutes passed by and still not a spark of recognition lit her eyes.
I slowly turned around and started to cry because my only hope had failed.
Evie’s next action, her touching one of the branches caught my attention though, and I heard faint voice saying “Olivia”. I quickly turned around with a shocked smile on my face as I realised my best friend Evie had remembered me!
It was unbelievable, a miracle, I couldn't believe what had happened I started to jump around, tears of joy rolling down my face. I felt so grateful. The fig tree Evie and I spent most of our time together in had saved our friendship and had lifted so much weight of my shoulders.
After that day I felt like I couldn’t leave Evie’s sight and I wouldn’t let anyone touch her, it was a bit insolent but the only thing I could think about was keeping her safe.
Six months later my two little brothers, Evie, Dave, my Mum and I all live together in one house. When we are hungry, we order something naughty from Uber Eats and we all sit in the lounge room and play games on the Xbox. Sometimes we laugh so much we can’t breathe.
Our life is certainly different from what it once was, but there’s one thing that has stayed the same.
The fig tree – our friend.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Isabelle, St Columba's Catholic Primary School (QLD)
"The Haunted House"
I watch in interest from my place in the fig tree in the park across the road as an old, black Ford pulls into the garage next door. It has tinted windows and looks like it has been around since the nineteenth century. Maybe earlier. The garage door closes before the owner gets out of the car, so I don’t see who it is. I’ve never seen that car before, so they must be the new owner from the auction a few weeks ago. The house itself doesn’t look the newest, there are a few cobwebs outside the house, let alone the inside. I shudder at the thought of –
“AMIRA! I have been calling you for the past three minutes, and still, nothing! Get in here right now!” Mama’s voice interrupts my thoughts about the house and its new owner. I climb down from the fig tree, go inside, sit down at the dinner table where Mama, Papa, Nan and my older brother Arav are waiting for me, and start eating my butter chicken. Butter chicken is my favourite meal from when we lived in India, but I stay quiet throughout dinner, because I don’t really want to tell them about the haunted house and its new owner. At least it’s the holidays, so I have more time to investigate.
The next day, I climb up the fig tree. I’m wearing a green T-shirt and faded jeans, so I kind of blend into the fig tree. I haven’t seen anyone come in or out of the house yet, except for yesterday when I saw the car for the first time. All the curtains are drawn, so I can’t see inside, and I sigh. I hear Mama’s voice in my head telling me to not stick my nose into other people’s business and I silently slink down from the fig tree. I guess I’m going to tell Nan. She listens to me the most and always believes me and tells the truth, no matter what.
Inside my room, I look around for some kind of distraction until Nan comes back from lunch with her friend, Sally. Eventually I pick up my old Rubik’s Cube and play with it for a while. I was never great at it, but it’s all in order and I play with it for a little bit, making sure I know how to get it back to normal.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the door opens. “I’m home!” Nan’s voice rings out. I jump up and race to the front door. It’s only Arav and me home, but he surely won’t bother us. I bet that he’s on his phone, so I sneak a peek in his room. Yep, I was right. He’s playing Candy Crush on his phone and doesn’t even look up. I say hi to Nan and bring her to my room, where I tell her about everything. Yes, including the kind-of spying. Everything. After I’ve finished, Nan thinks for a minute or so before saying “Well, maybe you could make them something. You’re a great chef.” This is kind of true, but it’s because she always helps me. “Well, I guess I could,” I say, “But what?” Nan looks at me like I’m crazy and says, “What do you mean, what do I make? I’ve seen the brownies we make together.” This is why I love Nan. She has a great idea for everything.
I get Nan to come with me to deliver the brownies. I mean, I don’t believe in ghosts or anything, but the house still makes me nervous. I take a deep breath and inhale the aroma of fresh chocolate. I place the tray of brownies in front of the door, along with a handwritten note from Nan, reading: Welcome to the neighbourhood! We’re always baking, so we made you something as a welcome gift. Feel free to drop by anytime (we’re the house on your left). We ring the doorbell. At least, we try to. It doesn’t work. We knock on the door. It looks tough, yet fragile, and I’m trying not to bash it down. No answer. We leave the brownies and note and go home.
