KYD School Writing Prize 2021: Judges Report

2021 Judges: Alice Pung & Alan Vaarwerk

Winner — The Despair of Growing Up in the Climate Crisis by Zifa Tanner-Kamal (Year 10, University High School, VIC)

ALICE: This non-fiction piece about climate change is so fresh and original – from its strong opening, how the research is interspersed with the author’s own opinions, to how it segues back to her and her mother’s discussions. I love the inventiveness of this piece, how it is both factual as well as contemplating the dire future in speculative style. I love the energy and raw anger.

ALAN: This essay broke my heart—it’s blunt and full of rage, but all the more urgent and important for it. Tanner-Kamal has built a well-researched and clearly argued reflection on what it means to be a teenager living through climate change, and grappling with the conflicting senses of privilege and impending doom—”We have the world at our fingertips, but carry it on our back” is a line that will stay with me for a long time. Tanner-Kamal writes with clear-eyed perception of broader structural problems, and her command of structure and narrative flow are also excellent. School-aged climate protesters have so often been dismissed by those in power as not fully understanding the issues, but 15-year-old Tanner-Kamal shows these cynical claims for what they are—I challenge any politician or business leader to read her words and not be profoundly affected by them.

General Judging Comments from Alice Pung:

This year, it was harder than ever to choose a winner for this competition, as any one of our stellar shortlisted authors could have easily been selected. Our shortlist comes from a diversity of states, schools and ages, ranging from 13 to 17. It is such a great honour and delight to judge this competition for the sheer inventiveness of the entrants – they have responded to a social or political issue so creatively, through fiction, polemic, humour, poetry and passion. Our shortlist embodies all those forms of writing in fresh and original ways. I hope to read more work from these future writers.

The KYD School Writing Prize will return in 2022 — stay tuned for more details!

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