Entries in the Dorothea Mackellar National Poetry Awards are down, but local submissions are up.
Awards project officer Brittany Riley said there were about 7000 entries this year, compared to 9000 last year but it came down to less schools submitting poems. This year's optional theme is "Is there anybody there?".
"The number of individual entries was really healthy. I think there might have been more than last year," she said.
Ms Riley ran a number of poetry workshops at nearby schools in recent months to encourage local kids to enter, which paid off, with entries from Carinya Christian School, Gunnedah South Public School, St Xavier's Primary School, Gunnedah High School and Curlewis Public School. Tamworth Public School is a regular contributor.
Every year, poems pour in from all over the country to vie for prizes in eight categories - lower primary (Years K-3), upper primary (Years 4 - 6, inc. Year 7 in SA), assisted learning primary, junior secondary (Years 7-9), senior secondary (Years 10-12), assisted learning secondary, schools' award and the David Maher Award.
The David Maher Award was introduced by the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society in 2018 to honour small primary schools in regional areas with 30 students or fewer, and no more than two teachers.
Open to any students at these schools from Kindergarten to Year 6, the David Maher Award recognises the unique challenges and achievements small, rural schools face, and the connection with the bush that has long shaped and inspired Australian poetry.
The primary school entries will be judged by Kathryn Apel who is a "born-and-bred farm girl" and author. The secondary school entries will be judged by Meredith Costain, an author from Victoria.
This year's patron are Whitehaven Coal's Mark Vaile and Susan Duncan who has spent 25 years in radio, newspaper and magazine journalism. She is also an author and owns a former residence of Dorothea Mackellar in Pittwater.
The guest speaker for the awards is Gabrielle Chan, a former political correspondent who write for Guardian Australia. She has been a journalist for 30 years and has written a book, Rusted Off, about the divide between urban and rural Australia.
- The Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards will be held on September 6 at 10am at the Civic Centre.