The Raven

2017

Summer

Burnt to the Core

Luke Henderson, Year 12

The Xanthorrhoea, commonly known as the black boys. Seemingly identical yet different. The little trees fascinated William. Simple to look at, but sharp to touch. To William they looked like miniature trolls, moving into battle. It was evident that his little brother Alex had a different view, as he ran around growling with them in between his fingers like wolverine claws.

“RARR!” Alex growled at his brother. Alex amused William. That tree was an Australian icon in the eyes of most, but a weapon in his brother’s eyes.

“ROAR!” William startled his brother with an unexpected shriek. They had a pretty good relationship for two stepbrothers and they managed to get on, despite their seven-year age gap.

“AY!” William’s stepfather slid out of their Ute in his regular grump. “Stop playin’ with those dumb sticks,” he grunted. “I’m not gonna be cleanin’ up your blood when ya slip.” He moaned at the thought of any actual labour. The boys would be more surprised to see him sober, than in his regular swaying back and forth state that he seemed to wake up with. His pot belly revealed the thick gut that was hanging below his ACDC t-shirt. The only thing that William admired about him was his ability to grow a thick beard. It nicely complemented the drunken hobo look he was obviously going for.

“Alright, Derek, calm it down,” whispered William, waiting for his inevitable reaction.

“Just ’cause you’re not mine, don’t mean I can’t hit you,” Derek barked back. He waddled over to William, with his hand ready to snap William’s jawline.

“That’s enough, Derek!” commanded William’s mother from the Ute.

“Yes sir,” Derek replied patronizingly, as he waddled back towards the car.

William did not understand why his mother re-married such a pig. At least he got a brother out of it.

It was supposed to be a quick trip down to the Eagle Bay Beach, but Derek’s reckless driving drove them off the road and into the bush. And now the car wouldn’t move. Trapped in the middle of the bush on a forty-degree day, both boys chose to wait outside rather than risk being cooked alive by the blazing sun, as it heated up the metal frame of the broken down car. The roadside assistance was not reliable down South and the boys knew it could be up to an hour before any progress could be made.

“RARR!” Alex shouted at his brother. Oblivious of his Dad’s orders, he circled Alex like a lion, preparing its prey for dinner. William turned and lightly tackled his brother to the ground. The two of them wrestled in the hot dirt, until both of them were too hot to move, their sweat forcing the sand to stick to them. “I’m Sandman,” Alex announced, standing up triumphantly. The joy in his faced was quickly transformed into a pale expression of shock. William turned to follow the gaze of his brother.

           “That’s a lot of smoke,” Alex whimpered.

           “Fire!” William shouted, releasing all the stored energy inside his body.

Derek launched himself out of the Ute and shared Alex’s expression. For the first time he actually showed William an emotion other than disappointment.

           “Run!” he shouted, leaving his family behind in a hurry.

           “Come on, Alex,” William insisted, lifting his brother to his feet and grabbing his hand.

“Come on boys,” their mum calmly pleaded. She jumped out of the car and signalled for the boys to quickly follow her. The boys ran with their mother down the road towards the ocean, where they were initially intending to go to for a cool swim. The adrenaline pumped through their bodies allowing them to run at a lightning pace.

Much to William’s expectation they caught up to Derek, who was throwing up booze he had just consumed.

           “I waited for ya,” Derek said unconvincingly, whilst gasping for air. “Can ya give ya ol’ man a hand?” he pleaded reaching his arm out. The boys lifted him up in a hurry.

           “Come on, we’ve got to go, it’ll catch us if we take too long,” William insisted. The family started to run together down the road.

The sound of a car horn came around the bend from behind, bringing a glimmer of hope for the family.

           “Oh, thankya Jesus!” Derek leapt to his feet with joy.

The driver rolled down the window as he slowed to a stop.

           “We’ve already got three families in here, we’ll only be able to fit one of you into the boot,” he explained.

           “Take me, I’m sick,” Derek jumped into the boot without hesitation. “You’ll run faster without me,” Derek added trying to gain some form of respect for himself. The boys and their mother ignored the heat and ran down the road, following the now disappearing car. William picked up his struggling brother and tried to assist his mother to safety.

           “We’re almost there,” William insisted, as a black layer of smoke covered them. Their mother started choking and fell to the ground. The black smoke made it impossible for the boys to see their mother.

           “Mum!” William shouted, as he began to choke on the smoke. His little brother was no longer conscious, so William forced himself to continue and push his way out of the bush. He could faintly hear the sound of sirens in the distance.

Paramedics rushed to the aid of the two boys who were showing limited evidence of life and they were lifted from the scene. The rich green vegetation had been burnt to the core.

           “Where is she?” Derek questioned William who was currently wearing an oxygen mask. William did not have the stamina to reply. “Where is she?” Derek yelled.

William shook his head.

“You left her!” Derek screamed. “Your own mother. You were too selfish to help her to safety,” Derek cried.

“You Devil!” Derek squawked.

William passed out.

A Fair Go

Patrick Latchem, Year 9

Before the September 11 attacks in the United States of America, the term ‘Islamophobia’ would have been barely mentioned in Australia.

Today, Muslims flee discrimination, abuse, misunderstanding and stereotyping from parts of society.

