Peter Jones Peace Prize

Posted on August 27, 2021

The Peter Jones Peace Prize is an annual writing competition for High School students at Friends’ and was created in honour of long-serving teacher of Humanities and English at The Friends’ School and respected Quaker, Peter Jones. Peter is a man who ‘lets his life speak’. His life is a testimony to the Quaker principles.

Students are invited to write a poem, reflection, essay or speech inspired by a given stimulus or theme each year, provided by Peter Jones.

This year’s theme was:
“No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
(Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement).

Western Australian writer and Quaker, Virginia Jealous, who has entered into a partnership with The Friends’ School, spoke to the stimulus and to the nature of short-listed entries. This year’s prompt Virginia identified as a clear call to action “…and calls to action can be as complicated to put down on paper as they are to ‘live into’, in the real world,” she said, and continued with: “They involve a delicate balance of what I would call ‘the wagging finger’ and ‘the beckoning finger’. The wagging finger can be—often needs to be—forceful and fierce. It uses words like, ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘right’ and it can be quite direct and confrontational. The beckoning finger is just as passionate but it’s gentler; it kind of says, ‘come with me’, ‘maybe we could do this’, ‘I wonder if this is possible’. It encourages rather than demands a response. Both ways of writing kind of need to be in balance.”

Virginia described the short-listed entries as examples of ‘strong and persuasive and individualistic writing’ and discussed the power of choosing titles for written work and how this sets the reader up for expectations that are either fulfilled or turned as the writer takes you on a journey from the beginning to the end of their piece.

“From the very first words the skills of the writers that are in play at the very start of all these pieces is very evident to me,” Virginia said, “How are they going to lead me through the rest of the words? How are the pieces going to end? I’ll leave you to find that out for yourselves.”

Congratulations to Dihansa Udawatta’s (Year 8) winning poem “Hope”. Stella Petheram (Year 9) was also commended for her poem ’The Cry of the Currawongs’. You can read both pieces below.

Winner of the Peter Jones Peace Prize 2021, Dihansa Udawatta (Year 8)

Hope | By Dihansa Udawatta

Speckled with embers,
And a crescent looming above.
Shivers creep in those
Who sleep,

Lifeline cut,
Through judgement,
Through scorn,
Through hate,
To isolate.

Through the inky blur,
A stagger around the circle of life.
A revolution which lingers,
Too long.
Grumbles roar in those
Who beg
For life. 

Through the dusty haze,
Missiles scream, 
Then collide with mustard sand.
The inability to reconcile, 
To compromise,
Denies, divides, destroys.
The light dims
In those
Who survive.

When the devil rages,
When the door closes,
When the world keeps spinning
And you want to crumble.

The darkness
Of hatred,
The abyss
Of apathy.

Be brave to hope,
Spread love to create change.

There is light
At the end.
We just have to see it, 
To be it.

The Cry of the Currawongs | by Stella Petheram (Year 9)

The moss sinks underfoot
Two footprints sound
Overhead the tops of the trees sway and dip like a kite in the wind
The great expanse of sky, clouds running across it like skittish skinks
The stream gurgles through a gap between two mossy boulders
The lichen rough

The ripples of currawong cry linger
Upon the untouched air 

Massive old eucalyptuses stand
Wiser than any philosophers in history books
Their scarred trunks tell of hard times 
Of success 

The ripples of currawong cry linger
Upon the untouched air 

Years pass, the forest changed
People everywhere
Travelling from faraway lands 
Drinking from plastic straws, eating from gold plates
Not caring about the sound of the wind through trees
The taste of rainforest on skin

The currawong no longer cries
Old trees are ash on the ground
Unable to share their wisdom ever again 

The concrete is hard underfoot
Two footprints sound 
Overhead the great buildings are cold against the sky 
A concrete path rushes through a gap between two mossy boulders
Plastic art smooth 

Memories fade with the cry of the currawongs