Meet the POEM FOREST 2024 Judges


It's World Poetry Day and International Day of Forests, so it's time for POEM FOREST to open for entries again. We're thrilled to introduce you to this year's outstanding judges, who will be selecting the winning entries for each of the eight prize categories after the prize closes on 27 September.

This year's judges are celebrated Yankunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann, Kamilaroi man, STEM champion and founder of DeadlyScience Corey Tutt, horticulturist and Wollongong Botanic Garden Education Officer Penny Hoswell & 2023 POEM FOREST Threatened Species highly commended poet Pardis Mahmoudian.

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Ali Cobby Eckermann

Ali Cobby Eckermann’s first collection little bit long time launched her literary career in 2009. In 2013 Ali toured Ireland as Aust. Poetry Ambassador and won the Kenneth Slessor Prize and Book Of The Year (NSW) for Ruby Moonlight, a massacre verse novel. In 2014 Ali was the inaugural recipient of the Tungkunungka Pintyanthi Fellowship at Adelaide Writers Week, and the first Aboriginal Australian writer to attend the International Writing Program at University of Iowa. In 2017 Ali received a Windham Campbell Award for Poetry from Yale University USA. She was awarded a Literature Fellowship by the Australian Council for the Arts in 2018. In 2019 Ali was awarded a prestigious Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy. She is the Earth is her new verse novel published by Magabala Books in 2023.

About being a judge for POEM FOREST, Ali says: "I love the concept of Poem Forest because it is not a competition. It is an invitation to be aware of who you are as an individual, and where you are in your surrounds. Poem Forest is an invitation to grow, as nature grows. Sit in the quiet of the natural world and write down your thoughts. Be as free as the air. You can do it. Trust yourself."

You can access the HSC English resource Ali produced with Red Room Poetry as part of her Fellowship in 2017 here.

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Corey Tutt OAM

Corey is a Kamilaroi man from Nowra, NSW, and a STEM champion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As a young person, he developed a love of STEM subjects but found little encouragement for Aboriginal people to pursue careers in STEM. In 2018, Corey founded DeadlyScience, a not-for-profit organisation that provides STEM resources to remote schools in Australia and connects young Indigenous people with STEM professionals.

In 2020, Corey was named the NSW Young Australian of the Year and a Human Rights Hero by the Australian Human Rights Commission. In 2021, he received an Australian Museum Eureka Prize and in 2022 a medal of the Order of Australia for service to Indigenous STEM education.

Corey edits the DeadlyScience Australian Geographic series and has authored two books: the highly awarded The First Scientists, followed by This Book Thinks Ya Deadly.

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Penny Hoswell

Penny is the Education Officer at Wollongong Botanic Garden, where she spreads her passion for permaculture, compost and tree preservation to the next generation. She is part of the team at Wollongong City Council that will be planting the POEM FOREST trees this year, spreading them far and wide across the Wollongong LGA on Dharawal and Wodi Wodi Country as street trees, in local parks, natural areas, and backyards.

Penny loves listening to trees and has a few tips for us on how we can tune into what they're telling us: "Trees share poems and stories all the time, it’s just that not everyone knows how to read them. The Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) with its twisted gnarled branches and leaning habit, for example, is telling you about the winds that come across the sea buffering and shaping. It’s not a poem of hardship, it chooses to be there, and celebrates winters end with a profusion of white flowers in spring and summer. The lone old Cabbage Tree Palms (Livistona australis) speak of rainforest long cleared and forgotten. Our Eucalypts, with their leathery tough leaves full of lignin that turn away from the sun on hot days, describe a land where hot conditions are part of life."

Watch a video of Penny talking about how the POEM FOREST is grown by the Wollongong team.

Pardis Mahmoudian

Pardis is a Year 12 student at Hobart College. Her poem “Quoll Under Daylight” was highly commended in the Threatened Species category of the POEM FOREST Prize last year. In her spare time, she likes to write and read about various animals. 

"Out of night’s easy dwindling,

this gentle-ungentle thing comes out 

stippled with mercy,

its trickle of jaw petaled 

by a sacrificial goodness"

- from "Quoll Under Daylight"