This fear and anxiety towards the Australian Muslims is caused by the lack of understanding of Islam by politicians and the community, and the government’s reaction by introducing many harsh anti-terrorism laws, negative comments on refugees and the media’s sensationalist reporting.

Since 9/11, Australia has become increasingly ‘Islamophobic,’ and this is contradicting the Australian value of a “fair go.”

‘Islamophobia’ refers to negative and hostile attitudes towards Islam and has become a major part of political and media discussions.

The generally accepted meaning of ‘a fair go for everyone’ is that all Australians are equal, no matter what they do or who they are. The people of Australia expect these values in our society and so should the Australian Muslim community.

Islam is the third largest religion in Australia and based on a survey conducted on 2,596 Australians in July 2014, one in four of us holds negative attitudes towards Muslims and that very same survey revealed another shocking statistic that we are five times more likely to have this negative attitude towards Islam more than any other religious group.

We must stop abhorrent attitudes against Muslims and gain an understanding of their culture and give them a ‘fair go!’

The troubling reality is that major political parties are agreeing to pass laws that threaten fundamental rights and freedoms in the Australian legal system, all in the name of terrorism and Islam.

This country, whose politicians are becoming self-made ‘experts’ on other religions is an early warning of further division and inequity within our society.

History shows that politics and religion are a very bad mix.

Ms Silma Ihram from the Australian Muslim Women’s Association said, “There has been so much negativity from the government,” and, “until the federal government changes its rhetoric and stops using Muslims as the cause of hardships facing the population things won’t improve.”

We are violating our values and discriminating against people just over their religious beliefs. Is this what it means to be Australian?

The Muslim community is a very diverse group and we shouldn’t see them as lumped together. We can’t link them to what is happening overseas.

The media’s coverage on these topics heavily influences our views and therefore contributing to ‘Islamophobia.’ Currently the media gives a lot of attention to Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party, which clearly opposes immigration of Muslims in this country.

The findings from a preliminary report “Islamophobia Social Distance and Fear of Terrorism in Australia,” by the University of South Australia, shows that less educated Australians are more likely to hold anti-Islamic sentiments.

It is also found that religion, age, place of residence, employment status and political views effect the likelihood that a person feels Islamophobic, socially distant from Muslims or worried about a terrorist attack.

The truth is that almost all Muslims in Australia are peace-loving, law abiding citizens. Ms Irbeun also said that attitudes are being driven by lack of understanding surrounding Islamic State and the conflict in Iraq.

As Aqueel Chowdry wrote in the Queensland Times, we must make peaceful, law abiding Australian Muslims part of the solution, rather than the problem.

We need to promote the Australian Muslim community who work hard to promote peace. They are our strongest link with Muslim communities and they are our strongest link with future youth.

The government must act now and educate people on the positive contributions Muslims make to Australia and they must send a message to our people that the Drumpf Administration’s views on Muslims and immigration is ‘un-Australian.’

Unless the government stops portraying Muslims as ‘bad’ and making us infer that all refugees from Muslim countries are terrorists, Australia will never again be the country of a ‘fair go.’

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to…

Bailey Van Der Zanden, Year 12

The withering ghost gum’s leaves whispered across the creek. The trees stood like iridescent soldiers, watching the slowly receding brown sludge seep into the earth. The creek choked and sucked at the last drops of water as the dusty wind sang songs in the leaves of the brush. On the dry parts of the bed a crust of salt formed a crystal pattern that framed the death of the creek seamlessly.

At the edge of the eroded bank, leaning next to his once white Toyota Hilux ute, fifty-two-year-old Hugh Carmichael radioed into the house, “White Gum’s stream’s gone. Yeah, she’s gone to dust. Yep, yep, I’ll be back in ten.”

From the breeze lofting off the creek he could taste the salty dust on the tip of his tongue; it was like hot irons piecing each individual tastebud. He gulped down a mouthful of water from his rusted canteen, relieving the sensation and extinguishing the taste. Hugh glanced at the opaque bonnet and then out to the scrub. The light was so strong it reflected into every crevice without respite. The ute’s axles were crusted deep red, the dust rising up over the sides, slowly suffocating the shine of the white duco. His wife called it, “a reverse ‘ombre”, “very glamorous.” But glamour and Hugh didn’t mix well, and he didn’t want this sort of dusty glamour anyway. The seat gave a puff of red air as he jumped into the cab of the ute and he reached down to the gear stick, while wiping the drops of sweat off his brow. The Hilux grumbled into life, the rusty gear stick grated forward and the ute set off down the dirt track that followed the snaking creek through the bush.

Water had not touched the umber gravel track for more than three seasons. The banks of the trail cracked and stretched like a canvas, where even the desert ants refused to be its painter. The slightest touch of a boot sent a swirl of dust into the mouths, eyes, noses and ears of its travellers. The dust crept into every nook and cranny and seemed not just to seep into the skin, but it oozed deep down into the bones. It was more than just a coloured coating; it was something choking their blood.

