AVCAT Essay Prize Judging Panel

AVCAT is proud to announce the judging panel for the inaugural AVCAT Essay Prize is Paul Livingston, Karen Blackwell and Major General Bill Crews AO (Retd).

The panel reports that the judging process was difficult due to the high quality of the entries and the moving stories they told.

Paul Livingston (aka Flacco)

Paul Livingston

Paul says ‘I intended to approach these essays with the mind of a general reader rather than a professional writer and I focused on listening for the personal voice of the writer. All the essays delivered a deeply moving witness to the writers and their families’ experiences. They echoed each other, providing a very moving experience for this reader. Each writer has captured a microcosm of a universal experience. ‘

Paul is best known for his comic creation Flacco whose many television credits include: Good News Week, Sandman And Flacco Specials for the Ten network;  The Big Gig, DAAS Kapital, Money Or The Gun, The Fat and The Sideshow for the ABC, and he was a regular on the Triple J Breakfast program from 1994-97. FLACCO has toured extensively in Australia and internationally and is currently touring with Tim Ferguson and Paul McDermott in the reformed Doug Anthony Allstars playing to full houses and earning five-star reviews in London and Edinburgh from 2014 – 2017.

The author of six publications, Paul’s biography/memoir of life on the road with the Allstars – D.A.A.S. Their Part in my Downfall – was published by Allen & Unwin and released in November 2016. His well-received non-fiction memoir of his father’s wartime experiences, Absent Without Leave, was published by Allen & Unwin, and released in November 2013.

From 2008-2011 Paul joined the writing team for Channel Ten’s Good News Week for which he received five AWGIE Awards. From 2007-2010 Paul was a co-writer on the animated feature film Happy Feet Two. In 1996 Paul was the joint winner of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award for outstanding achievement in the performing arts in Australia.

Buy your copy of Paul’s book Absent Without Leave, The Private War of Private Stanley Livingston here.

Karen Blackwell

Karen Blackwell

Karen says ‘It has been an honour to be a member of the AVCAT judging panel for this inaugural competition. The quality of the submitted essays was not only high but showed a most perceptive understanding of the impact of the Vietnam War on those that served as well as their families and descendants. The essays reflected empathy, insight, sorrow and pain but also hope and aspiration. Many of them resonated greatly with me and my own connections with Vietnam Veterans and their families. I often felt that deep emotional reaction when reading an account.

I was certainly very proud to be asked to judge the essays, but it was not easy. The high quality of the writing and the emotional involvement experienced by each author was evident throughout. Authors wrote with strength, commitment and sensitivity. Each author chose to write from a variety of different perspectives, sometimes that of the wife of a veteran or that of a child. The quality of the writing was underpinned by heart-felt personal stories, well-chosen analogies and the impact that this War has had from one generation to another.  These stories were all very powerful and effective in their delivery. Congratulations to all entrants on your reflections, your research and your own well-written story.’

Life is an adventure and Karen is a proclaimed “life-adventurer”. Having worked most of her

professional life in education, Karen is now enjoying a slightly slower and less stressed life as a volunteer, grandmother, traveller and farm worker. For her, life-adventures can be as simple as finding new places to explore within close environs, learning new skills or meeting new people. Whilst she has travelled to places near and far Karen thoroughly enjoys her newfound life down on the 300-acre farm in the Southern Tablelands’ town of Crookwell. Here, Karen and her husband are breeding Angus cows and adopting the philosophical approach to regenerative farming espoused by such people as Charles Massy.

Born in Sydney, Karen worked within the Department of Education for 30 years, in the later years serving as Principal of Glenorie Public School and later Oakhill Drive Public School. Karen then worked within the private sector as Emergency Safety Trainer, Technology Program Manager and finally, for three years, as the very proud CEO of AVCAT… the organisation for which she now volunteers as Chair of the National Selection Committee.

Having gained her Teaching Diploma and Bachelor of Education, Karen has continued her formal learning gaining a Grad. Cert. Business Management, Cert IV Training and Assessment and Certificate in Governance Practice.

Karen currently serves as Vice President on the Regional Executive of UPA Northern Sydney and as a member of the Board for UPA NSW …both roles providing her with an opportunity to use her life experiences and business acumen to contribute to the aged-care sector.

Over the past ten years or so Karen has been committed to raising funds for research into Cancer through many and varied fund-raising activities; has been an active member and Community Liaison Person in the NSW RFS and now enjoys being an active grandmother of six.

Bill Crews

Bill Crews

Bill says ‘As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I was mindful of the experience of many families following that conflict. It was a privilege to be able to read the very poignant personal experiences of some who directly suffered from having a damaged veteran in the family. It takes a good deal of courage to write of these experiences, and let others in on their personal feelings and responses. I commend all who participated. In congratulating the winners, I feel that all shortlisted essays showed great merit, and it was difficult to separate them. Some drew more than a few tears.’

Major General Bill Crews AO (Retd) commenced as the Chair of AVCAT in May 2017.

Bill served in the Australian Army for more than 37 years, retiring in 1999 from the position of Director, Defence Intelligence Organisation. He served in Vietnam in 1969.

He worked briefly in private enterprise and then in his professional association, Engineers Australia, before being elected in 2003 as National President of the Returned and Services League of Australia. Bill served in this voluntary role for six years and continues to hold appointments as a volunteer in several not-for-profit organisations.

Bill holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Economics. He was an International Fellow at the US Army War College and has completed the Corporate Directors’ Diploma Course at UNE. He is an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1996 for his military service.

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