Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize

Ballina Region for Refugees Poetry Prize

in memory of Louise Griffiths – a past member of BR4R

Proudly supported by

SCU and Coolabah_s

The 2020 Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize

is now finalised.

Ballina Region for Refugees congratulates this year’s winner
Victoria King with the poem ‘Can I Hold a Village?’. click to view

    Victoria receives $300 prizemoney and a subscription to the Saturday Paper

Second placegetter is Genevieve Barr  with the poem ‘Disappeared’. click to view

    Genevieve receives $150 prizemoney.

Third placegetter is Yasaman Bagheri with the poem ‘Empty Envelope’.click to view

    Yasaman receives $50 prizemoney.

The above poems are reproduced below and will be published in Coolabah, an on-line journal as well as in the BR4R newsletter.


Start planning now for the 2021 BR4R Seeking Asylum Art Prize


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

$500 total prize money



Planning to enter next year?

Planning to enter next year?

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.