A week later, we’re getting ready to meet our friends in the park, when we hear the doorbell ring. Nan, who is closest, opens it. A woman, maybe in her sixties, is at it, holding a tray. “I thought you might like this back,” she says, her voice uncertain. “I washed the tray for you, it had a few crumbs on it.” I come to the door as Nan beams and takes the tray from her. Mama comes to the front door and asks, “What’s all this about?” She’s not angry, but she looks like she’s thinking why don’t I know about this? but not in an annoyed way. “Mama, this is….” I trail off, worried, realising we haven’t even asked her name, but she smiles and says, “It’s okay. My name’s Hazel.”
“Okay then, Hazel,” Mama says. “We were just getting ready to go to the park, if you wanted to come. We could introduce you to some of our friends.” Hazel looks surprised and says, “Sure, if you don’t mind, I’ll come.”
“Sure. The park’s just across the road.” Mama says. “And by the way, my name’s Nita. This is my mother, Ada, my husband, Mahir, my daughter, Amira, and my son Arav is in his room.” Arav’s room is closest to the door, so I sneak a peek into his room. He’s still playing Candy Crush on his phone, but when he sees me, he quickly pretends to do homework. Can’t fool me, Arav. I go back to the door and shake Hazel’s hand. She smiles.
When we’re at the park, Mama gets a message from Lisa, my best friend’s mum, that they can’t come, but I don’t really mind. We all laugh and chat, especially me, from my place in the fig tree. My place.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Nina, Woollahra Public School (NSW)
“This is My Place ”
I am Nina and this is my place. Although I go to W.P.S, my place is not in Woollahra, it is in the safety and warmth of the unyielding, gargantuan roots of my tree. I am afraid of almost everything. Some people go and explore the word, but I am different. I always think of the worst possible scenario, but when I am in my place I thrive like a lion in the jungle. Although I am afraid of heights my tree helps me through it and for that I love my tree. I treasure all of it, the ripping tyre swing, the beautiful magpies; even my Lebanese neighbours who always drop the basketball over the fence, and of course the luscious figs. All of it is my place. The tree has kept me company when no one else would. My brother would be playing on his PlayStation, my sister either on the train or obsessively posting pictures of herself in miniskirts and cropped shirts on Instagram on her iPhone X R from her room and my parents would both be on their laptops or making phone calls for work. I would say a quick goodbye to my family, then a quick walk outside and there I would be with my tree.
The next few days fly and soon enough it’s Monday and I am at school. “Nina!” Bonnie screams in her rich English accent, “Let’s go, it’s recess?”
“Sure,” I quickly stutter imagining her throwing her peppermint tea at me in frustration. At school it is the usual subjects; Math, English, but also an interesting session on Science. I can’t help myself from watching the clock as it comes to my last subject of the day. Math rolls by as if it were a 100 year old slug. Finally after a long day, I tackle through the line to get on the school bus and slowly but surely I arrive home.
When I come home from school, my mum is cooking up delicious smelling Vegetables à la Barigoule for our French friends because they are celebrating Bastille Day. “Mmmm,” I smile, and then I am out of the house in a flash. Just before I start running outside I see the newspaper sitting on our doormat. The headline says ‘15 year old female commits suicide.’ I open the newspaper up and there are horrifying stories. Scott Morrison refuses to take in refugees, drug overdoses and mass shootings in America. I throw the paper down in fury and run to my tree. ‘What has this world become?’ I think, as I climb up the tree. That scared feeling creeps back up inside of me again and I feel like I am a lamb to the slaughter.
I am melancholic and furious both at the same time, I look down and I get scared. I thought I had overcome my fear of heights, but obviously it was back. I curled back in a ball and started falling down an endless, dark spiral. The spiral ends and I push myself back into reality. “Nothing like that will happen to me,” I reassure myself, but I know that nothing is guaranteed. This world is a dangerous place, problems are everywhere and with that, I have a thousand more fears.
After I read a couple more chapters of my book, I slide down the tree, practically hugging it in fear of hurting myself and then I run inside. I sit on the couch and discuss my thoughts with my mum. “Tomorrow, once you have finished your homework,” she said decisively, “I will have a surprise for you that will help you overcome your fears.”
