Emily Mannix has won the Future Leaders Writing Prize for her creative essay, ‘The Escort’, inspired by the shocking death of three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi. Who of us will forget the image of that little boy washed up lifeless on a Turkish beach?

This project had its seed in Emily’s reaction to the photograph of Alan. So when English teacher, Amy Greenwood, suggested this particular writing challenge, the heart of the story was already in place.

“I chose to write from a child’s perspective so I needed to think about what a child notices—I included colours, images, and tried to keep a simplicity. I even included some Syrian words,” Emily said.

By choosing to write in first person Emily set herself an enormous task—imagining herself into the mind and reactions of a small boy from a different culture with a different language, who had already endured a very abnormal beginning to life. It’s a great achievement for any writer.

Still, ‘The Escort’ demanded a great deal of research—not only about this individual tragedy, but about refugee experiences in general and Syrian refugees in particular.

Emily says she’s always loved reading and has been writing seriously since Year 9 when she took a literature class.

“Last year I was shortlisted in the La Trobe Infinity Award for a story called ‘Three Small Strides’ about a man trying to hold onto his mental health while in prison,” she said.

Asked about her own literary heroes, Emily names Hannah Kent and Charles Dickens as two favourites. And the future, which she hopes will be in science-related area, will no doubt be greatly enriched by her capacity to write and communicate ideas in a clear and engaging way.