Congratulations to everyone involved in this year’s Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards.
And thank you to the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society for everything you do – including organising these awards, which have now been running since 1984.
What an incredible legacy.
I also want to thank the teachers and the parents who have supported the 6,000 school students who have entered this year.
And I want to congratulate the stars of tonight – all 6,000 of you.
I know that it takes a lot of time, brain power and lots of drafts and re-writes to get here today.
It’s a testament to your hard work, dedication and support of your teachers, schools, family and friends.
The theme this year is “The Winding Road”. You have all written what that means for you and for your journey.
The paths you have taken or hope to take. Maybe the path less travelled.
Which reminds me of Robert Frost, the four-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet.
One of his most famous poems is "The Road Not Taken".
It’s a lesson about the consequences of the choices we make. It is also an argument for taking the road less travelled.
Something that you have all chosen to do.
Because you had to choose to be here today. To put in the effort. To put forward your ideas and creativity. That takes courage.
And as Frost says, that “makes all the difference.”
Politics isn’t poetry, but it’s also about making a difference.
It also requires courage. It requires ideas and creativity.
I don’t want us to be a country where your chances in life don’t depend on who your parents are, where you live or the colour of your skin. But we are today.
If you’re a child from a poor family or from the bush, or a young Indigenous person, you’re less likely to go to preschool and more likely to fall behind in primary school. You’re less likely to finish high school or to go to university.
And if you’re a young, Indigenous man today, you’re more likely to go to jail than to university.
It’s education that changes that.
It’s education that opens doors and changes lives.
And if we can get that right, if we can make that change happen, we can make sure every Australian can write their own story. Or their own poem. That they can choose their own winding road, just like you have written about.
Congratulations to this year’s winners and runners-up. Today is an incredible achievement and I look forward to reading your entries.
And keep writing. Keep putting your ideas and insights onto paper. And keep carving that path.