2020 AVCAT Essay Prize – Winner Profiles

We are delighted to introduce the winners of the inaugural AVCAT Essay Prize. The essays will be first published in the next issue of Debrief Magazine, and here on AVCAT’s website.

First Prize – Jade Washbourne

Essay: The 30th of April 1975

I’m a 22-year-old from the beautiful Bega Valley Shire in NSW. I grew up in Pambula and after 18 months living in Canberra in my late teens, I found the coast calling me and moved with my dog Muffin to Eden only a 17-minute drive from where I grew up.

In my spare time I’m an avid reader, painter and recently writer. I’ve always been incredibly passionate about supporting and mentoring others, which has led me to study a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences at Swinburne University via correspondence, of which I am set to finish my final year in 2021.

Outside of my degree I also enjoy volunteering and have recently started a casual role that I can do while at university as a Youth Worker supporting high school students.

My father Glenn, joined the Navy at 15 and was deployed to Vietnam in 1970 as a member of the 135th Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam and he has been a big supporter of my passion for helping others and his experiences and adversities as a result of his participation in the war have been a driving force for me in achieving this goal.

Second Prize – Jane Wotherspoon

Essay: Safe

I grew up in Brisbane with my parents, younger sister, and younger brother. Dad had been called up for national service in a ballot in 1965 at the age of 20, prior to meeting Mum. He was in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. While growing up, and for much of my adult life, I didn’t know any other children of Vietnam veterans. I still live in Brisbane now, with my own family – my partner and two sons.  

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school and ended up studying a few different things, ranging from ecology to sociology to journalism. I worked for a number of years in media access. When my first child was a baby, I started studying psychology, found it fascinating, and now work in that field. I am particularly interested in developmental psychology and research.   

I think providing a platform to talk about the impact of war and trauma on individuals and those close to them is incredibly important, as such an impact is, unfortunately, widespread and ongoing, and therefore I appreciated the opportunity provided by AVCAT and the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia to contribute to the discussion in this way. I look forward to learning about others’ experiences and perspectives.  

Third Prize – Jo Hagen

Essay: Reflections

My Dad served in the Vietnam war shortly before I was born. His grandfather, my great-grandfather, was killed in action during the First World War in 1917. Dad was so touched when I visited my great-grandfather’s grave in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium during my backpacking adventures in Europe.

Writing this essay has been cathartic and there’s definitely been some tears shed in the process.

I live in Adelaide with my partner and daughter in a house with a large backyard, fruit trees, a vegetable garden and lots of birdlife. 

I enjoy reading autobiographies, movies, and spending time with my family.

Congratulations to all the 2020 winners.

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