Lugarno student wins first prize in 2020 RD Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize

Earth lover: Katrina Hayler has won first prize in an environmental writing competition. Picture: Supplied

Earth lover: Katrina Hayler has won first prize in an environmental writing competition. Picture: Supplied

A St George Girls High School student has won a national writing competition run by Sutherland Shire Environment Centre.

Katrina Hayler, 17, of Lugarno, won the under-18 category of the 2020 RD Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize.

The year 12 student said that from a very young age, her parents encouraged her to "think about and respect the environment".

"Every day I walk my two dogs in the abundant bushland that surrounds our home in Lugarno," she said.

"I have been writing short stories for enjoyment for many years but never entered any competitions.

"Our school biology teacher, Ms Duffy, encouraged us to enter the RD Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize.

"As it was an issue close to my heart it was not difficult to jot down some of the things that I have been thinking about while bushwalking and observing my natural surroundings.

"It was a total surprise but great honour to be awarded this prize and I am very grateful to the judges who recognised my sincerity."

The national writing competition honours Sutherland Shire Environment Centre's founder Bob Walshe, who died in 2018.

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre's chairwoman Tassia Kolesnikow said Mr Walshe was a "prolific writer".

"Our competition honours a man who understood the power of words to stir thinking and action," she said.

This year's competition invited people up to the age of 25 to submit a piece around the topic 'I am Earth'.

Ms Hayler's winning work was described as "powerful and evocative".

The judges were moved by the "beauty and might of the planet" in her poetic story, I am, which finished with the words: "But will you remember me before you go? For I am the infinite becoming finite. I am the unforgettable becoming forgotten. I am Earth".

"It seems the competition has tapped into young people's desire everywhere to express themselves and their concerns about the environment," Ms Kolesnikow said.

"We are delighted and overwhelmed with the passion of young people for the environment.

"We received over 80 entries from around the country for the two categories."

A third category for seniors will be added next year thanks to the generosity of Heathcote couple, Barbara and Wally Koppe, who will put up the prize money.

One of the judges, author Pam Cook, said all entries were of a very high standard and she hoped the writers continued to develop their talents.

"I do think the Earth is in good hands if the sentiments expressed in these pieces are indicative of the attitudes of our young in relation to caring for the Earth," she said

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