“Thanks!” I say, captivated as she kisses me on the cheek, then I run upstairs into my room. ‘I don’t know what is ahead of me but I trust my mum to help me,’ I think to myself as I pull over my covers and fall asleep.
The next day I am out and about by seven o’clock. I walk the dog, then jump on the school bus and meet my friends at school. Most of my friends (including Bonnie) are already eagerly waiting in the line to go into class. My teacher opens the door and greets us all with a smile. It feels like I wait a millennium until class is over. After school ends my mood rises as I see my mum waiting outside school in the car. “Change of plans,” she says, “what are you waiting for? Get in!” I jump in the car and we drive away like a Peregrine falcon on steroids.
We hop out of the car and my mum starts taking me away. I have no idea where we are going and I start to get worried. I feel a cool breeze brush against my shivering skin. I feel a splatter of water hit my shins. I hear a loud crash and I realize that we are at flat rock in Bondi Beach. We go to a bathroom and I get changed into my swimmers. My mum takes my hand and we walk to the edge of the rock. “Come on Nina, it is alright,” she says “I will jump in first and you will go after me. It is the only way to overcome your fear. Trust me.” I start to walk towards the edge of the rock. I start to fall down that spiral again, never ending darkness. ‘No,’ I think as I walk forward again. I close my eyes and jump into the water. I feel a shiver up my spine as the icy water hits my skin. I lift my head out of the water and I see my mum smiling at me. I smile back and swim over to her as the pride and confidence sinks in. There is no feeling better than the one I felt then. I didn’t mean it when I said my place was at home in the comfort of land, because this is my place.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Rachael, Our Lady of the Pines Donvale (VIC)
“My Place ”
Hi, my name is Maya, and this is my place. My place of comfort. My place of sanctuary. It’s so peaceful here; so tranquil. The breeze ruffles my hair. The soft echo of laughing fills me with memories of happier times. The branches of the tree stretch around me, sheltering me. When things are tough, I imagine that when I sit under the strong bough of the tree, it’s protecting me from everything that hurts. The arguments that Mum and Dad would have before they were divorced, the memories of my sister sitting with me under the tree, before she died. The comments everyone make to me at school, demeaning remarks about my torn jeans, and my worn out T-shirt. My scuffed, broken shoes, and my messy ponytail. They are especially critical about my extremely old iPhone. They don’t understand that my Mum can’t afford to replace these things, like their parents can so easily.
Before Dad went away, he used to tell me stories about the fig tree. Stories that his Father used to tell him. I loved these stories, and when the bough of the fig tree doesn’t seem strong enough some days, I retreat back into the long branches, and I pretend that I’m a famous time traveller, and I’ve been back in time to everything that has happened to the fig tree, from the time it was planted, to the present.
“Hey, Maya, come on, let’s go to your house!” my neighbour, Amelia shouted, which instantly brought me back to reality. Amelia was the only friend I had. Probably because she had a similar situation to me. The only difference was she had an older brother, Ben, but Amelia hardly ever saw him. “Coming!” I cried. I slid down the tree with ease. “Impressive” Amelia commented. “Thanks” I replied. It was a ten-minute walk from the local park to both our houses. Conversation was short, there was never much to talk about.
When we finally turned the last corner, our eyes were met with the sight of our small, pokey houses. Amelia’s house was touching the corner of mine. They were drab and cramped, but we both called each of them home. Suddenly, I heard shouting coming from my house. “Let’s just call it a night” Amelia decided. “Good idea” I responded. I nervously stepped inside my house, and gently closed the door. My mum had sensed my presence. She spoke quietly this time. “Honestly, after all these years….” were her last words before she hung up. “Hello sweetheart” mum chirped cheerily. “How was school?” “Same as usual” I replied. “Who was that on the phone?” I asked, curiously. Mum’s face went pale, her smile disappeared and wrinkles began to appear on her forehead. “Mum?” I persisted. “Who was on the phone?” “Your Father” She uttered. She spat the words out like they were scum. “What did he want?” I enquired. I knew I was treading on thin ice, but I needed to know. “He wants to go to court” She mumbled. “He wants custody of you”. The world went all blurry in that exact moment. The words played around in my head. My heart seemed to stop. “But this is my home!” I exclaimed. “I know” mum muttered. She sounded defeated. She then turned, and walked upstairs, without another word. I couldn’t fathom how this could happen. It was so sudden. It was so unexpected.
