Australia Is Refugees Essay 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.


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
    Jenna Beck, Communications Coordinator, Whitlam Institute, 0415 190 405 or

Annual International Refugee Law - Student Writing Competition

The American Society of International Law’s International Refugee Law Interest Group (IRLIG) announced its third annual International Refugee Law Student Writing Competition, co-sponsored by the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva; the International Law Students Association (ILSA); the International Journal of Refugee Law; and the American Society of International Law (ASIL). 

Eligibility and Requirements:

  1. Papers may address any topic related to international law and refugees, internally-displaced persons (IDPs), and forced migrants. 
  2. Student authors must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an accredited university at the time of submission. 
  3. Papers must be written solely by the candidate, in English, and may not have been submitted for publication elsewhere. 
  4. Citations should be in footnotes, rather than endnotes. If the paper is selected for publication in the International Journal of Refugee Law, it must comply with the Journal’s style sheet and the OSCOLA footnote style. For that reason, students may choose to adopt this style in their manuscripts.
  5. Submissions may range from 7,000 to 12,000 words, including footnotes.
  6. Each candidate is limited to a single submission.

Deadline and Method of Submission: 

  1. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time, 21 November 2016.
  2. Articles should be submitted to as Microsoft Word attachments. Questions should be directed to the same address.
  3. By submitting papers, candidates represent that they fulfill the eligibility requirements of the Competition. The organizers may request formal proof of eligibility. 
  4. No later than 24 hours after the submission deadline, candidates will receive an e-mail confirming that their submissions have been received.

Competition Procedures and Selection Criteria:

  1. The author’s name and affiliation, the paper title, and word count should be written on a separate first page. Nothing identifying the author should be included in the paper itself. 
  2. The administrator will detach the first page, and each submitter will be assigned a number. Reviewers will refer only to those numbers in their communications. 
  3. The Competition will be judged by reviewers named by IRLIG, in consultation with ILSA and the other co-sponsors. In assessing papers, reviewers will take into account: 
    a.knowledge of facts and law;
    b.proper and articulate analysis;
    c.extent of research, innovation, and scholarly creativity;
    d.clarity and organization;, grammar, and proper citation of sources.
  4. No paper will be reviewed by fewer than three reviewers. Each reviewer will assign a numerical grade to each paper. The five papers with the highest average scores will be reviewed by a specially-designated panel of three judges to determine the winner
  5. A message announcing the name of the winner of the Student Writing Competition will be sent to all members of the International Refugee Law Interest Group following the final selection, as well as to the co-sponsors and to the IRLIG forum on An e-mail with the final outcome will also be sent to all who submitted papers.

Award and Announcement:

  1. The winner of the Third Annual International Refugee Law Student Writing Competition will receive a $100 cash award, as well as free admission to the ASIL Annual Meeting, to be held in Washington, 12-15 April 2017, from IRLIG; the opportunity to have the paper considered for publication in the International Journal of Refugee Law; and a complimentary one-year student membership provided by ASIL.
  2. The award will be formally presented at the ASIL Annual Meeting, 
  3. To enable the winner to attend the Annual Meeting, The Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva will contribute up to Sfr 1,500 toward travel expenses.

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