Powerful tale of refugees wins prestigious writing competition


A young high school student writing about the lives of refugees fleeing war has won this year's prestigious What Matters? Competition, with her powerful essay, "We Matter".

Saakshi Koul from Ryde Secondary College was chosen from a record field of 3871 as the winner of this year's competition, which asks children to put their thoughts into words and write about what matters to them.

At the awards ceremony held at the historic Female Orphan School, home to the Whitlam Institute, Saakshi and other category winners were announced from the thousands of entrants from across Years 5 to 12 in NSW, the ACT and Tasmania.

What Matters Finalists 

The young people who entered What Matters? this year have written thoughtfully and passionately on an incredible array of themes, including the importance of strong political leadership, human trafficking, feminism, child slavery and terrorism.

Saakshi Koul drew particular praise from the judging panel for her powerful story, which she wrote from the perspective of a refugee fleeing a war-torn country.

"The sad reality is that no matter how hard we try; a city never heals once hit by terrorism, because one incident of revenge leads to another."

"I pretend like it was simply a challenge in life that I was forced to overcome, but it shouldn't have happened to me, or to anyone in the world. People like me, are inflicted with a psychological disability for life. People like me matter.

"I sat next to my mother, squished beside her in the truck, as our bodies swung to the rhythm of the bumpy road. People like me, we matter," wrote Saakshi.

The 2016 What Matters? Writing Competition was judged by an esteemed panel of writers, journalists, academics and professionals:

  • Julie Hare, Higher Education Editor, The Australian 
  • Jennifer Rowe (aka Emily Rodda), author
  • Andrew West, Presenter, ABC Radio National
  • Eric Brace, Executive Educational Advisor, Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation
  • Dr Philippa Collin, Senior Research Fellow at The Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University 
  • Michael Campbell, Executive Director, WestWords

NSW/ACT Competition Finalists:

  • Year 5/6 Winner Darshanik Aryal, Harmony Matters, Ironbark Ridge Public School, Rouse Hill
  • Year 5/6 Runner Up Miriam Warwick-Smith, Relationships Matter, St Aidan's Primary, Rooty Hill
  • Year 7/8 Winner & Overall Winner Saakshi Koul, We Matter, Ryde Secondary College
  • Year 7/8 Runner Up Imogen Rogers, Music Matters, Penrith Christian School
  • Year 9/10 Winner Ramneek Thind, 21st Century Slavery, Blacktown Girls High School
  • Year 9/10 Runner Up Kirti Sharma, Human Trafficking – A crime against humanity, William Carey Christian School, Prestons
  • Year 11/12 Winner Madeleine Mott, We Matter, Holy Spirit College, Bellambi
  • Year 11/12 Runner Up Nicholas Raphael, Character Matters, William Clarke College, Kellyville
    Tasmania Competition Finalists:
  • Year 5/6 Winner Pearl Parker, Growing up without knowing my birth parents, Campbell Street Public School, North Hobart
  • Year 5/6 Runner Up Amelia Fahey-Hankey, Waiting for the Sunrise, South Hobart Public School
  • Year 7/8 Winner Jaimee Narracott, Somewhere in the world, Huonvile High School
  • Year 7/8 Runner Up Airlee Lawson, The story of one, Huonville High School
  • Year 9/10 Winner Jem Nalder, It's not just a game, Taroona High School
  • Year 9/10 Runner Up Stacey Fox, What Matters, Huonville High School
  • Year 11/12 Winner Chloe Last, You're not alone, Hellyer College, Burnie

    For interviews with finalists and Whitlam Institute Director Eric Sidoti, photo opportunities or more information please contact:
    Amy Sambrooke, Communications Manager, Whitlam Institute, 0421 784 253 or a.sambrooke@westernsydney.edu.au
    Jenna Beck, Communications Coordinator, Whitlam Institute, 0415 190 405 or j.beck@westernsydney.edu.au