Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize

Now Closed

Start preparing for next year

download guidelinesdownload entry form

The 2021 BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize


Entries closed Sunday 15th August 2021

Judging is now complete for this year’s poetry’s competition. We will now be in touch with all winners as well those whose poems may not have won, but whose poems the editor would like to publish. Once we have been in touch with all those people, the results will then be posted on the website. 
Thanks to all who entered. We appreciate your support of this competition.

Winners will be announced soon.

This competition is in memory of Louise Griffiths – a past member of BR4R

Proudly supported by


Social Alternatives is an independent, quarterly refereed journal which aims to promote public debate, commentary and dialogue about contemporary social, political, economic and environmental issues.

Time for a Home

Ballina Region for Refugees (BR4R) invites you to submit up to three poems to this year’s Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize.

The BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize celebrates the positive contributions that refugees make to our communities. It acknowledges the circumstances that forced them to flee their homelands and request refuge in Australia.

This year’s Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize theme is ‘Time for a Home’.

We welcome poems of up to 50 lines that consider the experiences, aspirations and hopes of refugees and asylums seeking a home in which they can build new, meaningful and safe lives.

Poets may send in up to three poems.

Poems can be sent until the closing date of Sunday 15th August 2021.

Entry is free and is open to anyone living in Australia.

BR4R especially welcomes poems from refugees and those seeking asylum in Australia.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place winners.

The first-place prize is $300, the second-place prize is $150, and the third-place prize is $50.

Winning entries and selected runners-up will be published in Social Alternatives.

$500 total prize money



The 2021 BBR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize takes inspiration from the #TIMEFORAHOME campaign.

It is time in Australia to release all refugees from detention.
It is time for a permanent resettlement solution
And it is time to give our refugees a home.

Wherever we came from and however we got here, we all need a safe place to call home — a basic human right.

For over seven years, the Australian government has imposed cruel and inhumane policies against people rightfully seeking asylum. Over two hundred people are still held against their will in PNG and Nauru. Over a thousand women, men and children have been moved to Australia for critical medical treatment, but now live in visa limbo. Over one hundred are in locked immigration detention centres and hotel prisons. Countless Australian, UN and independent reports tell the same story of systematic abuse, violence and medical neglect of these people.

Many refugees have recently been released on three to six-month Temporary Final Departure Visas. They have no certainty about what is to happen to them, when they will feel at home.

Enough is enough!

It is time for the Government to release these people from detention.

It is time to resettle them into our community.

It is time to make them safe.

It is Time for a Home.


The poems will be judged by poet Dr Aidan Coleman.

Dr. Coleman is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.

He has published two full length collections of poetry which were shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Prize, WA Premier’s Book Awards and Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature.

His third collection, Mount Sumptuous, was published in 2020 by Wakefield Press.

He writes reviews and criticism, and has coauthored Shakespeare textbooks. His research on the poet John Forbes (1950-1998) was awarded the University of Adelaide Medal for Doctoral Research.

Winner  2021

Can I Hold a Village?

by Victoria King


destroys our poem


dust in suitcase

of what was

the journey away from


here, sky

doesn’t whistle

with erasure

& serenade of shell


instead, wind pollinated

with dishes, bring memory

of land to the tongue


stove, a mouth:

dictionary of spices

combine old words

into new world


learn brick & mortar

remake language & syntax

reshape this place

write stanzas

with three grammars:

voice of mother

voice of father

voice of here & now


how a house is the poem

stuck inside our head

but a home is the poem

we write instead


Winner  2020

Can I Hold a Village?

by Victoria King

Can one person hold a village? Bear the message of lineage?
Can one person hold a people, a country, a faith, a race,
A way of seeing, of being?
A legacy?

Is this me?

Could I be that container, floating on waters
Captured and caught and still holding that message,
As a mother to my daughter?
That message whose nuance is so rich and so deep, so pungently technicolour-sweet
And then agonisingly elusive and fleet
But there, like a handprint
Indescribably perfect.

