FOBL 2018 Writing Competition Report

This is the ninth year in which FOBL has held writing competitions for the primary schools on the peninsula and for the Balmain Campus of the Sydney Secondary College (SSC).

As in previous years, for the Secondary writing competition we worked in conjunction with Mirjana Simic, the Head Teacher of English, to choose a theme to fit with the English curriculum for years 7 and 8, and years 9 and 10. We chose “What a wonderful world”, a theme of hope, we thought. We enjoyed reading the many entries. It was difficult to pick the highly commended and winner from the many vivid and varied stories. There was much debate amongst the judges over cups of tea.

At the Awards evening we were thrilled that all the students who had been invited came along with their families. After a light supper, provided by the committee of the Friends of Balmain Library, I welcomed the students, their families, together with Mirjana Simic and Julianne Beek, the Principal of the Balmain Campus of SSC. Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton, the Chair of the Writing Competition Committee, read extracts from each of the student’s stories, commenting on what it was about the particular story that had made it a winner or highly commended entry. There was an air of nervous anticipation as the extracts were read. For some parents it was the first time they had heard the words written by their child. The highly commended students’ names were read out and finally the winner.  One by one the students came to the front, shaking hands with Julianne Beek who handed out certificates and their prizes, appropriately for a writing competition, book vouchers to spend in Hill of Content. The applause from family and friends showed how proud they were. The students smiled broadly for the many photos taken by their families. A wonderful evening in the encouragement of writing was had by all. We are very happy that the school continues to see our competition as a valuable extension of its writing program.

You will be able to read the winning and highly commended stories from the 2018 Secondary Writing Competition on our website shortly.

The Primary Writing Competition attracted over 300 entries between the schools on the peninsula and Orange Grove Public School, that is 300 poems on the theme of “The Four Seasons” as chosen by our poetry ambassador, well known poet Libby Hathorn. It was hard for the judges to narrow the entries down to a long list and harder still to select the highly commended and wining poems. The writers of those poems were invited to a workshop, held at Birchgrove Public school, with Libby Hathorn, an opportunity to polish their skills in reading their poems out loud. Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton has written a separate piece about the workshop.

The Primary Awards night was a rather noisier affair than the secondary one, with students chattering amongst themselves, with their parents and siblings. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the background setting the scene for our evening of poetry. We were thrilled that teachers from Balmain and Nicholson Street Public schools and Father John Therry Catholic Primary School came to share in the success of their students. They thanked FOBL for continuing the writing competition, commenting on how much the students had enjoyed writing poetry and how encouraging it is to have the opportunity for them to do so.

Libby Hathorn welcomed the students and their families. She talked of how her life is informed by poetry, that it always has been since her mother read to her at night throughout her childhood. She said that poems capture the essence of life and that these poems had captured the essence of the seasons.

Viv then invited each of the students to read their poem, behind them a slide with their poem and a picture they had chosen or had drawn to complement it. The audience was drawn into scenes from every season, all the more potent for being read by their author. Libby Hathorn presented the certificates and book vouchers from Hill of Content. The applause was loud. It was a joyous evening.

You will be able to enjoy the poems on the FOBL website shortly.

I’d like to thank Vivienne Nicoll- Hatton, our dedicated and hardworking Chair, without whom neither competition would happen, my fellow judges, Bronwyn Monro, Ian Ferguson, and Josephine Herbert. Many thanks are also due to the FOBL committee who not only provide the delicious suppers we enjoyed on both the awards nights but who work tirelessly throughout the year to raise funds through FOBL events which allows FOBL to be generous in the prizes awarded to the well deserved winners of our writing competitions.


  1. Wonderfully vivid and interesting report on both competitions. Congratulations to the students, their teachers and the FOBL writing competition subcommittee.

  2. This FOBL writing competition is rewarding to be involved in. Parents of primary students were delighted to hear their child reading aloud the poem they had written for the competition.Bronwyn Monro

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