RD Walshe National Writing for the Environment Prize – 2024

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre holds an annual, National Writing for the Environment prize in honour of our founder, Bob Walshe.

Writing was a passion and a skill of Bob’s. He taught and inspired many people to write and write and write! And he believed writing was an important tool in the work of building a sustainable world.

Bob was an educator, historian, journalist, and environmentalist. He authored many books on history, English, and writing, and he wrote articles on the environment for many years for the newspaper Shire Life, and for a number of other environmental magazines. Bob produced Australia’s first global warming poster for the Commonwealth Government in the late 1980s.

The origins of our Environment Centre are proudly traced back to writing courses Bob ran in the Sutherland Shire.

Through the RD Walshe National Writing for the Environment Competition, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre continues to value the role and place of the art of writing in bringing about change – in issues of social justice and environment. Writing offers a chance to reflect on these problems and their causes, as well as on the solutions and their causes.

A good piece of writing can shift minds and hearts; it can move hands. The intention of this competition is to attract quality writing that can inspire or inform and incite change.

‘Through the Eyes of Nature’ is the 2024 Writing for the Environment prize theme

This year, we are asking writers to see the world from an alternative perspective. We invite writers to ‘become’ in their writing an endangered animal anywhere on the planet, an island sinking, sinking in the Pacific, a mountain, a tree, a fish in the sea, an albatross, an elephant, an insect, a koala, your favourite fruit or meandering river….

What does the world look like from the perspective of your chosen non-human element of nature?

Age Categories

There are three age categories:

  1. Under 19
  2. 19-26
  3. Over 60


The following criteria apply:

  • This national competition is open to Australian citizens only
  • 800 words – pieces that are over this number will not be considered
  • Fiction 
  • Prose 
  • Original and on topic 
  • Clear in purpose 
  • Creative and powerful – it has an impact on the reader 
  • Craftsmanship as a writer 
  • Amateurs only – this is not a competition for professional writers. 

See below for the submission portal. 


As a result of a generous donation by a member of the Sutherland Shire community, we are able to offer an additional prize for the U19 and the 19-26 categories: 

  • Winner: $500  
  • Second place: $250 
  • Third place: $100

For the Over 60 category: 

  • Winner: $500 
  • Runner-up: $100 

The Sutherland Shire Writers Group will continue to offer a $100 prize to a young and inspiring writer. This is the Pat Strong Writing Award, and the winner will be drawn from the U19 category. Pat was a member of the original writing group that Bob Walshe set up over 50 years ago!


Once again, a variety of judges with experience in writing will help judge the 2024 competition. Again this year, a creative writing group from Queenwood Girls School will judge the U19 category (note that no student from that school is permitted enter the competition).

Rowan Cahill, a widely-published author and close friend of Bob Walshe’s, has agreed to be an arbiter in situations where it’s difficult to determine winners! And that has happened every year!

ROWAN CAHILL is a graduate of the universities of Sydney, New England, and Wollongong. Prominent in the student, anti-war and New Left movements of the 1960s and 70s, he was a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam War. He has variously worked as a farmhand, teacher (in the technical education, secondary school, prison, and university systems), freelance writer, and for the trade union movement as a publicist, historian, and rank and file activist. Currently an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wollongong, he has published widely in mainstream, trade union, social movement, and academic publications. His most recent books, co-authored with Terry Irving, are Radical Sydney (2010) and The Barber Who Read History (2021). His website is at https://rowancahill.net/

Closing date 

The submission portal will close at midnight on Friday 28 June 2024

Submitting your writing 

Please submit your writing piece via our submissions portal.

If you have any questions, please contact Phil Smith at rephilled@hotmail.com

We wish you well and look forward to your pieces of writing.
Phil Smith
Alex Talbot

Previous years

The 2023 competition was entitled, ‘Future, what Future?’, it attracted almost 100 entries. It asked writers to put themselves in their fictional future whilst considering the environment and broader sustainability concepts.

You can read the prize-winning stories from our 2023 writing competition here ➤ https://www.ssec.org.au/grants-and-awards/rd-walshe-memorial-writing-for-the-environment-prize/writing-for-the-environment-award-2023/

In 2022 more than 120 people across the three age categories entered the competition.  Writers threw their best ideas and writing skills at the topic, Peace and Sustainability.  

In 2020 the Award attracted over 80 entries. The topic was I am Earth.

  • The inaugural Pat Strong Award – $100 for a junior writer, thanks to the Sutherland Shire Writers Group, was awarded to Charlee Rose Murtough-Coombes with her story, Tired, Tired Earth.

For 2019 the topic was Writing to Change the World. 

Comments are closed.