For yes, that message lies in me, swells through me
In the deep, blood-heavy thud in me,
Swelling and abating, flood-like
Washing, enveloping, leaving me wanting
Gasping, for I am unable not to hold this message
And tend it, and send it
In the milk of my breast
With the heft of my chest
Along the glide of my breath
Through the slick of my sweat
Imbued in my smiles, my tears, my cries, denials
My lullabies to my child.

Can one person whisper the wilds
Of the shushing trees that push and ease
The bulge of their girth through rock-layered earth?
Can they breathe the plumes of blue sky crags and silver streams,
Of smoke curls leaving evening fires?

Can one person perspire
The honey-rich sweetness of dates hanging uneaten?
Or hum the buzzing burr of flies
Snatching at dust-filled eyes
That are deep and brimming with love.

Am I enough?

My mother held all this in me
For me
As did her mother, and her mother, and her mother
… And so on forever.
Our heredity, our legacy.

But now, how can I find a way?
A castaway, no longer there
Encumbered, deracinated, gasping for air
For the clutch of home, for the certainty of knowing.

I am suffocating, alienated, carved in two by the currents that rage in me,
Claw at me.
And yet their power enables me.
And so determinedly, I make my plea:

My child, let me try.




Runners Up 2020

2nd place


by Genevieve Barr

Day breaks, out of tune,
and morning finds its way, half-heartedly
to its well worn pedestal.
Stale air, and the sheets are stained again
with the boredom of insistence of existence.
A howling routine.

A calendar is checked,
(always full of hope that it will tell me something more).
Is it yesterday?  Tomorrow?  Or today?
I position myself, straight backed upon the waiting room chair
and waste away the beginning of another, other day.
There’s a lethargy in here.
Harsh words scrape at the door.
An afternoon hides behind household chores.

I have seen the undead blinking,
as I sit giggling at the in joke
written long ago today.

What’s it like to have never been?
To turn a corner, never seen.  To turn another…
Where was I?  And now I’m not.
What’s it like to be in between?
A time…a place…..My defining moment.
What’s it like to have disappeared?
Or worse;  thrown out with the trash
and pissed on by the cat.

What’s it like to have disappeared?

An empty space.
A weeping sore.
A crashing bore.
A deaf ear turned.
A history burned.
A future scorned.
A lethargy born.

What’s it like to be in between?
Is it like a tiresome day?  Is it like a routine way?

And not soon enough, evening arrives
and extinguishes any hope of an unexpected tomorrow.


3rd place

Empty Envelope

by Yasaman Bagheri

Falling off the sinking boat
With our hands held against the waves,
We kept the pattern to rescue
Every second’s worth and stretched to a lifetime.

Inside the cloud of spilled gasoline and blood
When hope was sinking down
Hands reached to rescue.
Our disappeared boat was given a name,
(U)nifrom (L)ima (A)lpha.

As if water had washed our names away;
Instead, numbers had appeared
From one to a hundred and two.
We were (re)named and handed an envelope –
A message of hope.

Time worked differently in there:
We watched it, counted it;
They got paid for it;
We suffered it, lost it;
Inside the reports never read.

We were kids born between policies.
The Border Force man spoke to us of laws.
Laws denied us, detained us.
Laws always designed against us.

When he sent out his men and
they had our throats in their hands,
I thought about how
‘Boat’ came before ‘People’
And ‘Border’ before ‘Force’.

This was the message of hope:
We opened it, an empty envelope,
Full of unwritten words:
‘We will make sure
You will never have a home.’

Every year we are less human
More popular election-winning lies.
You can rise from the ocean
With blood-coloured wings
Sharks will let you pass – unharmed.
But you will drown in prison camps.

Close your eyes this time,
Let me build you a boat
From my two hands,
A boat that will set you free
From these prison camps.

You will sail to no ‘Shore’ ‘Off’ of our hearts;
The road you’ll travel from seeking refuge to finding home,
Will not end behind a maximum-security fence;
Home will not be a place in the palm of your hands
Where you hold the tally mark of years –
(Un)lived in prison camps.


ABN 64 683380 227