Standing near the weathered homestead, Alistair Carmichael, aged eighteen, saw the cloud of dry dust that smothered the outline of the ute as it trundled down the gravel track. Alistair was about to start his commerce degree at Brisbane University, a short six hour’s drive from their property. He loaded another box into the boot of his dusty Commodore. Glancing over his shoulder, Alistair spotted the deepening, ominous silhouette crawling towards the house. He scrambled at the last box on the shaded verandah, throwing it into the overcrowded boot. Each box was like a refugee, crowded in, hoping to go someplace better. Let’s just hope Prime Minister Dad doesn’t turn them around, thought Alistair.

Hugh swung out of the cab of the ute and removed his grey Akubra, holding it stoutly against his hip. Alistair straightened up and put a stern look on his pale white face. Both their eyes met on level ground; it felt like an equal playing field for the first time, the boy now a lanky young man. The silence was deafening. The only sound that broke the deadlock was the wind swirling Alistair’s long hair down into his face.

“We’re gonna need a few extra hands this season, Al,” said Hugh, “You’d be one of them.” Alistair’s cheeks became tenser, as his lips clenched together in defiance. Alistair slowly pushed out, “This…this is just a place for old men who don’t know when to quit. The real world isn’t here.”

“This dust is in your blood. My father, his father and his father before that; you can’t just get up and leave for greener pastures,” barked Hugh. “Dust to Dust, Alistair; you and I were born here, and we’ll die here too.”

“That’s bullshit Dad, there’s no God here! Just look around you.”

Alistair stepped towards the driver’s door, turning briefly to look down the dead gravel track that bled into the horizon. Their eyes met again, but this time in anger.

“You can’t just leave, Alistair!” yelled Hugh. “You wanna’ work with numbers, well there are plenty of numbers here to work with: 351, the number of sheep I had to shoot last week because a bullet is cheaper than watering them; 1000, the number of days since it last rained here; $1.2 million, what we owe the bank. Oh! There’s plenty of numbers here in the real world for you, Alistair.”

Alistair sighed and pushed his hair back. He had heard this all through his final year, every trip home. In truth it had spurred him on to work harder for his magic number, 95.0; the golden ticket into commerce and out of this desperate, dusty sinkhole. The car door thudded shut. Hugh bit his lip. His right knee shook slightly, turning the dirt beneath his foot out like a cultivator.

Alistair glanced in the rear view mirror, giving one last good look at the old farmhouse. The familiar pale wood exterior and the dull grey tin roofing made the house looked like it was out of a Tom Roberts’ painting. Tied next to a post stood valiantly his rusted bike, which in rain or shine had squeaked and creaked as he rode to the front gate as a child. It was not a beautiful house, but it embodied home. It functioned at a base level, survived the hot dry summers and freezing cold frosts; it was never going to be anything special, anything else but itself.

As each piece of gravel crackled beneath the worn tyres of his car, a puff of dust rose like a tree; a new growth to block out the dry, dead, dusty wasteland.

Hugh stared at the ascending dust streaming off the now distant taillights. A single tear ran off his wrinkled cheek, but he quickly caught it, wiping away what remained of his grief. He had lost.

Alistair only had eyes for what was ahead of him. He opened the window and yelled with relief, “Dust to Dust! More like Dust to anywhere else on this god-damn earth!”

Lion’s Youth of the Year Speech and Leadership Competition, 2017

Conor Patton, Year 11

I would like to open tonight with a quote from the Greek poet Hesiod, 8 centuries Before Common Era (BCE): “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… when I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint”.

Evidently his fears were at least somewhat in vain, given that the youth of Ancient Greece were among the most successful in history. Yet the point Hesiod intends to make remains pertinent: What of the teenage youth? Will they succumb to impotence and drag future society with them; or will they mature, as a caterpillar into a butterfly? Now, I cannot be the only person here tonight who finds the similarities between the adult perceptions of teenagers now and then, frankly, quite fascinating.

We’ve all been given the opportunity tonight as teenagers to form speeches on topics we find particularly interesting; I thought that perhaps an insight, however unqualified, into the context of the teenager, might make for a worthwhile topic. As such I bring you the etymology, or rather the evolution, of the teenager.

For many decades the teenage years have served as a rite of passage, a transition between child and adulthood. Yet it was not until the 1940s that the term gained household status. The locution has since progressed from its meagre origins to describe the basis of our pre-to-post pubescent development.

Shortly after the second World War adults and psychologists alike began to notice a perceivable shift in children under the age of 12 compared to those from 12 to age 18 inclusive. The warring years were spent for many 12 – 18 year olds assisting parents in work or activities previously denoted as too taxing for a person of such young age. Furthermore, there were a great many 16 – 18 year olds involved directly on the frontlines. As such, the concept of an adult-child hybrid emerged.

Much has changed in the intervening years; over the decades we’ve borne witness to the inception of the television, the rise and fall of fashion trends (some more questionable than others) and the emergence of the internet as a means of expression – hypersonic and (somewhat) free of charge.

All of the above has served in no small magnitude to burgeon the teen of today, yet at its core the developmental process remains one and the same; the pressures, both internal and external, that one is exposed to during adolescent life remain similar, albeit rather more omnipresent now due to the construct of globalisation.

