The Postmen by Jiekai Miao
Turtle meets plastic by Holly Phipps
Adventure awaits by Luella Langley
Seasons on the shore by Jake Upson
Spring’s a-come’n by Grace Cox
The book by Acacia Ingram
The riderless horse by Catherine Lee
New land by Vickie Walker
Jieko Miao (aged 11)
Highly commended Junior prose section
The realm I live in is a wealthy and prosperous world ruled by nature and creatures big and small. Even though it is majestic and mighty, there are some jobs in the land more trivial than others, one of which my brother and I attend to. The mail. You see, my species is an expert at delivering the mail which we dispatch from the Snail Mail Company. What species are we you ask? You’ve most likely heard of us before, for we are the majestic Monarch Butterflies!
“Get in here! You know I can’t come out!” Fluttering in, I spotted Mr. Speedy, the CEO of Snail Mail. Distinguishing him from the mail was fairly simple because of his shell. “The mail has arrived and is waiting for you!” Racing against each other, my brother and I found four books and a rather peculiar parcel. The first book read: ‘The Art of War by Sun Tzu: Deliver to Peace Drive.’ The next one read: ‘The Hobbits: Deliver to Elephant Grove.’ A bulky one read: ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Deliver to Turtle Palace.’ The final book had the words: ‘The Nursery Rhyme Book: Deliver to Hambridge University.’
Yet further inside was a creature with four limbs but no more. It had a strange hairy head and looked like it was on the verge of tears. The creature stood on his two bottom limbs but didn’t seem to need his two other slimmer ones. Only a tag was attached to it which said to deliver it to 95 Creature Avenue.
“Step on!” I beseeched the dwarfish creature to stand on the books, which it obeyed without a flaw. Tying up the string to our body, we soared into the air to our first destination on Peace Drive. Ascending through the air, I felt the light breeze skim past my body as I beat my wings. Landing on the lawn, we deposited the parcel into their Snailbox. Seeing if we could drop it without landing, my brother and I tossed the next parcel directly onto the Elephant Grove Snailbox. The third parcel was a little different as we had to fashionably fly in perfect order onto Prince Shell’s Snailbox. Before we set off onto our second last destination, we inquired our four limbed passenger to climb on our back to ensure he didn’t fall. After doing so, we dropped the second to last delivery into the Hambridge University Snailbox.
Though I have vast knowledge of the local district, I had to use Poodle Maps to navigate to 95 Creature Avenue. The building there took my breath away. Inside a huge metal cage stood a living area with strange triangular roofs. When I was closer, I noticed a faint plume of smoke coming from a pillar jutting out of the triangles. As I flew down, a bold sign under the cage read: ‘Limited time only! The Human Exhibition.’ A human! A rare species of animals known only to live in its natural habitat ‘The City’. All this time my brother and I were carrying a human and we didn’t even know it! I was shocked and ecstatic that I met such a rare creature and I was sure that my brother felt the same. After some searching, I found an ant guard standing beside the cage so I asked where to put the human. “Through the hole in the roof.” Carefully, we descended and gently let him dismount before we flew back home. Another successful delivery trip for Snail Mail!
Turtle Meets Plastic
Holly Phipps (aged 8)
Winner Junior Primary prose section
A plastic bag as clear as glass flying through the air, that sure called for trouble.
It was as soft as a cloud but as dangerous as a rattlesnake. Slowly drifting towards the ocean, the animals were at risk. Dangerous and now bobbing down into the deep blue.
The small bag was now dancing dreamily in the glistening ocean. It was as if it had been to dancing class. Soon after a pod of dolphins soared past pushing the water side to side, back and forth.
Whale sharks passed and so did jellyfish but the bag kept on swishing and swaying. With the blink of an eye a baby turtle had snuggled himself into the bag tightly as can be. He was like a wriggly worm, desperate to get out. The more he wriggled, the more tangled he got.
