Meet the POEM FOREST Judges

Every year, we invite four brilliant individuals as our judges for the POEM FOREST. This year's judges are climate justice and mental health youth advocate Varsha Yajman (NSW), Gardening Australia presenter and Cudgenburra/Bundjalung Aboriginal man Clarence Slockee (NSW), writer and founding editor of Wonderground Georgina Reid (NSW) & 2022 POEM FOREST Upper Secondary winner Hannah Fairbrother (TAS).

With the POEM FOREST Prize 2023 closing on Friday 22 September, learn more about our judges and read their judging notes to find out what they're looking for in your nature poems.  

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Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is an Indian-Australian climate justice and mental health youth advocate. She is a Coordinator at Sapna South Asian Climate Solidarity and paralegal at Equity Generation Lawyers, which conducts climate change ligation.

About judging POEM FOREST entries, Varsha says: "I am looking for poems that capture nature as part of the bigger narrative about justice. How can all living things be protected, valued and given a voice? What value does nature hold for you? How does that shape your understanding of nature and your place in the world? How does nature allow us to amplify the voices that are generally silenced, or bring light to a story that has never been told? How can we as young people tell intergenerational stories about our parents and ancestors and changes in the natural world? I’m looking forward to reading your poems and holding space for these important voices to grow with the POEM FOREST."

Find out more about Varsha's activism in the POEM FOREST learning resource.

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Clarence Slockee

Clarence Slockee is a Cudgenburra/Bundjalung Aboriginal man with a long family history of bushmen, farmers and fishermen, having grown up in the lush Tweed Valley.

Clarence intertwines his love of plants, education, culture, design and the arts into his role as Director of Jiwah – a 100% Aboriginal owned company that delivers a range of collaborative projects including urban native species green space. He is a graduate from the National Aboriginal & Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College and has over 20 years of experience in environmental and cultural education, including roles with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and the Barangaroo Delivery Authority.

For the past ten years, Clarence has been a familiar face on television screens across the nation as a presenter on ABC’s Gardening Australia. With regular segments on the TV series, he continues to educate people about medicinal, cultural and edible native plant species unique to the Australian landscape.

Clarence shared his cultural knowledge of the Black Bean with us - find it on Page 52 of the POEM FOREST learning resource.

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Georgina Reid

Georgina Reid is a writer, author and founding editor of Wonderground, a print and online publication exploring questions of nature, culture and care.

Georgina is looking for poems that capture the magic of the more-than-human world. She says, "Everything, everyone – rock, tree, bird, worm, soil, snake, shrub – is alive, vibrating with life-force and wonder. Can you see the ravens playing in the sky? Can you hear the she-oaks whispering? Can you feel the tickle of water between your toes as you wade into the ocean? Share your magic stories of the world with us! Weave your words in ways that feel right to you. There are no rules, no wrongs, just words wandering on pages – together or apart. Everyone is a poet. Every cluster of words, a poem. Be free, be wild, be magic. Tell us about the nature of your world."

Wonderground is also a prize partner for POEM FOREST this year - read more about Georgina's work in our interview with her.

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Hannah Fairbrother

Hannah is a Year 11 student at Hobart College. She was the Upper Secondary winner of the 2022 POEM FOREST Prize for her poem ‘In the Valley’. After school, she plans on studying regenerative agriculture at university. Hannah enjoys writing, horse riding and bushwalking in her spare time.

Read and listen to Hannah's poem 'In the Valley' for inspiration.