2 Months Later...
Today would determine my fate. Today was the day of doom. I had been dreading this moment since the night mum had broken the news. It was so intimidating, sitting in the courtroom. This was probably the biggest room I’d ever been in. BANG! The judge slammed the gavel onto the table. “State your case” the judge roared. I closed my eyes and prayed silently. I wished so hard that I could be sitting against the bough of the tree, with the light bouncing off the leaves and the wind whistling through my ears.
2 Hours Later…
“We have come to a decision” The judge declared with a hint of pride. “Michael Thomas Jones, you now have full custody of your daughter, Mayleen Rosemary Jones. Her Mother, Anita Charlotte Miller, has proved, for various reasons, to not be suitable enough to look after her daughter”. “No!” mum cried. Her face was dark and grim. “Please, I can provide, I promise!”. BANG! The judge used his gavel once more. “SILENCE!” he demanded. “The decision has been made”.
I stumbled out of the building with Dad. “Come on sweetie let’s go” he exclaimed. “No” I moaned. “If I won’t see mum for ages, then at least just let me say goodbye”. Red eyed and infuriated, mum trudged out of the building and rushed over to me. “Goodbye” she cried. “Come on Maya,” Dad urged.
I couldn’t sleep. Everything was different here. Dad’s house was massive. I liked mum’s small house. My room had silk sheets and everything luxurious. I liked my cheap flannel sheets back home, and my simple bedroom. I was going to be sent to a posh sounding school called St Bernadette’s Girls’ School. Well, at least that might be better. I really wanted to go home. I wanted to see mum again. I wanted to see Amelia. I especially wanted to go back to my fig tree. To lean on its bough that made me feel safe. To climb up into its branches and feel it’s rough trunk beneath my fingertips. Suddenly, I had an idea. What if I ran away? Back to my home. Back to the fig tree…
The wind was fierce and loud. My feet were in agonizing pain from running so far, and the rain was plummeting down. I was so close to the fig tree. I could see it. My backpack was heavy and weighing me down. I was drenched from head to toe. The thunder exploded across the sky. Lightning flashed and sent blinding light everywhere. Then a thought struck me. What if the tree was hit by lightning? I couldn’t let it happen. If the tree went down, I would go down with it. I climbed into the branches of the tree. They no longer felt solid and thick, but weak and fragile. The bough no longer felt strong and secure. As I touched it with my hand, it seemed to shiver in the darkness. I closed my eyes, but this time I was content. I was with the tree that had made me feel safe. It had protected me. It had helped me to heal, through everything I’d been through. Now, no matter what happened, I would sit in the branches of the old fig tree, in the place where I truly belonged.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Annelise, Frenchville State School (QLD)
“It Must Be Stopped”
My name is Lorenzo, and this is my place. My family and I migrated from Bologna to Sydney. My father sought a job in Australia because his old job was shut-down due to electricity costs. The rustic red bricks of my second story apartment; the spikey welcoming carpet that tickles your toes whenever you are entering the room; the oven that always seems to be way too burning hot for the iconic Italian pizza to cook properly, are all part of my place, my history. Oh, and how could I ever forget? The beautiful evergreen fig tree that is the centre of my world, (and the city too). This unique being is situated in the centre of Crow’s Round-About and is surrounded by comforting grass. It’s my retreat too, after hard days of schoolwork, or whenever my petulant sister Aurora intrudes into my room and I can’t get any peace and quiet. This is the place where I go to escape the terrors of the world, and wonder peacefully about the magical things my imagination travels to.
I’m a very passionate day dreamer, no need to judge me.
I turned the recently polished doorknob as I arrive home after a strenuous day of reciting important years of our past and conquering the hurdles at PE. As soon as the wooden doorway squeezed open, I immediately recognise the sweet scent of my Mamma’s scrumptious Italian pizza recipe. The smell wafted through the doorway, tempting me to chomp down on the delicious dough and spicy sausage toppings. But I thought better of it. I had to complete my homework, so I had time to visit the majestic tree and then join up with my friends on ‘FORTNITE’. Otherwise it would be too late, and Mamma would scowl and quote her usual saying: “Get of that blithering machine Lorenzo, you are my son and my children need to do something productive with their lives!”.