The 1950s served to dramatically increase the cultural differences between teens and parents and as a result teens and children. Whilst teens of this generation were considered the ‘lucky’ few, they became increasingly marginalised by adults who had contrasting cultural values. Perhaps not surprisingly parents of this generation were often far stricter, as were institutions; boys’ hair touching the ears could feasibly result in expulsion from school, and a quantity of girls were prohibited from wearing pants – Stanford University went as far as to ban all blue jeans in public! Simply, it could be said that the 50s acted as an extreme counter-action to the emerging teenage demographic, as parents strived to regain control over increasingly rebellious ‘kids’.

Fast forward some sixty years to the teen of today; culture in essence has lost its ecstasy – teen cultivation has become filled with facets and is characterised by divergence and diversity, whereas teens of previous generations were typified by the adoption of particular styles and icons. The youth of nowadays look to the ever-increasing pool of ideology known as the internet for inspiration. Any trends seem not to last, replaced almost instantaneously by the next latest fashion, as the wheels of cognitive disparity occupying the minds of new-era inventors speed on at an ever increasing pace. It could be said that ours is the epoch of instant satisfaction. The rise of internet streaming, fast-food delivery and the have-it-now or have-it-never psyche have all served to weaken this generation’s stance on resilience and perseverance.

The teenage years are a process of radical change within the brain. In the words of Dr David Bainbridge, the evolution of a teen brain is ‘like moving from dial up to broadband’. In fact, Bainbridge believes that the teenage years serve the purpose of developing the human brain. He attributes the oft-times turbulent moods of teenagers to the ‘incubation of extraordinary craniums’, not the fluctuation of hormones. The rapidly increasing research base around this previously neglected field has provided valuable evidence for the legitimacy of the teenage years as an increasingly important evolutionary stage in life.

From the speeches that you have heard and are yet to hear tonight – it would appear that the teenager of today is a force to be reckoned with; a voice to be heard. These years remain among the most fundamental in our lives and are to be treasured as such. In closing, returning to the wise words of Hesiod, it would appear that the passing of 2,800 years has done little to alter the adult perceptions of the teenage youth. May the teenagers of today prove their worth as those of centuries past.

Thank you.

Cause

Sidharth Bhargavan, Year 12

Wronged greatly and unjustly

By one I had thought dear!

My love tested unfairly.

Unfairly! I deserve this not!

 

Thoughts cascading down.

Yet the splashes, loud not tranquil.

This pain washes over me

As I search for reasons. Why?

 

Searching for my soaring Pegasus,

Devoting first hours, then years,

As I search for that which must exist:

Since if not, what sense could be made without it?

 

Purpose, Purpose must exist for if

Purpose were unreal? How? How!

What am I to do? Where would I go

Without Purpose, who is it I blame?

Disposable

Andrew Burvill, Year 12

Mark emerged from his doze to the sound of a woman’s shrieking. He shifted his lean frame on his worn paddleboard as he peered across the glistening surface of the Swan River. Temporarily blinded by the afternoon sun, Mark strained his ageing eyes and spotted the source of commotion. A sleek Sunseeker that dominated the bay with its imposing curves and immaculate paintwork.

Curious, Mark started to paddle towards the boat. He weaved around a flock of black swans as they paraded through the shallow, warm waters. The scorching sun roasted his weathered back as he left the cool embrace of the shadows cast by the Moreton Bay figs. As Mark approached the boat, the drone of the motor drowned out the tranquil calls of the fairy-wrens and the gentle sloshing of the river. Mark followed the trail of diesel trickling out from the stern of the boat as his stomach quivered from its stench. Exposed and open in the water, he swiftly ducked behind a nearby yacht.

On board, a few of the wealthy socialites had broken away from the dancing and drinking to comfort their friend.

“My iPhone! I dropped it in the water! Just over there…” Mark heard a girl exclaim wildly, her voice turning to that high pitched whine one makes when fighting back tears.

“It’s fine, Lauren, we’ll get another one tomorrow,” a deep-voiced man said.

“Babe, my whole life is on that thing!” she whimpered.

The shallow bickering rose in volume as Mark crept around the yacht on his board to get a better view.

A stout, slightly balding man emerged from the cabin and walked over to the cluster of people on the deck. He had seen the bottom of a few too many beer cans and it showed on his bloated stomach. It seemed that he was trying to relive his glorious years with his spiky, gel filled black hair and his vibrant board shorts. He passed his can of beer to the deep-voiced man, cleared his throat and asked in a drunken slur, “Aye, Stace! It was in a water – uh – a waterproof case righttt?”

The blonde haired girl nodded slowly as she arched a groomed eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“Then… allow me.”

The stout man flexed his muscles, winked at some of the ladies on board and clumsily dived in as he sprayed the back of the deck. Mark shook his head; he had spent decades out at sea diving and could tell in an instant that this drunk was no swimmer. Mark wasn’t surprised to see him resurface shortly after as he coughed and spluttered out some oily water and retreated back to the boat.

Mark felt a surge of quiet confidence rush through him; this slightly rotund fool was never going to get the phone. After a series of long, powerful strokes, the seasoned diver disembarked from his board and slid into the water with a surprising agility. He heard the confused calls of the partygoers on board the boat but turned his back to them. He took a deep breath and plunged into the depths of the water, glad to escape the boat’s stinking presence. The water had always been a source of comfort for Mark. Age may have weakened his knees but it hadn’t stripped him of the ability to glide through the water. However, there was an odd taste to the river, neither sweet nor salty, but a slight tang that made Mark uneasy.

