Outback brothers go the distance as writers

Two brothers who study by distance education have shown creativity runs in the family after back to back wins in a statewide writing competition, writes Grant Hatch.

24 September 2020
Two boys wearing red and black stripes sit outside reading books.
Image: Growing up through seven years of drought has not left WriteOn gold certificate winners, brothers Rafael and Gabriel Siemer, parched for creative writing inspiration. Photo: Jo Coleman Top Wire Photography, Walgett.

A Bourke-Walgett School of Distance Education family is proving that being schooled in the outback is not an obstacle to success in creative writing.

Year 4 student, Rafael Siemer this week earned a prestigious gold certificate for his response to the set stimulus of an image of a young boy and his dog in the Stage 2 division in the 2020 WriteOn awards.

It is the second top award in as many years for the Siemer family.

Last year, Rafael’s brother Gabriel, then in Year 1, took out a coveted gold certificate in his division.

Rafael’s winning entry took the form of a letter to his late grandfather, which intertwined the joy of getting a new puppy with the grief of missing his grandad.

He was the only gold certificate winner from west of the Great Divide.

Rafael lives on a 6500-hectare property “Leconfield” on the Barwon River, 40 kilometres south-west of Walgett.

They are two of the 38 students enrolled at the Bourke-Walgett School of Distance Education.

​Their home supervisor is their mother Casey Marshall-Siemer who describes the school as “just amazing”.

“The teachers do an exceptional job,” Ms Marshall-Siemer said.

“They tailor the system to meet the needs of every child and it really brings out their best.

“Writing is encouraged from a young age and the students turn out some brilliant work.

“They are encouraged to bring out their own personalities, and that is healthy and a wonderful thing for the children.”

Although it is green at home now, the boys, their parents and the wider community have just endured seven years of drought.

But based on their success in WriteOn, Rafael and Gabriel are not parched for inspirational writing themes.

WriteOn, conducted by the NSW Education Standards Authority, presents entrants with the opportunity to be published authors.

This year Rafael will join his brother, Gabriel in those ranks with the surname Siemer appearing in the Best of WriteOn Anthology for the second year in a row.

Read the winning entry

You can read Rafael's letter to his grandfather on Student Voices.

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