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Scripsi


Scripsi Ruyton Literary Publication

Volume 11: 2017 ’

Cover image ‘Beauty is Pain’ by Millicent Trigar (Yr 12)


Contents ' Year

Author

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Ella Callow

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Charlotte Dalton

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Abigail Lew

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Maya Marek

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Maya Marek

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Tara Minehane

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Minduli Weeraman

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Grace Nguyen

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Sabine Yatomi-Clarke

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Roisn Brennan

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Cynthia Hu

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Amrita Kaur

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Sally Schwartz

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Anna Timm

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Lydia Woolston

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Melanie Clarke

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Bella Eames

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Susan Fang

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Hannah Lee

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Annabel Maher

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Maddy Truong

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Maya Wilnshurst

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Tara Zhang

Title We’re Fine The Forest The Wolf’s Cry Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skilful Sailors The Price of Freedom The Priceless Painting The Sun Still Shines Bright The Sound of Silence Ambo Chance And The Shoenapped Shoes Through Time The Family Tree Those Reproachful Eyes What Matters To Me Invisible Stolen Taken By The Wind Mirror Mirror Human Trafficking Right to Gay Marriage – Article 16 Torture Little Red Caboose Blood-Stained Label Radiance

Page 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 17 18 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 40 42 44 47 49


Contents ‘ Year

Author

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Hayley Do

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Jacqueline Du

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Cherry Williams Starkie

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Alice Wallis

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Jennifer Wu

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Ciara Brennan

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Lucy Chen

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Ella Crosby

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Pollyanna Dowell

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Amy Hale

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Amy Hale

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Amy Hale

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Emma Lee

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Maeve Luu

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Madison Melton

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Matilda Robson

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Taylah Ruiz-Pedley

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Laura Tinney

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Adeline Trieu

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Elise Allibon

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Eliza Bate

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Mimi Bland

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Mia Brown

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Zahara Cox

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Calida Evans

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Sophie He

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Millicent Trigar

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Stella Skoullos

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Felicity Smith

Title Let the Nightingale Fall The Baker’s Wife I Fell The Starry Morning Sky The Treehouse Next Stop… Never Mind Maybe a Little Love Isn’t Enough Rarely, If Ever, Do They Forgive Them If Only They Had Known An Emerald Haze Feminism Untitled Hope and Despair and Forgiveness The White Swan For Whatever We Lose, It’s Always Our Self We Find In The Sea Talaam Domestic Violence The Far have Become Near Again How Much Will The Ride Be? Consider Becoming A Vegetarian Feminism A Beacon Of Hope Social Media Is Making Us Sick A Fresh Start The Perfect Recipe Untitled Mu’qqibat Survival of the Fittest Xylem

Page 52 55 60 62 66 69 76 81 84 87 90 94 97 102 106 110 115 118 124 129 132 134 137 139 142 146 149 153 156


In Montreal, snow came down in thick sheets that covered the city streets. I walked to the college I taught at through canyons of ice; inside the old building, some brave students had arrived and scattered their books on their desks. We began talking about creative writing and forgot the storm outside. The next year, at Ruyton, heat almost suffocated us in the classroom – the air was pungent with that characteristic scent of eucalyptus and cicadas seemed intent on battering us into a state of unconsciousness. I asked my students the same questions I had in Canada: ‘Show me your writing. How can you develop it?’ Again, students revealed works in progress, poems, short stories. I felt privileged to have access to their inner worlds, to their writers’ worlds. Since I wrote those words for the preface to Writer’s World, all forms of writing – creative, analytical, speech-writing – have flourished at Ruyton under the expert tutelage of the English Department. State-wide, creative writing has at times been under threat, reduced in significance as Writing Folio Assessments have changed in the Victorian Curriculum – but with the new English Study Design, the focus on creative writing has been restored. Ruyton, however, has always prioritised writing through publishing opportunities like Scripsi and the Boroondara Writing Competition. Of particular importance has been the Isobelle Carmody Award: this prestigious award was first presented by Isobelle Carmody, who must be saluted for her continuing involvement in Ruyton’s writing culture. Memorably, the first competition was ‘The Straw Hat’: Royce Hall was filled with an assembly of students wearing a great array of straw hats, listening appreciatively to Isobelle’s encouraging advice. This year, the award was presented by 2016 Vogel’s Literary Award winner, Katherine Brabon to an equally appreciative audience. Inviting professional writers to lead workshops (including luminaries like Cate Kennedy, John Marsden, Catherine Jinks, Li Cunxin, Arnold Zable) is a Ruyton tradition. This year Isobelle Carmody, Fiona Wood and Cath Crowley led Year 9 students in an invigorating exploration of their writing skills. The 2017 edition of Scripsi once again celebrates the exceptional creativity of student writing at Ruyton in all its skill and diversity. May you enjoy reading it. '

Editorial Ms Diane Berold Ruyton Literature Teacher of 44 Years. Retiring at the end of 2017.

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We’re Fine Ella Callow-Smith

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Imagine a world where sharks swim in the forest and some-how you’ve found yourself lost in the wood, Fear smells like a stale loaf of bread rotting on the windowsill, Imagine a world where you could lift up the ocean and hide yourself under it away from the waves, They would crash over you but you would stay dry no matter how the wind roared you would stay hidden like hermit crab on the sand, Imagine a world where you could choose where you go the future the present or past, Meet all the people find cures for diseases, Time is your friend, Imagine a world where you could see what was happening, You could see the young soldier playing his trumpet, You could hear all the men fall, and it sounded like thunder, You could feel their wives sorrow’s and it felt like they were burning to ash, Imagine a world where our books where real where the pirates and fairies were as real as you and me, People say I’m crazy for believing in these things, Some say I’m as mad as a hatter, That I need help and I’m a danger to myself, But as my pencil lies dying and my computer is dead and there are no more crazy fantasies going on in my head, As they take me away as the images leave me as the light turns to darkness and the doors are closed, Maybe I’m crazy maybe I’m mad, But if anyone asks, We’re fine ‘

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The forest is an orchestra, Songs played day after day. An audience of animals, Chattering away.

The Forest Charlotte Dalton

The forest seems to whisper, Hear its secrets passed from tree to tree? The forest seems to loom, Tall trees casting their shadow over me. The forest is a village, Home to creatures big and small. The forest is a city, Oh so grand and tall. Yet it’s easy to forget, That the forest is alive. Down to every single bee, In every single hive. ‘

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The Wolf’s Cry Abigail Lew

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I heard the wolf ’s cry, I heard it cry out in pain, I could feel it weep in silence, I could feel its emotions, I could see it in all its glory crying out, I could see it looking up at the moon, I could smell it from where I lay, I could smell its coat, wet from the storm outside, I could taste a cold scared drop of water as I took a sip from my cup, I could taste my fear, I wanted to go and touch it, I wanted to go and reassure it that everything was okay, I knew that both the wolf and I were scared, I knew that we were scared but I didn’t move, I heard the wolf ’s cry, I heard the wolf, It could hear me. ‘


You are taking a sailing course and are given the choice to learn from a hard, trying course or undergo training you have previously experienced. Do you accept the offer that will sail you solo on unfriendly waters, or the course from which no new knowledge can be gained? Your answer should be the former. By choosing to challenge yourself, you are assuring that you will glean valuable skills, such as resilience and responsibility. You will develop independence, but will always know how to ask for help in the midst of uncertainty. It is my obligation to ensure that by the time these three minutes are up, you agree with the statement I just made. In the African proverb “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors”, the sea is a metaphor for life, sailors meaning those who are riding life’s rollercoaster. One of these metaphorical sailors is Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. When this inspiring figure chose to run for Prime Minister, she did it knowing fully that it would not be easy, and that it would have been much less trying to sit on the sidelines and be just another member of parliament. Lost in the crowd. Unrecognised for her talent. But Gillard knew that despite the criticism she may face, she would learn from an experience such as this one and would gather many lessons of leadership. Being an uninvolved MP wouldn’t have given her those invaluable enlightenments. By nominating herself for the role of Australia’s leader, Julia Gillard teaches us that by choosing the challenging, yet right, option, you will earn respect from your peers, as well as the fact that if you follow a path of ease, you would receive no recognition of your doings. Pop sensation Delta Goodrem exemplifies this saying in a different light. Delta battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was merely 18 years old. Delta says that she never wants to experience cancer again, but it is clear that her journey helped her understand what it was like for people around the globe suffering through the disease. Delta is incredibly resilient, kind and understanding, and has become great at teaching others to swim when they are drowning in stress on The Voice. This accomplished sailor didn’t learn how to interact the way she does now overnight. It takes the endurance of hardships to have such a vast knowledge of how to help others and yourself. The final significant figure I will introduce is Christopher Columbus. This man did not step onto what we now call American soil after booking an online ticket and spending a luxurious night

Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skilful Sailors Maya Marek Allan Patterson Public Orator Of The Year Winner

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Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skilful Sailors

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reclining on the Spirit of Tasmania. It took 2 years of pleading and persuasion on Columbus’ part for the Spanish government to provide funding for his seemingly pointless cruise. Those two years of struggle and debating would have built a stubbornness and ability to lecture crowds within the explorer. I believe that these are the values that helped Columbus make one of the most momentous discoveries in history. I will now conclude with a quote by Gregory Peck that echoes the wise words of the old African proverb I have examined today. “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Thankyou. ‘


Her eyes reflect the light like shards of glass. She’s so regal, a proud lioness in a pack of rabid wolves. I watch her delicate hand reach to brush a strand of hair back while… “Tamara!” I start and force my gaze on Mr. Slight with reluctance. “You will pay attention in my class. Do I make myself clear?” I nod meekly and begin packing my things, inwardly chastising myself for becoming so easily distracted. I am already failing math, and Father has delivered numerous lectures on the importance of good grades. If he found out I was indulging in activities during class such as staring at people who take my fancy, he would be outraged. If he knew I was gazing at a girl, I wouldn’t get any meals for a week. That night I sit broodingly on my bed, thoughts streaming like a tumbling waterfall that can never cease. ‘I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me. Why on earth would I find a girl attractive? She’s not even that pretty! Am I sick? Is that what’s made me feel this way? What if I have some sort of mental illness? Surely, it’s not natural for someone to feel or think the way I do. ‘But maybe this is alright. Maybe I’m just overreacting. I should ask her out. What’s the worst that can happen? She’ll like me, I’m sure of it. Everyone has the right to feel as they wish. Right?’ I crawl into bed with the knowledge that tomorrow I’d be free of the cage called dishonesty that has held me captive for so long. I let thoughts of a world where anyone could say whatever they wanted carry me into a blissful sleep. I sit alone in the frigid cafeteria, clinging dearly to my steaming latte. The bell cries out shrilly, sounding all too much like the alarm that roused me this morning, and I head back into the welcoming warmth of the school halls. I spot her out of the corner of my eye, chatting animatedly to a group of friends. I start towards her against my will, feeling my legs carry me forward until I am standing directly in her field of view. Her chapped lips induced an aroma of coconut oil and orange zest…

The Price of Freedom Maya Marek Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Highly Commended

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‘‘‘

“I was so happy; so young and innocent. That night I went home heavy with regret and carrying a deep feeling of uncertainty. I

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The Price of Freedom

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was rejected and made a laughing stock by the girl I loved. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Apparently neither did my father. I came home to his ashen face staring at me with disbelief and anger. He explained that my brother had betrayed my actions shamelessly before I came home. I was alone. My friends had shunned me. My brother was as good as a traitor; my parents couldn’t bear to look at me. I was lost in a nightmarish world where I was everyone’s target.” “And do you speak with them now?” Clarissa, my psychologist, inquires. “My parents? No. I do keep in contact with my brother though.” “Did you ask any other girls out over the next few months?” I try for a smile but it turns out more like a grimace. “No. I didn’t dare take the chance of getting rebuffed so brutally and bluntly again. I dated numerous boys to try and find one who was ‘my type’. I never enjoyed the time I spent with them, and eventually accepted that I never would. When I faced my feelings head on, I thought I would never fit in. Who wants a freak for a friend, a sister, a classmate. I convinced myself that my life would be miserable.” Clarissa leaned forward, gazing at me with intent. “Was it?” “Was it what?” I start at the intensity of her voice. “Was it miserable?” “No, I made a mistake. I thought everything revolved around my sexuality, but I found myself when I realised that it was only a small part of my identity. Yes, it’s who I am, but it does not define me.” “Spoken truly and with maturity.” Clarissa acknowledges me with an inclination of her head. “Finally, I would like you to describe in one word how you felt during that period of time when you were miserable.” I inhale deeply and gasp out the answer flavouring my lips. “Lost.” ‘


This painting tells many stories, Stories old and new, Try, try and see the painter’s point of view, I see colours dancing across the page, As if it were a stage, I can feel the texture on the canvas, Smooth, yet it flows. This painting is a library, Within it, hides many untold mysteries and feelings. Here If you look closely, You can see how this artist thought, He sought expression of his emotion, Though there’s a lot of commotion. This magnificent piece of art talks to me, It’s like the waves, calling me to the sea. This is true art, I know it, I feel it in my heart. ‘

The Priceless Painting Tara Minehane

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The Sun Still Shines Bright Grace Nguyen Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Winner

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I heard them. In the night. My ears were pressed up against the thatched, hay wall. My parents were planning to leave. Forever. To take our family and leave our whole life behind. To start afresh. We had to escape the war. The death and strife. We’d been planning to leave for months. The times had gotten worse and we’d leave tomorrow. I didn’t want to leave all my precious memories behind. We woke in the morning. My parents told me we were leaving. Escaping. Fleeing. We’d leave at midnight. We packed our bags with a few sacks of rice and a plastic bottle filled with contaminated water. We had fuel for the boat that’d last us a few days. Though the journey would be longer. To leave the country, it was crucial to pass Vietnamese Communist boats without detection, but they were patrolling incessantly, searching for escaping refugees like my family. The whole day was silent. The fear and overall anticipation overcame us, the time eventually came as we walked barefooted to the bay, my feet throbbed as did my heart. We stepped onto the long, wooden, cargo boat, wind blowing against us, the shawl wrapped around my neck flew away and billowed in the wind, like my past flying away. The weight of the people inside the boat made it teeter. My father, though inexperienced, was sitting at the back of the boat, rigidly steering it. We were leaving the bay, huddled together, no one spoke as it would reveal us to the border security. I shuddered thinking of what would become of us, it’d be a fate worse than death. As the night stretched on, my eyes began to flitter and I fell asleep. There was a sudden jolt. My head struck the side of the boat violently, it throbbed momentarily. I then stared up into the sky, seeing a gloomy grey, similar to the prospect of our journey. At first, I thought it was a trick of the light, but then, the mast came into focus. Then came a frayed, old flag, depicting a skull. I stared at it. My eyes bulging, heart pulsating. “Thai Pirates!” I bellowed. Slowly, people began to stir around me, shaking their heads groggily. They nodded their heads in realisation. Leaping up, we prepared ourselves for the wrath that we’d soon behold. Many stuffed valuables into their clothing, hoping that the pirates wouldn’t rob them of the items that remained from their past. The rogue fishermen leapt onto our boat and brandished rusty


machetes, their faces fierce, clothes mangled and askew. They snarled and everyone in the boat shuddered in fear. The pirates seemed delighted at this uncomfortable atmosphere. They began to advance on us, but a man stepped up, he glared back at the pirates with distaste. I couldn’t bear it. Turning away, I heard a deafening scream, then a splash. The water around us turned red. We knew then that they were here to kill. Many people had jumped off the boat, preferring to drown than to be savaged by pirates. I caught my mother’s eye. She nodded. I knew what that meant. Hide. I ran to the back of the boat, a few empty barrels stood there, I slowly clambered inside, hoping for the best. For what seemed like hours, I waited, often hearing strangled screams. I hoped with all my heart that those pained screams did not belong to anyone in my family. But then I heard a strained voice. “They’re gone! They’re gone!” a male voice cried. I pushed the barrel lid up, my muscles ached, but I was relieved. I ran to the front the boat. “Mum, Dad!” I rasped. “Honey!” my mother cried, “I thought I’d lost you!” she wept into my shoulder, tears of relief were trickling down my face, I’d never been happier in my life. That night, the group that gathered round for dinner was smaller, only ten out of fifty remained. It was a silent dinner. Too many people had lost their lives today. I laid on my father’s lap, reminiscing on the horrific events that we’d encountered that day. But what had been done, couldn’t be reversed. My eyelids drooped, then I fell into a restful slumber. I woke up; my eyes were heavily lidded, but yesterday’s events came flooding in and I couldn’t help but feel sick. Many others were already up, sitting in shadowed corners of the boat, grief washing upon them. We all sat soundlessly, heads hung down, unable to think. Then, we were all abruptly jostled to the back of the boat, awakening those who were asleep. We all stared up to see a young lady with blonde hair, wading towards us, her face bright and welcoming. She opened her mouth and to our surprise, she began conversing in fluent Vietnamese. “Hello, welcome to the UNICEF refugee camp, this camp will be your home for the next few months until you receive permission to migrate to Australia from the

The Sun Still Shines Bright

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The Sun Still Shines Bright

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Australian government,” she threw a smile at us all and continued speaking, “So, let me show you around.” I turned to look at my parents, as we stepped out of the boat, they had the same ecstatic expression etched onto their faces. At that moment, the sun seemed to shine just a little bit brighter. ‘


The dust settles on my tongue, Sharp tang of death. Shadows strangle the feeble moonlight, Trees’ fingers stretch out and grasp my feet. The smell of copper wafts into my nose, Aromas of darkness float around me. I feel the chill bite my cheek, The sharp twigs claw my ankles. I stop and listen, do you hear it? The sound of silence, oh, so quiet! ‘

The Sound of Silence Minduli Weeraman

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Ambo Chance and The Shoenapped Shoes Sabine Yatomi

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Everything was pretty much the same where Ambo Chance lived. Everyone thought similar things, wore the same clothes and thought the same thoughts. Anything out of the ordinary was pretty astonishing. Astonishing was also a fantastic word to describe Ambo. Other words that described him were: childish, crazy, ludicrous, ridiculous and weird. Despite these descriptions, Ambo was always optimistic. The sun sprang up into the sky once again, which meant it was another exotic day for Ambo Chance, and yet another painful day of watching Ambo be exotic for everyone in town. Then, one night, something out of the ordinary occurred. In this small country town, people would leave their shoes outside so that they didn’t bring mud inside their homes, but that morning not a shoe in sight could be found. They were all lost! It was a natural instinct for the town’s people to blame Ambo for everything that was a bit strange, he was the only person in the town who didn’t obey the rules– after all he was the odd sock out of them all. Anything that didn’t make sense– blame it on Ambo Chance. If it didn’t look right– Hey Ambo! What do you have to say about this? But this case was a completely different story. It wasn’t until everyone had gathered to the main part of town where the markets and the whining kids were that they noticed something quite extraordinary. The shoes had been hung up on the electrical wires by their laces. There was Mr Shawndigi’s sneakers, the cranky old lady’s lace up boots, and little Marcus’s basketball trainers and various other sets of shoes. Every shoe colour that ever existed seemed proudly displayed – pink, brown, blue, green, orange coloured shoes. There were leather shoes and fluffy shoes, sparkly and spiky shoes. Every shoe that you could possibly imagine. Once lost, now found. “AMBO! ” everyone said furiously. “What have you done with our shoes!” someone cried. There were agitated and fierce calls from every direction, and they were all addressed to Ambo. If you have ever been in a situation when everyone is ganging up on you, yelling and accusing you for the wrong thing then you know exactly how Ambo felt. You probably felt alone, you may have wanted to cry and run away from everyone and everything you knew, which is what Ambo Chance


felt himself. And all he could do was run. Running quicker than he had ever done before, Ambo escaped to the safety of his home, went into his backyard to his magnificent tree house named Creatortoise. This was no ordinary tree house, it was filled with books, CDs, posters and even little pieces of LEGO for anyone who dared enter his sanctuary. It may seem that it was not as amazing as it sounds, but Ambo believed it spectacular. Ambo could see the whole town from up there. Even though he was mad that everyone had accused him of something that he didn’t do, he couldn’t help but admire the work that had been done. He grinned a guilty grin wishing he wasn’t amused by this at all, but then burst into an outrageous fit of laughter. Who would have decided to put shoes on a phone wire! Ambo wondered. He slumped onto his beanbag chair. Who did it? Ambo questioned to himself. It wasn’t me and it most certainly was no one else in this town. He fell asleep with the heaviness of the whole situation and the question still floating around his head. SCREECHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Ambo woke up startled by the freighting noise. It sounded like a cockatoo but with less of the ‘being murdered’ sound. There was a thump like something was jumping of the roof. What if that was the person who had framed him? He got out his torch and fled the tree house. It had been thirty minutes of him searching but he found nothing. He searched the whole town. But he found nothing. A piercing sound came out of nowhere. Ambo looked around frantically and saw a small figure from above slither across the phone wires. It slid underneath a street lamp and he only got a glimpse of what it was. He could make out a long spiky tail and webbed feet, it was only a glimpse and it was enough to send chills down his spine. The creature slunk around the top of the phone wire, making a near escape from Ambo’s view, when it fell with a painful thump. “I’ve got you now,” he gritted through his teeth. He wasn’t going to miss his chance to prove to the town he was innocent. He was running quite fast trying to keep up with the mysterious figure that was now aware of Ambo’s presence. It suddenly dropped something that fell onto Ambos head. It was heavy and extremely smelly.

Ambo Chance and The Shoenapped Shoes

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Ambo Chance and The Shoenapped Shoes

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It was a shoe. He had found the mystery ‘shoenapper.’ He walked closer and closer. Blood boiling, he shone the light onto the creature. It scattered away into the darkness, blinded by the light. Ambo stood there amused. He was seconds away from being innocent, he laughed a little too. He would never know what in God’s name that creature was, but it was okay. It was an adventure to find out the mystery of the shoenapped shoes, and that was all that mattered to him. ‘


The great gum tree lowered its branches to block out the blinding sun. It stood alone – proud on the hill overlooking the never-ending Australian grass, towering over the other hills beyond itself. Underneath, the tree sheltered a familiar mother and her new child. The mother had the happiest smile the tree had ever seen, she was lifting her baby up and down as if to mimic her child growing taller and taller before shrinking again. The baby – who was covered up tightly in a blanket despite the heat of the summer – reflected her mother’s smile just as sweetly. They played games of peekaboo together, the mother surprising the baby occasionally, but, the baby never cried, instead it giggled and gurgled at the delight of this shock. The mother loved her child whom she called Jenny and they sat together for a while observing the sky before the tree saw them leave. The girl raced up to the tree calling out to it. The tree returned the greeting by swaying its limbs in the gentle autumn breeze. She was older now, only by a few years, perhaps, and she danced and twirled under the great gum. The sun spilled its joy through the gaps of the overlapping leaves spreading far and on the trunk, itself. Jenny excitedly chased after the sunspots crawling up the trunk to the branches and boughs of the great tower. She sat in the tree’s arms and looked out to the distance, regarding the few houses, the other jealous trees and the sky. The tree held her tightly. It was autumn and the sun came down quicker than in the previous months. So, Jenny gingerly turned around to climb back down. Slowly and carefully before her foot slipped against the tree’s smooth surface. Almost instantly the tree spotted the girl and worriedly tried to spread out its welcoming branches to catch her but the tree was too stiff and flustered; it missed, causing the girl to fall on her arm. She yelped out to her mother to come quickly. The tree, filled with guilt, protected the girl until her mother came. Winter had arrived, the once vivid blue skies turned a miserable grey and depressed all around. The animals snuggled closely together in an attempt to trap their warmth. The companions of the gum imitated the same actions of the fauna. They hung their branches loosely and let their leaves droop down. All was quiet, all was sad. An adolescent Jenny seemed oblivious, she didn’t care. She was not alone either, shortly after she arrived many other people came. They all sported clothes in black and had similar melancholy faces. A big box came and a hole had been dug. Jenny started to cry.

Through Time Roisin Brennan

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Through Time

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The gum didn’t understand. And then it saw. It understood and it did what it had to do. Jenny explained to others about the tree and her mum. The importance of them both. The gum covered the girl and her mum with its drooping branches and kept them close although they weren’t near. It revealed the luminous stars on dark nights and made the grey skies seem not so grey. During that winter, it helped Jenny through a tough time. The sun was setting, the night growing near. The gum, growing older, was unsure if it would see its friend today but sure enough she came. It didn’t recognise the person that was holding her hand, making her laugh, keeping her close. Jenny brought this man with her to sit by the tree’s feet and the tree didn’t mind. The two young adults sat against the trunk and watched the sun set, casting blinding, orange hues outwards making the sky an explosion of various colours; pinks, purples, oranges and reds. Birds chirped nearby and flowers bloomed all around them. The man picked up a flower and placed it in Jenny’s brown-blonde hair. Jenny smiled. The man, Daniel, smiled. The tree, filled with love, let the two share their moment and welcomed its branches, letting everyone enjoy the last golden moments of spring. Night drew and the two told each other that they loved each other. They stayed there, asleep, until they woke. The gum tree stood tall and proud, it was old now and its branches moved slowly through the summer days. The grass below and all around was slightly yellow with dryness and the cloudless sky allowed the dreadful heat of the sun to beat down on the world below with no relief. This, however, did not stop Jenny – a fully grown adult, her husband and their new bundle of life from joining their greatest friend. A friend who was always there for them. The little one was quiet and showed no annoyance of the hot day. She smiled a carefree, contagious smile just like her mother had smiled all those years ago. The great gum tree greeted them with enthusiasm, it created sunspots on the ground to make the baby giggle and gurgle. And, in the mother’s aged, wise eyes the tree became aware of a peaceful sort of nostalgia. Not happy or sad, just a peaceful acknowledged look. She and her husband played with their child for a long time and afterwards, they just sat there, all four of them, before the tree let the other three part. ‘


The dusty, wooden chest lay in the far corner. An elderly woman, face covered with wrinkles, gently knelt down beside it. She carefully turned the shimmering key in the brass lock. There was a soft click and bundles of paper were revealed. The woman methodically turned the papers and gingerly removed one from the pile. She passed it to the young girl, her hair tied into two bunches by long green ribbons – almost jumping with anticipation.

The Family Tree Cynthia Hu

‘‘‘

Lizzie peered down at the scribbles of black on the page, starting to turn the colour of lemons. She could make out a few words. Fight, shelter, tree, locket… Lizzie found herself instinctively reaching for her own locket. She felt the smooth emerald stone – the colour of her grandfather’s eyes, her grandmother had often commented with a wistful smile. Lizzie’s grandfather had perished on this land she was visiting and his hurried scribbles had become priceless. There was a permanent photo of him on the mantelpiece – the man with gleaming green eyes. All day Lizzie could feel her grandmother’s eyes pinned to her locket like a magnet. “Why?” Lizzie pondered, “Could grandfather have been talking about my locket?” Her heart pounded a little faster. She had to find out! Lizzie speedily inspected the locket. Emerald green on both sides, with a golden middle. She tried to pry it open but it didn’t move, not even slightly. “Perhaps I should look for a screwdriver,” Lizzie thought. “No, I don’t want to break it… Maybe I shouldn’t force it and use something that will loosen it instead. Force never wins.” Lizzie’s grandmother frequently spoke of her parents. “They made the best soaps and lotions in town,” she would proudly declare. Lizzie rushed into the storeroom. The sweet aroma of lotions filled the air. She looked around the neat stacks and carefully selected a bottle of green lotion for good luck. Lizzie smeared the sweet substance around the smooth golden edges. Suddenly, the locket opened up, revealing something as precious as a pearl. There, on the black and white photo was a magnificent tree. Its branches grew out, not up, as if it were reaching out to people. There in the foreground stood a young man proudly wearing his army uniform and slouch hat. He had his arms out – just like the tree’s branches and Lizzie could feel the connection between the

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The Family Tree

two. There was no name, no sign of who and where this man was. However, Lizzie knew in her heart that he was her grandfather. ‘‘‘

“Look after this, will you?” A youthful young lad says to a dainty girl, presumably his wife. An emerald green stone is passed between them, the very colour of the man’s carefree eyes. “I’ll pass it onto Mary when she’s old enough,” the woman replies, holding her head high. As the man is led away, he calls out to her, reminding her to keep his orchard thriving. ‘‘‘

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Lizzie was intrigued about the tree. At dawn the next day, she bounded across the rows of apple trees, her eyes searching for the tree. “The soldiers fought right here. The tree has to still be here!” Lizzie thought. She let her hair fly in the wind as she flew across the orchard, her emerald eyes dancing. At last, Lizzie came to a stop. An enormous tree stood in front of her, its low branches inviting her to climb up. Lizzie was about halfway when she spotted a familiar figure. She climbed up to sit next to her fatigued grandmother. Even though they weren’t on the highest mountain, Lizzie felt like they were on top of the world. A soft breeze rustled the tree’s leaves, bringing a familiar fragrance, much like the scent of the green lotion. Lizzie could sense her grandfather smiling. ‘


“Come on, it’s only half a mile down the road. What are you afraid of?” Derek’s menacing tone interrupted my thoughts. “W-Why can’t we just stay here?” my stuttering only brought a sneer to Derek’s face. “Oh of course, poor little Noah is s-s-scared! What a wimp.” Derek grabbed me by my arms and hauled me out of the musty barn. The harsh sunlight glared upon us while I had to blink a couple of times to adjust to the fierce light outside compared to the cool interior of the barn. “Look, mum’s in the paddock with the horses. We just have to sprint past the water tank and she won’t know that we’re gone.” “I-I don’t know –” my desperate plea to get out of Derek’s little adventure was unheard as the boy had already run off. Looking over my shoulder I hoped my sister would be there with a reprimanding look on her face but all that I could see were the dusty bales of hay. The bales stood like boulders guarding the house. With one last pleading look towards the house, I ran to the water tank without looking back, missing the pair of scowling eyes watching me. Reaching Derek, I stopped under the shade of the gumtree and caught my breath. “What’s wrong with you?” Ignoring my cousin, I bent over my knees waiting for my head to stop spinning. My heart thudded in his chest to the tune of a drunk man’s song. Once the dizziness had stopped, I look up only to see Derek already halfway down the road. “There you are! It’s not long from here but with you it might take years!” I ignored the insult and instead focused on the rundown station ahead. A couple of times my feet would catch in a soft bit of the dirt road that had not yet been hardened by the sun and I would trip clumsily over my own feet and each time Derek couldn’t hold back his laughter no matter how many times it happened. A tall black fence loomed in front of them, guarding the station menacingly. The pointed spikes at the top of the fence were as intimidating as armed guards watching over a king. Gulping, I watched my cousin climb the fence with ease. With shaky arms, I started the treacherous climb over the fence. I made it to the other side without falling off and reflected sadly that this might’ve been one of my greatest achievements. At least my heart was alright for now, I couldn’t imagine what my sister would do to me once she found out I was doing something this dangerous.

