RD Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre holds an annual, national Writing for the Environment prize in honour of our founder, Bob Walshe. This year, submissions for the Award close at midnight on Friday 30 June, 2023

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

Through the R D Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize, 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.

Future, what future? The 2023 Writing for the Environment Prize theme

Five hundred years ago, Shakespeare’s Macbeth uttered these pitiful words… 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! 
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.

A bleak outlook on life and the future. 

Sixty years ago, Kurt Vonnegut gave us a brilliant short story, Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, about overpopulation in New York because of an anti-ageing drug developed in the future from dandelion and mud.

Like Vonnegut, countless science fiction writers have described countless types of futures based mostly on the extrapolation of current and immediate trends. 

Every day in the media, there are cautions and warnings and predictions about the future of humanity in a rapidly changing world with an increasingly degraded environment.  

When we talk about future, we can consider these types:  possible futures, preferable futures, plausible futures, and probable futures. What is your vision?  

The 2023 national RD Walshe Writing for the Environment competition asks you to consider the future and write a piece of fiction that puts yourself in it. A piece of writing that personalises the future. The writing must, of course, consider elements related to the environment and broader sustainability concepts.  


There were three age categories for the 2023 competition:

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

Note: The submission form asks for your birthdate. Your age on the closing day of the competition is the age that counts.

Submission Criteria

This national competition is open to Australian citizens and permanent residents only. For the 2023 Writing for the Environment competition, the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre will accept writing that is:

  • A piece of fictional prose that is no more than 800 words in length (pieces that are over this number will not be considered)
  • Fiction
  • Prose
  • Original and on topic
  • Creative, powerful (it makes an impact on the reader) and quirky
  • Clear in purpose
  • This national competition is open to Australian citizens and permanent residents only.  
  • Amateurs only. This is not a competition for professional writers.


Once again, a variety of judges with experience in writing will help judge the 2023 competition.  For this year, however, a creative writing group from Queenwood Girls School will judge the under 19 category.  (Note that no student from that school can enter the competition.) 

Closing date 

Please note that submissions for the 2023 competition closed at midnight on Friday 30 June, 2023


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

  • Winner $500
  • Second place $250
  • Third place $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 under 19 category. Pat was a member of the original writing group that Bob Walshe set up over 50 years ago!

    For the Over 60 category:
  • Winner: $500 
  • Runner-up: $100 

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


Previous years

We have had some amazing entries over the previous years. In 2020 one of our judges, Pam Cook, a published author, said this:

All entries were of a very high standard and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I truly hope these writers continue developing their talents and I do think the Earth is in good hands if the sentiments expressed in these pieces are indicative of the attitudes of our young in relation to caring for the Earth. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read these fabulous pieces of writing.

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. 


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