Artwork competition

Excellence Academy Inaugural Art Competition Winner

On Monday 26th April 2021, we opened our inaugural Excellence Academy Artwork competition.

It ran for 3 months, accepting all different mediums of artwork. We had submissions in written format, audio pieces, and visual artwork – it was a great to see a variety of pieces and a treat for our professional judges to review.

The competition had three judges come together at the end of July to determine our winner, Mark D’Angelo – Co Founder and Director of The Backlot Studios, Simon Lawrie – Curator at McClelland Sculpture Park and lastly our wonderful culture student board member – Alysha Middlin.

After a thorough review of all entries, our judges deemed a poem entitled ‘I was’, submitted by our Excellence student Claire Kearns, the winner.

Claire is a final-year student studying a Master of International Relations, supervised by Dr Benjamin Habib. She is passionate about tertiary education for students with a Care Leaver background, spreading awareness of the lived experience of neurodiverse La Trobe staff and students and is a tragically obsessed Trekkie.

Please see Claire’s winning submission below.

I was, by Claire Kearns

I was



Intrinsically youthful

I got

A’s without trying

I blew minds


I cared not

About anything


Was lacking

When invited

To dine with


I declined

I was



Intrinsically youthful

I gave

Two shits

About what

Would become of me

Life was a

Constant precipice

Of fear and



To university!

To scholarships!

To life!

Fifteen years





To university!

To scholarships!

To life!

Returning much older



Saggy, unnoticed

I no longer

Get guys

Cruising for a bruising

By that girl

I no longer

Get help

Eye contact

Or special attention

I get pitied




I get called

Stupid, oh! so stupid

An irredeemably deranged fighter

Irrelevant, vain

My outcome

Is set

By the size of my ass

And, the pity, the pity, the pity

I am the awkward


The frazzled


I am no longer

A genius

A vice-chancellor’s scholar

Delightful and eccentric

No, now I live in a world

Where I am

A commodity

An answer to inclusivity

A world where

Idiotic questions

Such as what does diversity mean?

Are competitions

I am, suddenly

One of Stella Young’s

“Hallmark moments”

I am the warrior

In an ersatz reality

Signalling virtuosity and compassion

I am not real

I am plastic

I am plastic

I am plastic

I am plastic

I am plastic

I am loudly


Past expectations

And limits

Quantified only by

The dice I hold

In my hand

And, my mind

I am driven

By the realisation

Of confinement,

Of being the other

The unnoticed,

The forgotten,

The middle-aged,

Feminist in chains

Has given me

A quiet comfort,

A glass prism

Casting colours.

I am colours,

Transfused with light,

Colours which are

Thicker than air,

Holier than water,

Better to

Breathe, walk, fly

Dance to!

Fragile me

Is long forgotten

Perfect me

Is now

They are not ready for me

Those who ask

For answers to

The unanswerable

Who reason

A competition

A learning module

A theme

Can erase a day,

A decade,

A mark,

Or a due date.

If I arise

In fifteen more years,

Will you be ready?

Or, will I be

In charge.


I am your zip

In your doo day

Your crumpling


I am the volume

Of trauma of



I am your accumulated

Lack of knowledge

You two shits


I am your clown

Your collaborator

Your meek smiling


I am your vice

Your passport

To meet your


I am your second

Third, or final choice

Your two shits


I am your masked Avenger

Your disability hire

I sing for my supper

Compliant and bribed

I am the rude girl,

For whom you make excuses,

Wondering how

I got a seat at your table

I am the staff member’s pride,

Their abject horror.

I am their best, worst,

Their wine subscription

I am their workload

Their fancies

Floating ephemerally

Before sharp fiscal ripostes

I was



Intrinsically youthful

I gave

Two shits

About what

Would become of us

I won.

Runners up

Along with Claire’s wonderful submission, we received 6 other impressive artworks.
Please see below a selection of the runner up entries.

Stephanie Marcus - Diversity Artwork 

Stephanie Marcus Artwork

Eleni Lykopandis – Forget my country

God almighty! I implore you!

I implore you, forget my country!

Oh, forget her profound ancient history and her brilliant culture,

Chip away at her mountainous terrain – reduce her to nothing!

Push the crystal sea away and let her islands crumble to dust under your righteous hand!

Let the arable land perish and become infertile, so her people can starve!

I am Judas, the betrayer.

The executioner begins to crucify me upon the remains of her land.

The nails of assimilation being hammered into my hands, my feet…

My identity.

I cough up blood as red and as rich as her sweetest wine.

The crowd below me smiles and cheers,

Identical faces, identical bodies, identical clothing.

Each one with their own rotting nail wounds to hide.

The Day of Judgement has come and passed,

There will be no Resurrection.

From the crowd, my wrinkled, gangrened hand throws silver pieces at the naïve version of me.

A sinner! A sinner! It is her I will not kiss.


I accept the offerings from my victims’ widow,

Olives and Oil; Potatoes and Wheat.

A sign of forgiveness from the depths of her heart.

I am not allowed to regret my decision or take back my laments to God.

“Forget my country!”

Equality slices the neck of the sacrificial lamb named Equity.

In this place there is no diversity.

I was forced to turn my back on my home,

I am not allowed to have a culture or an identity.

The strict hand of Anglo authority squeezes my neck,

I must hide, I must disguise, I must assimilate.

The world’s turmoil is at long last behind me.

I have aged, and my hands are winkled, plagued with arthritis and diseases.

Why did I forget my country? Why did I forget my identity?

I lay, alone, and close my eyes. They will not reopen.

God almighty! Why did you listen to my cries?

I implore you, I implore you, take me back to my country!