His shell was a beautiful swirl of green and brown and he was scared. The bag just wouldn’t let go. Animal’s still skidded past like there was nothing going on. The turtle was now very depressed. He was lonely, tired.
Out of the misty ocean a tiger shark soared up to the tiny baby turtle. Would his life end before it properly began? As the shark got closer he was opening his life threatening jaws. Out of nowhere came a massive chomp. The shark took a massive bite which took the bag off.
Unfortunately it also took his flipper. As the shark swam off, the turtle was glad to be out of the misbehaving plastic bag that sunk to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again. As for the turtle, he swam off with pride, just happy to be free.
Luella Langley (aged 8)
Highly commended Junior prose section
Bright sunlight streamed against the water, glistening. Water gulped up sand, spitting it to the island. My legs needed to stretch. I wondered what it would be like to flow with the wind. I’d never felt that.
I was fierce and brave, that’s what I know. My dream is to travel the ocean, gallop with the waves. I know it sounds silly for a little turtle like me but that’s what’s going to happen that’s my… life.
Cracking filled the air. Beams of sunlight burst, eyes open. There it was again, but with movement. Splat! There I was face to face with the ground. What was around? This was the only thing I knew “what was around me?”
Squawk! Squawk! I couldn’t help but be worried. Leaves danced the cha cha. Rustling filled the trees. Not knowing what to do I scrambled to the water. It was on my tail. I dived into the water while looking behind me. It had feathers and in my opinion, a heart of stone.
Mist and grey in my eyes. Millions and millions of seaweed streamed and wrapped around my body. Whenever I dived more seaweed wrapped, whenever I tumbled I would bounce off rock stone. Head was shaking and my lips were cracking badly now. Stiff and stuffed I made my way down to a rock.
After a while I woke. Today is clear and bright (maybe a bit too bright). Da na da na da na da na! Ok maybe I wasn’t completely honest with you just then, I’m half asleep half awake. The sound that’s booming right now is frightening and is making me worry like a bag of fish. Whirls of water whirled in my face. The smell was … disgusting!
Fins surrounded me, they are grey and bigger than an elephant poop. I wish I never found out what the fins were. My head was red, not green, so at this moment I knew something was not right. Bumbling I hid. Dark rose with hint of orange. My choice was to run. I was running away, deciding that I should retrace my steps. I went left right dodged then finally I saw it home.
It was a dream to go on an adventure but I would rather stay home a bit longer until I’m a bit older. One leg touched the sand then the other. Pausing I remember what happened when I first left. My choices were to either have luck and run to my shell or go through all of that again. I stumbled to the sand and ran. I couldn’t believe my luck I had made it. Safe.. for.. now.
Seasons on the shore
Jake Upson (aged 9)
Winner Junior Poetry section
The golden sun warms the brown sugar sand
I dig my fingers in and it sieves through my hand
The seagulls swoop low and squeal a gleeful song
Summer has come and my heart feels strong
The once gentle waves that curled to the shore
Look lonely as the children don’t come any more
The weather has cooled and the leaves have turned brown
The clouds have turned moody as the rain falls down
The wind whips the sea foam into the cool air
But it doesn’t matter because no-one is there
The beach is deserted like a sunken pirate ship
But on the scale of time it is only a blip
Far out on the horizon there is a huge splash
The whales are migrating south in a dash
For the water is warming again, spring is here
I look around the crowding beach, it is that time of year
My feet are on fire as the sand burns my toes
I dive under the water and it tickles my nose
The waves leave a long, fluffy, silvery track
I hear families laughing. Yah, summer is back!
Grace Cox (aged 14)
Winner Young adult poetry section
The cherry trees are bloomin’.
The cows are busy chew’n;
Their calves are dancing round and round.
The hounds are busy round’n up their sheep
for spring-time shearing;
The ewes complain as they’re drafted from their lambs.
The Willy Wag-tail’s chirp’n merrily with his ladies.