I march up the spiral staircase into my FORTNITE themed bedroom. The light-blue wallpaper ripped at certain corners. I plopped myself into my chair and opened my homework textbook, directing the pen onto my paper as ink drippled into letters that eventually formed words. About half an hour later, I snapped my book shut and stuffed it into my bag carelessly as I rushed down the stairs towards my exit.
But someone interrupted me, and I halted on the spot, nearly toppling over.
“Lorenzo, where are you going at this time and hour?” Mamma queried with a hint of her accent breaking through her voice.
“I was just going to go visit the tree Mamma,” I replied, a little anxiety creeping unwantedly into my voice.
“Mama-mia! Not now Lorenzo, your Papa will be home tomorrow and you and your sister need to help me clean up the house, its horrendously filthy!” Mamma exclaimed.
“It will be twenty minutes, tops!” I vowed as I began pulling on my black Adidas sneakers and tying up my pearl-white shoelaces.
“Okay fine, but no more then twenty minutes!” My Mamma sighed as she returned to her delicious cooking.
I hurried across the pavement towards the centre of the city where the fig tree was positioned. But when I arrived, I was utterly shocked.
Three boys about two years older than myself were kicking the trunk of the magnificent fig tree. Sap dribbled down crevices between pieces of bark as one of them attempted and succeeded in backflipping off a not-so-sturdy area of the tree, causing the tree to sway unsteadily from side to side as if it was crying out in pain.
“Hey you guys! Stop abusing the tree! Don’t you know that trees give us oxygen? The stuff that keeps us alive?” I shouted at them, my ears almost fuming with redness, expressing out-right anger.
The boys stared at me and laughed and began doing silly impersonations of my voice. My sudden act of braveness faltered at the site of the older boys teasing me. Eventually they strode away, and I decided to go and inspect the tree for the damage they caused. On close inspection I saw that it had been battered and bruised. A jolt of sympathy swept over me for the life-giving source.
But a light bulb in my head turned on unexpectedly as I swerved on the spot and sprinted home at the speed of a bolt of lightning. Upon my arrival, I logged onto my iPad and went onto ‘TikTok’, one of the most ‘current’ apps. I scanned my photos for one of the fig tree, then made a short fifteen second video about the global warming crisis and that humans should be more respectful towards nature. I captioned on my post: “It has been fifty years since man has landed on the moon, yet we still haven’t fixed the problems on Earth”.
About a week later I checked on the amount of views and ‘likes’ my post had received, and I was surprised at the result. Comments on my video were positive towards stopping global warming and some people wrote that they even had sent the video to their friends, raising even more awareness than ever before. I gleamed with excitement and gratitude as I slammed open the front door and hustled to the centre of town, stumbling up the small slope to get to the fig tree as fast as possible. What I did next made the tree waver in the breeze as if it was smiling in happiness at the thought anyone would ever do this to a piece of nature like itself.
I hugged the tree tightly and did not let go. I didn’t care that sap was saturating the skin of my fingers, or that Mamma would be furious that I had departed too late for her liking.
I was just glad that so many other people agreed that global warming is the biggest crisis of our world, and that it must be stopped.
Year 5 & 6 Category
Chloe, Woollahra Public School (NSW)
“Good Afternoon. You are watching 10 News on Wednesday January 30th 2019, with Sandra Sully: One of the nation’s high-security immigration detention facilities, in Sydney, will be closed after a quarter of a century of operation in a move the government is hailing as a win for its tough border protection policies. All impacted detainees have already been transferred to other high-security detention facilities.”
Two months earlier...
The smell of back burning is in the air, the cicada choir chirping in the background. Treetops kiss as they sway in the breeze. Like a soldier standing to attention, my federation home stands proudly amongst the row of houses. My name is Chloe and this is my place.
It is the first day of summer holidays and we are already bored. Mum suggests we go along with her to this voluntary job she has picked up as an Iranian interpreter, a few blocks away, at the Villawood Detention Centre.
