Poetic essay takes a stand against whaling and earns the major ‘What Matters?’ prize

Sheree Kuan

A powerful, narrative-style essay written from the perspective of a Minke Whale calf has been announced as the overall winner of the 2012 What Matters? essay competition.

Each year the What Matters? essay competition, hosted by the Whitlam Institute and proudly sponsored by Officeworks, invites school students to submit a 400-600 word opinion piece on the issues in society that are important to them.

In 2012, more than 3,500 entries were received from students in years 5-12, representing more than 200 schools across NSW and the ACT.

Anna Rose, co-founder and Chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and competition patron Dr Hugh Mackay, welcomed eight talented finalists to a special UWS Parramatta campus awards ceremony on Friday 17th August 2012.

Sheree Kuan

Sheree Kuan from MLC School in Burwood was originally judged as the winner of the 7/8 category of the What Matters? competition before taking out the overall prize.

Sheree’s winning entry, The Voice of the Whale, makes an impassioned plea for human beings to see sense – to “show some humanity” and put an end to the “vile, cruel and outrageous” practice of whaling.

Officeworks Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, Lucy Owens, says the unique structure of Sheree’s essay allowed the reader to become completely immersed in the story.

“Written from the point of view of a whale calf, Sheree’s story presents the heart-rending loss of a mother whale and compels the reader to question: Why is this still happening today?” says Ms Owens.

“Sheree wrote about a topic that is always surrounded by heated debate, and has delivered her essay with such eloquence. I found her entry to be poignant, sad and touching – The Voice of the Whale is a wonderful accomplishment, and a very deserving winner.”

2012 finalists

The What Matters? finalists for 2012

Director of the Whitlam Institute, Eric Sidoti, says Sheree Kuan’s winning essay is an evocative piece of writing with an almost poetic edge.

“Sheree brings a freshness to a subject that has long been in the public eye,” says Mr Sidoti.

"Every year, we are amazed at the high calibre of the entries, as well as the depth of young people’s understanding of issues that are of global significance. Sheree’s entry stood out to our judges for the way it balanced real human feeling with clear, logical reasoning.”

As the overall winner of the What Matters? competition Sheree was presented with $350 and a laptop and software package care of Officeworks and was offered a place in a full-day creative writing workshop, donated by The Writing Workshop.

Each competition finalist was also presented with a range of prizes, and five participating schools were awarded $1000 Officeworks spending sprees.


20 August 2012

Photos: Sally Tsoutas

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer