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Catholic school students share inspiring family stories

14 August 2019

Family stories of courage, determination and faith are in abundance among the winning entries of this year’s Australian Catholics Young Journalist Award, sponsored by Australian Catholic University.

The theme of this year’s competition was ‘The journey of a family’. Students were encouraged to find inspiring family stories in their community, to interview those involved, and write them up as stories for Australian Catholics magazine.

Australian Catholics has been running the Young Journalist Award for more than 20 years. More than 400 students from across Australia entered this year’s competition. 

‘The quality of writing across the board was really high. It was really difficult to choose winners out of so many outstanding entries’, said Australian Catholics Editor Michael McVeigh, who was a member of the judging panel alongside Jesuit Communications Editorial Consultant Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ, and Australian Catholics Assistant Editor Michele Frankeni.

‘The winning entries stood out because they offered a unique family story, they were strong examples of journalistic writing, and they had a bit of creativity and flair.’

The winners were recognised at a presentation ceremony at the Catholic Leadership Centre in Melbourne on Sunday 11 August. A number of students were on hand to receive their awards, while others are being presented their awards at their schools.

There were two sections of the award – Intermediate (Years 7 to 9) and Junior (Years 5 and 6). The winners and runners-up in each section received trophies, cash prizes and prize packs courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Intermediate winners

The winner of the Intermediate Section (involving students in Year 7 to 9) was Asheriya Charan, from Thomas Carr Secondary College in Tarneit, Victoria.

Asheriya wrote about the journey of her grandfather, whose desire to start a successful business took him from Fiji to India, then to Melbourne, where he founded a Fiji produce store. She interviewed her mother, great-aunt and grandmother for the story, and explored the importance of education in giving her grandfather the opportunities he had in his life.

‘Nana (grandfather) believed in education and encouraged his children to learn’, she wrote. ‘Nana went against all odds to earn his education and used his family’s farming background to turn it into a business.’

The runner-up in the Intermediate Section, Madeline McVeigh from Catholic Ladies College (CLC) in Eltham, Victoria, interviewed a survivor of the Black Saturday bushfires for her article.

‘Interviewing Linda Roycroft was one of the most raw experiences of my life’, she wrote. ‘I could see the pain and memories replay as she retold the horror of the Black Saturday bushfire that had affected her and her family.’

‘One of the things that impacted me the most is how it has changed her. She said, “You really think you’re in control of your life but in reality, that’s just an illusion”.’

Junior winners

The winner of the Junior Section (involving students in Year 5 and 6) was Jack Webber from St Joseph’s Primary School in Merewether, NSW.

Jack interviewed two people who had been brought together by a shared experience with cancer – one having gone through Hodgkins Lymphoma, and the other Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

‘I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, but I can’t help but think it is what led me to Matt’, Fiona told Jack in their interview about how the couple came to be together.

Jack described in his article how health problems have continued to plague Matt through his life, impacting on his career in teaching. He also explored how Matt’s courage continues to inspire Fiona.

‘I believe if even just a little of the resilience Matt has shown throughout his life can rub off on his students then they are in for a bright future’, Fiona told Jack.

Runner-up in the Junior Section was Makaylah Beatty, from St Augustine’s Primary School in Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Makaylah interviewed her aunt, Thuy, who was evacuated from Vietnam in 1975 during ‘Operation Babylift’ along with Makaylah’s father and their other siblings. Makaylah’s aunt was 13 years old at the time, and spoke about her experience caring for the infants who were being evacuated.

‘On the Hercules aeroplane we had 200 babies in shoe boxes lined up. I had to go up and down the aisle feeding babies to try keep them  alive’, Thuy told Makayla.

Other outstanding entries

Along with the winning students, there were many other outstanding entries recognised with honourable mention and highly commended certificates.

One of those recognised was Alexandria Hayes, from St Joseph’s Primary School in Merewether, NSW, who received a Highly Commended certificate in the Junior Section.

Alexandria interviewed members of her family about what it was like to live with someone with autism – who happens to be her.

‘Being diagnosed has really helped people understand me better and has allowed some really great support to become available to me, to help me with things in life that me and my family find challenging’, Alexandra wrote.

‘Having a child with autism has helped mum and dad learn to be patient and kind. “It has made our hearts get bigger.”’

Another student who was highly commended in the Junior Section was Abol Akol, from Trinity Catholic Primary School in Richmond, Vic. Abol interviewed her parents about their journey as refugees from Sudan.

‘My Mum and Dad are both Catholics. They have a very strong faith. When things are hard my mum plays music from her Shullik tribe. She puts her faith in God and believes that he will help them’, she wrote.

‘I am a girl, a proud Australian, Sudanese girl. I am the daughter of a refugee. My family’s home in Sudan was not peaceful, and that is why they had to flee. We came to this land, Australia, to be free. Now accept us. We are human, just like you.’

A big thank you to all the students who entered - each story that we read moved us a great deal.

Thanks also to Australian Catholic University and Penguin Random House for their support of young writers in Australia through this award. 

Intermediate Section

Winner: Asheriya Charan, Thomas Carr College, Tarneit, Vic

Runner up: Madeline McVeigh, Catholic Ladies College, Eltham, Vic

Honourable mention: Isha Dutt, Thomas Carr College, Tarneti, Vic

Highly commended: Luciana Romanski, Mount St Benedict College, Pennant Hills, NSW; Justin George, Thomas Carr College, Tarneit, Vic; Annie Nguyen, Thomas Carr College, Tarneit, Vic; Abby Flett, St Mary of the Angels Nathalia, Vic; Pavithran Visakeswaran, Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown, NSW; Alanah Williams, Thomas Carr College, Tarneit, Vic.

Junior Section

Winner: Jack Webber, St Joseph’s Primary School Merewether, NSW

Runner up: Makaylah Beatty, St Augustines Primary School Coffs Harbour, NSW

Honourable mention: Jacinta Da Silva, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Marsfield, NSW; Daniel Xavier, St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Mill Park, Vic; and Jaden Miranda, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School, Marsfield, NSW

Highly commended: Milly Sonego, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School, Clovelly, NSW; Alexandria Hayes, St Joseph’s Primary School Merewether, NSW; Sandra Sona, St Dominic’s Primary School, Broadmeadows, Vic; Molly Boyle, St Joseph’s Primary School Merewether, NSW; Abol Akol, Trinity Catholic School, Richmond North, Vic.

Image: Asheriya Charan is pictured with Australian Catholics editor Michael McVeigh.

 

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