Those Reproachful Eyes Amrita Kaur Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Winner

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Those Reproachful Eyes

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“OI! Stop daydreaming!” Derek’s clenched fists were squeezing the rubber ball dangerously at having to put up with his cousin’s laziness. Finally, the game of down ball began. Breaking into the forbidden train station to play was necessary as the platforms were made of tarmac, compared to the dirt roads surrounding the farm this was the only place to play a decent game of down ball. The only problem was that the railway station wasn’t completely abandoned. Broken down trains and trains in need of repair would be parked at the station while waiting to be fixed. Derek always found it fun to tease the slow rolling trains that were coming in, waiting to the last second to run off the tracks and not get caught. But I was constantly on the watch out, in between trying to return Derek’s fast and furious serves. Derek’s serves got fiercer and more relentless until he finally struck. Coughing and spluttering I bent over my knees, clutching my chest, unaware that the ball was rolling down the platform and onto the tracks. “Idiot! Go pick that up!” Derek sat on the bench sulkily waiting for his, clumsy cousin to fetch the ball. Eyeing the burning railway tracks I took a couple of deep breaths that seemed to do nothing to calm my heart down. Slowly I eased myself onto the tracks, locating the once bright ball that was now covered in dirt. I tried hopping back onto the platform but something caught my eye and I picked it up. If I squinted and held the paper at just the right angle, I could make out a faint outline of an old train ticket. I turned, trying to find Derek but I couldn’t see him anywhere. Panic set in before I looked ahead and saw my cousin lying down on the bench on platform 1. As quick as my galloping heart would let me, I scurried over to the platform. Jumping onto the tarmac I couldn’t find my cousin, but the toot of an old steam engine told me exactly where he was. Eyeing the train that was crawling into the station, I stumbled over to the black fence that was laughing at me and my sick heart. I didn’t think I could climb the fence on my own. My heart was now trying to fling itself out of my ribcage as my panic set in. Almost halfway up, the shouts of the train driver pushed me back down again. Just as I was about to give in to the warnings of my heart, I felt a hand gripping tightly onto my own. Looking up, I could see the reproachful eyes of my sister. ‘


What matters to me? It’s such a big question. A lot of things matter to me such as food, my phone and the newest season of Pretty Little Liars. Even though all those things are important to me and are necessary in my day to day life, there are many things that are a lot more important than them. One of those being my opinion and being allowed to have it and voice it. Sometimes, however, I may voice it slightly too loudly and I often refuse to consider someone else’s opinion because naturally, I am always right. No matter what. If I truly believe in my opinion then there is no changing it. You can show me evidence and use big fancy words that I don’t understand but I will still not change my opinion or even consider yours. I am often told by my mother that I should sometimes keep my opinions to myself but I can’t help it most of the time. For some reason. I just have this need to tell everyone my opinion and for everyone to think the same as me, but then how boring would that be. Just imagine it, everyone thinking the same thing, and no one having an original idea. You could never have an interesting conversation because everyone would say the same thing as everyone else. That’s why it’s so important to have your own opinion and not let anyone make you change it to what they think is the right opinion to have. That brings me to my next point. Can an opinion be wrong? An opinion can be wrong to me because it not the same as mine, but, can it be completely incorrect? The answer is no, an opinion can’t be wrong. A lot of people can disagree with someone’s opinion but it cannot be false. An opinion isn’t like a fact that has a right and wrong answer, an opinion is someone’s thought and feeling on a particular topic. The definition of opinion is “a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”. So, no matter how ridiculous someone’s opinion might sound and no matter how many people disagree with it, it cannot be incorrect. So, if it cannot be wrong, can it be right? Well, as I have already said, my opinion is always right and I know you know that, but I guess if it cannot be wrong then I cannot be right. Opinions can often be formed on bases of fact, they can be judgmental and can be influenced by others. For example, I hate Brussels sprouts, I mean who doesn’t? They’re gross. I haven’t

What Matters To Me? Sally Schwartz Orator Of The Year Winner

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What Matters To Me?

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actually tried them but everyone else says they’re disgusting so they must be. Mum likes them but what would she know. Now, English teachers. Shakespeare, really? “Godspeed fair Helena! Whither away?” Godspeed, whither that doesn’t make any sense. Just say “Hi Helena! Where are you going?” No one talks like that anymore. I’m already learning French as my second language. I bethink not we shouldst learneth Shakespeare. Teachers, I know you think Shakespeare is wonderful and beautiful but, have you ever thought you might be wrong? As I have already said, no opinion can be wrong, but it takes in some instances a lot of self-control not to put down or denigrate others opinions. In so much conflict, a lack of tolerance for others’ opinions is the source. Gay marriage is currently a very debated topic not only in Australia but worldwide. In New Zealand, a country that we are very similar to and have a very close relationship with, gay marriage is not only legal but celebrated. In Australia, gay marriage has still not been legalised solely due to opinions and lack of tolerance. How a couple’s love for each other is lawmaker’s business is, in my opinion, quite frankly bewildering. People’s opinions are all so different and are what sets us apart. Opinions are what make this class, this year level, this school, this suburb, this city, this state, (see where I’m going with this) this country, this region, this world (and according to some people this universe) such an exciting place to be. So, what I think you’ve learned from this is that I am always right, that my opinion is important and terribly interesting. Actually, the truth is that opinions differ and nobody’s (I might have to whisper this) opinion is right or wrong and are all valuable. It matters very much to me that people are allowed to voice their opinion and for them to be accepted in a tolerant and open minded way. And in my opinion this speech is done. Thank you. ‘


If she squinted and held the paper at just the right angle, she could make out a faint outline. It was dark, and she only had an old flashlight, but Betty swore she could see a grey line underneath 13th June. Her eyes flickered across the rest of the paper; there was 4:58pm, and– “Enemy communications, telegrams included, are out of bounds,” Agent Lawrence snapped, snatching the file from Betty’s hands. “Especially for a woman.” “When was that telegram sent?” asked Betty. There was something important there, she just knew it. A crucial piece of information gripped in Lawrence’s greasy hands. “That’s none of your business,” sneered Lawrence. “Confidential files like these are classified. Classified means only certain people are allowed to look at them.” Shooting one last dirty glare in Betty’s direction, he spun on his heel and stuffed the telegram back into its folder. “Leave the real work to the actual agents. You have your own job to do.” “Of course, sir,” said Betty, composing herself. “How would you like your coffee?” ‘‘‘

13th of June. 4:58pm. There had to be something there. Betty had only gotten through a third of the telegram, though. What if she was missing something? Lawrence clearly hadn’t checked over the document properly. This was a war – one piece of information missing could mean death for hundreds. Betty Davis had an incredible mind, unwavering courage and the determination of ten men, but she didn’t have Agent Lawrence’s security clearance. She did, however, have his coffee. “Agent Lawrence, sir? A long black, two sugars,” she simpered, sliding his mug across the desk. Lawrence nodded, tapping away at his typewriter. This was good – he had acknowledged her presence. This was rare, and she had to take advantage of it. “And this,” she continued, batting her eyelashes, “must be one of your renowned case reports.” She pointed to the yellowed paper peeking out of the typewriter. “So you’ve heard about them, have you?” asked Lawrence, leaning back in his chair lazily. “Oh, of course,” said Betty, sliding Lawrence’s key from off the table. “They’re all Chief Miller ever talks about.”

Invisible Anna Timm Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Highly Commended

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Invisible

Agent Lawrence barely had time to blink before Betty was gone, key in hand and with a sly grin plastered across her face. ‘‘‘

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“Get out. You have ten minutes to pack up your things and get out.” “Chief!” Betty protested. “This isn’t a joke! There’s a hidden message, and I’m certain there’ll be a bomb, and–” Chief Miller slammed his hand down on the table. “You were out of bounds, you stole from a federal agent, and you barged into my meeting without even an apology.” “But–” “This is why we don’t hire women,” Chief Miller said, rolling his eyes. “You can’t obey the simplest of instructions. Ten minutes. Out.” Betty’s reply was no more than a whisper. Smoothing her skirt, she turned and strode out of the room, the telegram drifting to the ground behind her. ‘‘‘

Even weeks after the Brewers’ Hall bombing, ashes still fluttered in the early morning breeze. Deathly silence echoed as dozens of wooden caskets were paraded through the Hall’s ruins. In the midst of it all sat Betty Davis. She stared straight ahead and blinked back her tears. She wished she could have done something. She knew she could have done something. She had been unheard. Unseen. Because even when she had a coffee or a life-changing telegram in hand, she was invisible. In memory of those who lost their lives in the 1940 Brewers’ Hall bombing in London. ‘

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If I squinted and held the paper at just the right angle, I could make out a faint outline. I reached out for my glasses as my mother staggered through the doorway and slumped down beside me. The stench of rum filled the room; clusters of bottles were scattered everywhere. This place was home to me. Suddenly, I heard the front door slam shut and heavy footsteps charged towards the living room. My legs jolted upwards like the springs of a trampoline and my face turned powder white, we had been expecting him for a while now. I stared down at the paper shaking in my hands. I could sense a shadow loom in front of me and coldness filled my body. I quickly reached out and grabbed my mother’s fragile arm. Apprehensively, I glanced up and saw a bulky silhouette towering over me. My heart was a bomb ticking inside my chest slowly gaining its speed until it was ready to explode. The person started muttering but the sound of my heart beat was draining his words. I quickly dropped my head back down again trying to focus my blurred eyesight on the envelope. Droplets of sweat started on my forehead. I stared down at my bony legs and felt the sweat burn my grazed knees, and drown my dirty and holed clothes. I rapidly peered back up at the dark shape and could barely make out the features of his face. His eyes were cold and dark. They were like knives. I knew what was coming. Through the white envelope, I could make out a few words: ‘Department of Human Services’. My grip tightened on my mother’s arm. She looked towards the letter and through the corner of my eye, I could see her face ashen as if she had had all of her life drained out of her. Her mouth widened at the edges forcing to show her stained teeth, but only for a second and then they dropped. I knew this was a supposed to be reassuring. Her old scent was gone and all I could now smell was her usual scent of alcohol, her clothes were drained in it. She just stared at me, speechless. She knew deep down that she was responsible for all of this. I hesitated, my eyes fixated on the envelope. The man starting tapping his foot and looking down at his watch. Realizing this was my queue I carefully opened the letter. I could feel my whole life crumbling, like ancient buildings tumbling down to ruins. My pillars were falling down, which were the only thing that had been holding me strong for such a long time, up until this moment. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I began to read.

Stolen Lydia Woolston Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Highly Commended

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Stolen

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My body froze. I could see the guilt written on Mother’s face. The words from the letter kept repeating in my mind. ‘Your mother isn’t eligible to look after you anymore. You will have to go to a foster family.’ These words were haunting me; my head started spinning. All I wanted to do was collapse onto the ground, but I just sat there frozen. I kept thinking about how my mother once was a beautiful, caring woman and I realized that only one thing can destroy your life. I wanted to scream as loud as I could, release my anger. I wanted to strike at the man, force him out of our house. I just wanted everything to go back to normal, just as it used to be. Suddenly, I couldn’t contain myself for any longer. I fell onto the floor and started pounding my arms and legs against it, screaming frantically. Both the inside and outside of my body ached. My bones felt like broken glass, that had shattered to pieces. The man tried quietly and calmingly asking for me to get my bags. I wasn’t moving anywhere. I lay there sobbing on the stained floor surrounded by turned over bottles. He repeated himself but this time in a sterner tone. I could tell by his tone that he was a volcano slowly erupting and about to explode. I slowly slumped towards my room as the man trailed behind my footsteps. I cautiously looked at all of my precious belongings. I picked up the photo frame with my mother and I at my fifth birthday party and held it to my heart. Streams of tears rolled down my face. I circled around my room for the very last time, and then ran up to my mother and embraced her, her warm arms cradled me, rocking from side to side. I knew this was best for me, I shouldn’t have blamed my aunty for all of this. I quickly gave her one more hug as time was running away from me. As I stepped outside, the man’s car was still idling. He beckoned me forward as the car door groaned open. I watched all my childhood memories slowly disappear as I trailed off into the distance. My mother was shrinking as we drove further away, along the dirt road, until I only saw the frantic motion of her hand. I couldn’t contain myself and I started desperately shouting for her. I had lost everything. The foster carer said that we could meet once a month, but I knew that would be the last time I would ever see her. ‘


The rustling of the green ferns startled me, as I turned around two wide eyes were staring straight back at me. The girl slowly crept forward, her arm stretched out and poked me on my white speckled nose. I sat stunned, I couldn’t move. Father had always told me to run if I ever saw an Aborigine, but instead I started to scream. The girl shoved her hands over my mouth and started laughing. Her laugh sounded like the cackle of the Kookaburra that sat in a tree above my hut. She took my hand and strode in leaps and bounds, away from the colony and through the bush. I was dragged along in sheer terror and pure excitement. The girl came to a sudden stop and began climbing a large tree that seemed to have branches coming from every direction. I stood at the bottom gazing up at this agile creature. She signalled me to come with a waving hand and a comforting smile. I climbed the tree, timid with each movement. The girl was already sitting on a branch above the canopy of the tree. Each step I took more and more of the view became visible. I sat next to her and looked out over the colony. She smiled at me and pointed in a different direction. I had never seen outside the colony, which was bare of nature and filled with huts and people. This new view showed me the glistening bay and the stretching bush. White sand lay upon the beaches and the trees breathed small puffs of wind which calmly blew over the land. This aboriginal girl was not like the stories I had heard. She was not a savage. She pointed to the sun, “Allunga” she said, she then pointed to herself, “Allunga.” I understood and told her my name, “William.” Her smile grew and she laughed. We watched in silence. The hut door was open and an oil lamp was burning. My father was passed out on the floor. He drank heavily in the afternoons, which is why it was a daily ritual for me to play at the edge of the colony. It is nights like this that I miss my mother the most. When my family came to the colony my mother became ill and died from smallpox. My father was never the same and became a drunk to distract himself. The other children wouldn’t let me play. They said I was infected and that my mother was to blame. I was an outcast in the colony. My father and I rarely spoke two sentences to one another. As I walked in he awoke and questioned me on where I was today. I wouldn’t dare tell him about Allunga. I told him I was with my friends. I lied. This was satisfactory so he began drinking again. I went to sleep relaying the day’s happenings in my mind.

Taken By The Wind Melanie Clarke Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Winner and School Winner

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Taken By The Wind

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A year passed and we were the bestest of friends. We didn’t need to understand each other through language. We used our facial expressions and actions to communicate. Each day Allunga and I would have a new adventure. She taught me how to fish and how to weave baskets. I showed her a folk dance which she found hilarious, we played all through the days of each season. In late Summer, I sat by the edge of the colony. I hadn’t been to see Allunga in a few weeks because I had begun school. I had missed her a lot. I heard a rustle in the bushes which was our usual greeting. I walked over to the shrubs when a tall muscular aboriginal man grabbed my arm. We raced through the bush. As we came to a peaceful campsite, I glanced over to see a group of women standing around someone. I was lead to the group and shown my friend. Allunga was covered in white dots. As I touched her hand I felt her boiling skin. She was searing hot. The women wiped her with water to cool her down. She was plagued with smallpox. The breeze blew the grass. Allunga smiled faintly at me and whispered “William.” I stepped back. I was flushed with emotions. I wanted to cry and scream. I ran to town as fast as I could. The tears were forming in my eyes making the world blurry. I ran to my father and pleaded him to help Allunga. He was outraged and tried to grab me. He stumbled and was too slow. I ran to the doctor’s tent. I was told to leave and that white people were more important. I was screaming for help, but no one would come to my aid. I was numb and no longer felt my legs. I ran back to the bush. The tears were now streaming down my face. As arrived back to the campsite, I knew Allunga was gone. She was taken by the wind. My heart squeezed. My chest tightened. I was alone again. Every time I was at the top of Allunga’s tree I felt her sitting with me, gazing upon a world of endless possibilities. ‘


The body. Her body. It was starved of life. She stood standing in front of me staring into the image of herself… but what she saw was not really herself. She saw rolls of fat in her tummy and dimples indented on her thighs. She saw her body differently to how I did. Her scraggly skin draped under the raw shape of her rib cage protruding through what seemed like barely an ounce of fat or muscle. Her arms were nothing but wire coat-hangers dangling from a narrow-shouldered rail. Her head was just about the only thing that contained weight. Her face was drawn and gaunt and her features stuck out like branches from a tree. She didn’t see her body the way others did. The body was withering away in front of me. Her eyes looked into me and I projected what I saw, a tale of great pain. Her body had consumed her life and would continue to do so until the day she decided to take control. To take control of her body. To take control of her life. “I’m fat,” she says. “I am fat. Fat.” The word itself grossed her out as she pinched at the ‘fat’ she saw hanging and sagging from her ‘boxy’ frame. “I’m not attractive,” she adds, the comments about her distorted appearance piling up, decreasing the little self-esteem she ever had about her looks. Tears well up in her brown, unloved eyes, and she spits at me like it is my fault. I tell her what she wants to see. I don’t beat around the bush or lie. I am transparent. Well technically I am opaque. I reflect light and the truth, but that is not always taken well. I’ve been in Lucy’s life for the entirety of her teenage years. She has looked at me for over seven years and I have watched her condition deteriorate. Lucy was never like this. I only used to see her twice a day; once in the morning and once at night. She would get up in the morning, consult me and meet me back again before going to bed. I sit here in her bedroom and I have noticed over the past few months she has stood before me more and more. I’ve seen her strip off her school dress, positioned before me and she would stare at me until she was so unsatisfied with what she saw, that she left. Over these past months, I have seen her waste away. My lean, sporty girl has turned to a ghostly, unmotivated, bodyimage obsessed teenager. Since she was given a mobile phone, I have seen her more: on her bed messaging her friends, scrolling

Mirror Mirror Bella Eames Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Highly Commended

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Mirror Mirror

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through her feed on social media and perhaps the worst of all taking multiple photos of herself until she is satisfied. As a piece of glass, I merely cannot comprehend the purpose of such a device. Unfortunately, I can only see the effects and my attempt at expressing my views is unheard. She can see everything I can see, if only she would take a break from her phone and look. As she becomes more addicted to her device, her disease is more prominent. Bulimia has placed a new lens over her eyes and the vision I project for her is lost. She cannot see, let alone understand what she is putting herself through, my advice lost in the process. Her grim hourglass waist represents more than just her figure. Time is taking its toll on Lucy and time is beginning to run out. Some days I can tell she really is trying. When her bulimic outlook hasn’t kicked in, I can tell that she knows she is suffering. It is those times where I can see the sand fall from the hour glass. A couple of grains per second slipping through the cracks. I can see her trying to keep the precious sand, but it is just slipping through her fingers and she is letting go of all that she has. Her struggles are so raw that she needs to look to me. To look at herself. She spits at me in self-loathing. Staring straight at me, staring at herself. I know she cannot stand the person she sees in the mirror. Her distorted views of her body are alarming and she just continues to stare until she knows that she won’t be able to change the way she thinks. The way she looks at me. The picture she has painted in her mind. I am used to this abuse, although I am trying to be transparent enough for her to see through. If only she could see through so she wouldn’t have to look back at herself. I hate seeing her suffer. She picks up the closest object and hurls it at me. A crack spirals through glass and another blow causes me to split into thousands of pieces laying on the floor. She has shattered me, and has shattered the alternate view of herself. Although the image I provided for her was not distorted, hopefully the damage to me will begin her rehabilitation. I have watched her let time and life slip from her grasp. I hope the next time she looks at herself she understands why she cannot be the fairest of them all. ‘


Humans are capable of anything. We build and create, we provide new opportunities for those with none. We cure the sick, we help the poor. We are a vision of hope for our society. Humans are capable of anything. We steal and murder, have greed and power, and are a corrupt society of people who exploit the most vulnerable for a benefit that holds no human value. We bundle them into a truck, no seatbelts, no food, no water, no air. We abuse them like objects to get what we want. Sometimes, their organs are taken away, most times its their whole lives, and with that, their last threads of hope. Humans are capable of anything, and sometimes this means the most cruel, inhumane act that shows the much darker side of today’s world. Sometimes it means a secretive and manipulative practice that must be discontinued now. Human trafficking. Human trafficking is the process in which migrants are illegally transported to any part of the world or in their own countries, by human traffickers who exploit these people for their own benefit. Organ trafficking is often a part of human trafficking and involves the act of harvesting organs from people, dead or alive, with the victims of this trade usually being unaware of what will happen to them, only excited to start a new life in a hope-filled country. According to Articles 3 and 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, and “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” The very meaning of these words is destroyed with the practice of human trafficking. Day in, day out, people subjected to human trafficking are forced into slavery, prostitution and organ harvesting just to pay back their “debts” to their human traffickers. And who are these victims of this disgusting process? Usually refugees, who are willing to amount to anything to escape conflict. These people have already gone through complete violations of human rights, and for these refugees to be hit with another wave of terror just because of this horrible trade is completely outrageous. Organ trafficking is the most manipulative branch of human trafficking, as it exploits the most vulnerable and defenseless people of our society. The current demand for organs is at its highest, with the kidney being the most needed organ in the world. The demand is high, but the supply is low. In Nepal’s case, this has meant more organ traffickers gaining more money from the manipulation of

Human Trafficking Susan Fang Orator Of The Year Finalist

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Human Trafficking

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their crimes. The ones receiving the organ also turn a blind eye to the victims, who are donating their organs in desperation for money. Nawaraj Pariyar is one victim who has experienced this inhumane practice. He was told by his organ trafficker disguised as a foreman on a Nepali construction site, that if a chunk of flesh was removed from his body, he would receive an equivalent of $30,000 in Nepali currency. As his family was already suffering in poverty, he had no option but to take this offer, thinking that the “piece of meat” that was to be removed would grow back. However, after following the organ trafficker’s instructions of lying to the doctor while faking an ID, he was left post-operation without a kidney. He only received about $250 for the organ “donation”, and currently suffers from a whole list of health problems, not sure whether he will die today or tomorrow. This cruel and devastating practice of organ trafficking must be stopped. First world countries like The United States of America are no safer when it comes to these cruel practices of human trafficking. This past year, two severe cases have already spread to the news, breaking the usual secrecy that is held during these processes. Just last month, 10 migrants out of about 100 travelling to America from the Mexican border fell to the grips of human trafficking, and were found dead in a trailer parked at a Walmart in San Antonio, Texas. Their ultimate cause of death? The inability to breathe. A week later, another 138 migrants travelling from Mexico to the US were rescued from an abandoned trailer, where their human traffickers had left them for dead, presumably escaping with the money they had earned. However, for victims of human or organ trafficking, there is hope. Organizations like Anti-Slavery and World Vision are currently working in countries like Nepal, China, Laos, Thailand, and many more, focusing on using donations to help combat human and organ trafficking. They are working to stop the flow of refugees and those in poverty in the first place, giving these people safe places to live, food, water and even education, to allow them to live their lives in dignity without being manipulated into an entrapping trade. Human and organ trafficking is a cruel and inhumane process that exploits vulnerable migrants for money, labour, and other benefits which are unknown to the general public because of the


secretive nature of these practices. It does not only have a physical toll on its suffering victims, but also leaves them emotionally and mentally damaged for the rest of their lives. It is a practice that must be stopped, not only for the past survivors of this growing issue, but also for those in the future, who may fall in the manipulative arms of this horrific practice. With our current wealth and privilege, we must think of those who are in desperation and fear, and we must help. Humans are capable of anything, and this could mean another migrant becoming the subject of human trafficking, or one being saved from this cruel process. ‘

Human Trafficking

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Right To Gay Marriage – Article 16 Hannah Lee

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After the devastation and destruction that occurred during World War 2, the UN General Assembly pledged they would eliminate any chance of that bloodshed from occurring again. On the 10th of December 1948, the UN General Assembly created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘an international document that states the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled.’ Article 16 of the Declaration of Human Rights reads ‘Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and its dissolution.’ This statement states that every person has a right to marry and not be discriminated against based on race, nationality or religion. Whilst this is true for many, can we truly say it is for everyone? Because if you are gay, you are not free to choose who you marry. Because if you are a homosexual, the society you live in believes that stripping away what should be one of your basic human rights is justified. The fight for marriage equality is a war that has been waged for many years. On one side are people fighting for the chance to marry whomever they choose. On the other side are people who believe they have the power and authority to treat homosexuals like a lower class and prevent them from marrying at all. Recent studies have shown that the percentage of people who identify as homosexual is constantly rising. From 2008 to 2014, the percentage of Australians who classified themselves as gay, rose from 2.4 to 3.4 percent, which is approximately eight-hundred and thirty-seven thousand people. For centuries, we have been brought up to believe that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman and because of this way of thinking, we ostracise people who believe this definition of love and marriage is too restrictive. Countless people hide their true identity because they are fearful the world will shut them out. Is this how we want Australian citizens to live and feel? Until 2004, the Australian Marriage Act did not define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as it had never occurred to anyone that it could be anything else. At this time, there were very few countries that allowed same sex couples to get married. However, couples from Australia were travelling to the two or three countries that did allow it to get married. It was then the Australian government took some notice of the gay marriage debate. Our


Prime Minister at the time was John Howard, and after hearing about the unions of Australian homosexual couples overseas, he took action. He took action not to help these people who desperately wanted to live their lives without any barriers, but to exclude them from society even more. He stated that the definition of marriage is a ‘voluntary entered-into union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.’ He stated that ‘no gay couple would be able to marry or adopt children from overseas.’ Whilst taking away Australian same sex couples’ choice about who to love, he also took away any chance of them being able to start a family. John Howard segregated the Australian LGBTQIA community from the rest of society. Pride is an international organisation that strives to ameliorate the lives of the LGBTQIA community and raise awareness about the injustices they have to live with. Pride hosts events and social activities for the LGBTQIA community and their families, aiming to impact people all around the globe. Your support, recognition and awareness about this issue is one way you can help to alleviate the inequality and discrimination these people face on a daily basis. There are also a number of organisations that raise money to aid LGBTQIA people such as the LGBT Foundation and the Pink Media Group. It is now 2017, and we are living in an age where people are starting to realise the injustice and inequity of the gay marriage debate. We are fortunate to be growing up in a world and community that is starting realise the unfairness that has been occurring and is acting upon it. The Australian Government is now hoping to give people a chance to speak out and vote for same-sex marriage rights. In 2004, we as the society that backed and supported John Howard, shamed our name. We humiliated and isolated those who were believed to be different. Let that never happen again. Thank you. ‘

Right To Gay Marriage – Article 16

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Torture Annabel Maher Boroondara Literary Award Finalist

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As the freedom is nearing, the urge to stay grows. The freeway may be dangerous to run across, but isn’t staying even more? The swaying trees seem as though they are reaching for him. No one notices him standing there, and no one has ever noticed him. The only boundary trapping him from freedom are these four lanes, one, two, three, four. He becomes immersed in the moment, he gazes towards the sun and squints. The smell of gumtrees is overpowering the petrol. The cars can’t be heard compared to the birds on the other side. As he runs, his golden mane of hair flows down his back and his smile returns which stretches from ear to ear. In lane one, on the back of a rusty Ute, a small and terrified puppy huddles into its mother. He remembers the days when his family would care, when he was given a bed to sleep on and a shoulder to cry on. He starts to reminisce about the cherry blossoms and long grass which would tangle around his knees and pull him to the ground every time he chased his sister. But that all changed over time. As they grew, she was taken away one day and never returned. There are no gaps in lane one, the cars are tailgating each other, or maybe that is just how it seems to him. The wind of each car makes him sway, left and right, left and right. He decides to run after a petrol truck, because no one would drive too close to a truck carrying dangerous materials. Or maybe that was just what his mother told him to make him anxious. He sprints, and makes it to the middle of the two lanes. In lane two, he finds a couple giggling and happy. One woman has a kitten on her lap and the other is focused on driving. The two women then turn to look at him. The disgusting monster, trying to run to his freedom across the freeway. They then return to their conversation, not caring to look back at him. He feels the pain of being forgotten. That was something which he already knew too well. The day he turned seven, his family forgot about him. Since then, each night he would go out after dark to find some food. He didn’t have a bed, so some nights he didn’t go home. As he ran, he embraced the warm tar under his toes. When he met the median strip, he stumbled and the gravel pierced each and every part of his feet. In lane three, he spies a family like his own. The parents in the front, yelling and screaming at each other and the child in the back with headphones on in the back, staring at him. He


understands how desperate the child is to escape. When his sister ran away, he was abused because it was his fault. He knows what it is like to be forgotten and he knows the pain which every curse and insult causes. It didn’t end at name calling. After a week, the hitting, the slapping, the punching. The constant black eyes will never fade, and the permanent bruises will always hurt. His father came home with a thick silver chain and a long metal stick. From then on, each afternoon he would be tied to the hills hoist and beaten, one strike for each inconvenience he had been that day. Some days, other people would join his parents as well, he was the laughing stock of the neighbourhood, and that was never hidden from him. In the fourth and final lane, our new-found friend realises that regardless what side of the freeway you are on, no matter if your neighbourhood is big or small, abuse and torture follows. He looks down at his four paws, and he licks his whiskers. Maybe one day, he will be free. Maybe one day, he will have a family which will love him and treat him like he should be. He can hear the birds in the eucalyptus trees which are only one lane away, but all he can do is stand and listen. Cars rush past either side of him, but all he can do is stand and watch. This powerless creature stands in the middle of the road, with his two ears standing up straight, and barking in terror, but not a sole in the world could care. ‘

Torture

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Little Red Caboose Maddy Truong

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In a place where hope was as scarce as a needle in a stack, death prowled along rows to pluck out the most vulnerable with a snatch of his long, knarled fingers. A long, echoing corridor lead to a single, faded green door. The cages lined up brought you closer to that oneway trip to the other side. It was cold, so cold. The monotone steel stung with unforgivingly bitterness as it stood, hard and cruel. The stench of fear had been long infused into foundations of the old run-down building. A young couple wandered in, wrapped up in romance that would last a lifetime, so out of place they seemed luminous. A small, fawn-coloured mutt stood shaking in the back of her cage, so close to Death’s door. The cage was small, dark and cramped, yet with only a speck of soul inside, it seemed cavernous. Her petite, brown ears drooped, her head bowed and her little black nose still. You pressed your tiny forehead against the metal bars as a last desperate measure of hope. ‘Please help me. Love me.’ A sliver of silver light cast through the mouldy windows as if to say, this one’ll do. ‘That one’s ‘bout to be knackered.’ The manager’s voice growled like gravel was rolling about in his voice box. The woman stopped and walked back towards you. So did Death. ‘Wait honey, look at this one.’ So did Death. ‘I want a big dog, like this retriever or something,’ the man protested. ‘Oh come on. Look at it… so scared…’ You pressed your head deeper into her gentle stroke and slowly your legs slowed to a light tremor and then stopped all together. No, Death rasped. That one’s mine. He reached out to grasp the little pup’s soul, but his bony fingers closed on nothing. Begrudgingly, the young man had come over and unknowingly bumped Death aside to look at the sad little dog. ‘Really? Look at it – its teeth are sticking out and it’s a complete bitser.’ ‘Take it for free. If I know one thing mate – its tuh listen to the Missus,’ croaked the sour manager in tones of exasperation. Death recoiled. ‘This is it honey, we’ll take this one,’ the woman said, opening up


the cage and scooping up the forlorn little dog. Defeated, the young man looked at the bundle of scruff, under-bite, wonky teeth and big doe eyes in astonishment. Damnit, Death cursed under his breath. So, Death would have to wait patiently for another two decades and you came home with that young couple. It took you years to stop worrying that you would get left behind and to realise that you were loved. For years you pined when you were left alone and sprinted for kilometres after the bike in terror of being abandoned again. You always ate like it was your last and food disappeared in two seconds flat. Always. The amount of times the woman had to rescue you from a can stuck on your head or a packet over your eyes. The amusing price to pay for searching for the last morsel of food. When two newborns came home you earned a new title – the vacuum to end all vacuums. So thorough, it would put Hoovers off the market. Any stray piece of chicken or rice, it was gone in a flash. Children’s giggles floated upwards on clouds of delight and it became a game. You witnessed a whole generation being born and came everywhere. You were a child’s first words – ‘ewie dog’. You warmed the lap of studying Uni students and diligently walked the younger children to and from school and kindergarten every day. You had to be at the front of the pack, checking for your pack. Every Christmas gathering, every new cousin, every Easter, every birthday, you were there. You soaked up my tears even when I fell ill and no matter what happened during the day, you were there with a curled tail to greet me when I got home. ‘Ellie’s still here!’ Friends would gasp, because you just kept on going. You just kept chugging along. Until one day you didn’t. One day a disease gripped and didn’t let go. A spark left your expressive little face and became clouded by cataracts and shrouded by seizures. You were tired. So tired. When Death came a-knocking, you answered. But Death was now an old friend. You greeted each other with a knowing smile and acquainted once more. They say you don’t think you can cry anymore until you do. I suppose last night that came true for me. You slipped away with your grey coat wet with my tears, in the arms of the young man who is now my father. In the same old building where the young couple clinched you from Death’s grasp. You taught them to be parents and how to love. You brought friends together and showed children

Little Red Caboose

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Little Red Caboose

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to be kind and how to care. When you were ready, we let Death inside with a curious nod and tears cascading our cheeks. Let him gently take you from the not-so-young man’s arms and cradle you like a pup again. You always loved my dad. This morning was the first morning of my life I woke up without you. The first morning I got up without your little wet nose and that persistently skewed tail of yours. That spot at the front window with the glorious north sun was empty. Like the little red caboose, you just kept chugging along and fought to the end. Not always noticed, but always there. You taught me to appreciate the gift of life and hold the ones you love close. The world doesn’t give us the gift of soul mates very often, but you were an exception. We said goodbye to you that dark November night, but after all, you just have to keep on chugging along, don’t you? Rest in Peace good girl. Thank you, Little Red Caboose. In loving memory of Ellie: 1998 – 2017 ‘


I’m going to a party next weekend and I have no idea what to wear. I mean, I have this really nice dress but I wore it to that other party last weekend! I can’t just wear it again… I’ll probably just buy another one. 24th of April 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, The Savar building collapses in Rana Plaza, killing 1,135 and injuring 2500 more of the garment workers inside. I really want the new iPhone 7! It’s kind of similar to my 6 but I’ve had mine for agessss... 2010, 9 workers at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, commit suicide in the space of just three months due to the inhumane working conditions. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Security of person. This means that everyone has the right to feel safe in their community, in their school, in their home and in their workplace. However, right at this moment, there are people working in places like Rana Plaza and Foxconn factory, in Bangladesh and China and Cambodia where they don’t feel safe. These are places in which women may be abused for speaking up about their rights. Places in which managers have been forced to cut corners on safety. Places in which employees are forced to use poisonous chemicals without proper safety equipment or knowledge. Places in which safety is a secondary priority. In 2009, Ming Kunpeng developed occupational leukaemia at age 22 after working in a tech factory owned by ASM International in China. His job involved cleaning circuit boards using chemicals including one called benzene. Benzene is a poisonous chemical which can cause cancer, however, all that Ming was given to protect himself was a mask and a regular pair of gloves. In 2013, after he and his family fought for a year with his employer for compensation, and he finally received a lung transplant that ultimately failed, Ming ended up dependent on an oxygen tank. Soon after, he slipped out of the hospital room where he was being treated, unnoticed by his mother who was sleeping in the room with him, and went to the roof where he jumped to his death. He was 27 years old. He killed himself because he felt as though he was a burden to his family.