The Magpies are busy build’n a nest for their children
who will soon be here.
And I sit under the old gumtree,
Notebook in my lap, pencil in my hand
And a thermos full of tea.
An author and a poet am I.
Some like the city, some like the beach
But the country life, yes, that’s the life for me.
Alicia Ingram (aged 10)
Highly commended Junior poetry section
My pages; soft and worn,
Full of magic and mystery.
Wedged between my fellow friends,
Yearning to be read.
I feel a tug along my spine,
Extracting me with care,
Flipping through my pages,
Unable to put me down
Until every word is read.
Absorbed in my magic,
They soon reach my end,
Close me up and put me down
On the cabinet by their bed.
There I am left undisturbed,
For many days to come,
Until someone has the care,
To put me back where I belong.
The Riderless Horse
Winner Bush poetry section
Where mountains loom black on a darkening skyline and cradle a myriad stars,
their forested slopes in a blanket of growth that no timber machinery mars;
when bandicoots, wombats and possums emerge from their cover of daytime cocoon
and dingoes start howling their timeless lament to inscrutable luminous moon,
there’d come from the valley a thunder of hooves that would resonate into the night;
the earth seemed to tremble—small creatures dispersed, while the startled rosellas took flight.
Then stillness descended—a shadow emerged like a king to survey his domain—
the clouds of dust settled, revealing the shape of a stallion with dew on his mane.
They said the magnificent riderless steed was still seeking the master he’d lost
when Jack was assaulted on Warrabee Track to his tragically ultimate cost.
They dragged him to earth in a vicious attack, thrashed him senseless and nicked all his gear,
attempted to steal his superlative mount, but the stockhorse was blinded by fear.
He reared up in panic—the thieves hit the ground and were rapidly forced to desist—
then saddle askew and his reins flapping randomly, disappeared into the mist.
With Jack in a coma, we all tried to track his devoted and heartbroken friend;
the beast was elusive—no more would he venture to trust what a man might intend.
With scant understanding of what had occurred, just a sense of contentment defiled,
he took to the hills in frustration where soon in his freedom and rage he turned wild,
became like a phantom that haunted the bush as he searched for the stockman in vain—
though sightings were common, his place of concealment we somehow could not ascertain.
Not seen in the day, after dark without fail the exceptional equine came back—
appeared like a dream on the crest of the mountain which soars above Warrabee Track,
parading in solitude faithfully waiting, a schedule not once seen to change—
unbidden, he honoured the man that he loved by repeatedly pacing the range.
The riderless horse had become so familiar a sight around Warrabee Plain,
we took it for granted his grief-stricken presence was one that was sure to remain.
But early one morning I suddenly woke with a sharp premonition and chill—
without comprehension raced out the back door—then astounded, fell perfectly still.
The full moon was casting a shimmering glow, while above like a proud statuette
a breathtaking vision stood high on the summit displayed in distinct silhouette.
His saddle now tightened and reins firmly grasped in a confident, sensitive hand,
the animal snorted, alert and relaxed as his rider examined the land.
A posture I knew like my own—now my eyes revealed truth I just couldn’t dispel!
I gaped disbelieving as Jack raised his hand in a poignant and final farewell.
Though sorrow encroached, I felt strangely at peace with a sense of release unsurpassed,
while somehow perceiving this image of both of them certainly must be my last.
I watched as they reared against velvety sky, spun around, bolted off in a streak,
to vanish from view in a flurry of burgeoning dust from the edge of the peak,
then waited awhile till the phone pierced the silence, confirming my instinct inside
that Jack had succumbed to his multiple lesions and finally, quietly died.
Out here where the spinifex tosses and blows and the stars dance in glittering show,
the dingoes still howl on the Warrabee Track in the moonlight’s ethereal glow;
nocturnal pursuits carry on through the forests that thrive on both mountain and plain—
but never again have those thundering hooves split the calm of this tranquil terrain.
