A deeply personal story about returning home to Moree after being unhappy at boarding school has gained national attention for Moree’s Elka Devney.
The Moree Secondary College student has been announced as the New England North West ABC Heywire competition winner for her story Trading a big city school for the warmth of a campfire under the stars.
The story describes her struggles at boarding school and the decision to “ditch the city smoke” and return to the country and her hometown of Moree, which turned out to be what made her “finally happy”.
“Sitting around the campfire at home, beneath stars that illuminate the sky above, among people that I adore, I finally can say I'm happy,” she said in her story.
Elka is one of 36 winners of the 2019 national competition, which provides young regional and rural people – aged 16 to 22 – a platform to share their stories with the nation.
The year 10 student was over-the-moon when she found out she’d won just over a month ago.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I got a call to say I made the top three and then they said I won.
“It’s really exciting.
“I didn’t think I’d win anything, I’m just very grateful for the opportunity.”
Elka had entered two stories into the competition. Her winning entry was submitted in July and she also submitted a second entry – about the drought from the perspective of the earth – in September just before the deadline closed, thinking it was the better of her two stories.
“I actually forgot about the first one,” Elka said.
“I thought the other one had won.”
Stories could be about anything the writer wanted to tell about their life or where they live in either text, video, photo or audio format.
Each year, every ABC regional station selects a winning Heywire Competition entry to represent their part of Australia. The young winners work with ABC staff to produce their story to be featured on ABC Radio and abc.net.au.
Elka was invited to ABC New England North West in Tamworth to record her written story in audio form and had the opportunity to work with the staff there to edit it to be suitable for a podcast, which she said was a great experience.
As a winner, she has also scored an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2019 Heywire Summit, designed to ensure the winners’ voices are heard in Canberra and around the nation.
Over the week participants undertake leadership workshops and meet with members of parliament, government departments and community leaders. The 'Heywirers' work together in teams to develop ideas aimed at improving the lives of young people in regional Australia. The ideas are then presented at Parliament House in front of an esteemed panel.
“It’s very exciting,” Elka said.
“I’m so looking forward to it. We’ve been talking between each other and some of the other winners are so inspiring. It’s going to be so amazing to meet them all.
“I’m excited to just put my voice forward and meet all those other inspiring young people and see Parliament House and the ABC.”