Blood-Stained Label Maya Wilnshurst Allan Patterson Public Speaking Award Winner

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Blood-Stained Label

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But who killed him? Who really killed Ming Kunpeng? The answer is us. Every single one of us. We are all responsible for buying the products which are manufactured in factories just like his. Retailers are constantly cutting prices to compete with other brands which results in factories being forced to make the products for less. This means that the owners of these factories have to cut corners. Wages go down and safety measures such as proper equipment become too expensive. Proper equipment like the proper masks and gloves which would have prevented Ming’s death. And that responsibility falls on every one of us. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout says, “I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” So, if there is only one kind of people in the world, then how can our realities be so different? How can we, in Australia, be confident that we will work in a safe environment when workers in countries like Bangladesh and China who produce our goods can’t have that confidence? Studies reported by the Fashion Revolution suggest that 3 out of every 5 garment workers in India and Bangladesh have experienced harassment, verbal abuse or physical abuse. If we are all the same, then how are our circumstances so different? In Scout’s eyes, this world would not seem right. It shouldn’t in yours either. But what can we do? Firstly, we can use apps such as Good On You and Shop Ethical to check the labour standard of the brands we buy from. Secondly, we can support organisations such as Labour Behind the Label. Along with campaigning for workers’ rights worldwide LBL has been instrumental in getting UK brands to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. So, before you buy that new dress or that new iPhone, I want you to think about the hands that have touched it and the people who have worked in unsafe factories and possibly risked death to let you wear that new dress or take slightly better photos at that girl’s party. Shima, a garment worker in Bangladesh, said “I don’t want anyone wearing anything that is produced by our blood.” So don’t. ‘


When Noah Knight was a child, he would stare up at the night sky, enchanted by the brilliant expanse of stars that looked like seams ripping through the fabric of space and time. How do they do it? He would wonder, eyes sparkling in an almost identical fashion to the constellations before him. How do they shine so bright amidst so much darkness? Noah knew the scientific answer to that now, but it still did not lessen his amazement at seeing the cosmos up close. The sight was ethereal. The planets varied in a bright array of colours from pomegranate to rich cerulean, and the stars seemed like beacons of hope for lonely souls as they glittered enticingly at him through the window of his space shuttle. Ship log: 937 kilometres from Delta. Activity: normal. The insistent beeping of his shuttle’s monitor suddenly jolted him back to reality. Ah, yes. He still had a mission to fulfil – singlehandedly rescuing humanity from overpopulation by discovering and inhabiting another planet. 528 kilometres. Noah turned his attention to the molten-gold planet in front of him. It almost seemed ablaze in all its splendour, a flame licking up against his shuttle as Noah entered the atmosphere of Planet Delta, or as it was simply dubbed by the media, ‘The Other’. Finally, he thought, a long-forgotten feeling of childhood awe overwhelming him as he drank up the resplendent sight with his eyes.

Radiance Tara Zhang Boroondara Literary Award Finalist

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16 kilometres. Suddenly, he was hurtling down towards Delta in a blazing inferno, and for a split-second, Noah was deathly afraid. Although, the feeling of utter terror soon disappeared as the shuttle made contact with the ground. 0 kilometres. CAUTION: Unidentified specimens detected in 7 metre radius. Noah felt his insides churn with both anticipation and fear. Unidentified specimens? That could only mean aliens, perhaps otherworldly beings with advanced civilisations or technology that transcended that of humanity’s. Steeling himself for the encounter

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of a lifetime, he exited the spacecraft, and was struck speechless. He faced the entirety of the Planet Delta crew back on Earth. Every single member was the spitting image of their Earth counterpart. There was no mistaking it, as it must be Captain McKay standing there, the moustache that had always seemed to Noah like a black caterpillar was reclining on his upper lip easily distinguished him. The sight was impossible. Noah felt his head throb, agonising pain sparking through his mind like electricity. Planet Delta was no alternate reality, it was only a planet with an atmosphere supposed to resemble that of Earth’s. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected the inhabitants of ‘The Other’ to be the exact same as themselves. And it terrified him more than any alien would. However, that wasn’t what was most disturbing about the whole experience. If every human on The Other was identical in every aspect to humankind on Earth, then where was he? Where had Noah Knight gone? He stumbled through the masses of familiar faces, desperate to catch a glimpse of the face that he was most familiar with as the pain in his head reached a crescendo. He was an inconsistency in humanity, a single being stranded on a planet where there was no proof of his existence. To them, then, he was The Other, the one that didn’t belong. The mistake. The word reverberated through his mind as the pain finally cleared, though jagged shards of memories forcibly embedded themselves into his mind in its place. His reality was brutally ripped away from him, and he found himself blinking at a pasty white ceiling. He had to remember this time. But he couldn’t. The memories were already escaping from his desperate grasp like flowing water. A burning fury as the stars were wrenched away from him. A drop of crimson. A black caterpillar impaled under a ruthless blade. A mistake. The last few droplets slipped through his fingers.


‘‘‘

She thought of him as a curiosity, but then again, most of the patients in a mental asylum were. It was a strange story. In a drug-induced daze, an astronaut who’d been omitted for a mission to discover a new planet fatally stabbed the Captain and injured several others. Unable to deal with the guilt, he had gone insane and would stare for hours at a replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. He’d have sudden bouts too, where after a period of calm, would writhe and scream on his bed. Others had reported that he’d carved the word ‘mistake’ with his fingernails onto the bed frame. According to doctors, he was going through ‘loops’ where he’d relive the entire incident again and again. The nurse had entered his room once before on such an incident, and had heard him muttering to himself about the radiance of stars. It wasn’t a particularly bizarre thing to say considering his past profession, but it’d stayed in her mind. She found herself wondering if, perhaps, had he looked past the radiance of the stars, he might’ve noticed the gaping blackness of space in between. The darkness that resembled the abyss of his broken mind. It could symbolise, then, that his greatest passion led to his greatest downfall. She walked by, taking a curious glance into his ward. Patient #495 was staring at the painting with sparkling eyes, looking as enchanted as a child would upon seeing stars for the first time. ‘

Radiance

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Let The Nightingale Fall Hayley Do

Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all… ~ Emily Dickinson

Isobelle Carmody Award for Creative Writing Winner

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The ceaseless sway of the perch lulled her to the rhythm of the silent wind, its tendrils rummaging through her feathered coat. Dishevelled and neglected, it was wanting – as was she. Wanting of life and colour; as if the rain had washed out the alabaster white from her breast, the butter yellow from her bill and the burnished copper from her plumage. To the further stretches of the horizon, her vision was scored by arching vertical pillars that rose up to convene at a centre directly above. What the old myrtle tree lacked in rich emerald drapes, it was plentiful in the bell-shaped vessels that adorned its bare unfolding limbs. To those held forgotten and unseen within these vessels of iron and steel, only ever heard through songs of longing and anguish, time had become a strange thing. The black-clad horseman they called Night remained ever constant atop his stallion as the old myrtle tree and all it enclosed aged years within single moments. And yet the land was unchanged by Day’s absence, flourishing under Night’s omniscient circular lantern, the moon. At times, when she peered out into the vast distances, she would catch a glimpse of herself staring back in the polished sheen of the solid bars that were ever-surrounding. She saw a girl; doe-eyed and still a stranger to the world, her appearance and movement not yet mirroring her ragged companions’. It would only be a matter of time – the iron vessel was far smaller than her wingspan, the surrounding columns preventing extension of her wings, leaving them to cripple by her side. She’d seen the old myrtle tree discard those who’d faded away only to hang only another vessel in its place. Her fate rested heavier upon her than it did the others – all desensitised to the point of indifference. An incessant prodding at her mind accompanied a tingling sensation throughout her body, that begged for a reprieve that was just out of reach, much like the world around her. Not only that, her deprivation of space, made her acutely aware of what little she did have, and she felt it pushing against her small frame, stifling her.


As she forsook her perch for a lower ground, time long since blurred together, a shimmer caught her eye. Night had retreated from the fragile line between the sky and the land – the faint radiance signalling Day’s unexpected arrival. And as Night brushed aside his constellation of stars, for the first time, she saw two just like her. Though, perhaps not like her at all. She had dusty feathers of white and brown. They had glowing plumes of pearl and copper. She had haunted eyes that belied years of neglect. They had sparkling eyes that hinted at foreign fantasies. She was alone. They were together. Free and silhouetted against the brightening skyscape, the pair looped and dived, enjoying the open air none within the iron vessels would ever know again. The initial localised tingling along her wings heightened, awakening an ache she couldn’t ignore. There was more to this existence than what she had beneath the myrtle tree. This she now knew beyond a doubt. Having weathered the punishment of time for too long, she called out an ethereal swansong, her honey-laced voice quavering slightly on each note. Her treble told of a life condemned by the loss of belief. Of hope. All because of the loss of another under the hold of the old myrtle tree. Too young was she when she first witnessed a nightingale fall. And too soon was she caught in the empty iron vessel. Bracing herself, she launched forwards, catching the wind for a fleeting moment before colliding against the iron columns. Pain exploded and the stars she saw rivalled Night’s. The others around her paid her no heed – she was not the first to try to escape the old myrtle tree’s strangling grip and they needed no more reminders of the shattered bones that came of fruitless endeavours. Only a single pair of eyes, free of steel confines but lost in the old myrtle tree’s entanglement of limbs, watched her with concern. Not yet exposed to the ordeals those under the old myrtle tree endured, the eyes shined with youth that gave her a strength the others had lost to time. But they widened and dulled with understanding as they watched her once again throw herself against the bars, to have them bow outwards, leaving a protrusion as if cradling an invisible form. They watched as she slipped through the widened space, the tension releasing as her wings unfurled, ready for flight, but she’d forgotten how. For a brief moment though, she was suspended; hung up in space. Then that moment ended.

Let The Nightingale Fall

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Let The Nightingale Fall

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It was slow at first; her body gently giving in to the downward pull, feeling the wind glide through her feathers as she always remembered it did when flying. The wrought iron cages that hung from old myrtle tree shrank to silver blossoms, and the ground accelerated to meet her falling form just as the dawning sun’s first light flooded into the bowl of Night’s sky; blue, violet and amber. The nightingale never did fly away. But at least she was free. Whether the young one would take her place, was up to time to tell. ‘


She heard the children before she saw them. The pitter-patter of their Mary-Jane-clad feet thudded on the footpath like summer rain on a tin roof. Tap-tap! Tap-tap! High pitched giggles, gay and carefree, floated through the maple-trimmed door as she dusted her hands on her well-worn apron and bent to pull a tray of cookies from the oven, freshly baked and warm to the touch – just how they liked them. The girl at the front of the gaggle ran up to the counter, with a neatly pressed pinafore and long chestnut plaits swinging. “We’ll have six today if you please, Miss Louisa,” said Isabel Burnell, in the same imperious tone as her mother. “And I’m to choose first.” The baker’s wife hid a smile. With most children, you could tell – just by looking at them for a while – who their mother and father were. A Cole smile here, a pair of Logan eyes there… yes, she rather prided herself on reading children. Now, the eldest Burnell daughter was an open book – anyone could tell she was her mother’s daughter through and through – but it was the youngest daughter that sparked her curiosity. The baker’s wife turned to look at her now – Kezia Burnell, quietly standing aside whilst her sisters and friends oohed and aahed over the sugary delights. She watched for a while. Could she really be that reserved, when her mother was the wealthiest socialite of the county? But no, though her mannerisms were the polar opposite of Mrs Burnell, her clover-green eyes were watchful like her father’s and when she blinked, her long lashes like spiders’ legs could belong to none other than a Burnell girl. Seeing her, the baker’s wife wondered what her children would look like. Would they have their mother’s honey coloured tresses, or their father’s chocolate-brown eyes? Oh, how she missed those eyes! His premature death soon after their marriage heralded the end of her dreams of a family. She was not the sort of girl to remarry – oh no, everyone knew what was thought of those girls. No, the baker’s wife had long since accepted that she would never bear children – and she had made peace with that. It was blessing enough that her husband’s brother had allowed her to continue to run their bakery as it was, and over time, her customers had become her family, her sweet creations her pride and joy. Presently, the children were poring over the lovingly iced cookies like a bowerbird selecting blue trinkets for his nest.

The Baker’s Wife Jacqueline Du

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The Baker’s Wife

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“Isn’t this pink one simply darling?” shrieked Lena Logan. A chorus of yeses murmured their assent before Isabel interrupted again. “Do hurry up girls.” And the children scurried out, leaving behind echoes of “thank you Miss Louisa” and the lingering scent of soap. As they whisked out the glass-panelled door, another pair of schoolgirls came in. Lil Kelvey hesitated on the threshold, her big blue eyes glancing longingly after the first group of children from under the brim of Miss Lecky’s old hat. Her little sister though, our Else, paid them no heed. Letting go of the fistful of Lil’s skirt she had been clutching, she ran straight into Louisa’s open arms. “I saved two just for you.” Our Else beamed, happily plucking the warm, buttery shortbread from her fingers, but Lil Kelvey looked nervous. “We really shouldn’t ma’am – we don’t have the money.” The limp flowers she had picked for her teacher hung uncertainly by her side. “Oh hush, my dear,” smiled Louisa. “I insist.” Still doubtful, Lil Kelvey tottered forward and carefully took her cookie. “Well then, thank you. Thank you very much.” Our Else said nothing as she nibbled delicately, but her face lit up as if she were a baby bird who had just discovered the joy of flying. And as Louisa watched the two children, something gentle yet sad – no, not sad, exactly – seemed to blossom in her heart. She pulled out a length of satin ribbon she sometimes used to wrap the gift boxes she put her little cakes in and carefully tied a bow in our Else’s hair. Lil opened her mouth as if to modestly protest again, but seemed to think the better of it and closed her mouth again. “You’d best hurry along to school now girls, we wouldn’t want you to be late now, would we?” said Louisa, dropping a kiss as light as a butterfly’s wings on both their foreheads. “Off you go then. I’ll see you this afternoon.” And as the two hustled out the door, Lil marching in front and our Else holding on for dear life behind her, our Else turned and gave a little wave. Louisa felt a lump lodge in the back of her throat as she raised a hand in reply. She stood there for a long time, lost in thought, before – clang! clang! – the loud jangle of the tarnished golden shop bell jolted her back to the present. The baker’s wife straightened up, scolding herself under her breath. “Stop thinking so much – an idle mind is


the devil’s workshop,” she mumbled, tightening her apron ties as she did so. But the group that had just piled in were a motley crew indeed – oh except for one, that is. A girl whom the baker’s wife had not seen before squinting excitedly at the rows and rows of the sweet treats whose snug hats of icing and winking silver balls seemed to cry out ‘pick me! pick me!’. “Oh, wasn’t the ball simply splendid?” she was saying. “The azaleas, the lights, the little coloured flags – oh, I say! If I were to do it all again, I think I may just – ” “Do be quiet, Leila,” one of the other young ladies muttered irritably. The baker’s wife took in her long dark hair and silvery-white coat, trying to match her face to a name. Laura Sheridan. Must have come from the Hays’ Ball last night. She and her sisters looked a little worse for wear, but their brother not as much so. It was his voice that boomed, “That’ll be four macarons for the ladies and two brandy snaps for myself, thank you.” The baker’s wife did as he asked. He leaned over the counter. “And what might a lovely young woman such as yourself be doing shut away in this dingy little place?” She was rather miffed. Dingy? Certainly not! She had always thought of her bakery as quaint and homely; the only slice of the world that she could do with as she pleased. Some women tended window boxes – she tended her bread and cakes. And children. The brother was speaking again. “Well, miss? It is ‘miss’, isn’t it? What do you say you come back to the city with me tonight? We could set up house, start a family… and whoever’s bakery this is can find another bread-seller.” He winked. “Ain’t it lucky you don’t have to worry about that, eh?” At first the baker’s wife was affronted (‘miss’, indeed!), but her mind was quickly assaulted by images of of children, her children, dancing on her lawn and stringing the daisies. The girls would wear cornflower blue frocks to go with their honey-coloured hair and the boys – oh! the boys would look dashing in forest green trousers to suit their chocolate – but the eyes looking at her were grey, not brown. What was she thinking? This was not her man. She couldn’t. She wouldn’t. And what if he went and died on her, just as her baker had? Count your blessings, she told herself firmly. With a polite but steely smile, she informed the man that no actually, it was her bakery, and she was quite content with where she was. And, for the record,

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she wasn’t exactly a ‘miss’. He drew back, confused. “But it’s not… ladies can’t…” His sister scowled. “Yes Laurie, we ladies can’t think with all the racket you’re making. Stop trying to woo the baker’s wife – you’re just disappointed Meg’s friend left early last night!” Leila tittered while Laurie looked sheepish, paid his bill and the party made their way, albeit unsteadily, out to their beautiful horsedrawn cab. The baker’s wife let out a breath of relief she didn’t know she’d been holding. What an encounter! But then she caught sight of the rose-pink clock-face on the wall and there was no time to dwell. Dear Miss Brill would soon be arriving, and she would be expecting her Sunday treat. The baker’s wife brought out the slice of honey-cake she’d put aside earlier and awaited Miss Brill’s arrival with anticipation, for she would surely bring along with her the week’s gossip and news. She’d struck up quite an acquaintance with the eccentric old lady over the years, for it was nice to have a window to the outside world once in a while. But as the clock struck three that afternoon, the golden shop bell did not jingle merrily. The baker’s wife waited some more, thoughts beginning to stray. Maybe I should have given Laurie Sheridan more thought, she worried. What am I doing here? And the minutes ticked by. Could that have been my only escape, missed? What good is a woman with no husband? The baker’s wife looked up just in time to see a woman huddled in a striking red fox fur hurry by, dabbing at her face with a frilly handkerchief. She looked back down again at the slice of honeycake cradled in her hands with a plump, russet-brown almond nestled lovingly on top and didn’t quite know what to think. Perhaps she didn’t belong as much as she had thought. Later that day, when the school children filed in yet again, it was a very different baker’s wife who greeted them. “Miss Louisa, we’d like some jam tarts please.” The baker’s wife quietly handed them over, not even glancing at little Kezia Burnell, tucked away in the corner. In fact, the baker’s wife tried so hard to ignore the traces of her parents’ features that she so often liked to pick out that she didn’t realise when the children left with one fewer than they came in with. Little Kezia Burnell stayed silent, hands cupped around a cherry-red jam tart. That was how the Kelveys found them – Louisa with her


downcast eyes and busy hands, while Kezia stood and waited. Lil Kelvey, halfway through opening the door cheerily, stopped short. Eyes widening at the sight of the Burnell girl, she backed away warily. “You can come in, you know.” Lil shook her head quickly. “It’s okay, really. I saved my jam tart for you.” Kezia gave a tentative but kind smile. “I only have one, but I thought you could share it with your sister? It’s to say sorry for the other day.” Three pairs of eyes stared at her in bewilderment – two from in front and one from behind. Then slowly, very slowly, our Else peered out from behind Lil’s skirt and nodded. She took a few hesitant steps forward, spurred on by Louisa’s encouraging smile. Louisa watched with heart fit to burst as our Else plucked the tart from Kezia’s outstretched hand. “Thank you,” she whispered, and to Louisa, all was right with the world for one glowing moment. Until – bang! The door flew open with a jolt and Lil Kelvey was thrown aside with a yelp, her silly, shamefaced smile wiped from her face. “Kezia!” Aunt Beryl had come looking for her niece. “Kezia – ” It was then that she laid eyes on our Else taking the tart from Kezia and looked faint with shock. And when she spoke, it was as if all the fury in the world could not be contained by her voice. “For the second time this week? Kezia Burnell, what a disgrace to our family you are! Oh, I believe I do quite wish you’d never been born! You’re as bad as the Kelveys, you are. What ever will the neighbours think?” Aunt Beryl flashed a tight smile at Louisa, but to her it really looked more like a grimace. “I do apologise Louisa dear; you know what children are like. Disobedient and rotten to the core – the lot of them! You must be ever so glad not to have any of your own. Good day.” And she grabbed her niece’s wrist, frogmarching her out the door. Lil Kelvey immediately jumped up to follow and perhaps defend her new friend, but our Else simply stood, stricken. A salty teardrop splashed onto the sweet, cherry-red jam and Louisa’s heart clenched. ‘

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I Fell Cherry Williams Starkie

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Her lips were supple and sweet, yet the words she spat were sharp and cutting. Her hands were soft and delicate, yet possessed the power to force the sturdiest of men to the ground. Her mere presence silenced the chaos of my world and I was consumed by her every move. When her eyes locked onto mine, time was suspended – my hammering pulse isolated and screeching in my ears. The moment she turned away, my heart slumped in defeat. I called this confusion love. The day we met was bleak and bitter. The muted radiance of the silver moon, shrouded by a swirling thick smog that smothered what became an ash soaked sky. The sting of the brumal breeze pushed past me, whispering as it ran. The old lingering smell of cigarette smoke crept into my lungs and consumed me, causing me to wheeze. I was still spluttering when I had reached the venue. The music throbbed and pulsated, making my brain blur, forcing me to weave through the liquid dancing bodies to my only sanctuary – a couch at the end of the living room. That was when I first fell. I tripped, my feet vanishing from beneath me as I thumped down, accidentally taking her with me. Disgruntled and unamused, my attempts at apologies did not suffice. Yet five hours, and several drinks later all was forgiven. The remains of that hazy memory still echo - the crinkles that adorned her eyes, the cool touch of her skin and her warm, yellow glow that absorbed me. Even now, I am not sure if I would take back that night. The five hours developed into five years. We spent our nights bundled up, blissfully unaware of a world outside our own. Each morning, the comforting tangle of our entwined feet, her dainty hands drowsily outstretched and the soft sunlight dancing around our room, stung my heart. She allowed my undeserving hand to merge with her own, an action that completed me. Days of the melodic buzz of our laughter rang through my every bone, its energy powerful enough to heal even the deepest of scars. The faint creases that grew on her nose and the slight pink blush that blossomed when she chortled with laughter, overpowered any other anguish. I stained her immaculate mind, confiding my ugly unspoken truths in her remedial heart. She seemed able to disregard my inadequacy, offering allegiance and became my only remedy. The beauty of her every breath, willingly released my trusting heart from the confinement of my chest. Until I fell again.


The closer I got to her heart, the more it hurt. A deep darkness boiled bellow her porcelain skin, a storm that overcame her. No augury, no refuge and seemingly no end. I clung to confusion and denial as my sole hope of survival. After just eight months, the insults first began to launch themselves onto me and burrow beneath my skin. At that time, the storm was muffled and easier to dismiss, but the anger fed off submission. When she flipped the switch, she was blinded and confined to her fury. A few more months later, the storm hit me front on. I can still remember the sharp metallic stench, oozing away from my mouth. My bleary tunnelled view, peering up towards her forceful stern glare. Her creased forehead and sneering scowl, stared down at my pitiful position. My brain pounded a dull and deafening siren that could not be subdued. Her once gentle hands had sunk into my face, dragging my feet from the stability of the ground. I had fallen. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time I fell for her. Each time I was shoved against the biting tiles of our bathroom floor, I came back begging for more. I had tasted the deliciously sweet cherry flavour in my draining blood; the soft cradle in her sunken fist. I found a comfort in the piercing impact of my feeble body, flopping against the ground. My cascading tears instantly evaporated when once again my yearning gaze locked onto her’s. She had stolen my captive heart, and I was held happily her prisoner. I called this confusion love. ‘

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The Starry Morning Sky Alice Wallis Boroondara Literary Award Highly Commended

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There once was a wise astronomer, who stood at the top of a barren hill with her telescope. No one had ever seen the astronomer’s face; it was always concealed by the dark purple hood of her satin cloak. She stood alone, staring into her ancient telescope, night and day. When the folk from the village at the bottom of the hill saw her, they teased her. “Why do you hide your face?” They sneered. “What is the point of staring at the stars in broad daylight?” They sniggered smugly. No one ever smiled at her, and no one ever offered to keep her company. The astronomer never paid any attention to them; she kept her eyes on her telescope and never looked up. One morning, a woman came to the hill. She sat down next to the astronomer. She said nothing. The astronomer looked away from her telescope; the first time she had done any such thing in a long time. She looked the woman directly in the eyes. “What is it you observe?” The woman asked. She sounded genuinely curious, not disdainful. The astronomer looked up towards the sky. It was early in the morning; the sky was still a dusty pink, flecks of gold woven into the atmospheric fabric. “I look at the sky.” The woman was still puzzled. “Any part of the sky in particular?” The astronomer nodded. She had never told anyone what she looked at; she feared that they would not understand it. “The planets.” The woman smiled. “But you cannot see the planets; they are barely visible in the black night, let alone the warm light of day.” The astronomer recoiled a little, but smiled when she heard what the woman said next. She had not smiled in years. “So how does one see the planets?” “By not seeing them.” The woman cocked her head to one side. “Go on…” The astronomer took a deep breath. “As you said, we can barely see the planets, even in the blackest of nights. So how do I see them?” The woman listened intently. “I know that they are there, and that is enough for me to picture them. Through my telescope I may not see the god-like Jupiter, or


the graceful Saturn, but through my mind’s eye, I can see every corner of the universe.” There was a pause. “That is beautiful.” No one had ever said such kind words, nor listened to what the astronomer had to say. “How long have you spent up here on this hill, your eyes aimed at the sky?” The woman did not display a tone of pity or condescension, but one of kindness. “Three hundred years.” “Is that true?” “That is what it has felt like. I have lost track of my age. I do not even remember my name, or my life before I came to this hill.” The woman smiled sadly. “In all this time, have you not seen the village below?” “My dear, in all this time I have not seen anything but the sky. I have never lowered my gaze.” “What do you mean?” “The village people come and stare, and they tease me. I keep looking through my telescope, I refuse to look away for them.” “You looked away for me.” “Because you are different. You asked the right questions. You showed not contempt nor superiority, but wonder.” The astronomer looked out over her surroundings; but not at the sky. “For the first time, I can see the lush green hills. I can see a glistening river winding through them. The crimson morning sky reflects on the water. I see houses at the bottom of the hill; with their red roofs and white walls. I see villagers. From down there, everything must seem so big; but from here, they look like ants,” she paused. “You have helped me see the world below. Thank you.” There was a moment of silence, then the woman spoke. “May I look through your telescope?” The astronomer nodded. The woman stood up and walked over to the telescope, placing an eye against the lens. The astronomer leant in to watch. The woman’s eyes were open momentarily, then she closed them. “I can see them.” The astronomer’s eyes welled up with tears. “With my eyes closed, I can see the menacing Mercury, the icy