The riverbed was a shifting jungle of seaweed that eerily spread its arms and limbs up to the surface, searching for swimmers to entangle themselves in its web. The current suddenly changed as the seaweed whipped and snapped erratically. Mark’s eyes opened in shock as the current revealed piles upon piles of junk hidden among the weed.

It was as if someone had shaken the contents of an entire house across the river. There was an assortment of blenders, a sparkling, brand new lawnmower, a magenta hairdryer that a lonely blowfish had inhabited and even a washing machine with its wiring sprawled across the sand. A shaft of sunlight had trickled down through the murky jungle and illuminated thousands of twinkling glass pieces. Mark was entranced by the oddly hypnotic reflections until the sun went behind a cloud and the scrapyard returned to a desolate wasteland.

Mark resurfaced panting, not from exhaustion, but from shock. He hesitated briefly above the surface; the water had always been a refuge for him… Mark reluctantly took a gulp of air before returning to the riverbed.

The jungle was darker this time. Mark swiftly glided through the gloomy water and was swallowed by the web of weed. He abruptly propelled himself upwards as his foot touched something soft. Looking down in disgust he stared at a mound of used, bloodied bandages. There was a crimson haze around the mound like an infected gash in the body of the river. There. Mark saw it, the gleaming iPhone lying on the sand next to the filthy bandages. Mark plunged down to grab it, ensuring not to get too close to the blood, but the weed retaliated and the jungle swirled up around him as he lost sight of the device.

The owner of the iPhone took one last drag of her cigarette and casually threw it into the water with the empty packet. She was the only person on the boat to notice the lean, greying man quietly paddle over to the stern.

“I couldn’t find your phone, I’m sorry,” he said softly in a calm manner as she leant in to hear him over the music.

She opened her mouth, but he raised a hand to silence her. He grabbed the floating cigarette packet, gave her a disappointed look and paddled back to shore. The bikini clad girl shifted uneasily as she watched him, her iPhone long forgotten.

Mark, with his back to the river, dropped the cigarette packet in the recycling bin with a metallic clink.

Song of the White

Stewart Wallace, Year 11

The children lie on mattresses

Their flesh burning every thread.

Their skin leaves stains of blackness

Where once only white had been.

 

They stare like broken dolls,

All mangled and forgotten.

They would surely speak

If only their mouth could open.

 

These children once had mothers,

Fathers and brothers too.

Days were spent well

Laughing and joking with their friends.

 

That all changed when the men and planes came.

Raining from the sky

Red, Orange, Grey

But also there was white.

 

The white would hiss.

The white would spit.

It clung to their parents skin.

It made their parents scream.

 

Now the children sit in strange places.

With strange people.

With strange things on their feet.

All strange things brought by the white.

The Fight

Jack Logan, Year 12

Crimson knuckles and blackened eyes,

Borne of fury, passion, fire

The quiet rage against the gentle night,

An entry for two, but an exit for one.

 

All qualms and restraints left at the door,

To witness the brawl, that unholy sport,

The howling masses, the feral roar,

Hunger for violence, for victory, for more.

 

The deafening song that follows the dance

Of feints and blocks, then blow after blow,

Hand in hand with raw, primal power,

More beasts than men while fists are out.

 

Hooks and jabs and almighty wallops,

Both men seeing red, in place of sense.

The betting men jeer and yell the loudest;

One eye on the brawl, the other on their wallets.

 

A marathon bout, a parade of power!

Neither man able to best the other.

Yet now the dance is a mere stagger:

The emboldened roar a guttural growl,

Now a wheeze,

now

nothing

at

all.

 

And now, what’s this!

The crowd shocked into silence,

The young lad’s broken the other bloke’s nose,

And with it, his spirit.

Money made on blood changes hands,

Triumphant cries amidst embittered boos.

Yet even when the makeshift arena’s clear of folk,

The victor bends over his one-time foe,

And clasps his hand as a mate:

“Come on, bud, I’ll buy you a drink.”

Excerpt from The Precursor Legacy

Mark Horton, Year 11

Chapter 1

Journeyman Voran was the first of the expedition team to step through the now demolished stone doors. The sight that greeted him gave him cause to pause and collect himself.

“Goddess,” he muttered in wonder. The sentiment was shared by every member of the expedition as they stepped through the threshold of the doorway and then picked their way through the rubble. The sight that lay beyond the doors was unique. Along the smooth stone walls of the corridor were two rows of suits of armour. Ceylan Juha stepped towards one. She ran a hand from the helm to the armour’s plated chest.

“Strange, there isn’t any dust on it,” she commented. Her gaze lingered upon the hollow, lifeless openings of the helm that would enable the wearer to see. She repressed a shudder.

“There isn’t?” queried a voice behind her.

“I wouldn’t have said so if it were otherwise, Journeyman Voran,” Ceylan replied scornfully.

“That was an amateur mistake, mage. Could’ve been killed, or worse,” came the gruff voice of Grur, the expedition’s Head Guard. He wore his trademark scowl.

“Then would you be so kind as to retrieve one of these weapons for me since I am so amateurish?” Ceylan replied snidely. Grur grunted and withdrew a small coil of cordage from his small sling pack. Several other members of the expedition gathered around in anticipation.

