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Monday, 28 June 2021
Virtual presentation: Zoom
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Thank you Michael, Professor Ewing and Margaret.

Dennis and I are honoured, as joint Patrons of WestWords, to participate in this prize giving ceremony and book launch, that is a celebration of the creativity and diversity of Western Sydney.

In the foreword to Are We Here Yet?, we observe that Australia is a land of stories and story tellers, of voices that arc from the ancient landscapes of the Dreamtime to the streetscapes and suburbs of Greater Western Sydney, home to over 2.5 million Australians originating from over 170 countries and speaking almost 100 different languages.

We, too, acknowledge the traditional owners of our lands and celebrate their rich and ancient culture of storytelling as we also, today, celebrate the new stories and story tellers of Western Sydney.

The submissions for the Inaugural Western Sydney Writing Prize were notable for their creativity and their literary quality, their flow of language and their absorbing content.  To every contributor:  congratulations.    And please, do not let it be your last, regardless of whether you are a finalist this year.   Sydney and the wider reading community not only needs to know your stories, but as a literary and literate society we cherish your insightful, funny, poignant and searching work: often nostalgic, sometimes painful, but always hopeful.  

Your storytelling has given you agency over your lives. 

I am reminded of a survivor from the Black Saturday bushfires who was taking part in a writing and storytelling workshop with fellow survivors.  “I’m finding this more powerful than counselling”, she said. Counselling was fine, but during the sessions she tended to feel like a client, or even a victim. During the storytelling workshop she felt she was in charge, she was navigating her own ship.[1]

 Our community needs to be as much at home with your stories as you, the story tellers have needed to find your home here.  As Australian author, Arnold Zable, has said:

Whether we are young or old, stories connect us and add meaning to our lives.[2]

Literature is also about the sheer joy of reading.  The Inaugural Western Sydney Writing Prize has been a magnet for storytelling for all of us to enjoy.  

I said earlier that we are a nation of storytellers.  In many ways our collective stories are like a grand tapestry. Parts are colourful, others prosaic, some are rough, some smooth, some patterned, some plain, others messy and parts neat. There are thousands of threads weaving the stories of our lives. 

Unless we illuminate this awesome tapestry, the richness of our society will pass us by, diminish our potential for empathy and we will remain a shadow of what we could become.

Your writing, the running of the prize and the publishing of the book are all part of illuminating the tapestry.

So, thank you writers and Westwords and WestLit Libraries.

Dennis and I also want to recognise the support of the NSW Government through Create NSW as part of Arts Restart, along with the Australian Catholic University, who sponsored the 16-18yr old category, and Pepper Money, who also contributed to the Prize. 

It is our honour to present awards to the winning and highly commended entries. But first - I am delighted to officially launch Living Stories - Are We Here Yet?

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