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blue Neptune. But when I open my eyes, I see only a faint impression of where they were.” When the woman stepped back from the telescope, she frowned, puzzled. “But why do you look at the planets?” “Because I love them; their beauty and their enigmatic nature. I love them with all of my heart.” “But you can hardly expect a planet to love you back.” “I do not expect it of them. But sometimes, I can feel the Sun’s rays shining on my face, keeping me warm, and in those moments, I wonder if perhaps they could love me back. Some days, I do not think it entirely impossible.” Days passed, and the woman sat by the astronomer on the top of the once lonely hill, learning about the universe. In turn, she taught the astronomer of the world below. The astronomer began to feel as though she had found her only true friend. But one snowy winter’s night, the woman stood up. “I will be right back.” And with that, the woman ran down the hill. The astronomer did not understand why she had left. She leapt up, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. “Be careful!” She shouted into the world below. But there was no response. Hours passed, with no reply. She stood at the top of the hill, looking down at the village below, but she did not dare descend; she did not know the way down, and the snow made it impossible to see a clear path. Months later, once winter had ended, she decided to go down the hill; the dense snow had thawed. She left her telescope on the hill, and cautiously took a step downwards; towards the village. The village folk stared when they saw her; a dark figure concealed by a deep purple cloak. She had not revealed her face to anyone, not even to the woman; it was eternally covered by her hood. She scoured the village for weeks. She did not know where the woman was; none of the villagers could tell her. She gave them messages to pass on if they saw her, but the chief of the village would not allow it. The astronomer was in his eyes, nothing but a nomad; the woman was a villager. After a month, the astronomer had lost all hope, and so returned to the hill. She had never been able to say goodbye to her only


friend. She had never even revealed her true face to her. She felt betrayed, not by the woman, but by herself and her taciturn ways. The astronomer returned to her telescope, and stood on the hill for many more years. All had returned to its previous state, except for the astronomer; something inside her had shifted, the way she saw the sky, the way she saw the world. She looked into her telescope for the decades after her loss, but the lens was not aimed at the sky anymore. It was pointed at the world below. It was pointed at the lush green grass and the glistening river; the wondrous natural phenomena that the woman had taught her to see. The astronomer always saw the planets, but she no longer saw them in the sky. She saw them in the world below. She felt their warmth on her face, lighting the world she observed. And she came to a conclusion. The planets did love her back. ‘

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The Treehouse Jennifer Wu

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It was a fine morning – brilliantly fine, the bright green of the grass by Susie’s window dusted gold in the early light. The tree by the fence stood taller, the air sweeter – even the wilting roses in Mother’s vase seemed as though they were bowing to her, their pretty little stems bent at the tops. Susie padded down to the kitchen, the tips of her toes making little sounds as she danced down the staircase. Oh, how lovely it was to wake to the bright, bright blue sky without a care! No school, no teachers – and certainly no perfect little Lena Logan to pull at her hair and ruffle her collar. Susie slid across the room with her little arms up, the frills on her starched white nightgown waving as she waltzed, gliding, gliding to the window by the kitchen’s woodstove. Very gingerly, she put her hand on the sill, careful not to the disturb the fine coat of dust that lay on the wood, and she glanced out to the great big oak by the fence. Oh dear, how Susie wished that she had a little treehouse of her own just like Jessie May! How she wished she had a Daddy like Jessie May’s to build her one, with a shiny red door and squared yellow windows. Perhaps if she asked nicely – Jessie May’s Daddy might agree to come over and build her a little treehouse of her own…And why wouldn’t he? Susie knew exactly where it would look best – yes, by the fence on the great oak tree, she was sure. It wasn’t till she saw a flash of pink through the window, that Susie remembered what it was that made today so special. Today was Jessie May’s birthday, and dear me, if Susie hadn’t caught a glance of that fleeting dash of pink (of course, pink was Jessie May’s favourite colour), she shan’t have remembered! When Susie and her mother finally stood at Jessie May’s doorstep, she was practically beside herself, wild with excitement. Her mother tugged at the starched white collar of her best dress and Susie watched the precious little jewel hanging from her left ear shine – a quivering spot of bright light. It was only when her mother turned to rap her knuckles against the painting blue door that Susie discovered what was so strange about her mother today. Her right side was missing the matching earring to the exquisite little piece on her left! Susie looked again. The lone jewel on the left didn’t look as though it belonged there. But then the door flew open, and Jessie May’s mother – a stout little lady in an apron – she had smiled brightly down at Susie, beckoned her in, and oh, little Susie was off! Off to the back garden, dashing and gliding so quickly across the house that her shoes resembled little doves soaring through the air


– so quickly that she hadn’t quite seen the way Jessie May’s dear old Ma could not even meet her mother’s eyes. At last Susie stood in the back garden. Little girls with white ribbons in their hair, and little boys with polished black boots that gleamed – Susie was sure that if she came a little closer, she would see her own reflection in the perfect polished leather. Jessie May was by the picnic table. Her hair – two yellow bunches held together with those blushing ribbons – only Jessie May was allowed to wear pink in her hair. Susie looked, sideways, at the picnic table, its legs hidden by the white cloth draped over. Oh, how lovely everything was! How she loved watching the other little girls in their starched white and the little boys with their shiny black shoes! And at long last, Susie watched all the other children clamber up the ladder to the treehouse, one by one like little ants drawn to a great big slab of toffee. Susie longed to run her hands over the smooth wood door of Jessie May’s treehouse, to sit inside with all the other little girls on those pretty, pretty pink chairs. Now she could see only the heel of the last boy’s boot, and the glint of his golden head. Now, he climbed through the entrance of Jessie May’s treehouse. Very carefully, Susie curled her hand around the bottom of the ladder; she, too, wanted more than anything to see Jessie May’s treehouse. But before she even put her foot down on the first rung, Lena Logan poked her head out the little yellow window and shrilled, “don’t you dare come up here, Susanna!” Oh dear, wherever had she come from? It seemed to Susie that Lena Logan followed her no matter where she went. But Susie did not take her foot off the ladder. She put her hands on her hips; held her head up. “And why not?” she asked. It was silent. Susie thought that perhaps she had scared Lena off. So she put her hands on the rung above her head and swung herself up a step. “Is it true you don’t have a daddy, Susie?” Lena’s little eyes narrowed as she poked her head back out the window. “Of course I do!” Susie shouted up. The little girls and boys inside began to murmur. Lena turned to them; gave her smug little smile. “Then why don’t you have a treehouse of your own like the rest of us?” Susie’s cheeks tinged red. She glanced, sideways, through the window of Jessie May’s house. Inside, all the mothers sat with their delicate little glazed china cups in their hands. Susie’s mother tugged the hem of her pinafore and the spot of the light by her ear seemed to dim as she sat outside the ring of giggling mothers. Lena

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Logan pressed her hands to the squared yellow windows. “Ya don’t have a treehouse ‘cause you don’t have a father, Susanna!” she hollered, shutting the latch of the little yellow window. But Susie could still hear the other children through the entrance of Jessie May’s treehouse. She could see Lena waving her hands above her head as the little boys and girls whooped and cheered. “Oh-oh!” They hopped about inside the treehouse, causing an awfully loud noise. Susie’s cheeks matched the shiny red of the treehouse’s door as she scampered away to her mother, taking one last look at Jessie May’s treehouse, and its squared yellow windows. Very stiffly, Susie untied her hair. She put the ribbons down on the chest of drawers, and placed her black shoes by the bed. Tonight, the grass by Susie’s window lay down flat, and the great big oak by the fence seemed like it wanted to rest with the crickets down by the ground, its branches pulled low. And as she walked down to the kitchen, past her mother’s bedroom, she saw the roses in the vase by the dresser. To-night, they drooped down, their little pink faces turned down to face the floor, bent at the tops of their stems. And next to the vase, Susie saw her mother’s earring. She looked closer. It did not look like it belonged, without its other half. But still, it shined brightly in the moonlight that came through the kitchen window, a quivering little spot of bright, bright light. ‘


You wanna hear the truth? When I got into my car that morning, I had no idea what I was doing, it was all a mistake – just another dumb idea. I was making a lot of impulsive decisions around that time, and few of them were any good. I remember sitting down in front of the steering wheel and thinking that nothing felt real. I wasn’t actually going to do this, I was just gonna drive up to the park, scratch sixteen lines on a page and call it a poem, and come back home, drinking coffee in a forever lonely room. What made me want to see him again? I couldn’t and still can’t explain. I was the one who left my father – well, we all left him eventually, one by one. But I was the first to go and I needed to the most. I looked down at my hands, fingers stretching over the steering wheel, six pale, uneven lines etched across my left wrist. One for every year, I thought – I hadn’t realised that before. Normally they were okay; they had healed months ago. But that morning they were stiff and sore; it was the cold air, I guessed, though it felt like they were being traced over again with the sharp point of a knife. ‘‘‘

The last time I saw my father was... I guess it was about six years ago, or half a year after I finished high school. I was leaving home the first chance I got. I finally had enough money, I had a car, and more importantly, I had a plan. First stop: convincing them to let me go. That was easy enough, really. Ballarat was a small place, and they knew I had no future as a writer if I were to stay, and I let them believe that if I could just get to Melbourne, I’d write something great, and make money, and have security, which of course is something no true writer can ever hope to have. I didn’t really care about money, though – I just did what I could to get out. That’s how I justified lying to them. Because what really mattered was that I could be free from him, free from that life. My watch read 8:13. I kissed Mum’s tired cheek and got into the Ford. It once belonged to my cousin, Rachel, but she gave it to me when she got a new one. Yes, it was fifteen-and-ahalf years old, but it did what it needed to do. I was trying to get out of the driveway when I looked up, and saw him in the rear-view mirror. His face had stiffened long ago: the morning sun could not soften his eternal frown, or warm the cold clouds that settled around his shoulders, ominously, as if a storm could hit at any moment.

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Next Stop… Never Mind

I know that, deep down, he didn’t want me to leave. But he could not stop me. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to spit in his face right then, but I kept driving, fast, because I could only go forwards anyway, I could never go back. ‘‘‘

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The last time I saw Mum was three weeks ago. I visited her about once a month in her small house in Tullamarine, and each time she would kiss me on both cheeks, and try to chat. After a minute or so she would unfold her arms and say – like the thought just came to her – “Make us a cuppa?” We would sit on white plastic chairs in her backyard and have tea. I hated how the lawn always looked as though someone had run a large razor blade across it. I couldn’t stand the noise: within two hours, three aeroplanes had flown over our heads, leaving soft, transient breaths of white in the deep blue sky. “Charlie,” she said, as we sat in the afternoon sunlight, “Is everything okay?” I shrugged. I couldn’t meet her melting brown eyes, or those downturned lips that looked as though someone had grabbed her mouth and twisted it. “Charlie, I’ve been worried about you. Ever since Natalie –” “I’m fine Mum! Just – I’m just tired, okay?” “Okay, you’ve just seemed a bit off lately, is all.” Suddenly, I could see myself springing out of the chair and running away, jumping over the graffitied fence, landing in a field of soft green grass, and running so fast I was no longer touching the ground – but flying. My eyes were closed; I now opened them with a sigh. Patiently I told her that everything was fine, I was working on a set of poems that would get published. “What are they about?” She was trying to be encouraging, so I thought about it for a moment before I replied. “They’re about life, I guess: they’re about remembering, then judging, and then forgiving.” ‘‘‘

My mum mentioned Natalie. Well, Natalie was my girlfriend, and if it was up to me, she would still be my girlfriend. That’s because she is, and probably always will be, the most beautiful person I ever knew. She never got tired – she had this infinite energy, infinite passion. When she laughed, it came from

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within, it started at the centre of her body and spread until everything was shaking. When she cried, it was as if you could see her distorted heart. And her eyes – her eyes were like leaves with the sun shining through. An image comes to mind: through a haze of sunlight, I am kissing her soft eyelids, her pointed nose, her curved and curious mouth. I loved her, but I never told her. I realise now that I should have. Natalie was Greek. I mean, her family was very Greek, like, everyone knew everyone, even their fourth cousins. When the family got together they would all, even the men, kiss on the cheeks over and over. They’d sit around a large table and share plates of food that the women had spent all day cooking, as though all you really needed in life was garlic and lemon and good conversation. Within minutes, there was shouting, Greek insults being spat across the table. But I noticed how they always made up in the end; they loved each other, and were there for each other no matter what. One thing Natalie couldn’t understand was how I never saw my father, and never wanted to. She kept telling me that family is everything. You loved them and forgave them no matter what. She said I should try to find him. I lied and said I couldn’t find him, I didn’t have his address, but of course I did. Mum gave it to me four years ago, and it was in the bottom drawer of my bedside table, under a pile of rejected manuscripts. You know by now that Natalie left me. She didn’t tell me why – she said I wouldn’t understand – but upon reflection I guess I was just dragging her down. As if I were a vacuum: up until a certain point we could coexist, but I guess she felt that if she didn’t leave soon, she might end up getting sucked into some kind of bleak abyss. She moved out seven months ago, and I got pretty sick after that. She was the only person I ever felt loved by; I didn’t think I had anyone else. I remember two weeks ago, when I was starting to pack up my stuff, getting ready to leave the apartment. My eyes moved across the room, seeing naked walls, stacks of cardboard boxes, clothes littering the floor, and then suddenly – a window. Outside was Smith Street, and everywhere cars and bikes and trucks and people walking. Thousands of people must have passed me by, and I could feel the never-ending pulse of urban life: they were all going somewhere, doing something, maybe they were just going to their

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crappy old jobs, maybe they were going to see their parents, maybe they were going to the sea. I wanted to be part of it, but felt I never could. I remember clearing out my bedside table. I opened my bottom drawer and cried when I saw all the rejected manuscripts. I started pulling them out and tearing them, over and over again, until the carpet was littered with mounds of shredded dreams. I had this urge to drink, gulp down a bottle of sweet poison, but I knew I never could. It was the one way I could make sure that I’d never end up like him. It sure as hell would have made things easier, though, I thought as I sat by the drawer, a crying mess. About twenty minutes later, I found the address scrawled on a blue sticky note. I picked it up, looked at it for a while, in a dazed sort of way, like it wasn’t really there. I took a deep breath. I thought about my poems. Then I made a decision. Next stop: Ballarat. ‘‘‘

I’d been driving for about forty-five minutes. Melbourne was behind me – those overcrowded streets breathing life and culture were gone, and before me was open road, stretching ahead for miles. It felt good to be free from the city. It was as though I’d been trapped under a heavy blanket, and didn’t realise until now, when, as I got further and further away from home, I could feel it being slowly lifted, until finally – I could breathe. The world suddenly seemed cleaner and more beautiful. No more concrete and steel, a murky palette of greys and browns; here was a world of viridian fields and cerulean skies. And, for the first time in a long time, it felt as if I was going somewhere. ‘‘‘

I remember the time: 12:43. A series of orange bars pulsed through the black air of the night, then shifted: 12:44. Through my window all I could see was the night sky. I always loved the stars, pinpricks of light in a dark abyss. They gleamed with unending hope, watching us and forgiving us for the messes we’d made, each night wishing that come daylight, we’d wake up and just realise how to fix things. How many looked up at them each night like I did? I looked up at them for so long I believed I could reach up and grab one and catch its energy, burn with this endless electric vitality that could never be found on earth.

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The door. He was back. There was creaking, shuffling, and then I heard my mother call out, “Where have you been?” I burst out of my bedroom and ran down the hallway. If I don’t go after him, he’ll go after her. That’s what I always told myself, and it was true; even as a kid I knew it was true. That’s how I justified attacking him from behind, shoving and scratching and biting – all the while knowing that no puny elevenyear-old boy could ever take on his father and win. I felt like I was getting smaller and smaller and he was getting bigger and bigger and all I could see was him. He tried to push me back into my room but I wouldn’t let him. He pushed again and I fell onto the floor, and I lay there, shaking, fear surging through my veins. I started to cry, my cheeks were wet, my whole upper body was shaking convulsively, uncontrollably. For a second it all relaxed. And then I felt a warm, almost sticky, wetness spread. “He’s pissed hisself.” He turned to me accusingly, disgust oozing from his eyes as he watched it drip down my leg, drip and paint dark spots on the carpet. Never in my life I had felt so sick, worthless, disgusted with myself. “Wha’ kind a youn’ man bloody wets hisself like that?” The cold metallic blue of his eyes. A pause. “Clean this up, and go to bed.” He was gone.

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‘‘‘

My watch now read 10:27. I’d stopped driving for a bit, and was sitting in a café, drinking a weak and unsatisfying coffee. At least the waitress was nice. She was pretty old and grey, but smiled at me and offered to get me that day’s paper, and even gave me a “complimentary chocolate”. She probably felt sorry for me. Sometimes I wonder how people can get old, like, live for seventy whole years, and still smile when they see someone, still think the world’s a good place. I can’t think of the last time I thought to myself that the world was a good place. I don’t think my father ever thought the world was a good place. ‘‘‘

When I was about fourteen, I would wake up at around six each morning and go to the shed in the backyard. I’d set up a corner

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where I could do exercises, push-ups and sit-ups and chin-ups and whatever else came to mind. I was in the school running team back then, and dreamt of being the fastest, strongest runner the school had ever seen. Before you roll your eyes, I was fourteen, I was allowed to be naive. One morning I walked into the shed, to find him sprawled across the concrete floor. It was the most awful thing I’d ever seen. I reasoned: he must have stumbled in there in the early hours of the morning, knocked into something and fallen. He must have been drunk, too drunk to realise what a hammer was and what it could do. He must have lain there for hours, unconscious, forehead bleeding where he fell, left arm bruised black and blue and brown and yellow, shoulder to wrist, where the hammer had risen and fallen, over and over again. “How can you stay with him?” I remember asking my mother afterwards. She made up some excuse; she always did. He was once good to her. He’d been through a lot though, with his own father, who was never the same after the war. It was always the same old story. Maybe there was truth in it, but never enough for me to forgive him. I could never forgive what he did to me, or what he did to my mother. ‘‘‘

I had now arrived. I’d gotten out of the car and was standing by the mailbox, looking at the house. He’d sold the house I grew up in, and moved somewhere smaller when Mum left, about four years ago. This place was... well, sturdy and practical and tasteless. Exactly what I expected. I walked towards the door, and stood on the doormat for a long time. I kept telling myself I didn’t have to go in, I could just turn around and drive back. But I knew I couldn’t. As soon as I rang the doorbell, I got this feeling that something wasn’t right. The quick, light shuffle approaching the doorway didn’t match my father’s slow and heavy gait. “Hello?” I said, as the door opened, revealing a young woman not much older than myself. “Hi... can I help you?” she said, eyebrows raised, face smeared with confusion. My father wasn’t there. The girl, Thalia, said she and her husband had moved in about six months ago and had no idea where my dad went.

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While she spoke I just stood there, nodding, not knowing what to do, or say. She must have sensed my... I-don’t-know-what, because she let me come in. I sat at the kitchen bench for about twenty minutes, slowly sipping the cup of tea she gave me. Then I left. I walked along the pathway, and out onto the street. I think at that point I still hadn’t accepted the truth. I just sat down on the nature strip, feeling empty. Nothing. After what must have been an hour, I could sense a swelling, pressure building inside of me, until suddenly my heart burst and feeling flooded my body, and I cried. A while later, I got out a notebook and a pencil, and started to write. The words came, one after the other, ribbons of light and joy and gloom and anguish wrapping themselves around the pages. I wrote and wrote, knowing that for once I was writing something I would keep. ‘‘‘

The first thing I can remember: sunlight. My face buried in his neck, as he carried my small body in his strong, safe arms, all the way up the stairs. Up and up and up, and when I raised my head slightly I could see a window filled with the soft, sweet forgiving colours of early morning. Sunrise. He lay me down on the bed. “Dad?” I couldn’t see him clearly; my eyes were half closed. “Shh, son,” he whispered into my ear, prickling my cheeks with stubble. “Everything’s okay now, it’s okay, go back to sleep.” ‘

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Maybe a Little Love Isn’t Enough Lucy Chen

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The call came in the afternoon. I was doing the laundry, pinning garment after garment onto the drying rack. In the morning, I had ripped another hole in my favourite t-shirt – my fingernails had been too long. It had been a normal day, where the sun was harsh and unforgiving and the sky scoured with wispy clouds. And so, the line – said in a barely sympathetic voice, “I regret to inform you that your sister has died”, was startling to say the least. I wasn’t expecting my sister to be dead. She had been so young; twenty-four years old, only a few weeks shy of her twenty-fifth birthday. In my memory, she was a tall willowy girl, with a smile that was too bright, a laugh that was too loud, hair that was too fair and eyes that were too mischievous. She was the epitome of sunshine, drawing people in like a moth to a flame with her winning smile. A week after I received the call about my sister’s death, I received another. It was from my father. “Hello,” he said, youthful awkwardness lacing his voice despite his age. He attempted to be civil and tacked on a “How have you been?” “Okay. And you?” “Fine, fine.” He didn’t sound fine. I could hear the hoarse and raspy nature of his voice; he sounded like he was wheezing. I used to criticise him for smoking a pack a day. I hated how he didn’t care about his health, how little he cared for our health. We had been living in a manmade fog. There was silence on both ends of the phone. There was very little we had to say to each other. He hung up shortly after. In all honesty, I hadn’t expected any less from him. When I told him I was leaving, he hadn’t even spared me a second glance. My parents had never been parents – in my opinion. I thought my father was irresponsible; he didn’t care about us or what we did, instead devoting himself to the simple pleasure of smoking. My mother was no better. She was as lazy as they came, too lazy to aspire to be anything, too lazy to try. My sister had very different opinions to mine. She thought they were wonderful, that they were the type of parents who would do anything for their children. After all, my sister was the type of person who believed in fairy tales. She believed in happily ever afters, of true loves, of a Prince Charming who would whisk her away. I used to laugh at her naivety. My sister desperately wanted to believe that our family was a family.


Somewhere, in between reality and believing, I think she got lost. “Don’t you think,” she had asked, when we were home alone, “that one day, mum and dad will take us to the seaside and we’ll collect seashells along the shore.” Her eyes were wide with wonder as we lay on the splotched carpet, staring out of the window. “And then we’ll bring them home and put them against our ears and the ocean will speak to us.” “You can try as hard as you want, but the ocean will never speak.” “Oh!” she said, disappointment flitting across her face. “But you’ve never tried, have you?” The problem was, I hadn’t spoken to my family since I was sixteen. It had been ten years. The idea of family was distant and faded. I had been independent for so long; building a future for myself and buying a small home with my hard-earned money. It was something I would never have dreamed of at sixteen. “Go do the laundry,” my mother would drawl from her place on the couch. Her feet would be propped up on the coffee table, my father next to her, puffs of smoke rising from his mouth. “And don’t you complain!” She’d yell if I showed any sign of protest. We had lived on the outskirts of Dandenong, in a small suburban house that had a leaky roof and a stained carpet. I hated our house. It had always reeked of cigarettes. The house was bricked and had a modest – but obviously bare – front lawn. Cracked cement made up most of the driveway. It looked its part; the house of a typical nuclear family. Growing up, I wished my father cared a little more and my mother wasn’t as lazy. I thought of leaving; my sister thought love and faith would keep us together. “I want to be an artist,” my sister had said to me once. It was evening and we were on Clow Street, walking home from the shops, ripe apples and bananas, and tinned cans of tuna and bread in our arms. Above us, the sky was turning pitch-black; flame-tinged streaks of burnt umber grabbed onto the razor-sharp edges of materialising stars before letting go, crimson blood bleeding into the night sky. The air nipped at our bare legs as we hurried home, the soft tap tap of our feet against the pavement echoing in the stillness. Someone had tampered with one of the streetlights. It was flickering, the harsh light dancing against our skin. I felt oddly at ease in the deafening silence, the cool air peppering my skin with light-hearted kisses.

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“Are you sure you can draw? I’ve seen some of your drawings and they look pretty terrible,” I teased. “If you can’t draw, then you can’t be an artist, can you?” My sister gave me a weird look before she skipped ahead, her skips lacking their usual exuberance. She knew I was challenging her to leave. But she would never leave. Her loyalty extended far deeper than mine. Ahead, the streetlight abruptly stopped flickering, its glaring light fixed on my sister. She had stopped underneath it. As I walked to her from the darkness, the cans of tuna snapping hungrily at my legs, I noticed how vulnerable she looked under the halo of light. Her eyes were downcast and her thin arms cradled the loaf of bread against her chest. She was trying to shield herself from the frigidity of the night. Under that streetlight, her sickly skin startlingly pale against the blackened concrete, she looked like an angel about to fall. I always wondered if I would be able to catch her. But my fingernails had always been a little too long. Sometimes I would dream and my sister would be falling. I would try to catch her, but my fingernails would scratch her skin and leave behind thin lines of scarlet on her pale arms. I would keep on trying and she would continue to fall. “I don’t think it was your fault that she died,” my friend AJ told me when he learnt of my sister’s death. AJ and I had met while we both worked low-paying jobs at McDonald’s. I had been trying to scrape up some money for groceries. That had been long ago – when my voice still had its pubescent squeak. The phone was sticky against my sweaty palms. The word fault had struck a chord. I had always thought it was my parents’ fault that we weren’t a family. Maybe it had been my fault too. “But,” I croaked, chest painfully tight, eyes a little teary, “I was her brother. I was supposed to look after her. She deserved so much more.” “Oh yes,” AJ mused, sounding solemn. “She did, didn’t she?” he paused. I could hear the enquiring tone in his voice. I sputtered against the mouthpiece. “Don’t you think it’s my fault though? My sister thought love and faith was what we needed to be a family. I didn’t love my family and I wasn’t loyal and then I left and now she’s dead and it’s all my fault!” I sounded like I was in hysterics. My voice was unusually high-pitched and my hand was shaking.


“Maybe a little love isn’t enough.” AJ suggested calmly. He was always calm. After knowing someone for so long, it was only natural to know their ways. “Have you ever thought a family means so much more than love and faith? I thought that was why you left.” My heart thudded against my chest. There were so many things I wanted to say, but I think that in the moment, sitting on the toilet with the phone pressed against my ear, I really had nothing to say. Maybe I should have cried when she had died. Maybe I should have spent the night in my room drowning in a drunken haze of liquor. The memory of my sister had once been so vivid. Over the years, however, she had faded. Whenever I thought of her, I could only picture myself, standing in the dark, watching her as she stood under that streetlight. Her skin would be glassy under the iridescent light. Her eyes would be looking down. She’d be holding a loaf of bread. And I’d be standing there, a bag of apples and bananas in one hand and in the other, a bag of canned tuna thudding against my legs. I’d be feeling regret. Feeling disappointment. The wind lashed violently against my skin, cutting into barely healed wounds. The greying sky darkened; a clap of thunder, a flash of lightning. The ocean roared, turquoise waves slapping against the sand, as they hurtled towards the coast. The rain hammered down. My nose was numb. Sand scraped against my feet as I scrambled to higher ground; my hair was wet. I felt cold and stupid. Collecting seashells on a stormy day was never a good idea. AJ had advised me against going to the beach today. He was right. But I had wanted to find a seashell. I wanted to put one next to my ear and listen to what the ocean had to say. I wanted it to tell me I hadn’t killed my sister. The frothing white waves retreated and I ran down to the coast again, feet squelching in the wet sand. I made it halfway before the waves soared back to life, greedily giving chase. I clambered away. For a moment, I wished I was back home; that I had never answered that call. I would continue pinning garments onto the clothes rack, oblivious to my sister’s death, oblivious to all the guilt that was buried within me. I stepped under a shelter and pulled the hood back from my face. Above, lightning flashed, brighter, and the thunder grumbled a note of discontent before the rain cascaded down, thrumming on top of the metal ceiling. I was empty handed, but I knew what the ocean was trying to tell me.