Though grieving for Jack, we believe he’s still out there astride his remarkable horse—
such faith the result of this story I’ve shared, which our mates staunchly choose to endorse,
convinced of that blissful, triumphant reunion just prior to imminent light
when stallion and master together at last galloped forth into limitless night.
Commended Adult prose section
After months of cramped conditions in a creaking, wooden ship it was good to stand on deck. White sails billowed overhead as the brig made her slow passage into the wide blue bay. Josef stretched, a cat basking in the warm sun that stroked, caressed his aching bones. At 52 he was too old for sea voyages but circumstances forced his hand.
Pelicans swooped, feasting on the multitude of fish in clear waters. Ships and boats dotted the bay; it was busy but not chocked like the ports he’d seen crossing the world from Germany. Josef scanned the horizon, noting a fort-like structure and cannon on the southern headland, scattered buildings and behind them forested slopes. Somewhere over the hills he and his sons would make their new home. Ach he wasn’t sure of this new land and its promises but they were here now. Two younger men stood beside him. Their wives were below decks.
“It is alright Vater,” the darker haired one said. “There is work here, a chance if
we work hard.”
“Ja Georg,” the other agreed. “We are stone masons, we have skill. It is good.”
Josef looked at his strapping sons. “Georg, Ernst, you are strong and fit. I came for you. Germany has nothing for the young – no work, wars, and taxes. You must make this land your new Germany. I promised your Mutter.”
The sudden death of his wife shattered Josef and cemented the decision to take his boys across the world. He’d seen advertisements for the Twofold Bay Pastoral Company, stating Australia wanted vinedressers and farm workers. Work was promised; assisted passages paid. They had no vine dressing experience but the agent didn’t care. He signed them up, no doubt thinking of his bonuses. Word came from a cousin of a hard land, but one of potential. You could make something of yourself, not like home in Germany. He told of creatures like kangaroos and koalas, and people called whalers who hunted. It sounded exciting to Georg and Ernst, both in their twenties thirsting for adventure. Their wives, Anna and Eva, were reluctant, newly married, now separated from their families.
The ship was quarantined offshore when people were still sick, cholera having swept through the boat. Josef and his family escaped the deadly illness, but he’d seen friends die. Today they would set foot on their new land. Josef hoped the immigrants would be welcomed.
It was late summer when the family arrived at “Kameruka”, a property owned by the pastoral company. They walked for three days, along with fellow shipmates, from Twofold Bay, over hills and rough tracks, their belongings piled on a cart. The work was physical, tending sheep, planting vines, labour they had no
experience with. The manager taught them. Since the lads were strong and willing he was pleased, and besides, workers were scarce.
Josef and his sons erected two slab huts, tucked under the lee of a protective rise. Now the chill winter winds were here their wives appreciated it. The original tents were little protection from the heat of summer or cool autumn nights. They were used to cold but Australia was larger, wider. The wind and storms whipped up terrible frenzies. That and the vastness scared them. Properties were miles apart compared to German standards. Josef, Georg and Ernst thrived but their wives felt isolated, far
from their families. Often the men were away with the sheep and Josef out in the gardens. Some of the other workers from the ship had brought their wives and children. Eva and Anna met these women and set about making a mini-Germany, keeping many traditions, some with an Australian flavor. They made wurst from the intestines of sheep, with beef or mutton inside. When December arrived, it was difficult to locate a fir tree for the Advent kranz. Eva found a banksia with fern-like branches and wove the wreath with it. Anna collected beeswax for the candles. Each week the family gathered and Josef would light one candle. “One more week in our new land,” he’d say. They’d give thanks for work and opportunity. It was a busy, hard life but their fellow Germans made it bearable.