“Back,” Grur barked in annoyance. ‘Bloody mages and their curiousity,’ Grur cursed mentally. He quickly tied a loop and placed it over the crosspiece and the hilt of the blade. He gave it a gentle tug. Nothing. He tried again with a little more force. Again, nothing. In frustration he jerked his arm sharply. Nothing. Finally losing his patience Grur heaved on the cordage in his hand. Nothing. Grur turned, his face flushed.

“No luck?” came Ceylan’s sarcastic comment.

Grur felt his eye twitch. “Don’t touch it. That’s an order. As Head Guard I order you for your safety and my coin not to touch it. Understood?”Grur demanded, as he jabbed a finger at the source of his fraying temper. The girl, Ceylan something-a-rather had been a constant annoyance since entering the caverns. Her disregard for her own safety in favour of indulging her curiosity, could mean he would be getting less coin for this job.

“Yes,” came the curt reply.

“Alright people let’s move along, it’s been who knows how long and it’ll still be here when we return,” came the voice of expedition leader Alik Ripke.

Ceylan nodded in agreement before striding past Grur. In turn Grur turned to glare a hole through the back of the young girl’s head.

Alik’s heavily pregnant wife had somehow managed to get herself onto the expedition. As a result the speed with which the expedition moved was limited to her. Rumours said Alik had given in when his wife had threatened to follow the expedition if he left her behind. After a while the expedition exited the corridor. They were greeted by towering statues, arms parted before them. In their palms danced an eerie purple-black flame. Their eyes glittered in the firelight.

“Astonishing,” remarked Alik. “Ceylan, look at that fire. Can you feel it? The ambient mana in the area seems to be providing the means to power the flames. The question is how? A mage would need to be emitting the required mana.”

“Sir Ripke?” a tentative voice called out. “Could an object or artifact be able to produce enough mana to support what we’re seeing?”

“An excellent suggestion Journeyman Voran. If that were to be the case then the object or artifact would be rather large or it could be very old,” replied Alik. As the expedition gathered around him. “We’ll divide into groups of two or three and document what we find. Do not touch anything in this room or any adjoining rooms,” he continued.

“Big room,” Grur scoffed.

“Ah, Grur would you please provide teams to each group?” Alik requested unnecessarily. After all, Grur was legally bound to provide the expedition with security.

“Mmh,” came Grur’s less than intelligent reply. “Watch your footing on the bridges as there’s nothing supporting ’em,” Grur continued. Alik nodded his thanks. The mercenary was crass, but he handled his cliental professionally. Alik was vaguely aware of Grur ordering his men to fall in with the now dispersed expedition. He briskly made his way across the bridge and stopped once he reached the central platform. In front of him stood a table of polished white stone, streaked with black. Atop it lay a sheathed blade, a length of black chain, parts of it were caked in dry gore and stained with blood, portions of it were also etched with small symbols and finally a cowl. Alik immediately began noting approximate lengths, posssible materials, possible purposes and ages of everything including the table. He was brought from his musings by a grunt from behind him. He turned and was startled to see his wife clutching her bulging stomach.

“Minnie!” he exclaimed as he hurriedly moved beside her.

“Fine. I’m fine love,” she reassured him. Her body however protested and she cried out in agony. “It’s coming! I can feel it!” she shrieked hysterically.

The Juice of Life

James Mandzufas, Year 12

Summer had not yet come. Arthur worked tirelessly on erecting the wire fencing required under the new shire regulations, post after post. A caked layer of mud was adorned by a fresh layer of sweat accompanied by an army of flies that didn’t seem to go away. The mud that caked Arthur’s clothes was from the remnants of the once powerful Baffle Creek, which had partially dried up two or so years ago, without any promise of returning to its original state. Adversely, the natural surrounds had struggled, as well as the reputation of Arthur’s farm as one of the best in the shire. Donnybrook homestead was deteriorating at an alarming rate.

An overarching sense of lifelessness occupied the land that Arthur had inherited from his father, and his father before him. The eucalyptus trees, especially, had begun to drown in the harsh, unforgiving dust that seemed to be more present than ever. The wildlife had struggled too. Only two summers ago Arthur was catching yabbies down by the creek, but now there was nowhere for them to call home. The Kookaburras that once sung from the treetops had vanished, and so had the general populace of Kangaroos.

“Jane!” called Arthur from just beyond the verandah. “Where’s me cutters?”

“Over by the tank darl,” shouted Jane.

Arthur walked reluctantly over to the tank and picked up the cutters. He tried not to entertain the thought of looking over the top of the tank to see how much water was left, but it was pressing against the sides of his skull like a rhino in a cage. He succumbed to the thought and made it a reality. What he saw was gut-wrenching. Almost no water remained.

“Bugger!”

Arthur was right in saying so. This was going to make it one of the toughest years ever down at Donnybrook, tougher than ever before.

“Jane?”

“Yeah?”

“The bloody tank’s almost run dry.”

Jane slumped back, seemingly emotionless, but then began to sob uncontrollably. She was attempting to understand this unfathomable situation, but it was too shocking to handle with her normal alacrity.

Arthur dropped his head to his hands and fell to his knees. He knew it was over. There was nothing he could do. Donnybrook was through.