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It was telling me I was weak. Weak for leaving my sister behind, weak because I hadn’t tried making our family a family. I didn’t know what I was doing. My nails were digging into my scalp. I heaved; my chest felt as if it was on fire. For a moment, as lightning flashed in between the ash-burnt clouds, I thought I saw an angel. The branches of lightning curled into dazzling wings, and spiralled towards the murky depths of the ocean. And I realised that I would have never been able to catch my sister, even if my fingernails hadn’t been too long. After all, she was an angel with clipped wings. She believed in fairy tales and miracles; that a little love and a little faith was enough to keep a family together. But it wasn’t enough. It never would be. Below, the wind had begun to die down and the ocean lapped the shoreline lazily. And I stood there, watching a sliver of light peek out of the clouds, and thought, oh. ‘


The phone rang out, shrill and sharp over the roar of the wind. I waded through the house, mucilaginous dreams clinging to my legs: milky eyes in a crumpled face, staring blindly through me; a cerulean and carmine serpent, twined close around a baby’s neck; two figures screaming on a cliff in the pouring rain. My mouth tasted of metal. Ring, ring. I frowned. Merde. Who was calling this early in the morning? “Âllo?” My voice echoed off the tile, mocking. Âllo, Âllo, Âllo. A brief pause, the moment of silence before a wave breaks. Then, the ocean crashing down on my head: “Is this Ms Crosby? It’s about your father.” I booked the flight that night. Thirty-five hours later — Marseille to Paris, then Dubai, Singapore, Sydney — I was in Melbourne, trying to hail a taxi in pelting sleet. Left behind, in no particular order: a half-finished photo reportage on the youth of Marseille’s gangs, dancing, smoking, bleeding out in the gutter; a scrappy ginger cat, yowling at the door; my crumpled, tearstained girlfriend, who said nothing but Que sera, sera, what will be, will be, before leaving me with a kiss on each cheek. All the while, four words nagged at my heels like a pack of dogs: two months to live. When I was a child, my father taught me to frame the world with a viewfinder, taught me how to fit all I wanted to say into a rectangle of aperture and exposure and composition. I began to see the world as a series of shots, just as he did. “If you’re ever feeling stressed or stuck,” he said, “just imagine you’re lining up a shot. Hold still, judge the light, focus. Whirr click.” The government flat was in Richmond. The lino in the elevator was ragged at the edges, stained with rust. I held my bag tightly, rainwater running down my cheeks, my spine, my calves. The puddle I had created flickered in harmony with the fluoro lights. I knocked, waited for a ghost to open the door. Looking at him tasted bitter, like the cold, mechanical jargon that had wrenched me back here from the other side of the world. Oesophageal squamous-cell carcinoma played behind his eyes as he shakily shook my hand; metastasised slithered through his thin hair to settle wrapped around his neck like a noose; inoperable rang out in a hacking, bloody cough. He was dwarfed by the contents of his apartment, a brittle skeleton drifting beneath towering mounds of chairs, old takeaway

Rarely, If Ever, Do They Forgive Them Ella Crosby

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cartons, tripods, a double bass, photographs, photos everywhere. The flat was littered with the detritus of a lifetime. It smelt of dust. “Tea, coffee? I have ginger beer, do you still like that?” I hadn’t had it in ten years. He shuffled around the kitchen, muttering, hands shaking. I could see the bones vying to escape his skin. I was fifteen years old when my dad went to East Timor as a photojournalist, sixteen when a hollow shell wearing his face came back. He never spoke about what he saw there, except when he screamed and screamed in the night. The sound grated on my bones. He soothed his raw throat with wine, then whiskey, gin, vodka. Later, there was valium and vicodin and ketamine; by then, I was long gone. Later still, I found the files, the photographs. Read the graphic reports that accompanied Photograph: I. Crosby, East Timor 1983. Tried to pair black and white with technicolour reality. Children swinging from nooses with smashing dishes at 3am. Charred, crumpled figures on gravel with blood in the bathtub and red-blue-sirens. So many he couldn’t save. I lost count of the stories, I lost count of the dead. He was dying as he had lived, a hermit, emerging from his room only to nibble at the food I’d left to congeal on the counter and to shuffle through the apartment, sending photos twirling into the air like autumn leaves. He showed little interest in anything, less still in me, his gaze sliding off into the middle distance after more than a few seconds of conversation. “Do what you like,” he said, “just leave my room alone.” To break up the days, I took off for hours at a time, wandering through the streets of the city I grew up in. I imagined I saw the faces of old friends, people I once knew in high school on trams, on street corners, crouched outside McDonald’s with cardboard signs. The weeks passed in a series of drafted stills: amber light glowing in the eyes of a man pushing a bony greyhound in a shopping cart; a tattooed woman blurred out of focus as she twirled around a streetlight, laughing; a pair of hard hands, tendons bulging under the red skin, cradling a tiny glass flower. I spent a whole afternoon catching train after train (Pakenham, Frankston, Belgrave) following a tall man in a worn, grey coat. He might have very easily been any other pale face on the train, sliding slippery smooth out of my mind. But there was something about him that drew me to him, this gangly, spider-like man hunched into the corner. Weeks later,


looking at the developed photos, I realised: his eyes were exactly the same changeable shade of green as my father’s had once been. A drunk friend once said to me, as we lay on the grass in someone’s backyard, staring at the swirling stars: children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them. Then she threw up. Maybe that’s why Wilde’s words have always tasted like cheap wine to me. The taste lingered with the words as I walked, stayed on my tongue as I shot pigeons silhouetted against sunlit storm clouds. Early morning. I was sitting by the river after a night of cheap wine and cheaper coffee, camera in my lap, watching the way the light moved across the water in ripples of gold. I felt brittle, bleached by the last weeks, as though my bones might splinter in the wind. All that awaited me at the flat were more boxes, and photos, endless photos. The previous night, as my father screamed in his sleep, I had begun to assemble them into a sort of portrait. Title: L’homme de l’au-dèla — Man with one foot in the great beyond. They formed an odd sort of collection, those frozen rectangles of colour and light, both brutal and beautiful. Christmases and birthdays and arching blue skies and muddy snowfields and protests. A gangly teenager, grinning in grease-splattered overalls; a tall man making a toast, all white teeth and borrowed tuxedo, buoyed on champagne happiness; bony shoulder blades straining like half-formed wings with the effort of lifting yet another bottle. The apartment was full of acrid smoke when I returned; it curled its way into my lungs, stole through the hollows inside me with clutching, creeping fingers. The bottom fell out of my stomach. Swirling through the air were panicked flocks of photographs, scrambling to flee the genocide. The focal point: the drunk, the photographer, the génocidaire, the father, who lay with flames reflected in hollow eyes. Later, I wondered if it brought him peace, that fiery exorcism of all those he had captured on film but couldn’t save. But then, all I could do was kneel among the fallen and hold still, so very still, judge the light and focus. Whirr click. ‘

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If Only They Had Known Pollyanna Dowell

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We were standing on the top of a steep cliff face. The wind was so strong each gust felt as if it may knock us down. After a trek of just over 2 hours, I stood at the very peak, one foot perched on an unstable rock, but with his arms around my waist, I was confident that I’d never fall. Remembering the way it felt to be on top of the world, to see where the clouds met the hills, and the way birds fluttered like butterflies between tree tops so far below. I can still hear the rushing of that waterfall to our right, and remember the sense of peace I felt as I watched the water flow over the edge, floating down as if it were weightless, evaporating as if it were a magic show and the water was a disappearing act. And to me, it was magic. The way water could be so free. It made something as deadly as a drop from that waterfall look elegant and enticing. But that kind of freedom was a luxury I could not afford. This is from when we were just 17, before we knew what was to come. If my parents had known what I’d have to suffer through, they would never have said yes. I don’t blame them, it wasn’t their fault. With an offer of $100,000 and free medical checks for the rest of my life, it seemed only logical to a struggling family of 6. When I think of my mother’s face, I picture exhaustion, lines forming cracks in her skin whenever she tried to smile, always letting hints of uncertainty sneak through. My dad left my mum every morning before dawn with a kiss on the cheek and a cup of tea by her bedside, only to return after the sun had set, too tired to play with us energetic kids. The decision they made, to ‘advance me’ as they called it, seemed like an amazing offer. The researchers made it seem like we were the lucky ones; Stones chosen from a field to be polished relentlessly until we were finally diamonds, and who doesn’t want that? I blame them, the researchers, not my parents, the researchers must have known how we would turn out. Here, in this journal, I write down my memories – they say it’ll help my brain as I continue to age. Despite what they say I can feel my mind fading, memories slipping like grains of sand through my fingertips. I see familiar faces, but I struggle think of their names. I remember one particular incident was when I walked into my weekly checkup and saw a researcher from years before, returning for a special case I suppose. He smiled knowingly but I felt heavy with disappointment as the man passed me by; The clock ticked endlessly behind me, but nothing came to mind.


I don’t think it will help, this journal writing. It only serves as a reminder of the things I cannot remember. Like my 3rd grade teacher, how to make chicken soup, or the name of my last pet. But some memories I can’t forget. Strong memories, feelings of grief and elation, the letter. I guess that’s what I really want to write about, in case the researchers ever read this – what this experiment did to me, and my love. When I was just 6 weeks old, my parents made the decision to take part in a lifelong research study; ‘the firsts’ we were called, chosen because we were born on the 1st of January 2100. Our birth date may have been set, but our death date was forever uncertain. We were injected from 6 weeks old to slow our ageing process. Our bodies were kept young while we grew to be old souls. So here I am at 142, with the body of a 20 year old. My parents thought it would be incredible, being able to live my entire life healthy and able bodied. The researchers were amazed by how it all turned out, jealous of my young complexion as they grew old. The truth is I too was amazed at first. When I found out that I could live forever, I felt a sense of superiority and immunity. It didn’t last though; I soon realised what was going to happen. And as if I was stuck behind a pane of glass, I watched my life unfold, unable to change my path. I often wondered if the researchers were blind, or just so intrigued by ‘the firsts’ that none of them saw the pain in our eyes or the problems we faced. There was the obligation to explain who I was to every new person I met. There was the struggle to find work because people assumed I was already payed well. There was the way people looked at me as if I was nothing, just an object, a stone they stopped trying to polish. But nothing in my life will ever be as painful as watching all the people I loved grow old around me. My own baby brothers and sisters, their families, my friends – my love. And that brings me to the letter. We met when we were 15, my love and I, and when I was with him it was as if magic were floating in the air. It felt as if there were nothing more perfect than the way his hand fit in mine, or the way our names sounded together. We were young, but we felt as if together we could conquer the world. Seeing him smile everyday gave me purpose. Even when we found out who I was, it didn’t seem so bad, as long as he was by my side.

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If Only They Had Known

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It was August, and he had turned 86 in May. He was in the local hospital and they treated him well, I guess, but sometimes I felt they were more interested in me. The day before he passed away, he woke up suddenly; his shallow breathing not quite enough for a peaceful sleep. Looking at his skin hurt me sometimes, knowing how strange it seemed to others, to hold his old lined hand in my young soft one, so instead I always looked into his eyes; They were the only thing that hadn’t aged. As he woke from this sleep I saw pain in his eyes, and as a tear rolled down his cheek I felt my own eyes well with love and understanding. We didn’t say a word, he simply slipped the letter into my hand and relaxed, closing his eyes for the last time. I stayed until his final moments, I had all the time in the world, and nowhere else to go. When he was still, I carefully opened the letter. “I wish we could’ve grown old together. I hate the thought of leaving you alone, through all this time you have left, but know that I will always be somewhere, in your heart, in your memories, or in the sky watching from above. Know that you are not alone, my love.” Despite his words, my existence feels painfully lonely. So to any researchers who may read this, I hope my suffering doesn’t go to waste. I hope that my existence was beneficial; I hope I mattered. I hope that people realise this is not a way to advance the human race, only a way to trap humans inside their own bodies. Decaying minds longing for death in a body that longs to climb steep mountains and dive into the bluest oceans. I fear for the future, but I guess I’ll wait and see. And as I write, the wind blows the leaves around outside, and the clock ticks on behind me. ‘


I don’t often leave home anymore but Camilla announced we were going on a walk, so I chose the usual route through the forest, evergreens spilling over the mountain’s rocky crags below our little cottage. We get on most of the time I suppose, despite our differences. We met half way through the trial when we were housed at the institution, during the integration stage. The acidic scent of bile stung your mouth while we were there, many of the participants rejecting their improved brain cells and having adverse reactions. Wire like limbs clambered stiffly across the campus – it resembled a psychiatric ward more than anything else. My memories before the operation are intangibly vague – a side effect of the operation and I can’t think why I agreed to have my brain cells modified in the first place. Not many make it through the integration stage, and if they do, mastering their new cognitive ability to perform tasks is difficult. Some had a psychotic breakdown claiming they were being followed, others whispered softly at night to ‘voices’ keeping them company. Of course they were just hallucinations but it was this which damned our reputation. We were feared in the wider world, ostracised by society so pleasantries were no longer extended to us if we dared to venture outside. Camilla resents their animus attitude, but I grew tired of caring. I realised it was not necessarily me they feared, but the unknown and what I now represented. The slopes of the mountains were covered in undulating rivers of green pines, and their alluring scent yanked my wandering mind to the present. I inhaled deeply, calmed by the steady breeze dancing tentatively across my skin. Yesterday, when I returned to the institution for my weekly check, the implementer on duty mentioned it would do me good to continue my walks through the forest to correct my lapses in memory. Though their job description only includes monitoring our improved brain cells, pity often peeks through their blank expressions. The lapses had initially been minor, indistinct omissions of moments, perhaps resulting in a stubbed toe or minor disorientation. But during this past month the frequency of them heightened, large portions of my day slipping smoothly out of my grasp before I had a chance to touch it. I’ve been told it’s normal, my brain completing routine rest periods to combat the new stimuli it received every day. I believe them mostly, but I do wonder why I often regain consciousness with bruises and shrubbery decorating my body. Attempting to quell that thought, I

An Emerald Haze Amy Hale

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focus on my upcoming training. Soon I will begin my work for the government, learning brutal warfare. It has been three years since the 2089 ‘Peoples War’ which had such a calamitous and devastating effect on the population. After that, our government argued what needed to be done. We are the result, but I don’t often feel very special. Camilla moves closer, yet remains quiet, letting me stay lost in my thoughts for a little while longer. With the sun drowning in red and gold along the horizon, we make our way out of the cool lush emerald to our little cottage above. Over the next few weeks, my visits to the institution became so regular it reminded me of when I was living there – the percussion of clipped shoes echoing in my mind against cool floor, glaring lights reducing colour to dull hues. The government didn’t bother with luxuries in the institution, most of the participants weren’t going to survive. The guidelines when applying for improved brain cells were minimal, but of course the required service to the government for life often prevented a large intake of people. The cut off age was 40, so I was ‘lucky’ to get in at 37. While passing identical white walls, Camilla appears – reminding me of my frustrating lack of improvement in the memory lapses. I don’t often tell others in the program about my friendship with Camilla as she never seems to like new people, drifting off before I have a chance to introduce her. So after yet another appointment with an implementer, we venture alone back out into the forest, in search for some quiet solitude. Soft surprise rose in me when we came across footprints – ironically similar to mine and curiosity won me over as Camilla silently gestured to follow them. Unease slithers through my ribcage, the chatter of animals ceasing to a uncomfortable silence. Occasionally, I notice bloodstains but assume it’s from animals hunting their prey. Whatever was happening in this gloomier end of the forest no longer enthralled me, so I attempt to persuade Camila to return back to the cottage. Just as my patience is thinning, a branched snaps nearby. I freeze. I knew it wasn’t Camilla, because she never made sound when she walked. Someone was here. Prickles spiked across my body, a clammy hand clenching the centre of my body. It was a man – a human – who appears to be lost and confused, but his eyes shift into mine as I prowl into the glade. I hadn’t seen a human since I came across an old woman, whose vile words


shredded me to pieces as she cried out to hide the tang of her terror which coated the air. His eyes hardened to a cruel calculating gaze, my heart quickening as I realised this man had no intention of letting me leave here alive. Camilla began whispering into my ear; “Kill him… What are you waiting for?…You disgust them… They’ve abandoned you. How can you possibly let him get away, after how they all treat you?..” My breathing became laboured. Roaring heat burned at my core, molten rage racing through my blood. I hated him. Yes. I knew it all along. He was going to be the first to pay for how they treated me. Launching myself at him, I yank a knife out of his hand before he registered I had even moved. His chest shudders as I plunge the knife straight through the middle, softly recounting horrors as he staggers. The thud of his body on the ground reverberates. I looked at the dead man before me, terror set in his face. I did not regret what I had done. It was the day after last when I next returned to the institution. I was bewildered as to why there was such tangible tension on campus but figured I would find out soon enough. When the implementer entered, her line of questioning was different than usual. She began enquiring about why I chose the specific location for the government owned cottage and why it was so special to me. I flushed, feeling flustered as I couldn’t fathom why the forest enticed me as it did. She smoothly brushed over it, as if it had been a minor concern but I saw her write something down. Panic began to press down on me. Something was not right, my body hummed. She asked me what I did yesterday, and my agitation grew. I couldn’t remember a single thing. I had woken up this morning with red under my fingernails but I was tired and didn’t think much of it. I thought back to it now. Why had a metallic scent entered my nose when I woke up? The implementer began writing again. I stopped listening. The implementer stated: “Participant shows signs of psychosis. Has no memory of the murder.” She had one last question but I knew what happens to those who fail the program. ‘Discontinued’ its called. But we all know it as death. And I knew what she was going to ask, really I did. Still, I flinched when she said it. Said that name. Her name. Camilla. ‘

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Feminism Amy Hale Suzanne Northey Public Speaking Award Runner Up

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When I was 12, I decided I wanted to be a basketball referee. I needed an occupation that could fund my growing scoobie obsession, so I decided that would be the job for me. The catalyst for this was a boy in my class who would come to school flashing $10 notes, telling us wacky stories about coaches, and OF COURSE the sweet whistle that came along with the job. It took me 10 months to get my stripes, but I worked hard and was assigned a stadium. I was the only female there, and I used to read in my breaks whilst my male coworkers put each other in headlocks and laughed. Nonetheless, I loved it. The boys were always courteous, paid me on time, and nodded when I walked in. But I couldn’t help but notice that the coaches always asked them for rule clarification (even though I was just as qualified) invariably shook their hands, and ultimately, treated them with more respect. This seemed trivial in the grand scheme of things, so I dismissed it, but there was one instance where I couldn’t. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was working on an 18 boys 1 game at the tender age of 14. I was working well, running hard and calling correctly, I was proud of what I had done thus far. A boy went up for the shot, pushing through the pack, and was slapped hard on the wrist by number 22*. My fist went up, and I called the foul, walking past number 22 to get to the score bench. As I brushed past him, he muttered: “Get back to the kitchen. You shouldn’t be here.” I was too shocked to say anything. Never had anyone so candidly, so frankly told me it wasn’t okay to ref, on account of my gender. I called a technical foul on 22, and my voice shook. This is why we need to talk about women’s rights. And this is why we need to redefine it. Here is where I check my privilege – and acknowledge my opportunities. I have the fortune to be a girl in a first world country, in a city where women are much better supported than in others. I am not faced with racial discrimination, I am able bodied, I have steady and stable relationships, and the support of a family. I am fortunate in that I live in Australia, and my only most prominent woes are sexist 16 year old boys. Some are not as fortunate as I am, and their gender-related oppression is far more distressing. However today, I am focusing primarily on first-world feminism as that is what relates directly to us, but I acknowledge that thirdworld gender problems are more salient, and are far more upsetting.


To define feminism is difficult, as the term encompasses a multitude of subgroups. Especially in this modern era, the birthplace of third-wave feminism, the notions originally associated with it have been radicalised in certain groups to equate to misandry or man-hating, when the definition began quite literally as just: “equality.” This definition has morphed and shifted from one of empowering women and “abolishing the patriarchy,” to one wherein bras are burnt and all men are inherently evil. People argue over women’s rights so much because it isn’t black and white. Are women oppressed or aren’t they? Are feminists good? Or are they bad? This is a problem in that if I label myself as a feminist, characteristics and morals that I don’t believe in are attributed to me. A person could deduce that because I am a feminist, I am automatically a radical “Feminazi” who hates all men and complains about nothing, because the militant feminists are a subgroup of the umbrella we call feminism. Or, I could be labelled as another white woman oblivious to the struggles of those suffering from intersectional oppression, basking in privilege and doing nothing about it. And if I’m asked, what kind of feminist are you: I have to tell them (pretentiously) that I am an ardent intersectional, multiracial, liberal, egalitarian feminist – and a whole lot of other terms that are just jargon to most. It is not a matter of who is a good feminist or a bad one. The problem is that the term “feminism” is too broad, too arbitrary to hold any meaning anymore. A term that polarises, instead of unites. There is no doubt that we need feminism. The gender wage gap in Australia stands at 17.3%. Just 24% of all company directors are women. Domestic violence and abuse against women is at an all time high. And yet, women who dare to make a stand against this are dismissed, sighed at, waved away, because, “every woman has every opportunity her male counterpart has.” This was a remark on a recent video by Triple J entitled ‘Girls to the Front,’ and it was only one of many buried in the deep, dark comment section. The fact of the matter is that beliefs such as this are just plain false – yet people believe them. The notion that women aren’t oppressed (granted, to varying degrees) is false – a glance at any society will support that, whether first world or third world. I had grown up thinking that misogynistic and bigoted beliefs

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tumbled out of the mouths of stupid people who didn’t know any better. But here were these same beliefs, manifested in sentences that were strung so splendidly and sounded so intelligent that I could see why people believed them. These people are the ones who hate feminism because of the premise that all feminists are radical, masculine and hate men, when not all feminists are like that. How is the women’s rights plight ever supposed to improve, if the definition sparks doubt and conflict against it? Valerie Solanas is a perfect example of a so-called “feminist” who holds these radical and sexist views. Apart from attempting to assassinate Andy Warhol (really), she took the term feminism to mean that men have ruined the world, and it is up to women to fix it. Her manifesto titled SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), was labelled on the Goodreads website, and is widely regarded as a “feminist” publication. This. This is what is wrong with this term. That this outrageously sexist publication is aligned with a movement which began with the noblest of intentions. It is the classic case of the one kid who leaves their rubbish in the Senior Studies Centre, ruining lunchtime for the rest of us. Valerie Solanas is the rowdy kid misrepresenting her peers – and making us all suffer because of her actions. Poet Rupi Kaur does not share Valerie’s views on man-hating but she is a feminist, and writes about it too. She focuses more on the empowerment of women to be equal, yet she comes under the same category as her. She says: “You tell me to quiet down Cause my opinions makes me less beautiful But I was not made with a fire in my belly So I could be put out.” I want so desperately to call myself a feminist proudly, instead of hesitantly. I want to be able to wear the label with pride. I want to fight oppression with it, I want to advocate for women’s rights with it, I want to de-stigmatise men’s mental health issues with it, I want equality under its name. But alas, I can’t, because the term no longer protects or defines me. Instead of empowering me, it demoralises me. The term feminism is so vital, but it is so broken. We need feminism for the other 14 year old girls who are told to go back to the kitchen. For female CEOs working as hard as their male


counterparts, but being paid less. For mothers. For daughters. For men. Feminism needs to go back to its roots, to the basic premise of equality for all – on a variety of issues. Anything else needs to be rebranded, as it is plain misrepresentation. We need to redefine what being a feminist actually means, equality, before it morphs into something that couldn’t be further from the truth – and harms the cause instead of helping it. So, join me. Let’s reclaim the definition of feminism. ‘

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Untitled Amy Hale

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After all of these years touching death, Helen’s fingers still trembled. She clasped them together tightly, weaving her bones, so that they wouldn’t shake. He was here. She could smell the thick fog of his tangy sweat, so overwhelmingly masculine, settling on the air; infiltrating her lungs with every breath. Helen’s eyes were pulled down to her lap. She didn’t want to see him, nor did the other women. They all had their braided heads down, legs crossed, and fingers weaved together. It was almost as if they were praying, asking some higher entity to rid them of the evil that oozed into their camp and hovered, smelling of sweat. Helen swallowed her tongue, and ground her teeth. Her fists itched. Her stomach gurgled. She imagined rising up, shoulders back, chest forward and pushing Achilles out. She could almost feel his hardened muscles softening, melting in her palms as she made him topple with an almighty shove. Almost. This odour plagued her, she could feel him sticking to her skin, but still, he would not leave. He came from a world of steel, and her, from linen. How could they possibly coexist? Sensing that he was unwelcome, Achilles crawled out of the women’s hut, but his scent still remained. His sweat still stung. The women unfurled themselves slowly, their braids unravelling, and their hands twirling as their bodies swayed and gyrated to a heaving rhythm. Helen swayed with them, slowly knitting herself into their tightly bound group. Her shoulders loosened and the knot in her stomach dissolved. It was an ancient dance, each step symbolic, each action all-absorbing. Silence wrapped itself around the women like a cord, drawing them closer as they worked. An adult body lay between the dancing women, doused in a modest covering of cloth, but not beaten and bloody like a warrior’s. A newborn babe. Helen imagined her son would’ve looked like this, if he had ever grown to such an age. He would have had the body of a warrior; the corded forearms, the freckled skin from the sun’s relentless beatings. He would have had scars like this body’s; punctured, but healed. White tattoos, made by silver knives. Her son would’ve dropped sweet kisses on her cheeks, smelling like honey, before bounding out the door. He would’ve loved her, but he didn’t even grow to an age where he knew what love was. Instead, Helen’s son’s body lay curled under a 3-year-old lemon tree, his dead bones growing into its roots. Sometimes, she thought she could still feel him kicking inside her stomach.


The body that lay between the women now was oblivious to what fate lay before it. Oils dripped and dived onto its skin, drying it like lavender. A textured stone smoothed and scratched at the scars, rubbing all traces of war from its figure. ‘This was a time for silence,” thought Helen, feeling a sob rise up her neck. It clung to the inside of her throat, begging to escape.The women wrung out linen until the pads of their palms were calloused, until their brains were bruised and bloody with superficial thoughts; so that the reality of death wouldn’t rise up their throats as a sob, like Helen. A tear rolled down Helen’s cheek, plopping onto the forearm of the body, silently. Helen ignored it, instead focusing on the pungent grease that she was massaging into its skin. Everything smelled of soap and talcum powder, and the women around her emanated the soft glow of motherhood, even as they prepared a body for the opposite. Everyone was robed in white linen, the same kind Helen had wrapped her baby in, bandaged his cuts in, washed every Sunday night. She thought it would keep him safe. But she hadn’t kept him safe, had she? And she never could’ve. The tears rolled faster now, joining in tracks down her jawline and her neck. Her chest heaved. Her shoulders shook. And with a strangled cry that sounded more beastly than human, Helen dropped to the dirt floor, curling her figure furiously into the foetal position. The women dropped with her, huddling over Helen, weeping with her. The body lay abandoned on the table. They seemed to know, without words, why salty tears caressed her face. They seemed to know why her chest heaved and her shoulders shook. Because they had felt it too, in the hollow where they had carried brothers and sons and fathers. They knew that even if a boy grew to be a man, he would be slaughtered too early, and it would be them who scrubbed away the blood. The very same blood that trickled through their veins. They sat for a while, until the air hung still and their fingers stopped trembling. The women unfurled themselves once more, the scars of their tears dissolving, but their stomachs as empty and barren as they were before. After all, they had a job to do. They packaged the body, tucked it in, the white linen softly kissing the now scented and smooth skin. The body no longer smelled like death, like the tangy sweat from before. With finality, the body was gone, strapped to a cart of a father, and disappearing from the

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minds of the women. Now, they did not weep. Even though they knew that each man they pushed into the world, they had to prepare him to be taken out of it. So the women watched. Their fists itched. Their stomachs gurgled. And still, they did nothing. ‘


While they walked, the family spoke in broken, teasing sentences, one voice rising to crash over another. The father at the front with his favourite girl and the flash of a football as it flitted between their hands, the eldest boy and girl creating most of the conversation, as they generally did, the last child between them, glancing around as if the conversation was a physical object he could watch being passed and stolen. He could see a melody being composed by them, watch the notes rise into the air, thrown from their lips, feel the obtrusive, repetitive noise of his elder siblings, the synchronised beat of their feet. His always seemed a quaver behind. The father’s interruptions induced tension; the low, dark crashing of the waves against the steep cliff they walked along attaching a bass line and below all of this, his own… soft… silence. The father laughed up ahead, fracturing the illusion and the two eldest shushed him impatiently, abrasively. They were stalking around the edge of a playing green, and occasionally their eyes would lift in unison to scan the seemingly deserted grounds. Their mother was playing golf somewhere there, and each of their fiercely competitive natures compelled them to want to be the first to find her. All except one that is. The quiet one. The youngest one. The one hanging between the eldest two. He was watching for her, but he was also watching his brothers and sisters, most of all his father. He watched for the sign. But the beast slumbered.

Hope And Despair And Forgiveness Emma Lee

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I loved the bustle of the city. It seemed to suggest occupation, something that I had long since craved. Even in the middle of the night people moved with purpose. I move towards my apartment where the second-hand, wooden piano sits proudly, waiting for me. I can feel the urge to compose writhing beneath my skin and see the shadow of a melody drifting through the crisp winter air in front of me, dancing on the warmth of my breath. It tantalises me, urging me to walk faster, to move forwards despite the fact I’ve spend my whole life running away. I turn down the hidden laneway that leads to the back of my flat.

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There is a door there that leads from the alley onto the property and I swing through it, keys in hand, head down, so consumed by the potential music I fail to notice him waiting for me on the front step. ‘Will,’ he stands up and I freeze, the phantom melody stolen by a brisk wind. ‘What are you doing here?’ It’s more of a statement than a question. I know my father well enough to know he doesn’t give an explanation for his actions. Dressed in his military uniform, a nondescript bag flung over his frighteningly muscled shoulder, he is alert and threatening even lounged on cold concrete steps. ‘How did you know where to find me?’ I choke, struggling to process and understand. ‘Your mother told me,’ I nod, stupidly, as if it solves everything, my feet frozen beneath me. ‘Can I come in?’ My head jerks up and I finally meet his eyes, eyes that look exactly like mine. I can’t quite connect the emotion I see in them with the father I grew up with. It unsettles me enough that I nod again and he gets up, strong and sure before gesturing towards the door. I stumble forwards and unlock the door, gliding up the stairs as if in a dream until I reach my apartment, the sanctuary I had kept from him for so long. That’s when I fumble but I can feel the threat of his presence behind me, reminding me, and so I unlock the door and hold it open for him to walk inside. ‘‘‘

Someone emits a jarring cry of triumph and the young boy panics, jerking away from the sound. Caught by the unyielding grip of his siblings, he didn’t fall. They all stop in unison, conversation suspended, and wait, leaning forward. The figure on the green had been spotted. She swung back and through, back and through. Practice swings. Her husband holds his breath. Their children lean forwards, anticipating. She connects with the ball and their restraint breaks. The youngest flies forward, leaping over the manicured lawn. The others stumble. He gets close enough to see the small scars across her fingers that

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prevented her from playing piano. But she could hold a golf club. She could hold her son, and proved so when he leaps into her arms. The grass sways in the warm summer breeze and the sun peers out from behind a cloud laden with dew to shine upon their reunion. A brief moment of calm.

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He doesn’t sit, but he surveys everything with the omniscient glare that dominated my childhood. I mumble something about water and leave him there staring at the piano, wondering if he is thinking about another piano, in another living room, as I am. My mother loved my father, and I never understood why; or how. They seemed so different in my mind. She used to me tell stories before bed, when the nights seemed never-ending and full of the threat of him, she told me about his redeeming qualities. She wove together the fragments of their meeting, their desire and immediate infatuation, and made it sound beautiful. I could believe in his recklessness, his fixed attention but I couldn’t picture him happy, them happy together. I guess I’d just never seen it. But, at such a young age, I believed in hope, and that was the air I breathed when his presence became oppressive. The hope that he would revert to that kind, compelling and charismatic youth my mother described is what kept me from tumbling into despair. Until I had proof. Proof that he would never be redeemed. It was one of those nights that seemed small. It was quiet and I had the overwhelming awareness that mum and I were the only two people in the world. I was small, and I was lying in the small backyard while my mother played the piano in the small box we called home. The music seemed encased in this block of land, vibrating along the ground, reeling off the walls as if caged, but the sound seemed to convey freedom in the way she loosed all tension from her body as she played. Then the door opened, and the sound changed and stopped and I lay still. We became small, and he gave me my proof. I don’t remember where my siblings were, but I remember calling their names desperately, fruitlessly into the darkness.

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“I was drunk,” that is the excuse he gave the next morning. “The war scarred and changed him,” that was the excuse my mother gave, pleadingly. The paramedic gave me pity and my siblings handed me indifference condescending to tell me I had misunderstood. I hadn’t. I have the scar on my head left by his joke of a wedding band to prove it. She was in hospital for days. They operated twice, and managed to save most of her mangled hand, but she would never play again. I sat by her side through most of it, surrounded intermittently by varying combinations of my brothers and sisters, but the doctors had to fix me too, so I left her at times. I suppose it’s possible that he came then, full of apology and weak attempts to make amends, but I don’t think so and I never asked. I didn’t need to. I had my proof. Waking back into that room with a glass in either hand, I want to scream at the agony of the arrogance of the image before me. He is sitting on the piano stool, the same stool she could never bring herself to sit on again. He speaks before I can compose my angry river of emotion into words. ‘I want to apologise,’ he says and I want to laugh. Laugh at the absurdity of the situation and laugh at his insane delusion, as if he could use a band-aid meant for a blister to fix a battle wound. The scar across my forehead sings. ‘You want to apologise,’ I repeat, and I marvel for a second at the calm, tranquil quality in my voice that obscures every single reeling thought. ‘Yes.’ ‘Apologise,’ I whisper. ‘Yes,’ he repeats. I can’t control the incredulity in my voice when I say, ‘I can’t believe you’re that naive.’ He lowers his head to his hands which are braced on his knees and that image of defeat leaves me breathless. ‘I don’t expect your forgiveness.’ ‘Good.’