A year passed. Word got around that the three men were stone masons. The owner of “Wallendibby” wanted a new home. The property was much further out, another three days walk, and more isolated but better wages were offered. Josef and his sons sat on logs near the huts. The women stood over the fire,
preparing their meal. “It is a good offer,” Ernst said. “Stone work is our trade. We won’t have to handle
sheep anymore.” “Yes,” Georg agreed. “I find sheep foolish. No brains in their woolly heads.” Both
lads laughed. Eva, always forthright, asked, “Anna and I, do we have a say? We have friends
here. Are there other women out there?” Josef looked at her. “We don’t know but we need your support. It is a chance to better our opportunities.” Anna stayed silent. She knew the decision was already made.
They were the only women. It was lonely; just five of them, the manager and some shepherds inhabited empty miles of wilderness. Anna, a practical woman, shrugged her shoulders and went on making the huts habitable. Eva struggled; it was blisteringly hot, the full heat of summer. “This is so schrecklich Anna! I do not like it here. I miss Mutter.” Tears flowed easily. Anna bathed her face, soothing her with calm words. Snakes were active and terrified both women. The men came when they screamed. The place was a wild, horrible jungle as far as Eva was concerned. She was often sick. Ernst was concerned. “What can I do?” he asked Anna.
“Eva is with child. It is an emotional time for her.”
Eva lay exhausted on the bed. She’d been in labour for over twelve hours. The baby didn’t look like coming. Anna wiped her forehead. “I know you’re tired but we need this little one out.
You must walk.”
Eva dragged her huge belly over the side of the bed and with Anna’s help rose. Gritting her teeth she staggered back and forth, pain tearing across her abdomen. “I can’t…”
“Yes you can, one more turn.”
Suddenly Eva felt blood spurt down her legs. She cried, terrified, “I’m losing the baby,” and collapsed to the floor.
Anna called out, “Ernst, I need you now!”
Ernst, who was pacing outside the hut, rushed in. “This is no place for a man,” he said.
“Get over here! Baby’s coming, lift Eva onto the bed. Hold her down. I can’t do both jobs and there’s no one else.”
“Do you know what you’re doing?”
Anna frowned. “I’ve seen Mutter birth babies, that’s all. I’m your only choice.”
Eva screamed as Anna pushed and prodded on her abdomen, feeling the baby’s head, wrong way up. “Eva I have to turn baby, hold tight to Ernst.”
Anna briefly raised her eyes skyward, said a swift prayer and pushed again. Another contraction hit Eva in wave after wave of fierceness. Anna pushed again, firmer. Baby turned.
“You push, or baby and you die.” Anna was blunt in her fear.
Ernst held his wife’s hand. “Let’s go.”
Eva pushed. Blood spurted, and in the wave of pain after, baby rushed out. “It’s a boy,” Anna cried. The baby was a little blue, but breathing. She gently massaged his tiny limbs and handed him to his father. “He needs warming.”
Eva hardly noticed as the afterbirth came away, too weak from blood loss, didn’t feel Anna cleaning up or hear her baby’s first cry. She wanted to slip away, find rest.
“Drink this,” Anna ordered, and dribbled weak beef tea through her dry lips. “Baby needs a feed, and then you sleep.”
The trauma of the birth never left Eva, even though she saw Anna through her own first birth with relative ease. When she was pregnant again, she went to Ernst.
“I cannot be here for this child’s birth. I need other women for support. We must go to Bombala, even if we leave the others.”
“What of work?” he asked.
“That man who came through last week said Bombala is growing, buildings are needed. There will be work.” Her baby rested on her hip. “Besides, Johann is sickly.”
Ernst knew his son was poorly and for this reason he spoke to his father. “Vater, Eva and Johann must go to Bombala. We have finished the house. It is time.”
“Ach, I knew the day was coming. She has not been happy here. It is too isolated for women.”
When Anna heard they were going, she insisted she and Georg went too. The brothers could work together.
“It is agreed,” said Josef, “Bombala for us all. For I am still your Vater and where you go, I go.”
“Family together,” laughed Georg. “Bravo to our new land!”