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Tips from a YJA award winner

01 May 2019

Stories can be found everywhere. The winner of the 2018 Australian Catholics Junior Section Award, Ryan Murdoch, interviewed his local priest who joined children from The Gap Parish in a soccer match.

Ryan said what surprised him about his interview was that Fr Stanley did not think there was anything special about his story at all. Ryan talks about his experience and gives his tips on writing an award-winning story below.


A Year 6 student at St Peter Chanel Primary School in The Gap, Queensland, Ryan Murdoch won the 2018 Young Journalist Award Junior Section for his interview with Fr Stanley Orji in an article titled Soccer, sleepout, action’. The topic for the 2018 award was ‘Voices of hope’.

Ryan spoke to Australian Catholics about his story and his tips for writing an interesting piece.

Why did you decide to enter the Young Journalist Award?

Honestly, it was a school assignment. Our (Year 6) teachers used the competition topic and guidelines as the criteria for an assessment. Before they were marked, they were also entered in the competition. It covered lots of things we had been learning in class, including interviewing and writing for English and religion. Hope is one of our St Peter Chanel virtues that we try to demonstrate as school leaders. 

I probably wouldn’t have entered by choice because I wouldn’t usually ask someone I didn’t know about themselves. I felt really weird at first, but it was a good experience. 

When we were shown the theme, Fr Stanley was the first person I thought of – probably because of his love of soccer but he seemed really interesting. 

How did you prepare for the interview with Fr Stanley?  

I did some research first so I knew a bit about some of the things Fr Stanley was involved in. Then I wrote some questions for the interview to help find out more about why he did the things he does. I asked him if he would let me interview him and when he was available. 

Was there anything that came out of the interview that surprised you?

What surprised me was that he was just as nervous as I was and he didn’t think his story was special at all. 

What are your tips for this year’s young writers?

Definitely record your interview on an iPad or something like that. It was easier to listen to Fr talk and think up more questions than be scribbling as he talked or trying to remember what he said later. When I wrote the article, I could replay the interview to pick out quotes I liked. Editing is not my strength but when you are writing someone else’s story and there is a chance other people will be reading it, it is important to do them justice and give your best, so edit and edit.


The article should be of broad interest to a Catholic audience.

There are two sections to enter:

 The Junior section (Years 5 and 6) and;

The Intermediate section (Years, 7, 8 or 9).

This is a journalistic piece – so no creative writing. It must include quotes from at least one interview subject and should answer the basic questions of who, where, when, why, what and how.

Judges will be looking for an interesting factual story with a strong heading (no more than six words).
Entries must not exceed 350 words for the Junior section, nor exceed 500 words for the Intermediate section.

 Entries close, 5pm on Friday 24 May 2019.
 Further writing tips and judges’ criteria are available online.
 Go to for more details.


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