He lifts his head to look me in the eye, ‘I just want to fix this.’ I can’t find my balance when he’s like this. ‘Tell me why,’ I breathe, ‘just tell me why.’ He stutters and then stumbles, ‘I… I can’t. I don’t have an, any excuse.’ It isn’t the words that shake me, but his voice, thick with shame, and the honesty that it offers, the honesty I have craved. So, I walk across the room and hold out my hand, offering him the glass of water. But when he leaves I continue. Just. As. Before. ‘

Hope And Despair And Forgiveness

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The White Swan Maeve Luu

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Fictional Narrative

The Royal Ballet School 2067: ‘Ballet does not strive for perfection. Ballet is perfection.’ This is the opening line in Madame’s Ballet enchiridion. Madame’s indoctrination as headmistress of the Royal Ballet School, sparked an extreme regime in viewing ballet as an art form driving technical and physical perfection. “All girls proceed to the weigh-in room.” Daily, Madame’s face pixelates across telescreens forcing dancers to be weighed. The student body thins as collective groups of dancers above forty kilograms are expelled from the academy. ‘Ballet is weightless; no excess weight should fault your movement. Female dancers should be modelled out of forty kilograms of clay into 5ft 3 inch figurines.’ Fifty years ago, ballet was accessible to all body types. The academy envisioned a diverse future where all races and BMI sectors were accepted into their school. This was the plan until Madame reversed the concept of moving forward. ‘The pandemic of ‘body love’ is sickening and defies the tradition of a pure art form!’ All girls who do not conform to ballet’s stereotype are excluded from the institution. Doctors stalk past the array of tiny girls standing naked on scales. “This school is the most prestigious dance school in Europe…” The head Doctor pauses. “Every weigh-in constitutes your worth and place within our ranks. You belong in two sectors: elite or mediocre. Check your left hand. If mediocre is stamped on your palm, immediately subtract yourself.” “I was 500g over, but had the best technique out of all of you!” “Its not about technique anymore!” “I was 100g over!” Blocking out the hysterical cries of the mediocres, I head to my first class. Madame’s theory of faultlessness is reflected in all facets of the academy. Whilst it is verbally enforced, it is also physically reflected in the interior design. Once the walls were pinned with portraits of Principal Royal Opera ballerinas. Grey concrete walls now stand in their place. ‘Concreteness and linear perfection surrounds you and that should be entrenched in your dancing.’ “Weigh in number?” I place out my palm to Madame. “Elite: 39.3kg” I place my foot in the Pointe Shoe printer. The machine scans


the podiatry of my feet. Pink satin threads eject from the corners and tighten. A leather spine is sculpted to the foot’s arch. A hammer like object then breaks the spine and the fibre glass case surrounding my toes. In the old days, dancers would rely on the inconsistent fitting of a dance store shop assistant. Like dolls, we line up at the barré. All girls identical to one another. Skeletal frames, dressed in pale pink leotards with hair glued back into an immaculate bun. Each person stands in a 1x1m square. Madame ordered the squares to teach spatial awareness and highlight precise mechanical movement. Each rondé jombe draws a perfect semi circle within the area of the square. Madame walks around with a protractor to ensure every girl’s hips are turned out to 45 degrees. Sharply twisting my hip she addresses the class. “You’re in an institution that pushes you not to be your best, but the best. Girls, heads up, and draw your attention to the White Swan’s tutu. Worn first by Anna Pavlova, it has been passed down through the generations of worldwide prima ballerinas. We are showcasing Swan Lake. The best dancer will have the honour of wearing the tutu and portraying the role of Odette. The most perfect…” How is it possible to pick out the best if everyone is sculpted into Madame’s ideal? It’s as though every student comes from the same womb. Identical 5ft 3inch white English girls with either blonde or brown hair. One mother giving her daughters the phenotype of the perfect dancer. It’s the daily process of elimination that will determine the role of Odette. Only now do I understand Madame’s instinct. Every girl is in a race for this one role. Madame dismisses the class. I walk over to the glass case locking away Odette’s tutu. Standing in front of it, I examine the intricate detail. Despite it being one hundred and sixty-two years-old, there is not a single stain or tear in the material. Live swan feathers line the tulle and a sapphire diamond forms a triangle between the breasts. Without resisting, I place my hand on the glass. A deafening scream echoes through the studio. Letting go of the case, I scan the room. No one’s there. Needing to catch my breath, I place my hand on the glass. The glass turned to molten sand as my hand passes straight through. The revolting grease of my hands touch this sacred tutu. A hand emerges from the tutu and grasps firmly onto my own. Screaming and trying to pull away, a voice then spoke to me.

The White Swan

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The White Swan

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“Juliet my child, it’s alright.” “Who are you? Let go of my hand.” “I’m the first woman to wear this tutu.” “Anna Pavlova?” “Juliet, I’ve been watching you in every class at the academy. I’ve noticed something very special about you.” “How so? I look the same as every other girl, I’ve been stamped elite and I’m waiting for the day when I’ll be too heavy to dance.” “That day won’t come.” “How do you know?” “Because I’ve chosen you to dance Odette.” “But Madame chooses.” “Stupid girl! Madame examines a dancer for their external image and technique. Dance is the purest expression of every emotion and she has ruined that. Every day she eliminates a girl deemed ugly. Dance is an art form; it is up to the dancer to choose how they express themselves. She has forgotten that perfect dancers are truly beautiful in themselves. This concept is abolished in modern day ballet and now the whole progress of humanity plummets.” “How do I get the role?” “Dance from within. It’s your choice.” Madame has chosen The Dying Swan as our audition piece. Every girl is dressed in a white tutu, symbolic of the role they’re attempting to attain. Hair glued back into a low bun. Elite stamped on their left palms with individual weights. “Elite: 39kg, you’re required in studio 1.” Curtsying to Madame, the soundtrack of The Dying Swan begins to play. In preparation, I broke into her office to source a video of Anna Pavlova’s 1905 version. She is deemed one of the most influential ballerinas in the history of ballet, however, in critiquing her solo, I notice she emphasizes emotion and caricature more than her technique. Odette dies as a swan. She won’t live happily with her prince. I feel tears emerge. I’ve never danced a solo before in the shoes of the character being portrayed. ‘Don’t delve into the story of the character. Focus on how they move and duplicate this in your depiction. Interpretation is not welcome.’ Well I defy you Madame. This sensation is ideal to the sincere form of ballet, emotionally connected with the art form. Technique


is merely a guide which can be exploited in cohesion with ideal body types. I didn’t dance like Anna Pavlova, I danced like myself and through the dying swan I showed how perfectionism has killed the person I am inside. Removing the bloodied knife Madame stabbed into me, it was dissatisfying to see ruby red liquid stain the pure white tutu. It had remained white for years until this moment. Before Madame, prima ballerinas were free to dance as themselves without it costing their lives. The last girl dancing in ballet’s true spirit will bleed into an art form that will remain broken forever. It will leave a white swan bleeding crimson while screaming, “I was perfect.” ‘

The White Swan

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For Whatever We Lose, It’s Always Our Self We Find In The Sea Madison Melton

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The azure sky is fading into a gentle mirage of lilac, the nickel-toned orb hanging low, reflecting off the endless mass of obsidian waters below it. The only sound now is the ceaseless repetition of waves crashing onto the grains of sand. This is an image of beauty, but it is one that still strikes fear deep within me. My pale feet are bare, the sand coarse beneath my toes. Hesitantly, I step towards the water. I am here alone, perhaps because it is the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere, and there are none like me who are brave enough to venture onto the beach. The first time a wave laps at my toes, I flinch. I force my nerves to steel and focus my eyes on the horizon, finding comfort in its flatness. The second time the water comes, I close my eyes, but the fear long-instilled in me compels them back open. I let the waves roll over my skin, tickling my ankles. It is cold as ice, and I soon begin to feel tingling in my toes, a water numbing sensation. I am mesmerized by the infinity of the ocean, of its great, vast expanse, and for a moment I find myself lost in wonderment. Here it seems so peaceful, as though it is a person, decades old, come to whisper its secrets to me. Abruptly I am reminded of its power, and I curse into the solitary twilight. When I leave the water, I walk backwards, unwilling to tear my eyes from the horizon. It is only when my feet find dry ground once more that I realise I am shaking. I press two fingers to my wrist and feel the rapid beat of my blood just below my soft skin. Briiiingg! Briiingg! The familiar ringtone of my phone cuts like glass through the serenity, jolting me back to reality. Hesitantly, I lift my phone to my ear, the material cool beneath my fingertips. “Hello?” “Hello, Kaia.” My name isn’t Kaia, I want to blurt out. It’s Tara. The tone on the other end is feminine, her words crisply punctuated and brisk, as though there are a million other things that require her attention, and this call is keeping her from them. “Your family would like to meet with you at ten am tomorrow morning, at the Elixir Espresso Bar.” For so long, these were words I had longed to hear. To hear the phrase ‘your family’ and be able to picture something material, something real. As I drifted from home to home through childhood, never really forming any meaningful connections, I found myself turning inwards, resenting myself and that mysterious, otherworldly


family for their non-existence. I craved the feeling of belonging. But now, eighteen years after I first lost them, the dream of wishing to see my family again is no longer just a dream: it is about to become reality, and that reality is gripping me like a vice, squeezing all the air out of my lungs until I begin to see stars. “Thank you,” I manage. I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding and watch the resulting puff of silver dance and dissipate into the air.

For Whatever We Lose, It’s Always Our Self We Find In The Sea

‘‘‘

Chantara. It means ‘moon water’ in Thai, chosen for me by a midthirties woman with three children of her own, with tan, wrinkled skin and twinkling brown eyes that I swore were secretly jewels. And her smile – her smile would make her entire face light up, her pale pink lips pulling back to expose her yellowing teeth, her whole body shaking as a bubbling sound emerged from deep in her throat, her laughter eminent in every aspect of her being. “I’m going to call you Chantara,” this woman had whispered in my ear, the first time she ever rocked me to sleep. I loved it – the lilt of her tone, the rhythmic creak of the bamboo rocking chair. Over the next year and a half – what felt like an eternity, aged three – I came to know her as Ma. Every night, without fail, in struggling English, she told me my first ever story – my own. “You came from the sea, Chantara. My husband was helping clean up the mess. It was nearing midnight when he heard a cry. The moonlight guided him, and he eventually found you, nestled snugly onto a tree branch. This is why your name means ‘moon water’: because you were found by the moon, and born of the water.” Ma always left out the gory details – the wave that obliterated everything in its path, that took my parents’ lives in its stride. The chaos that ensued: dead bodies lying spread-eagled, hidden beneath an old palm frond here, behind a plastic table there. The stillness of it all, the deafening silence in the aftermath, the beautifully horrific sight of violently red blood swirling into brown as it mixed with the contaminated water. I was three years old: too young even to remember my own name, but old enough to know loss.

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‘‘‘

Eighteen years I have had, to come to terms with the monstrous, heart-clenching concept that is blame. It is ingrained in human nature to search for the reason behind a tragedy, the why, and how

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and who. At first it was pointed towards my parents, before I understood that no, it was only because of them that I was even alive. Then it was my family – that non-existent, mythical presence that I must certainly have because I am, but do not – for their inability to find me. But I have come to realize that the arrow of blame can only be pointed at me. There is a terrible feeling that comes with this: there can be no more denial, only acceptance, that one’s fate has always rested in one’s own hands, that they are the inadvertent cause of their own suffering. It is nearing midnight when I finally walk home, away from the beach, heading north down La Vereda, across the park, east along Camino del Orro. It is a familiar walk, but tonight feels different. I pass a homeless man slumped beneath a street lamp, his grey ragged hair covered most of his face, his heavy breathing the only sound amongst the stillness. I am tired of the quiet – it has given me too much to be lost in my head, running circuitous routes of ‘what ifs’ and ‘should have beens’. I imagine my family, my elderly grandparents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, smiling at me, waving, beckoning towards the beach. “Come on, Kaia!” one calls, her youthful face breaking into a grin, her tone playful. As I watch, a man, presumably an uncle, taps her on the shoulder, “you’re it!” and she’s off running, squealing in delight. They all resemble me – it is in the slant of their cheekbones, the tone of their chestnut hair. Long and straight and wavy and short. As I watch, they fade into nothingness. If this is family, why doesn’t it feel like family? Eighteen years I was raised by different people, now all just tiny black dashes on the complex slate of history – all except the first, all except Ma, the one who gave me, me. I am Tara now, the orphaned girl who could never seem to stay at one foster home for longer than a year: ’too wild’ ‘uncontrollable’ ‘doesn’t play nice with the other kids’. All lies. The families just wanted the money, and when they had it they were more than eager to be rid of me. The other children laughed in scorn when I refused to go the beach, didn’t – couldn’t – understand my fear of the water. But despite the pain, the anguish, the frustration and tears, I am who I am because of them. I am strong and resilient and brave and an orphan; I am Chantara and the thought that I could lose that identity, my identity, again has me stricken with paralyzing


fear and suddenly I cannot breathe, struggling for air despite its supply, because in order to find myself, first I must lose myself. ‘‘‘

It is only at that witching hour just before dawn that I allow myself a moment to feel. I am home now, safe within the confines of my deplorable apartment. I step onto the balcony and stare up at the sprawling sky: a blanket of indigo, sprinkled with silver stars, twinkling down at the billions of people who stare back. I like to imagine an artist, standing here, on my two by two balcony with broken tiles and peeling grout, reaching out to the sky and painting it, creating a masterpiece of ineffable pulchritude. It is these moments that I feel the draw of the ocean, calling. The rise and pull with the tides, my body aching, to return to it, the only place I belong. I can’t help but wonder how easy it would have been to go with the tides, to slip these surly bonds of earth and touch the face of stars, forever in my mother’s arms. I wonder if the stars can see me. Could they forgive me? ‘

For Whatever We Lose, It’s Always Our Self We Find In The Sea

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Talaam Matilda Robson

Being a migrant means something different for everybody. For me, it means hearing about my parents’ stories every time I complain about something. For instance, yesterday I was on the phone to my mother complaining about university assignments. “Mum, I am so tired,” I told her groggily, my voice filled with sleep.

“लिंडा आपको पता नहीं है कि थक गया क्या है आपके पिता और मैंने अमेरिका से मिलने के लिए हड्डी में खुद को काम किया” Linda, you have no idea what tired is.

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Your father and I worked ourselves to the bone to get to America. No matter what, she insists on speaking to me in Hindi. She once told me “हमें अपनी संस्कृति पर लटका दिया जाना चाहिए” We need to hang on to our culture, Linda! It was a sad day when she first told me this. I was in primary school and torments had been shouted at me all day. “Freak.” “Weird.” “Ugly.” These were the words I heard on a daily basis. I tried to become more American. I scrubbed my skin, hoping for some miracle that my skin would somehow become lighter. Instead, my skin just became raw and red. I screamed at my parents for their heritage. I screamed until my lungs burned, my throat sore. I screamed until I could no more. I blamed them for everything, my skin, my culture, my life. And for that, I will never forgive myself. Morning. I woke up beside Nam. Light fell softly across his face, giving him a halo. White sheets fell across our bodies linking us together. Rolling over, I stretched my body out releasing a sigh. I wanted to let him sleep, he was tired. Tired is a state that he had been in a lot lately, and I had only just found out why; his father was coming to stay. Silently sliding out of the room, I left him in peace. Afternoon. Music flooded my ears, the rhythm or talaam guiding me as I walked. The talaam was one thing that I felt was missing from my life. With all my years living in Iowa I had not grasped onto the rhythm of the city. Something was not right, I was off beat in a city of constants. I was meeting with my parents in a cafe on Dubuque. They had called me two days ago now asking to meet. I was nervous, these meetings usually went the same way; an interrogation that caused mass disappointment.


Taking a deep breath, I pushed the door open. The doorbell jingled as I walked in. Coffee overwhelmed my senses as soon as I took a tentative step into the bustling cafe. People were all so busy. No one dared to look up from their phone or newspaper; everyone was in their own little world. No one bumped into each other, each individual adapting to their surroundings, adjusting to the tempo of the cafe. I, however, nearly knocked someone over as soon as I walked in. “I am so so sorry!” I exclaimed, extending my arm towards the stranger. I got no response, and my arm was left hanging in the air. Slowly lowering it I felt my face heat up, the world around me growing, and I am left small. Sat in the far corner were my parents, in deep conversation, surrounded by a bubble. Sitting down, I popped the bubble. At the sound of my bag hitting the counter, they looked up. Not a word was spoken. Their eyes analysed my face, as if they were trying to gauge what I was thinking. I kept a straight face, not letting them in. I broke. “What?” I asked. Their concerned faces morphed into ones of shock, as if they had forgotten I could speak. “It-it’s your brother,” my father muttered in Hindi. “He, he’s gone.” My stomach dropped. The world stopped spinning. Time froze. My brother laughing was one of my favourite sounds. It was one of those laughs that was instantly contagious, as soon as he started so did you. It was if his happiness took over your body. This time, he was laughing as he pushed me in a swing at Fairfield Park. I squealed as I rose higher and higher. He was twelve and I was six. My arms were in the air, my head lulled back as laughter took over my body. Up and up and up I went, feeling freedom like I never had before. But one more push was all it took for me to come crashing down. Grazed knees and tears were the result of my fall. I still have a scar from it, a tiny white line on the outside of my knee. This fall was different. This fall, I couldn’t get up and put a Band-Aid on it. This fall couldn’t be kissed better. This fall was destructive. I tried to speak. No words came to mind. My parents looked at me with sympathy.

Talaam

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Talaam

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“Linda, he hasn’t been happy, you know that,” my father had switched to English. I did know that. Every time I visited him he was surrounded by bottles and a cloud of smoke. He no longer laughed. Neither did I. He looked like a skeleton last time I saw him. He was the remains of what used to be. His usual dark skin was off green. I did not know this man. I spoke to him, words of consolidation, words of kindness. No response came. And with that, I left. “I should’ve done more.” “I should’ve stayed with him, make him stay.” My parents looked at me blankly. Switching back to Hindi my father spat, “This is not your fault. He is the weak one.” Before I knew what was happening, I was out of my chair and running. Running where, I had no clue. Stopping was not an option. I pushed my legs harder, faster. I ran from my parents. I ran from my brother. Tears streamed down my face. I ignored the burning of my lungs, the pain of my feet slapping against the ground. Everything had been disrupted. With his swipe of a blade, my world had collapsed. Home. My hands shook as I searched for my keys. Turning the knob, I stepped inside. My thoughts swirled around my mind like a hurricane, faster and faster they surrounded me till I was no longer able to move. It rained outside, I watched as each rain drop slid down the window, when each drop finished, it was replaced by another. My tears mirrored the same pattern. Breathing became difficult, I felt suffocated in my small apartment. Dirty clothes surrounded me. I brought my legs to my chest, hugging myself as I let my eyes close. As soon as there is light, there is darkness. Light. Rain lightly pattered against the window, and I was not sure whether yesterday was real. Shakily I reached for my phone, slowly dialling my brother’s number. Each number I felt closer to hope, it would be fine; he’d pick up and shout at me for calling this early. Everything is fine. It was not fine. He did not pick up. There was no shouting, no apologising, just dial tones and a beep. My phone slipped from my fingers, and I felt my heart break. The first time I have felt fear, and I mean real fear, not scaredof-the-dark-fear, was because of my brother. I had walked into his apartment, and I was hit with the smell of cigarettes.


“Brother?” I had shouted into the darkness. No response came. I closed the door behind me. Taking tentative steps into the space, I held my arms out from my body, feeling for a light switch. Flicking it towards the ceiling, a dim light illuminated the room. Calling it a mess would be an understatement. Beer bottles littered the floor, furniture was toppled over, ash covered the surfaces. I walked further, calling for him again. Still no response. My heart was beating hard against my chest, my breath becoming short. I came to his bedroom. Knocking once, twice. Forcing the door open, there he was. I had never seen him so small, curled into a ball on the middle of his bed. I thought, from the bottom of my heart, that that would be the last of my brother. I faced myself in the mirror. For the first time in my life I did not recognise the girl looking back at me. Her hair was greasy and frizzy, with eyes that held a storm inside of them. Yellow paint. As I examined my face, I was struck with the thought of something a university lecturer had told me. “Van Gogh drank yellow paint. He genuinely thought that the brightness of the colour would make him happy. He was dismissed as crazy for eating something so poisonous and toxic. Although, if you look at it from another light, he is not crazy at all; he is just like anyone else. No one drinks for the taste, you drink to get drunk and forget. You smoke weed to get happier. The girl stays with her cheating boyfriend because when he is with her he makes her happy. We are all infinitely searching for a way to be happy even if it kills us. Everything we do is our yellow paint.” When he had first told me this, I had dismissed it. But now, it felt relevant. My brother’s substance abuse was his attempt at finding happiness. His rhythm was never in sync with the rest of us, I had always known that. I had never thought that he would go to the extent of what he did. If I thought I was out of beat before, I was on a whole other piece of music now. Nam wanted to see me. I did not want to see him. I did not want to see anyone. I even did not want to see myself. I ignored his texts and calls, I ignored everyone. I needed space. I needed to breathe. Isolation was not something I was used to, but it was the only way I could deal with my thoughts in silence. The whistle of the kettle pierced through the silence of my apartment forcing me back into reality.

Talaam

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Talaam

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The next couple of days were slow. Everything had slowed down for me. My thoughts, my actions, my world. I tried to speed it up. I ran. I ate. I slept. Yellow paint. I tried to forgive him. I tried to accept him leaving me. Yellow paint. Two weeks. Fourteen days. I began to regain my breath, I moved onto a different piece of music. I texted Nam back. I called my parents. I cleaned my apartment, letting light and clean air into my life. I lived again. I took a deep breath, and life carried on. ‘


We are under attack. A silent war… A war affecting up to half a million innocent Australians every single year. 85,000 of those people are affected over half a dozen times. A number so big, yet fewer than 20 percent of these people will ever report the crime. So what is this war? Random assault, gang violence? No. It is domestic violence. A country wide war, that quite literally happens behind closed doors. A staggering 70% of women who are murdered in Australia, are killed by their partner. Last year, two women were killed each week. That’s two innocent people ripped away from their friends, their family, every single week. Family violence has been and continues to be one of the most destructive and deadly epidemics of our society. It is one of the most common yet least reported crimes. Statistics show that 1 in 4 woman will be abused by their partner during their lifetime. If everyone here today represented the population of Australia, that’s approximately 110 of us. These people are being abused in their own home. The place where they they are meant to feel the safest is instead, the most dangerous. I’m talking about living in constant fear of your life, constantly having to ask yourself the questions: what will he do to me now? How far will he go? How can it be seen as okay? Domestic violence is shocking and it’s horrific. It’s getting to a point where running from home is a better alternative, unable to bear the thought of being hurt in a place you once called home. It’s young women told they’re worth nothing by the men who are meant to love them; children scared for their safety, and the safety of their family. Tracking devices. Stalking. It’s harrowing, it’s terrifying and it’s too close to home. This picture of an abusive man, the yelling, the threatening, it’s all too real. Yet domestic violence is so much more than laying a hand on another person. Domestic abuse is destructive in every way possible. It’s physiological, and it’s emotional. It’s criticising, pressuring and guilt tripping your partner until they give in. It’s relentless, and it’s exactly what makes the woman blame herself. That makes her somehow believe – after everything – that it’s all her fault. This is a pattern. Victims become emotionally and physically trapped. You see, that’s why women stay, they feel trapped. When you ask the question, “why didn’t they just leave?”, we negate just how horrifying domestic abuse truly is and how incredibly

Domestic Violence Taylah Ruiz-Pedley Suzanne Northey Public Speaking Award Winner

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Domestic Violence

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dangerous it can be to leave. The final step in the domestic violence pattern is murder and over 70 percent of murders that result from domestic violence occur after the relationship has ended… once the abuser has nothing left to lose. The question, “Why didn’t she just leave?” ultimately means, “It’s her fault for staying,” as if victims intentionally choose to live every day with someone who is harming them. Domestic abuse did not start straight away; these women once fell in love, and – far too often – started a family. Once the violence begins, it is often too late to just walk away. Escape feels impossible or they just hope that it will get better. This needs to change, and soon. No child of this country should ever have to sit with a police officer and give a G rated sugar coated account of the harm done to their mother. No child should ever have to ask the question “did my daddy do this?”. No child should ever have to see this as normal… that it is normal to harm someone you love. The moment that a child believes it’s normal, a future perpetrator is born. We need to stop the justification. We make excuses for boys, whether we mean to or not. We dismiss boys’ aggression as a function of their masculinity. We minimise their behaviour. We rationalise it. Boys will be boys. All of this isn’t helping. No man should ever believe it is okay to raise a hand to a woman in anything other than self defence. It’s that simple. We need to end the ability to rationalise that he ever had a right, because he never did. It’s our job to change the stigma, exposing the truth of domestic violence for the sick menacing war that it is. Every one of us in this room are future leaders of our society and we all have the power to eradicate male and female violence against their partners and refuse to let it be swept under the rug any more. Success will occur when the day comes that no woman who has been subjected to violence ever consciously or sub consciously asks what so many women ask today: what did I do? What did I do to deserve this? Because they didn’t do anything. I am not standing up here today to scare you. We are all lucky to live in a country where things are being done to help, but it is still not being spoken about enough. I wish I could give you all a clear strategy on how to stop domestic violence, but it is not always going to be that simple. Every time we speak out against this behaviour, we are all one step closer to stopping the cycle of violence against


women. We need to spread awareness as there is hope. There are people like Rosie Batty, a woman who lost her son at the hands of his own father. She dedicates each and every day to making a change for women, something that I find truly inspirational. During the period of time I’ve been talking to you today, four Australians have experienced an act of domestic violence. If that doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what will. Abuse thrives in silence and each and every single one of us has power to end it, simply by shining a light on it. So please remember this, a bruise may last a week, a cut may last a month, but the damage from domestic abuse, well, that lasts a lifetime. ‘

Domestic Violence

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The Far Have Become Near Again Laura Tinney

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I sat uncomfortably on the edge of the small off-white plastic yard chair that had been placed in the farthest nook of the storage room. My cold hands fiddled with an escaping thread in my black skinny jeans, and my boots drummed against the sticky checked vinyl. I had never felt so out of place in my life. It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come here. It had only been ten minutes since I had turned up in the market: my umbrella dripping with heavy droplets from Melbourne’s temperamental weather, and, gripping nervously, until my knuckles turned white, a small piece of paper, jaggedly ripped from a discarded envelope, blue ink words blurring into one another like water colour paints: 677 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. I had stood, feet stubbornly anchored to the ground, the rickety rumble of a shopping trolley passing my ears like the melancholy whisper of a song from my childhood. I had felt entirely disconnected from the bustle surrounding me. I had only been to this place a few times in my life. The last was when I was six years old, the week before we moved to Sydney, and I remember this market humming with life, and now; repainted through my adult eyes as a small, dingy shopping market, the smell of cigarettes and car fumes wafting in lazily with the wind. Mum had been particularly anxious on our last visit here and all those memories were jumbled, and vague. A hazy mosaic, as though I was looking at them with half-closed eyes, eyelashes covering half my young vision. All my childhood memories were like this, and in a way, I was thankful. This woolliness, this distance kept them in objective content. I remember sitting in this off-white chair; at the time my feet dangling. Hushed whispers, a tanned wrinkly face passing me a wrapped mandarin-flavoured lolly, my mother with tears sliding off her chin, clutching my tiny hand pushing through the exit door, back into the market, back to the bustling road, back to our silver Volvo that always smelled of pine trees. Only now, with the privilege of knowledge and age did I realise how much these snippets of memories were the sequence of running away. 
And I had come back. I had stood outside and wrestled with my mind until I was able to move one foot and then the other towards the small shop, tucked away in the corner of the market, its sign, a deep amber – the colour


of ageing autumn leaves, read Khris’ Delicatessen, and its door read a tiny tinny bell rung through the shop announcing each entrance. 
Sugar hovered in the air, mixed with some other odour, perhaps cinnamon. The shelves’ aisles were messy, cardboard boxes held new Mediterranean packaged goods, through which an elderly Greek couple were browsing. The obtrusive lights buzzed and occasionally flickered as if mimicking candles. There was a cosy service area at the back of the shop that extended into the storage room on one side and to an assortment of meats, olives, and dips displayed underneath scratchy glass on the other side. A movement came from the storage room and suddenly my feet were begging to pivot around and exit through the door they’d entered. But they didn’t. An elderly man came into sight. His greying hair had a bald patch in the middle, almost like a crop circle. He had that same tanned wrinkly skin – only now the lines sketched on his face were deeper, as though they had been shaded upon. His shoulders were hunched like a weeping willow, strained with years of work. He was wearing a shamrock-green apron, and a gruff expression, moustache halfhiding pursed lips, bushy eye brows knitted… and then rising as his blue-grey eyes took me in, his voice cracking with surprise, “Maria?”. My mother’s name.
 I cleared my throat nervously.
“No Pappou, its me, Katarina,”
my thoughts frantically whispered, bees chaotically swarming and stinging my mind. My mouth was dry, my tongue felt like sandpaper against the roof of my mouth, a bitter taste had aggregated in the back of my throat. 
I swallowed. I reminded myself to breathe. I lifted my eyes as he turned away heading into the small storage room, “Follow me” – a command not a question, a quality in him that my mother had recounted to me, told me she always resented, rebelled against and ran from. But I followed.
 “Sit here,” he said in broken English. It surprised me, he had lived here for most of his life and still his tongue could not quite master the weird English pronunciation. Perhaps he did not want to. He gestured to the plastic chair, his face conflicted – I had dug up years of suppressed memories, a pebble on water disturbing everything he had fought so hard to keep still. Tears appeared in the corner of each sunken eye, framed with dark eyelashes, typical of a Cypriot. I watched him walk out, and obediently sat. PUSH,

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It was quiet, the sound of the refrigerator hummed, and I could hear him talking to customers. I was disappointed.
Over too many years I had imagined how this reunion might go, my sentimental mind had constructed a million different narratives, artworks, frames of moments – this measured up to none. 
Mum would laugh, then cry, then tell me that I shouldn’t have come here, then cry again. 
 “What do you want?” his deep voice seemed weary. I stopped my fiddling hands.
 “To see you,” I answered honestly, looking up. He stood tall, perhaps a little pudgy, in the doorway, a shadow against the light.
 “Why?” he questioned. His tone wasn’t rude, or curious, only direct – good; then this could end sooner, and I could go home and reprimand myself for thinking time could clear old disappointments like waves washing away words upon the sand. “You’re my grandpa, I want to talk to you,” I heard my voice in that distant way of my memories – it was young, child-like; it was reaching arms up to be held, want, want, want.
He unstacked a matching white chair, placed it a metre from mine, wiped his hands on his apron and sat, his body revealing years of strain in a sigh, shoulders curved in defeat, “I want to talk to you too.” He asked me what I was doing in Melbourne. I told him about my scholarship to Melbourne University, about my major in Fine Arts. He was a stranger, with a quarter of my blood. But I needed his approval. We danced around small talk topics…well, I did at least. He listened and answered in small blunt sentences, as though it took too much breath to attempt anymore, but his face was softening into something almost apologetic. Or perhaps I was just projecting my hopes; seeing what I wanted in the clouds of shadows drifting across his face with that flickering light.
 “How’s your mum?” he asked, the question hovered over us, like layers of unsettled dust disturbed before becoming still again. I wondered whether he knew she was engaged again, I wondered whether he even remembered what her job was, I wondered whether he cared. “She’s doing well, work’s good and everything.” 
 He studied me. “She doesn’t know you’re here,” he stated, not in


an accusing tone, but in a mournful one, a frown bending over his features. I gave a nod, “She misses you,” he scoffed, but I stopped it in the middle, with something hoarse in my voice, verging on anger “You’re her father, it has been sixteen years of distant Christmas cards. It is time you grow up.”
 My eyes filled with water and salt as I looked into the old man’s face. He would not look at me, and I imagined how he must feel, whether he saw the ghost of a pouty six-year old in my features. I hated myself for crying. I wondered whether it hurt him knowing he had missed all these years of my life. His family had mattered so much to him that he had driven them away.
 He reached his hand into his apron pocket and pulled out a mandarin lolly, covered in shining silver wrapping, closed it into his palm, a clam and its pearl, he reached it out, an offering. I smiled at him, tears lingering, as I took it. I wanted to paint us, this odd scene, and label it unknown. Every moment made the situation seem stranger. Two relatives who had been irrelevant to each other’s lives, sitting awkwardly in backyard chairs – in a storage room, a crying university student sucking a sugar-coated lolly, watching an ageing delicatessen, big and uncomfortable. Two people trying to make amends for the past. Sometimes the saddest stories make the most beautiful pieces of art. 
 “Can you tell me how you came here?” I asked, swirling the mandarin-flavoured sweet under my tongue – it wasn’t as good as I remembered, “To Melbourne from Cyprus, mum never really knew, she said you didn’t talk about it much.”
 “Oi apanteiseis then erontai se autous pou den rotane.” Answers do not come to those who do not ask. I had. So he told me.
 He had been nearly 27 years old when he came. 1968, he said. Thirty-four days he travelled. Flying out from Cyprus to Australia was illegal at the time, the government was beginning its shaky spiral, so he took a boat, across the world. 
He told me, in the simple, humble way of a man who had grown above it all. He didn’t want sympathy when he told me his father used to hit his mother, her golden skin painted over in violet, or that he’d run away from home at sixteen. He didn’t want sadness when he told me he couch jumped for years at his friends’ places. He didn’t fear judgement when he told me he stole money and supplies to keep going. He

