2020 Winners

2020 Winner - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Kim Waters | The Builder

Sometimes I hear the scaffolding strain,

his whistle through the plasterless rooms,

and I’m there again, seven-years-old,

watching his hands cradle a brick,

set it square, remove a spill

with the point of a diamond-shaped knife.

I remember his hair flecked with paint,

a nail purse belted around his waist,

a flat pencil, fold-up ruler

and a packet of Bex in his overall bib.

The way he’d hammer a nail, his gaze

a spirit level of concentration

as he zithered a wedge of wood with his saw.

How he’d jam one knee up against a horse,

shaved timber falling in curls

around his hobnailed boots.And the times 

he’d lift me onto his rafted shoulders

and we’d move through the whalebone rooms of a house,

him sure-footed, walking the line

of his tight-roped years and me reaching

into the open-roofed sky.

2020 Runner Up - Judith Rodriguez Open Prize

Rob Wallis | The Priest

You take the steps down to our front door

one at a time, as if your knees

buckle under the weight of prayer.

The small bag you carry

for an overnight stay, clinks.

It doesn’t sound like pyjamas,

a change of underwear, a stringent

volume on the lives of the saints

you’ve struggled, for years, to emulate.

You greet both of us with a hug,

cling on much longer than we wanted,

a candle lit for an urgent need.

In the kitchen you open the bag,

produce two bottles of wine,

a bottle of whisky. Nothing else.

This is an act of generosity.

Or it measures the religious life,

the toll it’s taken on your sexuality.

You begin our meal with a prayer,

celebrate friendship, proud, and envious,

of us, a pair of beads on your rosary.

We are reduced to a congregation.

Your sermon, eased with the blood

of Christ, is a litany of anniversaries:

the day you first met my partner

in a church. The year that he left

the seminary. And after ordination,

the stations of your cross, a thorny journey

through promotions to smaller, and smaller

parishes, a snide excommunication.

                                                                                                                                      You have devoted your life to Jesus,

now you admit you wish his name

had been Damian or Angelo or Ben.

We listen in silence to this disclosure,

not surprised, but not comfortable

in this confessional, our roles reversed.

No amount of Hail Mary’s, no blessings,

no forgiveness of sins, can compensate

for the years of sacrifice, and denial.

You leave the next morning, each step

a retreat back to seclusion, each

intake of breath a whisper withdrawn.

2020 Winner - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Jhermayne Ubalde | Mother

4.6 billion years ago
she watched the birth of gods
a silent passenger
bones of iron forged by Chaos’ hand
she, the ichor

3.8 billion years ago
she raised up stardust with hearth-warmed palms
umbilical vents gently rocking to a volcanic beat
a primordial lullaby
In the strange, lightless trails of her womb
life took shape

400 million years ago
she ascended with the tetrapods
clinging to salt-gilded skin
her slender fingers caressing that reptilian maw
and trembling with the sweet release of breath

65 million years ago
she wept at Armageddon as
the fire rained down
the taste of copper on her tongue
the heavy bodies at her feet
sank into her grieving embrace

300 000 years ago
she kissed the feverish lips of
the homo sapien
walked with them out of the burning plains

she scalds the earth with bitter tears
hair pulled back
jaw forced open
the noxious sludge of civilisation poured between melting lips

she lays powerless against the capitalist bed frame
screams her throat raw to the corporate pounding of the machine
a queue of pinstripe suits at the bedroom door
demanding more, more, more

swollen with the melting of glaciers
cheeks blushed red with heat
her skin peels away in flakes
she burns with her children

where colour once bloomed
and clownfish giggled amongst the shaded pines
the bleached footprints of death are all that remains

Amongst it all she mourns
the volcanic beat
the cradle song
the stirrings of life within her belly
a forgotten dream?

there are flowers in my head. they bloom between spiderweb cracks with a psychedelic sheen. honey pouring into my dreams. pollen falling onto my shoulders. you sowed weeds. little black seeds. scattered among the flowers. poison ivy. brambles. their pollen left angry red marks. they tasted like black jellybeans. like liquorice. or aniseed. you shovelled it into my throat. there was the heaving of lungs. they sprouted from my ears. they formed a noose and

whispered things. they burned my eyes so i couldn’t fall asleep. i can’t fall asleep. there were flowers in my head.

2020 Runner Up - Louise Rockne Youth Prize

Jhermayne Ubalde| Flowers

2020 Winner - Youth CALD Category

Disha Awashti | Two Worlds

Which dimension do I fit in?

The new one or the one of my kin?

I wanted the blonde hair and white skin

Like two armies raging inside of me,

Not able to decide,

Am I Australian?

Am I Indian?

Who would I be?

My roti discarded,

Because it wasn’t what the other kids ate

My name made fun of,

Because it wasn’t something like Kate

Was there something so wrong with speaking my language?

People looked at me as if it was sacrilege

I had an Indian accent

Such dissent,

Because I sounded different

Now, I look at myself in the mirror

And I think I can see myself a little clearer

Thongs and butter chicken

Barbeques and Bindi’s

I am Indian. I speak Hindi

I am Australian. I speak English.

I am me

2020 Runner Up - Youth CALD Category

Jasmin Yaxin Wu| The Princess

i want to set the record

straight about the princess.

in this story she does not

run away with the prince.

she is nine and carving initials

into the trees around the palace garden

her mother, the queen asks her

which noble prince, lord or knight

she has fallen madly in love with

and a few white lies make her so sure

it was a boy that she was thinking about

she is eleven and has begun to notice

that couples are always a pair of opposites

her mother, the queen thinks that

the princess is far too young to

understand the ways of the world

but the princess knows she is old enough to

realise why it was a girl’s face she dreamt of

she is thirteen and can say the word ally,

so she is adjacent but not part of anything

her mother, the queen believes that

the princess will soon find a gallant prince

to sweep her off her feet

however, the princess is too busy thinking

about kissing her best friend

she is fifteen and the drawbridge lowers,

as her true feelings come out

her mother, the queen considers the

rainbow to be just a phase, but surprisingly

accepts the princess’ identity all the same

the princess now understands why she

had always felt different from everyone else.

because she doesn’t want a castle

or a chest of silk gowns

she doesn’t want a kingdom

or even a golden crown

she wants to hold your hand

where everybody else can see

she wants to love without fear,

judgement or scrutiny

the word ‘gay’ begins to roll off her tongue,

and it is whispered and spoken and screamed 

to make up for all those lost years

because sometimes,

the princess doesn’t want a prince

2020 Awards Ceremony

Competition Opens  |  1st June 2024

Competition Closes | 30th September 2024


Awards Ceremony - Hybrid Event: 

17th November 2024

 Competition & Award Dates

Woorilla Poetry Prize is a not for profit poetry competition run by volunteers who are passionate individuals, that believe in the power of poetry and supporting existing, up and coming and especially young emerging poets. Any assistance you can give will help grow and sustain this annual competition


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