Announcing the Oxford Australian Children’s Word of the Year 2019

‘Bravery’: Oxford Australian Children’s Word of the Year 2019.

The Oxford Australian Children’s Word of the Year is a result of an Australia-wide writing competition. Students from Grade Prep to Grade 6 were invited to submit a piece of free writing of up to 500 words based on a chosen word. Students were encouraged to be creative, factual, serious or funny in writing about why the word was important to them. 

Our expert judging panel reviewed hundreds of entries from classrooms all over Australia, using the word’s popularity, and how it was used in context, to determine which word would be selected as the winner.

From the hundreds of entries received this year, ‘Bravery’ was not only selected as the winning word, but was also a key theme in entries across all age groups. The Word of the Year was referenced in relation to many topics including climate change, sport, and personal achievement.

Shortlisted words included ‘Adaptability’, ‘Adventure’, ‘Bullying’, ‘Caring’, ‘Change’, ‘Determination’, ‘Escape’, ‘Hope’, ‘Family’, ‘Fearless’, ‘Friends’, ‘Kindness’, ‘Nature’, and ‘Persistence’. The winning word, ‘Bravery’, along with the shortlisted words, outlines that Australian children consider courage, kindness, and persistence, to be necessary for all forms of success.

Emma Magill, Publishing Manager for Primary at Oxford University Press ANZ, noted that bravery ‘underpins the adventurer’s stories, personal quests and accounts of overcoming difficulties big and small, and describes many of the writers’ attempts to stand up and be counted about issues they care about’.

Ms Magill recognised students’ ability to understand consequences of their actions throughout the entries, ‘taking ownership, overcoming obstacles and initiating action’. This took many forms, including how to respond to bullying, and reducing pollution in the community.

This year, it is evident that students in their early and middle years are focused on the journey of overcoming difficult circumstances, often setting their stories in the home or at school. It was clear that these students put great value on pushing through the boundaries that self-doubt place on them, and recognised that trying your best and remaining true to yourself is the greatest victory.

The students in the upper years used bravery to explore female empowerment and climate change, among other environmentally focused ideas. While these students worked with some relatively mature content, they usually ended their stories with a positive message. Focusing on words like ‘imagination’, ‘hope’ and ‘future’, these students focused on the changes we can make to improve not only our own circumstances, but the circumstances of others.

Professor James Arvanitakis, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Graduate Research School at Western Sydney University, provides commentary on the Children’s Word of the Year, observing that bravery, ‘once the focus of outstanding individual acts … now includes the actions of “everyday” heroes. These are people like all of us who undertake acts that inspire us’.

To find out more about the Oxford Australian Children’s Word of the Year, download the Summary Report here.

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