The grass suddenly seemed browner, and the cattle began to look older, less plump, and more worthless. Arthur knew they weren’t going to have enough water to survive a month, yet alone summer.

However, in the back of Arthur’s mind was a tiny spark. Was there a way to pull through this? He had helped his father do it when he was just a boy, when the droughts of ’36 and ’37 had swept the nation. He had a visceral memory of how hard it was to do, and knew how hard he would have to work for the next few weeks. It was going to be even harder this time because he would be doing it alone. His two farmhands Bobby and Billy had left last week when Arthur told them that he didn’t have enough money to pay their wages for a good deal of time. Arthur could have pretended he was annoyed, and pleaded with them to stay, but he was an honest man, a true Aussie.

Arthur’s plan was to dig a series of ditches along the sides of each of his paddocks, in the hope that the final week of spring would bring rain. It was a last resort-effort, knowing that if rain did not fall, Donnybrook would be no more. Doubt filled Arthur consciously, but a mix of hope and desperation ran through his veins like wildfire, and fueled the incessant, backbreaking work.

The days felt longer, and the nights brought only a small amount of relief for Arthur. Jane would comfort him at the dinner table, but the worry was so visible on his face.

“Pass the butter would ya, Jane?” said Arthur.

Just as soon as the word “Jane” rolled off his lips, Arthur fainted and fell into his mashed potatoes.

Jane panicked and grabbed Arthur by the chin and sat him upright. “Arthur can you hear me?……Arthur?”

Arthur came to with a shock, but was not in a good way. Jane sentenced him to a day in bed for his little turn, but as soon as that day was over, Arthur was back in the paddocks, digging the ditches. The sweat was uncontrollable, it flowed like a river from head to toe, causing Arthur to wipe his hands every few minutes to prevent the shovel from slipping. Arthur wouldn’t stop. Shovel after shovel, grunt after grunt and clump of dirt after clump of dirt, he was getting the job done. The furrows on Arthur’s forehead grew deeper and more defined as the days went by, matched by the breadth and depth of his ditches. Finally, just when he thought he couldn’t manage to turn one more sod of earth, he finished the last ditch in the home paddock and headed home for a well-earned beer on the patio before falling exhausted into his bed.

Pit-pat pit-pat went the tin roof. Arthur and Jane were in bed, when suddenly rain started to fall. Arthur woke instantly and shook Jane happily. “Jane! Jane! It’s here!” exploded Arthur.

“Arthur it’s late, go to sleep,” moaned Jane.

Arthur didn’t listen. His boyish curiosity carried him out the bedroom door and into the hall, through the living room, past the kitchen and out the front door into the paddocks. He danced in it, rejoiced in it and lived in it.

The rain had come.

The Preservation Initiative

Flynn Davies, Year 12

Nigel looked up to the heavens. He bathed in each glimmer that was allowed to pass through the canopy above; each flicker a blessing. The rulers of this arboraceous land had welcomed him, a lesser being, into their presence. Feet planted firmly in the ground, immovable; they stretched heavenwards, standing here for longer than Nigel or any other being ever could. That deserves homage. He would have thought that the only prospect of these titans falling would happen when the Earth herself was finally engulfed by the expansion of the sun, the stifling heat forcing her and all her inhabitants to asphyxiate. This would be the burden of their immortality.

Nigel had inscribed these mighty tree, plant and animal species that he could observe around him, as the ‘Gondwana Rainforests’. Inscribed on his inaugural World Heritage List that he had founded in 1986. There were few places on Earth that contained as much flora and fauna that had remained relatively unchanged through time from the fossil record of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. That was exactly thirty years ago from today. This replica of Eden was an outstanding example of the major stages of the Earth’s evolutionary history. It contained important and significant habitats for the in situ conservation of biological diversity. It represented the ongoing geological process and biological evolution. He had implemented large extensions to the protected area in 1994, including other reserves in New South Wales that were listed as central eastern rainforest reserves as well as Queensland.

He closed his eyes and listened to the quiet rustling of the trees and felt the warm temperate atmosphere of the subtropical rainforest. If he had not saved these areas by the creation of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, (that was his pseudo name for the World Heritage Organisation) then it was likely that some ignoramus who did not understand the substantive nature of the flora in relation to his petty little existence would have ensured that the entire area was logged for campfires to singe snags.

The very presence of these thoughts made him irate. Or maybe it was the fact that he had just caught sight of a glint of silver. The golden light from above did not gleam off the silver as it did off the leaves, at least not to him anyway. Perhaps this was because the ‘silver’ that caught his eye was in fact a filthy piece of aluminum, probably decaying by now. The fact that there was nobody around him to listen to his vehement lecture or challenge him to an onerous debate about litter, made him calm down. The trees understood him; the leaves above twinkled in appreciation. All he had done was provide protection for this area that was teeming with life. It was him who felt compelled to thank the flora and fauna, the rightful owners of this land for looking after these areas for generations. It was a blessing to merely experience the magic of this majestic sliver of the Earth that was not completely mauled by the rudimentary ways of humankind.