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didn’t want admiration when he told me he worked in a supermarket, then managed it, then owned it, then left it for a safe haven. He told me about what happened in Cyprus in the years after he’d left. His country, his home, in ruins. He told me about the dirtsmeared letters from his friends, as they pushed back against Oppression – that unmoving wall of entitlement to a broken land. 
The land where I came from. A story about a man and an escape. He had spent half his life running, my mother had spent half of hers mimicking him, so then, was it in my blood to run? 
 No – I came back to this man with a stave of creases on his forehead from a reality I had only come close to experiencing through hues on a canvas. A man who had built a life with a woman who was running too, both homesick and scared reaching for solid ground to which they might thrust their small bundle of money in shaking hands into the dirt and build a better life. A man who had watched his wife die. A man who had been left with three teenagers, all rebellious and grief-stricken. A man with a daughter, who having grown up in Australia never understood his customs and had married, not a Cypriot, not a member of the Greek Orthodox church, but an Australian man, his parents’ immigrants from India. He told me the story of a weary man who had tolerated the marriage – No – who had fought it, a man who had not shown-up to his sonin-law’s funeral, the final action to drive his daughter, her unborn son and her six-year old honey haired daughter an entire state away. A man who had sent Christmas cards, and received them in return. A man who perhaps had closed himself into this nook of the world, because he truly understood the definition of distance.
And despite his faults, I grieved for this man, for his life in a new world, a better world, but one that nonetheless did not understand him, and so he willingly sank into quicksand; back into his little delicatessen with a dingy, flickering light that shadowed his exhausted features – tired of losing and remembering loss. I could hear the rain starting up, liquid popcorn on the tin roof, tap tap tap. It sounded empty. 
 “Do you regret it? Not turning up to my dad’s funeral?” I asked, and looking at his face I knew the answer. 
 “Ti erei ginei den xeginetai.” What’s done cannot be undone. A half answer. Perhaps he had changed, perhaps he had not. Was it wise or


witless to make excuses for family, especially those you barely know? I waited for outrage, but instead nothing arrived. So I whispered, “Thank you.” He understood. He echoed the sentiment eleven minutes later, as I promised to return and he pushed a silver-wrapped candy into my palm, a message in its own right. I offered a smile, and he returned it, his moustache quirking upwards, peeling back years of pain from his face. The tiny tinny bell sounded as I pulled the door. As I moved towards the market’s doors they slid aside, cigarette smoke and car fumes overwhelmed by the petrichor from the rain spreading over the pavement, the cars splashing through puddles like boats against the beating sea. Ta makrina exoune gineai conta pali. The far have become near again. ‘

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How Much Will The Ride Be? Adeline Trieu

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“No, I love you more,” the boy says, almost whispering, looking vulnerably down towards their joined hands. The girl giggles. “No, I love you more, silly!” They smush their lovesick faces together, and at that, I decide to turn sharply into Bourke Street. Framed by the edges of the rear-view mirror, the scene looked disgustingly sweet, despite the cool-toned filter the day seemed to have on everything. I glance away, flicking my eyes back to the road, to scan the gloomy horizon of the rainy Melbourne landscape for something less awkward. Whish, whish, the windscreen wipers say, kicking off rain left and right. Whish, whish, make them pay extra. The whispers are ignored as the car slows to a stop before an intersection. My phone vibrates, and I glance at the passengers only to find them in various states of liquification, faces utterly engulfed in what looked like a vacuum between the two. Even with the heaters at full blast, three pairs of cheeks going rosy, the pair still seemed to look like they lacked warmth, judging from the way that they snuggled together. I wonder briefly if Jen and I ever looked that cute together, before deeming it safe enough to check the notification. “I arrived in Melbourne,” the text reads. The lights turn green and the car starts moving, as if on its own. Spring St, Lonsdale St and Clarendon St are words all that flit by, along with patches of green and red and dark grey. The number is one I haven’t seen in a while, yet the longforgotten digits burn into my brain to create a face unwelcome to my current state of mind. But I keep my eyes on the road, and concentrate on rough transitions in gears to keep the thought away. A few minutes later, another number is noted from my dash, digital strokes forming cash in my hand. Cheery, apologetic smiles leave the cab and enter a gate labelled 225; another number, this time in bold, cursive font. It’s only 10am, and my head already pounds from half realised implications and rainy-day humidity. The rain has actually stopped now; it stopped a while ago, and I only realise this when I wind down the window to feel a cold, grounding sensation that isn’t there. The bobble head of my favourite Marvel character nods at me from the taximeter, as if noting my sardonic grimace. I had always liked winter better than summer, cold over heat, and today is no different. My phone feels too hot in my hand when


I pick it up, and I am reminded of large, warm, clammy palms grasping at my wrists, to pull me in and spit knives at my face “Ok,” I text back, almost automatically. “Where do I pick you up?”

How Much Will The Ride Be?

‘‘‘

I never liked the weird sound parents’ voices had when they scolded their children. Not the harsh, crisp, fed-up tone, but the one buried underneath; underneath the layers of disapproving and disappointment, I could find it. The mother in the back seat of the taxi had it now, and it was how she responded to her eight year old telling her twelve year old: “Mum doesn’t like people who are stupid.” (I almost laughed, as it was a sister insulting her brother in the worst way she could think possible; as well as the fact that the situation felt almost nostalgic to me.) My dad had it too the last time I saw him in Melbourne, cheeks red and eyes too full, but I couldn’t acknowledge it in the heat of the moment. It was too much, to acknowledge vulnerability, when both sides were poised to attack. The sound I’m talking about was a funny one, with bitter notes that you’d only know if you had heard them before: I never really understood it when I was much younger. It wasn’t until I was fourteen, that I heard a bar of the dissonance. I was never quite sure what spurred it on, the passive aggressive confession driving us home from debating one night. I think it started with a conversation about my grandparents, something along the lines of: “Why don’t you go see Ama? I heard from mum she came down from Adelaide last week.” It’d been long since I’d gotten use to his crazy driving, so I didn’t grab the door handle when dad whipped from one lane to the next, dim glows of street lights flying past at 80km/h. “Did I ever tell you about how our family was after we got out of the camps in Malaysia? After fleeing Vietnam?” was how he started it, and I wondered at the relevance, but he continued anyway. “My relationship with my mum was never that good,” he looked at me then, and I saw something in his eyes that I hadn’t really looked hard enough for before. A kind of hard resignation to feeling hurt. He started talking about how he was the middle child of seven children, and a boy, in family stricken by poverty. How his mum never treated him the same as the others; blamed him for accidents

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like spilling the nuoc mam when it was “really her own fault”; yelling at him instead of his brother for the lack of coins and notes in her wallet; and getting beaten when he tried to steal some of the meat from gogo’s bowl (his older brother’s) in order to eat something other than the leftover yams he’d been given. They’d come to Australia with nothing, this much was obvious, with every child except the youngest working daily to pay off bills. He didn’t say it directly, or maybe he did, but the resentment he felt towards the woman was palpable. The car was definitely speeding then, the thrum of the engine under my fingers almost at a rhythm. But my dad had always told us about how good his reflexes were when driving, so I didn’t even bother to think of how safe it was to be pushing 90 in a 60 zone. “She even gave me up for adoption, because we could barely pay the bills. But she had to take me back in since the old lady I was given to barely looked after me either.” I could hear the hard laugh in his voice, cynical and harsh, despite his heavy words. “That old lady was nice enough, but her house and the conditions were horrible: I just remember being really itchy. Scratching, and scratching, and scratching.” I couldn’t seem to process this. The idea of being given away by the person who was meant to love you most. Yet at the same time, I didn’t want to admit, it also seemed to explain a lot. By the time we had neared the bent stop sign marking the street next to our house, my dad had already reverted back to his typical state, and half-smirked at me. “That’s why you need to get a good job, be a doctor, dentist, so you won’t have to have hard times like that.” His trademark mantra was simultaneously more real and understandable than I had thought so before, but also somewhat more alienating. I almost should’ve known that that was where this conversation was heading; an opportunity to ingrain a little bit more of his expectations into my mind. I wanted to lighten the weird mood that had descended on the car, or even get out of the damn car, but all I could think about was the almost flippant way he said, “She gave me up for adoption.” ‘‘‘

In the back seat of the cab, the mother’s done scolding her children, and the three huff back to face opposite directions. The trip still has twenty more minutes left to go, and the eight year old is already

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kicking the back of my seat impatiently, to the beat of pop song on the radio. “Why do I need to work so hard for twenty years to pay for your school fees, your life, and every bloody meal you eat? When this is how you act? Like a brat who doesn’t even know who her elder is?” Not even five minutes later, the children are giggling about some funny billboard sign with a celebrity on it, making jokes about twerking or something or other. The mother just sighs and shakes her head, despite the small smile staining her cheeks. “You think you are so good, so smart – you think you know bloody everything,” he spat the word smart as if it wasn’t the word he had been teaching me to aim for for the past 20 years; as if it wasn’t something that had tortured and shaped my brain like words in his mouth. I couldn’t tell, then, if he was talking to me or himself. The high-pitched sneeze of the eight year old cuts through the air of the cab, and she rubs at her gaudy-red nose after through the sniffles. I laugh as I catch the pig face the twelve year old makes at me through rear-view mirror, and he smiles up at me, then, extremely proud of his achievement. ‘‘‘

I knew I had to be the one who apologised first after the fight, but the truth of his statements stabbed at me, and I couldn’t bring myself to wonder if I really was worth more than a speck of dust, after the hardships of his life. Instead, I dropped out of uni, got a taxi license, and moved out. Driving was calming, predictable. And it was the furthest thing I could think of from studying Medicine, so that’s what I did.

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‘‘‘

It was the crunch of tarmac under rubber that signalled the end of our journey. The last passenger of the day was, although not unexpected, something of an enigma. Hidden from the dim glow of the street lights, the woman’s face looks softer than it did before. The puffy redness of her cheeks had faded back to painted, unblemished skin, and her gimlet eye was nothing but a gentle glint. She looks at me, through the rear-view mirror, and asks politely, “How much will the ride be?” I pause, and wonder if she had always been like this. If she had always hidden underneath the layers of civility and emptiness, after having her heart cut out. It wasn’t her fault; it was never her fault;

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yet she had suffered the consequences anyway. “How’s Dad?” I want to ask. “Is he in Melbourne too?” Instead, I lower my eyes to gaze at the hands clasped tightly in my lap, and answer my mother: “Nothing.” ‘


Every five seconds, one acre of forest is cut down to make room for cattle farming. The detrimental effects that animal agriculture is having on both our planet and our health is the reason that I believe every single person should employ a meat-free diet. As a result of human demand and society’s strong desire for animal products, the earth and atmosphere are suffering immensely because of livestock production. The land that covers our planet is rapidly reducing in both quality and quantity due to the animal agriculture industry, and above all else, reducing meat consumption has been shown to significantly improve our physical health and reverse life threatening illnesses. In order for the earth’s ecological balance to remain stable and for the climatic future to look bright, it is necessary that we reduce meat production, as it is a large contributor to environmental degradation. Would it surprise you if I said that taking shorter showers, using public transport, buying energy-saving lightbulbs, turning off power points and using solar panels is very much pointless in regards to energy conservation? Would it also surprise you, if I said that according to Henning Steinfeld’s book ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from transportation worldwide? Now, you might think, how on earth does breeding a bunch of cows contribute more atmospheric pollution than the foul-smelling, burned gases produced by all modes of transport? Due to animal belching and flatulence, livestock is the main reason behind the rise in methane emissions. Carbon dioxide has been thought to be mainly responsible for global warming over the last few years, however, without first aiming to decrease methane emissions, improvements in the earth’s atmosphere will not be visible for hundreds of years, this is because methane traps 84 times more heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. In order for these greenhouse gases to be reduced, it is vital that people adopt a diet consisting of fewer meat proteins, to minimise the emissions produced by the livestock industry. Not only does animal agriculture have a significant impact on the atmosphere protecting our planet, it also has serious repercussions on the species that live there, with one of the primary causes of species extinction being deforestation; where land is cleared to either grow food for livestock or create a place for them

Consider Becoming A Vegetarian Elise Allibon

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to live. To put into perspective just how much land is cleared due to deforestation, Ruyton Girls’ School, has an area of 7.16 acres. Every single day 14,400 acres of rainforest are cut down for cattle farming. That is the equivalent to 2,011 ‘Ruytons’ being bulldozed daily. However, the common misconception is that palm oil is the leading cause of deforestation and everyone is always talking about not buying products that contain palm oil, in an attempt to “save the orang-utans”. Fair enough, but what remains hidden to most of the public is that 26 million acres of rainforest have been cleared for palm oil. However, 136 million acres, 136 million acres, have been cleared for livestock. For a vicious death-filled cycle of breeding, slaughtering and consuming the meat of animals. Why? Because it tastes good? Because to me, the lives of animals, the future of the earth and the environmental footprint that we leave behind as inhabitants of this planet, matters more than the juicy piece of beef sitting on my dinner plate. We are overriding the planet, and because of this, the environment is suffering due to the ignorance of people and their desire for the unsustainable products produced in the meat industry. As well as the effects that livestock has on our planet, animal proteins such as meat and dairy have significant impacts on our health. It is evident that there is a major link between animal based foods and major diseases, with many conditions being able to be greatly reduced or completely eradicated by eating a whole foods plant-based diet and avoiding meat, dairy and eggs. Studies have been conducted on animal protein and its effects on the body, with results proving that dairy and meat enhance tumour growth, whilst also causing the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries, leading to strokes and heart attacks. Many people believe that meat and dairy are necessary to consume on a daily basis to ensure that all nutrient requirements are met, however lots of people are unaware of the strong correlation between life-threatening illnesses and animal protein. So supposedly meat is good for us, however, those who consume meat are twice as likely to die from heart disease and have a 60% greater risk of dying from cancer compared to vegetarians. As scary as it is, many people, like you and I remain uninformed on how deadly animal-based foods can be, and are unknowingly consuming harmful foods that can be the difference between life and death.


So, in summary, not only are we humans polluting the planet with harmful gases that have long-lasting impacts on the environment, we are also destroying habitats and are killing ourselves slowly in the process. I don’t know about you, but to me, this way of life, the idea that “meat is necessary and vital” needs to go. Or we, as a species, will suffer the consequences. Neal Barnard once said, “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of the century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of ‘real food for real people’, you’d better live real close to a really good hospital”. In the time that I have been speaking, 35 football fields of land have been bulldozed worldwide to create room for farmed animals. So maybe next time when you are choosing what to eat for dinner, have a think about the mark you want to leave on this earth, and choose wisely. ‘

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Feminism Eliza Bate Allan Patterson Public Speaking Award Winner

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I was talking to two boys from Trinity over the holidays. The topic of feminism was brought up. One of the boys said this was a dirty word – synonymous with ‘women advocating for petty victories over men’. The other boy said: ‘I’m all for equal rights but I don’t believe in feminism.’ They were questioning why is the word FEMinism, rather than Equa –ism? Is it because females want to be supreme and overtake men in all aspects of society? To be honest, I was shocked. These views are held by boys I respect. Boys who are my contemporaries, who are well educated and well read. I do think that the word feminism has become tarnished, but we need to strip back the hysteria and educate men and women on the meaning of gender equality. For the record: feminism is defined by the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in political, economic and social aspects of society. The issue is really about gender equality. So for the girls who don’t consider themselves to be feminists. I ask you: Are you entitled to the same pay for doing the same job as a man? Should you have the right to make decisions about your own body? Do you think we should have a say in forming policies and making decisions about our country? Do you think we have the right to be heard? Do you want to be afforded the same respect as a man? To me, the answer to all these questions is so obviously YES! So where did it all go wrong? Why has this word become such an uncomfortable one? Part of the problem is the way our media sensationalises the issue. Extreme views on both sides have polarised opinion. Outspoken US commentator Pat Roberson believes feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. And on the other hand, Australian writer, Clementine Ford, who has strong feminist views, has been subject to the most hideous online trolling, abuse and obscenity. She has experienced threats of rape and death, and her young child has also been harassed and abused. And this is happening here in Melbourne. It’s unfortunate that feminism has become has become such a loaded word, where some mistakenly believe the empowerment of women means the belittlement of men. When it comes to promoting women into positions of power and influence, there is an argument that promotion should be based on merit – so the best for the job – male or female is rewarded.


But historically that system just hasn’t worked. Females represent 52% of the population, but they’re in a very small minority when it comes to senior management, leadership positions and politics. To try to redress this imbalance, over 100 countries have introduced quotas systems in the political arena, where 30-40 % of positions must be filled by women. It’s a way of fast tracking gender balance and boosting the number of women entering politics. Quotas are not discriminatory, Instead, they address the discrimination that already exists against women. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a level playing field out there. Beware the boys’ club! But I understand, it is easy to be complacent about this topic when we live in a wealthy privileged country like Australia. But I urge you to look outward, and see that not all women have been afforded the same rights as we have. According to makers.com, 62 million girls worldwide are denied an education, underage marriage is sanctioned for girls as young as 6 years old in some counties, female genital mutilation is practiced in 29 counties affecting 125 million girls and women, and it is shocking that four out of every five victims of human trafficking are female. We are still fighting for so much. We still need so much – and more inclusive feminism is a starting point. I want my daughters to thrive in a world where they are valued; where female strength is not something depicted as remarkable, but natural. Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the author of ‘Lean In’. She puts it succinctly: “We need more women, with more voices and more equality”. When it comes to feminism, the status quo is not enough. ‘

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A Beacon of Hope Mimi Bland

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I sat at one of the tables folding the serviettes for that night’s customers, using my nail to crease and smooth, crease and smooth. My mother begins to prepare the food; her nimble feet slide across the oleaginous floorboards as though she is dancing. How happy she is to be able to feed people, when once, not long ago, the waves licked at the sides of the eight-metre fishing boat and swallowed any hope of a full stomach. My mother is an immigrant, with long black hair drawn into a tight bun and a jubilant face round as the dumplings that she works so hard to prepare. Now, she walks to the other side of town every day to visit my father with the paper crane I had made that day and whatever flowers were cheapest at Camberwell market. She stirs the hot and sour soup that has been on the ‘chef ’s specialty’ menu for so long that the neat swirls of chalk do not rub off anymore. Some days, when she labours over the broth too long, the ebullient laughter of the restaurant seems to bubble and boil with the soup and you can see the reflection of the tempest in her black-bean eyes; the past crashing over her in waves. On those days I turn the stove off for her. On those days I gently guide her to a chair and let her sit quietly until the ghosts have returned to their graves. On those days, watching the blank canvass of her face, I wonder what it is like to be an orphan of despair. “Ming!” I hear my mother call, the slight breeze and soft jingle of the bell signaling her return from her trip across town. Her eyes roam over the sea of origami in front of me. Engulfed in her embrace I am overcome by the smell of fried chicken and cheap flowers that she carries with her wherever she goes. “You eaten? I can make you some fried rice or hot tea. How ‘bout some hot tea huh?” She grins from ear to ear and I beam up into her moon-like face. “I’m fine thanks,” I reply. I watch her enter the kitchen. “Wait, mum!” Her petite frame turns gracefully, a knowing look in her eyes as she answers the question that has not even left my lips. “Your father okay Ming. No changes, but he okay.” Her wistful smile curves upwards at the corners like a fortune cookie that no one wants to read. Crease and smooth, crease and smooth, a wonky paper crane covers the lines of my hand. I continue my deft work as she enters the kitchen to prepare for tonight’s customers. She will slave away in the kitchen all night, her face creasing with delight at the sound of the little bell on the door


that signals the arrival of another customer to feed. Just after midnight she will turn the ‘Open’ sign around and fold the motheaten blankets over her body, fragile like a single grain of rice. She will lie still, listening to the whispers of the world, adding her secrets to their swelling melody. I am twenty years old and every day for the past week I have walked past the remains of a dead bird on my way to university. It is only a skeleton now but I remember the day I saw it fall from the electrical wire on the corner of the crossroads, like Jesus from his cross. Dried blood the colour of wine that guests leave in the glasses, bones white as a moonlit sail, and beak wide open as if it would swallow the world whole. Every day for the past week I have walked past that bird and onto the crossroads at the end of the road, and for as long as I can remember that curb has presented me with a decision; left or right, left or right? Will I go left towards the psychiatric ward only four houses down, left towards my father and his despondent eyes wrung with tears and drowned in alcohol? No. The compass in my feet has pointed me towards the red brick walls of the university. Who am I to deny them the safety of charted seas and marked roads? Crease and smooth, crease and smooth, a delicate paper crane covers the lines of my hand. I remember the day we bought the shop. It was 1980 and my father had finally convinced the bank to loan him the amount we needed to get started. “Very lucky, huh?” He had said when he came home, wearing his best suit and a crane pin on his lapel. That night we had a small feast. Only eight years old, I was allowed in the kitchen. I watched my father cook, the knife quickly chopping the vegetables, his sprightly hands moving in and out of the firing line. That was the night that my fingers first learnt to dance. My tiny hands tiptoed along the lines of the blinding paper, following my father’s assured movements. Creasing and smoothing, creasing and smoothing until the music stopped. The dance was over, and two paper cranes covered the lines of my hand. One lopsided and haphazard, the other modestly tall, but nevertheless, two perfect beacons of hope. My father is an immigrant, with scars of the past on his hollow face and the weight of an unapologetic war on his shoulders. I had an older brother. There is a photo of him on my mother’s bedside table; tarnished and faded it is the only thing that survived

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their waterlogged journey from China to Australia in the early 1970s. He is still just a boy. The red band on his arm inscribed with the characters “Red Guard” and his olive green military uniform do nothing to mask the soft, boyish features of his face. How proud he felt to be a part of Mao’s revolution, to be a part of something bigger than the small town where he was raised. But the gale in my mother’s eyes and the bottle in my father’s hand whimper with verity, for who could have foreseen the terror and destruction that would fall upon a young boy who, once upon a time, believed wholeheartedly in the Little Red Book? My brother never got to glimpse the land with the golden soils; he was taken from us long before that journey even began, tortured by the regime that he so fiercely abandoned. He met his end in the town square at age seventeen, looking down the barrel of a gun while my parents sobbed in the crowd, the word ‘traitor’ hanging on a piece of cardboard around his bowed head. The effects of that day still follow my parents like a shadow; still gnaw like an unappeasable homesickness. He is still just a boy. It was never in the stars and yet here we are, losing ourselves in constellations and wishing on a time that passed long ago. It was never in the cards and yet here we are, gambling on wasted hopes and plans that could have been. As my fingers pirouette and sway to the music one last time, a perfect little crane covers the lines of my hand. My feet move nimbly past the dead bird and find themselves at the crossroads. I look down at my feet and carefully, one by one, point them leftwards, point them towards my father. The thousandth paper crane in my hand. ‘


Man kills his friend for “poking his girlfriend” on Facebook in 2014, Wife killed for changing Facebook status to “single” in 2009, being grounded from Myspace drives teen to shoot his dad in 2008, social media is making us sick. Here’s the thing, we are the first generation that have grown up with social media as a part of our everyday life. We are the first generation that have grown up with social media literally attached to us and we’re the first generation that are always on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Messenger. The smartphone is just the modern day, digital syringe, a syringe that gives you a little kick of dopamine every single time you receive a like. Social media is the biggest drug dealer in the world and I too am guilty of being addicted. We, as teenagers and some already adults, don’t realise how frequently we check our phones, just out of habit rather than need. It is quite scary that for the vast majority of young people, our lives are run 24/7 by mobile notifications and, will undoubtedly have us coming back to social media 85 times a day, regardless. Contrastingly, social media has its perks. Communicating with people around the world and people right next door. Sharing our personal information couldn’t be easier in today’s society, having the ability to do so at the palms of our hands and the ends of our fingertips. Sharing information such as where we had breakfast, what we ate at breakfast and who we had breakfast with. Through social media, all breaking news could not be communicated quicker than the 7 News Facebook page. Providing us with daily intel and reports from lost dogs to extreme terrorist attacks. Major news outlets and corporations rely on social media to deliver messages to the masses. Providing us with global natural disaster relief support, starting campaigns, movements and a hashtags such as the most recent #we love Manchester. Increased teen awareness is important, and social media is one of the best outlets to reach the minds of young people to make a real difference. But, notifications are the heart and soul of the syringe, the liquid that harms the mind and poisons it. It is what makes you decide to go onto your phone and scroll. Social media allows us to compare everything just by scrolling, and we do. Relationships, diet, figure, hair, clothes, holidays, lifestyles, but not just with our friends, with total strangers and celebrities. These are false comparisons, we’re comparing filtered fabricated highlight reels to our own raw behind

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Social Media Is Making Us Sick

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the scenes footage. You can’t say that that isn’t doing more damage than it is good. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy sending out snapchats, it’s honestly everyone’s guilty pleasure. But this wasn’t the case for 14 year old Deserae Turner who was shot on February the 16th 2017 by two teenage boys because her texts and snapchats were annoying. The alleged shooting happened in Logan, Utah and the two boys now have been charged with attempted murder as well as aggravated robbery and obstruction of justice. I’ll just let that sink in for a second. She was shot, because her snapchats were annoying. It’s not right. Yet, it is the aftermath of the injection, the effect on the brain. These are the things that social media makes you think, and just to be perceived as more popular, to have more followers or to even silence a young girl. If you imagine this for a second, our grandparents grew up in a time where their whole world was the room they were currently seated in and the people and problems within it. That was the size of their world. It was the size of their front room. To this generation when we pick up our smartphone, our world is enormous. There are billions of people in the room, millions of problems, feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, terror attacks, political intentions, fear, sadness. Every person you know and don’t is there and gold stars are being given out in the form of likes and followers to those that look the best, are the funniest and say the most interesting things. What an incredibly hard world for a young person, trying to find themselves, to grow up in. So for all it’s good, social media is a new and dangerous platform of technology that is making us sick. Ultimately, there is no way to run from this syringe, but, to slowly obliterate an addiction you need to use it less and less, as Gary Turk once said: “I am guilty too, of being part of this machine, this digital world, where we are heard but not seen. Where we type and don’t talk, where we read as we chat, where we spend hours together, without making eye contact. So look up from your phone, shut down that display, take in your surroundings, and make the most of today.” ‘


I left Dad’s house this morning at 8:30am to catch the early train to work. At the train station, I bought my ticket and boarded the first train, leaving from platform 2 at 8:47am. It was only one stop to Cronulla and I would usually walk, but it was hot this morning and I didn’t feel that I could face it. Fresh scratches coated the inside of the carriage. Spray-painted slurs decorated the walls. I had noticed them more and more over the last few weeks, but maybe that was all in my head. Dad told me that the news reports were getting it wrong – it wasn’t us against them; it was us trying to protect our beaches. Protect them from what? I wondered. Doesn’t everyone deserve the beach? Yesterday’s newspaper lay on the seat across from me. I had already read it, but I picked it up and flicked to the back to find the horoscopes. Aries, a challenge awaits you! Face it head on and look for the answers to the problems you face. The Cronulla stop was called and I stepped out onto the platform, walking towards the newsagency. It always felt hotter in Cronulla, and I had never seen a place with so many flies. The plastic strips hanging in the doorway did little to protect us. A buzz constantly filled my ears; but that may also have been the fan, struggling against the heat. I worked Monday to Friday with the owners, Gina and Alan Farah. There was also a fourth person on shift, who regularly changed as people moved through the town. But today, it was just the three of us. Gina was a stout woman, with a round face, her hair covered by a hijab. She would sit behind the counter and partake in one of two activities. She would either watch the small TV hanging in the corner or talk on the phone for hours to women I could only assume also lived here, dropping in and out of English. Sometimes, she would do both at the same time. Alan, the quieter of the two, spent a lot of time pacing between the shelves and counting stock. They were kind people and I enjoyed working silently alongside them. The shop itself was very small. There was a counter, a few low shelves and a fridge. In the corner there was a door, leading out to the back where Alan would take his breaks. I was making $10 an hour to stock these shelves. I know that this was more that they could afford to pay me, but every time I raised it, Gina would just shake her head and smile. They were kind people. At 9:00, the glass door opened just as it did every day. A small peeling sticker in the corner of the pane read, You will be kicked out if

A Fresh Start Zahara Cox

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A Fresh Start

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you cause a scene. If you are thinking of making trouble, do not come in! Gina handwrote it. Since the notice had gone up a few weeks ago, we had had barely any customers. I spent this morning refilling the ice cream freezer and straightening the rows of postal envelopes. I had thought it was funny that these envelopes would make it further out into the world than I ever could. I had been accepted into a course in the centre of town, but I was struggling to decide. Part of me wanted to get out and away from this place, but I also didn’t know life without it, life beyond these beachside suburbs. My thoughts were interrupted by Alan shutting the glass door. This meant it was break time. He flipped the sign on the front. Back in fifteen minutes. There was a routine at this time. At 11:30 sharp the door would close and each of us stopped work to conduct a small and selfish activity. Gina would take one of the newspapers from the table next to the counter and rip out the crossword page. She handed me the rest to flip through and find the horoscopes. Alan would walk out to the stoop and sit peacefully smoking his hookah pipe, absorbed in thought. I took the horoscopes to the back and sat with my back against the fridge, the cool glass providing some relief from the heat. Aries, it’s time for a new beginning. Start afresh or pick up a new hobby! I loved the horoscopes. I always imagined an old man sitting writing them. How did he know what I needed to hear? How did he know the answer? They were my source of comfort, giving the answers that Dad couldn’t always give. Pisces, someone close to you is drifting but don’t hold them back. It’s best for both to let them go. When I had read that this morning, I had thought that maybe Dad’s was about someone I didn’t know. It didn’t sound right. I heard the screen door click as Alan returned. A thick musk of smoke followed him. After hours, you would still be able to smell it, stronger when the fan blew towards him. I often wondered what he thought about out there on the stoop. He was not the kind of person who would simply answer you. He would begin, but quickly become lost in his thoughts of home. He and Gina didn’t have any family here. The next few hours passed quite calmly. The mundanity of the work had led me to thoughts of the future. I didn’t want to stay here forever; I was sure of that. But how could I leave Dad? I wanted more than this.


