Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize

Now Closed

Watch this space for the start of the 2023 competition

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Ballina Region for Refugees Poetry Prize 2022

in memory of Louise Griffiths – a past member of BR4R

Proudly supported by


The 2022 BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize

A Turning Point

Proudly supported by the journal Social Alternatives

This event now closed

The Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize was established in 2019
in memory of
Louise Griffiths, a past member of BR4R.

$500 total prize money



Winner  2021

home is a poem

by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

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 



Runners Up 2021

2nd place


by Colin Montfort

the waiting room is cramped with expectations
                             on   the   blind   side  
                     homeric welcome home charades         
                                kool-aid toasts and truckled cheer        
         from those   who don’t remember         
somewhere else                                   the sailor  
                          who comes and goes                the way of least resistance
                                                                                                                    dillies    here                                
and     dallies     there 
                                                                           like   rumour
                     the   keenest   player   bitten twice
                              untwisting   fate’s capricious catch   
    is   back   inside

         half asleep in yellow fog     

                             no   witness   in the wash
                                      to mind   the cruel mirage  
                                           seething                         in   his   soul
    but     time
                     the   sailor’s        sometime   friend       
                                                  most      trusted    
                                            and or   feared  
                                                                    when    ticking   

                     every day   the tide    will   toggle
                     twice each way    behind his back                     
                     sweeping odds   against the clock 
                                                                            to   spent   from   pending   paradox

it’s twilight shift   and   sister   ruth                            
                                                         resets   the locks                       
                                                         the rubber rooms are keyless now
                      the yellow door says ward thirteen            
                      behind it        in   a parallel hallucination
                                               shadow beings twiddle fog
                                                                                  ships pass     
                                                                          almost scuffing     
                                                                     barely   felt
sailor dreaming snuffles and sighs 
                    levitates on a laudanum wave                                           
                                        the   quiver     of   a   tell-tale   thread
                                                                                                  a   salty   breeze   
                                                                and some forever sail away

              anchor   here   and   there    when things need fixing
     the   high   seas   howl   and   whisper     

                                               sometimes   at eventide                              

                             you   can   hear   from   here   to   nowhere   gently   ticking


3rd place

How do they rest

by Adele Aria

She pushes against the small birdcage
he cannot bear to unlock
The dog barks and whimpers
responding to resistance and rage

Her world shrunken and deflated by love
that he labels with shame
She does not go easy
hopes only seen through water above

He takes her future and deletes her past
to remake her as gone
Who and what can she be
when his story is what we hear last



Best Poem by a poet identifying as a refugee or asylum seeker

My Pain Cannot Be Traded

by Arad Nik

Here colour and race fight together
Like boat people fight with politics
The yellow sun in the flag stamps the red earth with a black struggle 
And sets over Nauru where into the black night our hopes crumble
Detention is just another word for jail
The tears of a stolen generation cannot fail
Aboriginal history is a bloody book
Offshore you will find another one — if you look

My talking with aboriginal was beautiful and sweet
The boat is witness for where our stories meet
Between sky and ocean lies the only path for the refugees feet
Welcome said aboriginal and opened a door to me
A man from a different minority
I could read his story in the face behind the smile he gave me
I could read his story in the face behind the smile he showed me

His eyes became a mirror of peace rippling beneath the shadow of pain
His heart revealed my vision of paradise
His pain is my pain
How can I treat it?
His sad sound
How can I explain it?
All the stars in the sky tell his stories and reflect his love for this place
In this light Australia makes sense
Respect the sun in his flag
This was my first lesson

I am full of pain
Full of suffering
Full of torture
The dots painted on his face dance my pain

Don’t doubt
the world is beautiful
You can see it
enjoy it
But why in all this beautiful world
Can’t they give a space for me

You want to know more about my pain
Sit and listen
For my pain there is no cure
It is the same pain as his pain
Do you listen to him?
Do you hear him?



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