Despite its immense beauty, this area was occupied by a hint of melancholy. This pensive sadness welcomed him in. Its loneliness latched onto his empathy. He felt at peace as the cacophony of rage in his head began to quieten down a little; he could hear a constant buzzing getting louder. He picked up the dirty piece of metal that was merely a symbol of the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of human nature. He cast his gaze upwards towards the roof of the rainforest.

There was a new silhouette that blocked light from reaching the rain forest ground roots now. It was another one of man’s defective creations. Those rotors could malfunction at any second resulting in needless disaster. Man was not even supposed to inhabit the sky. He could not imagine the mighty trees that scraped the sky and stood so defiantly in the ground, falling. In the unprecedented event of one of these giants falling, Nigel had ample time to get out of the way. On the contrary, these flying machines were unpredictable. They could stop and drop instantly and unexpectedly and you would not have time to say “golly” before being engulfed in flames and burning jagged metal. He could see the flashes of white and blue on the helicopter. They were coming to relieve him of his beloved flora. Who knows how long the World Heritage Organisation could hold back the unnecessary desperation for wood? There was no room for underestimating the stupidity of humanity. The helicopter was descending rapidly. They were coming, he thought to himself. He took a sip from his conical flask.

A microphone enhanced voice called out loudly. What was it saying? “Stay where you are!” ordered the voice.

He took one last glance up at the helicopter. Its menacing silhouette was growing by the second. He was a baby monkey awaiting a hunting eagle to swoop through and pluck him from the ground and lift him off to God knows where.

“You will come with us. Trespassing on the land is a felony!” ordered the microphone. Several leather-clad figures restrained him.

“What are you doing? Don’t you blokes know who I am? I am the found –.” Nigel was dragged away before he could finish his sentence.

“Yep, we sure do.” The aluminum fell from his grasp and landed on the ground to continue its harmful process of decay.

*   *   *   *   *

After Nigel’s disappearance, the Gondwana Rainforests were quiet. The leaves ceased to rustle as the light rolled off the shining leaves, slightly dimmer than before, as they silently reflected. Their hope was dissolving as time passed by. The humans would pick them off one by one. They stood in grave anticipation.

Lion’s Youth of the Year Speech and Leadership Competition, 2017

Felix Jones, Year 11

Good afternoon, I’d like to begin by thanking the Lion’s Club of Wanneroo for extending me this fantastic opportunity.

Today, I’d like to speak to you about an issue facing the world. This issue polarizes, it divides and it may well define who we are as a society, when we reflect in fifty years. It’s been described, by some, as the biggest crisis since the Second World War whilst others paint it as a hoax designed to perpetuate fear and chaos.

I am talking about the Syrian Civil War and the resulting refugee crisis.

This issue has been discussed, debated and covered relentlessly for several years, so I’m going to attempt to take a unique perspective on the issue and propose an alternative solution. And this solution has its roots entrenched in questions of both morality and individualism.

The first of these questions: are we morally obliged to help?

My answer; yes. I believe that as individuals, who are in many cases more privileged than others, we should help. Whether you want to donate to a Human Rights Campaign, write a letter to your local politician regarding the establishment of safe zones in Syria or to just be educated on the issue and make sure that people are aware of what is going on. I fundamentally believe it is morally incumbent on us to do these small things as individuals. Now, I’d like to make a distinction, I don’t believe Australia should accept vast numbers of refugees and in no way do I make the claim that it is our moral obligation to accept refugees. Frankly, I believe we shouldn’t accept anyone from anywhere, unless we can comprehensively check their background. And if that means we can’t accept people from certain countries, for the next decade, then that is that.

I find it important to clarify these two positions, as international discourse tends to perpetuate the idea that you’re either a racist bigot or someone who wants complete open borders. When, in virtually all cases, the answer is found somewhere in the middle.

From this we must ask the question: what can be done that will most help Syrian refugees?

And again the answer leads us further away from accepting refugees into Australia. Pew Research Global Data found that 1 in 10 refugees in Europe, is homeless. 1 in 6 live in deplorable conditions of abject poverty and over 70% report not being integrated into the society. Can we be surprised? If we simply transfer millions of people from one society into another which is vastly different in terms of norms, beliefs, economic necessity and culture, do we assume a harmless integration? Are we that naive and idealistic?

What can we do and how do we ‘help’ those in desperate need, in their own countries?

I believe there are two major policy implementations that would prove vital:

  1. The establishment of humanitarian corridors and civilian safe zones throughout the Middle-East. Specifically, along the borders of the Golan Heights, Azerbaijan and the Jordan valley. All sides of the conflict (Rebels, US, Russia, Assad and Islamic State) have advocated for humanitarian regions in these areas and it is a real possibility in the next six months.
  2. The advocation for increased private sector involvement in the region and private funding of groups such as MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). Encouraging government groups, including Australians, to withdraw from the region and instead encourage individual funding of the private sector would be incredibly helpful. This is a lesson we must take from the Ebola crisis; government groups had diplomatic strategies, they couldn’t be seen helping particular groups and couldn’t interfere with sovereignty. Private charity offers a realistic alternative, without a hidden governmental agenda and this will enable increased efficiency and care to those who need it most in the Middle East.

To conclude, I personally believe that we are morally obliged to do our little bit to help as individuals. On a macro level, private institutions and humanitarian zones have historically proven to be the most efficient and effective way to help those desperately in need.

Thank you.