“Darlings, I’ll have to take you in with me. I will try and be done quickly so we are back before lunch.” Mum declares compassionately.
“But what can WE do there mum? It’s going to be soooo boring,” my younger sister, Chelsea insists, clutching her squishy.
"Do they have Wi-Fi there?" I implore.
“Well, the family I am helping translate for, have a nine year old daughter. Perhaps you could get to know her and play while I help her mother with some forms.” She responds, patting my head. Mum often prepares for her visits by cooking delicious Persian meals for the Iranian detainees. This time, dad also stepped in and made his traditional Greek salad. We help mum pack the food in the car and off we go.
It is 30 degrees outside. As we enter the detention centre, it feels like jail. However, as soon as I spot the girl and her little brother, something tells me that this is probably not a jail but a temporary place for this family. Instantly, mum kicks into conversation in Farsi with the girl’s mum while she and her brother stare at Chelsea and I and our bright JoJo bows.
Mum nudges us forward. “Go on, did the cat bite your tongues? Off you go.” She whispers.
Gathering her courage, the girl steps forward. “My name is Arezoo. It means ‘wish’. What's your name?” she mutters.
“M-m-my name is Chloe which means blossoming in Greek and this is my sister, Chelsea.” I reply with a stutter.
We scan the detention centre. It looks bare and boring. A rusty fence imprisons them. I feel claustrophobic and nauseous. I can't help grimacing.
Arezoo notices the look on my face. She tugs at my dress and drags me to a nearby fig tree, the only shady escape, the only sign of life in the entire barren yard.
Arezoo shows me a wide space inside the gnarled branches. Climbing into it, I notice she has put some miniature people, made out of tree barks and wooden sticks, sitting around a minute table, eating dinner. She then says in a soft voice, “Welcome to my place!”.
It must be difficult not having a permanent place to call home. However, for some reason, right there, amongst the fig tree branches, it feels like a sturdy shelter, a sanctuary, “I love your place!” I respond.
Before the next visit, Chelsea and I frantically search E-bay for all the little toys Arezoo would need for her place. We even put aside some of our favourite Coles Miniature Collectables. Dad suggests we buy some rope and use one of our spare tyres to help build a swing for Arezoo and her brother.
During the next visit, we ask for permission to put up the swing. The guards are apprehensive at first, however since it is the festive season, they are in happier spirit and reluctantly agree.
Arezoo and I sit on the swing together, rocking back and forth, as we watch how to do hairstyles on YouTube while Chelsea shoves her Ooshies in the crannies of the fig tree.
It’s officially the last day of the school holidays. I curl up on the couch and read my Kindle. Suddenly, I am jolted into reality when I feel the tremor of my phone followed by the ringing.
Eagerly, I pull out my phone from my pocket. I hear my best friend, Sofia’s voice ring out. “Hey Chloe! I was wondering if you could pop over to my place to watch ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix. It's just starting now! Come quickly!” Excitedly, I accept the offer. I rush to the garage to get my scooter. In a flash, I zoom out and up the road. Sofia’s place is warm and inviting. Her mum hands me a plate of baklava as I step through the flamboyant red door.
'Yasas,' I greet her.
As you might've guessed, Sofia is also half Greek. Smiling, I take in the shimmering baubles dangling from the Christmas tree and cute ornaments lining the shelves above. All of a sudden, a frizzy fuzz ball of hair dives in front of me.
“Chloe, come and play with my new LOL dolls!”
Just then, Sofia comes down from upstairs. “Seriously, Artemis, your LOL toys can wait! Chloe and I are going to watch ‘Stranger Things’ together, like big girls!”
The smile falls off Artemis’s face as she shuffles back to her room. Shrugging, Sofia and I walk into the living room. She turns on her computer, and the show begins.
However, as my eyes wander to the 60 inch TV screen, which Mr Nikolakopoulos is lethargically watching, I can’t help noticing a familiar fig tree with a swing dangling aimlessly from it, behind Sandra Sully, reporting the daily news:
“Good Afternoon. You are watching 10 News on Wednesday January 30th 2019, with Sandra Sully…”