2016 Prize Winner – Jean Bachoura

Jean Bachoura, winner of the 2016 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing (photograph – David Patston)

A story by Syrian-born actor and writer Jean Bachoura is the winner of the 2016 Deborah Cass Writing Prize.

‘Night Falls’, an extract from a larger work in progress, tells a gripping story of a young Syrian-Australian, Eyad, returning to war-destroyed Damascus to meet his mother and revisit his childhood home.

Runners-up are Edita Mujkic for her story about leaving Sarajevo under bombardment, ‘From There to Here’, Linda Judge’s Latvian journey ‘Mother Tongue’ and Katerina Craven’s opening two chapters of her first young adult novel, ‘Our Darkest Places’.

The judges, Alice Pung, Christos Tsolkias and Tony Ayres, singled out ‘Night Falls’ for its compelling story, lively writing and complex, vivid characters — especially the narrator’s mother.

“The writing had the ability to surprise you and give an insight into an unknown world,” said Christos Tsolkias.

Jean Bachoura, aged 27, said he was delighted, “too often, mainstream coverage of long term geo-political conflict dehumanizes its victims. This is directly linked to the recent rise in racism and hate speech. Writing, however, can be a powerful vehicle for shaping our shared understanding and building empathy. For me, the Deborah Cass Prize is an opportunity to amplify unheard voices and to break down this dehumanising effect.”

Of the entry, Jean says, “this work, which began as a film script then turned into theatre and finally prose, is still in its infancy. I think it would benefit immensely from having an experienced writer shape its development.”

Alice Pung praised Katerina Craven’s ‘Our Darkest Places’ for its humour and three-dimensional characters, while Tony Ayres commended Edita Mujkic’s ‘From There to Here’ for its strong sense of place and pacy, high-stakes plot.

View images from the 2016 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing Award Ceremony held at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, 13 December. With thanks to guest speaker Tony Ayres and photographer David Patston.

Jean Bachoura worked with mentor Sophie Cunningham following his 2016 Deborah Cass Prize win.

Sophie Cunningham was Jean Bachoura’s mentor in 2017