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Local Resident Wins Poetry Award

26 Mar 2013

As an adolescent and young woman, Tess Evans penned poetry that was full of the angst and self-reflection of growing up.

That was more than 40 years ago, and Tess, 59, of Greensborough, didn't write any poetry again until last year as a student in the Professional Writing and Editing course at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).

Now, Tess has won the South Australian C.J. Dennis Literary Award for Poetry with a 36-line poem called Desertspeak.

The poem uses the degradation of the environment as a metaphor for the degradation of language.

'I believe the English language is being steadily destroyed by jargon peddlers; the politicians, the bureaucrats and business people who use language to try to intimidate and confuse us,' Tess said.

'I heard a radio interview about how our planet was dying and it suddenly came to me that our language was dying the way our planet was dying. My idea lent itself to a poetic expression rather than prose. I haven't written poetry for many years so I'm only an accidental poet.'

The competition was the first Tess had entered and she said she was stunned and surprised as well as extremely excited to win.

Indeed, Tess retired last year after two decades working at NMIT, albeit in a very different field than a literary one.

She was Head of the Labour Market Programs Department and then Head of the Department of Business Services where her writing focused on reports that were essentially factual.

Having studied English Literature at university and a passionate reader all her life, Tess decided to explore her creativity with the written word when she enrolled in NMIT's writing program last year after retiring.

'I actually left NMIT as an employee and two weeks later I enrolled as a student. I'm now under NMIT's tutelage using the creative side of my brain rather than the more logical side of my brain I used as an employee.'

Tess enrolled for units in short story writing and the novel from Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing.

'I write very quickly and then go back and revise and while I'm sometimes very excited to do it, at other times, I have to discipline myself and tell myself to go and work.

'I wasn't sure I could really write but I initially joined a writers' group in Darebin last year before I retired and read some of my writings to the group. The people there were very encouraging so I felt I could take it up as a serious pursuit.'

Tess said she had now returned to writing more poetry, as some ideas or images could be best expressed as a poem. She is also writing short stories.

'Whatever I'm writing, it's me just enjoying myself.'

Tess has also had other success having received a runners-up encouragement award in a short story competition run by the Australian Government Department of Veterans Affairs. She has also had a fiction story published in an online magazine Parenting Express.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.