I looked up and caught the eye of a young man across the street. Tapping his mates, he nodded in my direction. There was something familiar about him; maybe we had gone to school together. Alan moved quickly towards the door, shutting it and switching the bottom locked. We pretended that we hadn’t seen them. It had happened a few times in the last few weeks, a few blokes coming around to annoy the Farahs. I didn’t understand how anyone could look at Alan and see him as a threat, nor Gina. Today, they were different. The men looked drunk, staggering and pressing their faces up against the glass. We kept working as if they weren’t there. We were animals in a zoo, passers-by peering in. I crouched down and started dusting off the rows of magazines. Every day, fewer people came in. Every day, more and more stood outside. Without warning, a pane of glass broke, spilling out onto the floor. Why don’t you come out ya wogs? One of them shouted. Oi, we grew here, you flew here! They all erupted into laughter. The voices faded as they walked away, leaving the shop littered with glass. When I stood up, I could see that they had also knocked over the newspaper stand outside. Pages of ignored advice and guidance danced across the pavement. Something was telling them that they were better, that they had the right to do this. It was disgusting. Alan and Gina said nothing; they just quietly began to sweep up the shards, careful not to miss any. It made me sick. I couldn’t bring myself to apologize. It wasn’t as if I had done it, But I felt as if I had. I couldn’t feel hard done by either. After all, I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t the one who had to face it every day. After the glass had been cleared up, we went back to work, as if nothing had ever happened. My anger boiled all afternoon, almost uncontrollably. I had to get out; I could not stay there anymore. At the end of the day, Gina handed me $60 out of the till. I smiled at her and left. At the train station, I bought my ticket and boarded the first train on the platform. Now, sitting on this train, I started to feel better. Better now that I was away from them. I have decided I’ll call Dad when I get to Sydney and tell him that I am all right and not to worry and that I will visit soon. After all Aries, it’s time for a new beginning. ‘

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The Perfect Recipe Calida Evans

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I am fifteen and in the kitchen of a – seventy-year old woman, halfheartedly meeting the community service requirements for high school. Her kitchen is cramped but clean, each ingredient packed away in little Tupperware containers, labelled in red permanent marker. Susan is plump and wrinkled like a prune, speaking in the voice of an immigrant who has lived here long enough to mimic the tone and pace of the Australian language. “And the butter has to be cold,” she tells me, “or the whole thing will fall apart”. She unwraps and discards the shiny metallic wrapper of the block of unsalted butter, then begins to cube it. Her living room is a tapestry of world cuisine. Her bookcases are filled with dozens of cookbooks from all around the world, yellowed and frayed, each dog-eared and annotated in grey, spidery writing. 1 stick = 1/2 cup. She measures meticulously, tapping the measuring cup’s level with flour, scraping the bowl clean with small, shrivelled hands. In the term I spend with Susan, I will never work out exactly where she came from. It is the middle of November and I have to complete twenty hours of community service before term’s end. The other girls are working in libraries, op shops, and sports teams. There are a dozen old people closer to home who meet the criteria, but I choose Susan, three train stops away, so that once the whole thing is over I’ll never have to see her again. After school, I take the short cut home, ducking under the trees, and scramble up the small hump of a hill. I squat behind the wattle tree and listen, kneading my hands into the dirt, feeling for the vibrations of the coming train. I bring Susan her groceries every Saturday morning, and sit with her until noon when I tell her I have netball training. This is a lie, a short cut. Susan’s children are proudly displayed in a row of photos above the kitchen bench, next to the magnetic knife rack. A son in Germany, a daughter in Taiwan. “The perfect pie crust has only three ingredients. No need to make it more complicated than it already is.” 3:2:1 is scrawled above the recipe, in a red and white chequered 1972 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The golden ratio for a golden pie crust. I grimace at the knives and watch my reflection twist. “See? Not so hard, is it. Now that you know the recipe, there’s no need to cheat with those pre-made pastry sheets”.


I am sitting at the back of the classroom, doodling mountains and birds in my maths workbook. Eight more days until the holidays when I will leave for Queensland to see my father. I will have finished my mandatory community service, complete with a form bearing Susan’s illegible signature as proof. The wind caresses the windows of the red brick building, howling and moaning above the drawl of tenth grade algebra. a = 3, b = 2. These are the answers at the back of the textbook, hastily copied into my book, so I can pretend I’ve done the work. I am balanced precariously on the hind legs of my chair, and the future is as incomprehensible as my maths homework. That night the telly will tell me that eight people have died from asthma attacks caused by pollen swept into the air by a storm. Tiny bullets caught up in roundabout winds, each loaded with potential to kill. “Unprecedented,” the experts will say on the late-night news, “unheard of ”. I will sit on the couch alone and I will feel weightless. In one of the long silences between the steps of the recipe, I mention yesterday’s thunderstorm and the asthma attacks to Susan. Her arms are wrist deep into the bowl of dough, the fat hanging between her shoulder and elbow jiggling, skin creased and boiled like pork crackling. There is flour on the floor below her feet. She pauses, still, as if frozen. “My brother died from an asthma attack when I was seven.” Then she is in motion, kneading, pounding, turning flour and water and butter into dough. “Oh,” floats out of my mouth, “I’m sorry,” We stand in silence and peel the apples. I nick my finger with the blade and feel the juice sting and mingle with blood. “His puffer ran out. We were too far away from a doctor to save him.” “I’m sorry,” I echo. I inhale the scent of spices, tangy apples, and lemon, and hold that precious breath in the cavity of my chest. My mother is never home when I wake up. I stand at the crest of the hill and look along the train tracks, towards the country. The straps of my school bag dig into my back as I think of Susan’s brother bent over and breathless. I will not cross the tracks. It is the end of December. I know Susan’s pie recipe off by heart. School rings home when I don’t turn up for school the third day in a row. My mother’s face turns sour and her porky fingers clench

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around the phone. We eat in silence: takeout from up the road, and greasy sauce paints the roof of my mouth. I watch her stare unblinking at the television. Under the blue-white brightness, I feel the space between us gape emptily. Later that night I hear my mother sobbing on the phone from the hallway: great, big, choking sobs. I am solid and heavy, sinking. Susan’s coffee cups are delicate and white. Pulling an oddly shaped, ornately decorated pot out from under the sink she motions for me to sit at the dining table. “This is a cezve. It has to be copper, not steel,” she says filling the pot with water, then dumping in two heaped spoons of ground coffee, then a hearty pinch of sugar. The words tumble melodically out of her mouth. “We put it on the heat, but never to boil.” She shows me the pot, and the bubbling froth reminds me of molten lava bursting, like in the David Attenborough documentaries my science teacher shows us when she is tired of teaching. “And we heat it up again,” she says. An acrid fragrance wafts through the air. “Coffee is to be served with water”, she informs me, passing me a tall glass, “to cleanse the palate.” Susan hands me a cup. I take a cautious sip: it is strong but not bitter. “Stop, stop,” Susan interjects. I set the coffee cup down, startled. “I’m going to tell your fortune.” I blink. Her face is as earnest as when she is hands deep in dough. Susan takes my cup, and places a saucer over it, tipping it upside down, letting the liquid pool out. Then she turns it back over and peers into it as if she is looking through a telescope. “Look. There, mountains.” I nod, even though I can see nothing but abstract shapes and lines, brown coffee grounds against white porcelain. “There is turbulence ahead,” Susan says. My innards are painting the sides of the cup. “But … Aha! Birds — that’s good news. You will face challenges, but you will soar above them.” In the holidays, my father will ignore me for another woman in a series of one night stands, each with the potential to succeed, yet none fitting in to the recipe of a relationship. I will find myself standing in the baking aisle of Coles, bright lights above me, reflective floor below me. I will seize the two-kilogram packet of


flour — the unbranded, cheap stuff, and I will hold it against my chest, rocking back onto my heels. Then I will throw it into the ground and watch flour burst up into the air like a flock of birds, and as it settles I will try to divine my future from the shapes and patterns. ‘

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Untitled Sophie He Allan Patterson Public Speaking Award Finalist

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Otto Warmbier: After a trip to North Korea, the American student was arrested for stealing a political poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. 18 months later, after intervention by the US government, North Korean authorities released Otto… brain-dead and in a coma. Six days later, he was pronounced dead. Otto’s story brought to light the vile human rights abuses that have been perpetrated in North Korea since 1953 including but not limited to extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, abduction and persecution. Under the rule of dictator Kim Jong-Un, North Korea is the most oppressive regime on Earth. It systematically carries out some of the darkest crimes against humanity that, according to the UN Commission of Inquiry, ‘do not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’ It is now clearer than ever. We must do more to confront the human rights atrocities in North Korea. Unfortunately, current efforts to rescue the people of the Hermit Kingdom have reached a standstill. Military action is not feasible, because the country’s leaders have promised an “annihilating strike” in the event of US invasion. Diplomatic negotiations are impossible, because the government regularly breaks treaties. Sanctions are ineffective, because the country’s authorities simply don’t care. They willingly allow more than 18 million citizens to starve. Kim Hye-Sook: Imprisoned for 28 years because her grandfather had escaped to South Korea: ‘I was plagued with hunger from the day I entered the prison camp. The guards would signal us to put our hands behind our backs and kneel, then raise our heads and open our mouths. They’d spit phlegm into our mouths and if we swallowed, they wouldn’t hit us. But if we gagged, they would beat us badly.’ The truth is, rescuing the people of North Korea is not easy. But the dismissal of the country’s crimes on the grounds of failed intervention tactics or because it is too hard is inexcusable at best, and deadly at worst. As seen in the Holocaust, the Cambodian killing fields and the Rwandan genocide, we would rather not see what is happening until forced to look, and by then, it’s too late. When one of our own


ends up murdered, we pay attention –but only for a while. This is not good enough. If we turn our heads and pretend we can’t do anything then we too are guilty. It’s time that we did more to end the suffering of these North Koreans because there ARE other solutions. Firstly, the International Criminal Court must hold individuals of the North Korean regime accountable for their crimes. Since 2014, the UN has attempted to refer this human rights crisis to the ICC but North Korea’s allies, China and Russia, have vetoed this every time. If these two countries abstain from voting against a Security Council resolution, then the ICC could finally punish leaders of the regime, who would not be able to hide behind the sovereignty of their state. Secondly, we must pressure China to stop funding the regime through back channels. As the only nation with cordial relations with North Korea, China’s economic ties to the North should be the leverage that forces change, not the reason it never comes. In addition, over 30,000 defectors have escaped the regime through China. However, a great proportion of escapees are repatriated and sent back to North Korea by Chinese authorities. Human Rights Watch has found that on return, these defectors all faced torture, imprisonment or execution. Through whatever means, incentives, or sanctions, China must stop its violation of international law in forcing refugees back to North Korea. Jee Heon: In a prison camp after being repatriated from China, she witnessed a woman being ordered to drown her newborn baby. The guard kept beating this mother who had just given birth. With shaking hands, the mother picked up the baby and held its face down in the water. After a few seconds, the baby stopped crying. Otto Warmbier, Kim Hye-Sook and Jee Heon are only three of the millions of people who have suffered at the hands of the North Korean dictatorship. We must not forget that behind the nuclear threats, behind the absurd manipulation of the leaders and behind the simplistic facade of self-isolation, lies the 25 million people whose suffering is unimaginable. With the global news circuit currently fixated on North Korea’s nuclear threat to peace, we must be reminded that this is not about North Korea’s military, nor is it about Kim Jong-Un. And this is certainly not about us. This is

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about Otto, Kim and Jee. This is about the victims of a vicious regime that has survived for 64 years too long. North Korea is undeniably a human rights black hole and human rights are not rights if not distributed to all. So, it is time for us to step up and confront North Korea’s human rights abuses, once and for all. ‘


‘Christmas is our peak period, so make sure you come to me if there’s anything that you don’t understand,’ said the manager on my first day at work. I nodded and returned her smile, trying to ignore how her eyes lingered on the thick cotton of my hijab. I understood her curiosity, in Australia they do not cover very much flesh at all, but the questioning glint in her eyes only served to remind me that I am an outsider in this country. In Australia, many people take concealing of the body as suspicious behaviour, as if you have something to hide. If I were a true Australian, I would wear miniskirts, bare my arms or let my hair run wild across my shoulders. That is what it feels like working in Australia and walking the streets of Melbourne, a clear misunderstanding of my ideals as a Muslim. It has been a year since my younger sister and I arrived in Australia; however, it is yet to feel like home. In the city, towers stretch up to reach the clouds, and the sand beneath our feet has turned into grey concrete. My sister, on the other hand, is captivated by this new world of light and colour. She finds wonder in the everyday Western items, such as the blonde woman in the toothbrush advertisement in Parliament Station and the shop in the Emporium that sells every variety of perfumed soap. In the staffroom, my co-workers describe what they love best about Australia, as if it were an auction and I was the bidder. ‘You have to try some of the bars in Fitzroy,’ one eagerly explains, oblivious to the Islamic rules that forbid places allocated for the use of Haram activities. ‘Forget those stingy joints, head to the Mornington Peninsula and check out the best beaches in Melbourne!’ I hate the beach, I would think to myself. I spent two months walking across the terrain of the Jordanian Desert, waiting for my turn to feel the burning of sand in my eyes. On the beach, the sand and the sea meet in a tender lapping, fooling a belief of calamity and promising safe passage to a supposedly better place. ‘What do you like best about Melbourne so far? Don’t you think it’s beautiful?’ they ask, and ‘Are you grateful to be here?’ I feel as though I am back in Germany, in that little white room with the bald man asking me weird questions that will discern whether or not I am innocent. Whether or not I will be allowed into Australia. ‘Australia is great,’ I say in my limited English. ‘I look forward to the beach.’ My father used to teach my sister and me English verbs and phrases after he came home from work, quietly and behind

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closed doors. Women were not viewed as worthy of an education back home, but father did not see it like that. My younger sister was always eager to learn about Western culture and life outside of our small village, but I was more reserved. I worried about breaking the rules, about what the neighbours would say if they found out. ‘Education is power,’ father would say. ‘Find your courage Aalyia. Watch, observe and learn.’ When I could work the cash register perfectly after only watching the manager use it twice, I could detect the questioning flicker in her eyes begin to diminish. ‘Alright, not bad, but that was only the easy part. When those front doors open, the storm of customers will soar in, and we’ve got to perform at our best to please them,’ she said, maintaining a watchful eye on me from across the room. Making sure I’m doing everything right. Sometimes I wonder what people think of me, and the country that I have fled from. Are they suspicious that I am here for the wrong reasons? That I am not fleeing the violence, but working alongside it? The brutality of ISIS has undoubtedly cultivated fear here, in Western countries like Australia, but we too, Muslims, have felt this terror. I felt this terror when the sand filled up my shoes and acted as anchors as I ran across the desert. As tears became salty wounds on my skin and my sister and I let the militants into our house and took away our father – left our mother behind, and fled with nothing but a bag of wilted grain in our hands. We were in the middle of the Jordanian Desert when the storm circled around us like a dark swirl of cinnamon and sandpapered my eyes until they were dry and raw. My sister also works on Bourke Street but in David Jones. She feels free here, unrestrained by religion or by father. Sometimes I envy her naivete, and wish to see the world through her eyes. But I can see the evil in this world, in this life. Sometimes I see flashes of home, of my mother smiling reassuringly as the militants order my father to follow them outside, holding massive guns to their chests. Sometimes I see just a glimpse of my father’s face, calm and steady and prepared, nodding respectfully at the men and kissing my mother goodbye, making sure to close the door behind him. A goat peacefully rests his head against the open window and watches my mother cry silent tears.


The refugee camp outside the German border was chaotic. There were hundreds of people just like us, sleeping on the ground and rocking crying babies. My sister could tell that I was in pain, even when I insisted that the storm hadn’t inflicted any damage. She could always read me better than I could myself, and went straight to a volunteer worker and asked for help. With only a tablespoon of dirty water to spare, they removed sand from my eyes, and the man said I could have been blinded if it had been left in there any longer. My sister had saved my vision. My sister does not speak very good English, but she is full of excitement and wonder about our new home. She found a new sushi restaurant called CJ Lunch Bar on Little Lonsdale Street, and insists we go there for lunch. I can only imagine what mother would think of us eating crab rolled in seaweed. It is Australia’s Christmas, and the crowd of shoppers push us side to side like a runt of piglets burying for his share of limited milk. Lines of jubilant children and parents stretch from the windows at Myer, and I remember my coworkers describing the wooden puppets that dance with colourful lights and cardboard buildings. Christmas is not a holiday celebrated in our religion, and only reminds me of the family we left behind. My sister, on the other hand, is captivated by the string of red, green and gold paper bells swirling in the breeze above and the trams that travel straight through the crowd. We see other Muslim women in the city. With their husbands, with their children. I wonder if they are also refugees, and if the militants destroyed their village as well. When my sister and I were at the refugee camp we looked at hundreds of different faces, of different people fleeing the danger and the violence. What if they are also here in Melbourne? What if they are working on Bourke Street, putting thin dresses on metal coat hangers while their manager watches them from across the room, silently questioning? As my sister and I begin to walk down a city lane, the aroma of hot spaghetti and basil floats from the little restaurants on either side. I’m reminded of the nights when father would bring home a few extra pounds from work, and our house would fill with wet steam from the large pot of rice and beef that mother cooked to celebrate. ‘It looks like a picture I saw in a book about Paris!’ my sister says, charmed by the families who dine outside and children

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who sip on cordial the same shade of apricot as my hijab. As the chatter and scraping of plates fades behind us, my sister and I join the small cluster of people waiting at the red light on Lonsdale Street. Beside me, a tall man in a suit quarrels on his phone about what to buy his mother for Christmas. Just as I’m about to turn towards my sister and ask if she’d rather eat lunch in Hardware Lane instead, the tall man shouts ahead at something on the road. In the path of oncoming traffic, I see my sister standing wideeyed and afraid; a small figure among the monstrous cars that race past on either side. She must have forgotten about the lights that shine varying colours, green for go and red for stop. We did not see this technology in Syria. She did not see the red light across the road. My feet feel like anchors, as if they are bogged down with swirling sand and I push past the crowd, wrapping my body around my sister in an attempt to protect her from the impact that I know is about to come. Mu’qqibat. Above, I can see the blur of clouds swirl around each other and fade, slowly and gently, into a vision of darkening gold. ‘


I had always wanted to visit the desert and there we were. The tour guide’s 4x4 roared as it struggled over the mountainous dunes of the Simpson Desert. The rectangular confines of my car window made the desert seem like a freeze-frame of an amber-coloured ocean. My son found the car ride thrilling, laughing every time the car swayed from left to right and slid down the dunes as if it was a fisherman’s boat on treacherous waters. I was relieved he had stopped talking about all the things he learned on Thursday in Science. He was learning about the theory of evolution. How could you tell a tenyear old that you frankly had no interest in the peppered moth and how it changes the colour of its wings to adapt to new environments? You couldn’t. I just bit my tongue and observed the amber-coloured painting. My Charlie was young and curious, helplessly infatuated and thrilled by the world and the wild. Once we reached the top of the dune, Charlie and my husband excitedly exited the vehicle and entered the painting. I opened my door and as they ran ahead I searched for a place to sit. I sat on top of one of the currents and observed its peaks and troughs. I heard the low moan of the wind. The sea of sand churned in its troughs. As I rested, I could feel the crunch of the letter in my back pocket, probably already laced with sand. I thought of pulling it out and re-reading it, but quickly dismissed the thought. The low moan turned into a hiss and I looked out across the arid landscape; all those tiny particles of sand, gently surrendering to the wind. The house I grew up in was a worn-down excuse for a home in a small coastal town in New South Wales. Due to an overwhelming feeling of being unwelcome with in my adoptive parents’ house, I would stay out until dark with my best friend, Lornie. I remember playing hide and seek and tiggy behind the shacks and onto the teacher together after school. I still remember the pain I felt in my feet after an afternoon of playing on hot sand laced with pine cones and broken glass from the pub across the road. And falling asleep to the soft hiss of the wind whistling through the gaps in the ceiling. Even after it all happened, the drama, tears and police reports, I always felt guilty for leaving Lornie behind. While sitting on my porch in the middle of the night on my eighteenth birthday, my getaway back as a cushion, I looked at the shacks for the very last time. I let the sand spill out of my runners, the final remnants, before I began my long journey to Sydney, leaving the sea behind me.

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One week later, desperate for rebirth, I took the bus down to the New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry in Chippendale and I changed my name. Just like the peppered moth, I had traded in my old wings for new ones. That night, I bought a bottle of cheap champagne and spent the evening meticulously washing sand out of my clothes. Now after our return from the dunes, I felt restless and found myself walking the city streets of Adelaide. The city had evolved since the last time I visited. The population had grown and the skyscrapers had grown with it. Just as the dunes, Adelaide’s skyline had adapted its peaks and troughs. I found an empty park bench on Rundle Mall and sat alone with my ruminations. Among the sound of other people’s conversations, I could hear the rustle of the trees and the growing whistle of the wind. What was it that drew me away from my family and took me on a walk in the city streets of Adelaide that day? Perhaps it was a sudden rise in energy? Nostalgia? Or was it the contents of the letter that sat, crumpled and torn at the edges in my back pocket. How did she find me after all these years? I felt an anxiety growing in the pit of my stomach. I inhaled, I exhaled. Funny thing, fate is, it draws you away from something, or someone, just to draw you back to them twenty years later. I looked down at my phone and opened the letter. The address I put in was correct and I was a two-minute walking distance away. The wind was growing now, and seemingly, so was the stream of people, all moving purposefully down Rundle Mall. Conflicted yet curious, I stood up and joined the stream taking the direction of the address on my phone. As I turned the corner onto Hyde Street, a strong headwind hit my face. I wasn’t certain if I had the courage to see her again. Her letter had caused memories and feelings to resurface, memories and feelings I had convinced myself were buried in the past. In the letter, she had explained how she felt after it all happened, just after I ran away, and how she had to go as well. She moved to Adelaide, no longer able to stand the people in our coastal town. She wrote about how she too hasn’t revisited the town and how, determined to reinvent herself, had gone to university and become a dentist. “If you’re ever in Adelaide, please come see me at my clinic. 15B Hyde Street, Adelaide CBD, SA .” I looked down at my phone for the confirmation that I was not sure I wanted. I was there.


Seeing her name on the window pane was like seeing a ghost. Doctor Lorna Fitzgerald. I stood there, frozen and breathless. Her mother was the only one who called her Lorna. To me, she was simply Lornie. Don’t you girls turn out like the people in the shacks! I can still hear her mother’s warning tone at the back of my mind. A dentist, Lornie certainly didn’t turn out like those ‘people in the shacks’. I felt consumed by the dark memories of the past and unable to confront them and the guilt I felt for leaving Lornie, without an explanation all those years ago. The wind was growing now and time was running out. I felt as if I was standing on the threshold of my present and past lives. A part of me wanted to move forward and reunite with Lornie, to make up for lost years, but my feet wouldn’t let me. Instead, I turned around, giving in to the wind which blew me back to the hotel, back to my husband and son. Back to the present. When I returned to the hotel, something came over me. I felt changed. I wandered on to the balcony, sat down and watched the city traffic under me. Inhale. Exhale. The breeze was softer now, more forgiving. I looked down at my shoes, up again at the sunset and took them off. I tipped my loafers on the side of the balcony and watched amber sand from the Simpson stream out like water. All those little particles, surrendering to the force of the wind as they washed over the Adelaide skyline. ‘

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Xylem Felicity Smith

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The shop opens promptly at 8:01 am each morning. The howling sea breeze crawls up the hill and through the shop window, drifting and frolicking among sea shell ornaments, pictures framed by musky wood and glazed counters of quartz and howlite, until it becomes trapped. ‘Miranda! Get back here and help me with the sheets!’ Mum yells, trampling the weed beds out the back under her thick and hideous brown thongs. Mum doesn’t mean to be harsh, but she has to in order for our work to be done, for the household to survive. Debt is a cruel mistress. Even Sunday, the Lord’s proclaimed day of rest, comes with bucket loads of work and at least thirty customers. Not any sales though. Never on a Sunday. The back of the shop is an absolute junkyard, where straw is spun into gold. That’s why I call my brother Mitch Rumplestiltskin, the Trickster, when he isn’t busy terrifying the cats with wooden swords Dad crafted for his birthday and picking up stuff along the beach. Stones, jars of sand, shells that bloom open like dahlias growing outside the little Italian café. Mitch is turning eight soon, still too young to help with much of the work in the shop and the house. Liam promised we’d meet some time this weekend. I thought back to our last date — his hands in my hair, the whispers and the taste of his lips. Liam has a strong dislike for woodwork: being a chef, the only wood he uses are the logs that splutter and split open in the fire. In they go, Miranda, isn’t the smell romantic? I wanted to tell him no, that the smell is only good when the logs are fresh from the earth, still full of life. Between the work for the shop, my other shifts, and the household preparation for the arrival of Aunt Lydia’s baby who has been sent to live with us, I don’t know if I’ll have the time to meet up with Liam. His parents aren’t rich, his home — like mine, is a shack in comparison to the luxurious hotels that the tourists stay in as they sip Margarita Mocktails and tan in the sun. Liam works three shifts, six days a week. At least he gets one day off. Not Sunday though. Never Sunday. I need to drive up into the ranges tomorrow. I need the higher, clearer air that is sweet. I need… I need… the smooth firmness that doesn’t grow along the beach, that doesn’t hide in rock pools. I need the feeling of Victorian Ash beneath my hands. The gouge of my


carving knife sinking into Dark Red Meranti. After all, what comes from the forest must return to it. I was born early, born in those ranges; on one of the leisurely long walks my parents took before they became knee deep in debt. Autumn is just around the corner. My lips are wet with the idea of wood. I can taste it, nearly. I borrowed a book on Buddhism from the information desk the other day on impulse. The corner of the new yellow building with the gargantuan ‘i’ sign has a bookshelf people can borrow from. It has ‘Peter Rabbit’ among other children’s books, books so crumpled and soft you can believe you are fingering tissue, feathers, and air instead of something that was once rough and seemingly unbreakable. Buddhism. The tranquil peace. One of the Chinese immigrants must have donated it. I took one look at the cover: a female Buddha seated on a lotus flower, with heaven and ocean and dragons at her command, and thought of the new reliefs I could finally sell. What are they called? Mandalas. They are all the trend now. I drive the truck out, bees and other furry things buzzing inside me. I need to be near the trees again, I need work that isn’t white and dazzling and caves under each touch like the tide beneath the moon. I can taste xylem and sap. At the lumberyard, I settle for pine and cherry. Really, I couldn’t be affording anything else. Dad is the manager of the shop. Mum is the accountant, but in truth she dictates everything. Every cent is carefully laid out, and slotted into a category of expense. Nothing extra can be spared. I can hardly remember the last time Mitch received a proper birthday present, like the superhero costumes kids of the families on holidays wear to the local park, like the toy trucks and shovels they use in the sand pit. And Aunt Lydia’s child — she’ll grow up with kids laughing at her, for the holes in her socks and shoes, for not having the trendy hair accessories all the other girls have. She’ll wear hand-me down clothes from when Mitch was younger. Don’t look so sad, I’ll find you gold someday, at the end of the rainbow! Liam promises so much. There is no gold here. There is driftwood, abandoned and lost. It washes up along the shore and I cradle it like a child, wet, worn,

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drowned. I feel the life leave, the rich colours — chocolate, syrup, burnt umber, fade to grey — like charcoal. I trace hard smoothness in a cold embrace, and realize the wood will never become anything in this life again. That’s when I have to return it. The wind that washes over the white cliffs smells of eucalyptus and pine. What comes from the forest must return to it. ‘Liam.’ Just one word. Moist and seductive. ‘Miranda.’ But he doesn’t say my name back in that way. Instead, his voice is weary. He is scraping soggy scraps off the plates at the restaurant bench, sandy hair matted with sweat. My fingers ache. I want to brush the hair away from his eyes. ‘Do you need something?’ Oh yes, I need something. But he is far too busy, too busy for anyone else. ‘Oh, nothing. Just popping in to say hi.’ The truth is I bargained an hour away from the shop. One hour of life and the work it contains skid out the door. There is a price to pay for everything, for what one has taken and left to decay and grow ugly with copper rust. ‘You sure are hanging around here a lot recently. I don’t have time for any of this. My income isn’t gonna earn itself, not unless you wanna help with my work.’ Liam is always too busy. His promises go to waste. ‘Will you be home tonight?’ He looks up at me for the first time, in confusion. I almost drop the idea. But I don’t. ‘Yeah! Where else will I freaking be?’ ‘With me.’ My voice is so low it struggles to stay steady, to have the power I want in it. ‘Go home, Miranda!’ ‘I–’ ‘Go home!’ The idea is burning, scalding. ‘Liam. Do you love me?’ My entire body is aching. ‘You know I don’t have time for this.’ The idea is molten. Nothing stands a chance against the roaring flames and devouring inferno. I wash my face in the dim and flickering bathroom light. Dab gently around the scar on my cheek that hasn’t quite healed yet. Liam’s scar. One night when we were out along the beach he drank to keep himself awake. I don’t think it worked. He smashed a bottle on the


Brunswick green rocks—the colours so deep and rich you wouldn’t think rocks were rocks; in the shallows, the spray lit up in the moonlight. He wailed and somewhere with the rough wind whipping about us in the dark I felt a sting and warmth flooded my face. I went home after that, leaving him stranded on the beach and swearing at nothing. The naked bulb flickers again, brightness fading. Mum always said: Do what your heart tells you to do. I’d follow that advice, any advice Mum gives. The mirror has grime on it. I get dressed for the cold night, wrapping the checkered scarf round and round my neck, right as a noose. Stalk out of the house, muttering an excuse to Dad who stands smoking on the street corner. Trek up the hill, bushes clawing about, filled with anticipation. They know what is to come. The spark of the lighter in my pocket rocks and hums with the wind and trees, angry to be confined to its cradle, eager to grow. The house is quiet. I suppose it’s late for Liam’s family, being better off, having shorter work hours. My fingers flick on the lighter, and the rocking reaches its peak; the humming escalates to roaring. My gloved hands dance through the shocking red, yellows, oranges; it’s easy to forget such colours, such a fiery element existed. Hot tendrils reach out with carnivorous desire. I throw my head back to the stars and laugh, hearing the sound resonate again and again. Laugh and laugh – perhaps I’ll get back the time I have lost. I gaze through the smoke and fire, and allow myself to think fondly one last time: Liam, isn’t the smell romantic? I imagine myself walking home happy and dandy and telling Mitch a bedtime story. Instead, I walk home slowly and distractedly. And I find myself back in the yard with a Tilley lamp and the planks. Sawing. Working away in silence. There are saplings, fresh and green and crisp as spring, growing amongst the ashes and darkened earth. Like moonlight and mist, almost silver. That’s what they are. Alive. The land gives, and receives in turn, for what comes from the forest and earth must return to it. Now I crouch down to touch what I think is charred earth, but my fingers are betrayed by wetness. It is just the autumn rain. Xylem swells. The child will arrive. ‘

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Scribo, Scribere, Scripsi, Scriptus: Verb – To Write

Profile for Ruyton Girls' School

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Ruyton Girls' School Scripsi 2017

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Ruyton Girls' School Scripsi 2017