Spiritus Short Film Prize

The renamed biennial national 2020 Spiritus Short Film Prize aims to contribute to a vision of hope and the common good for Australia:

  • An expert panel of four judges will award up to six prizes in three categories based on five criteria
  • Entries opened Monday 3 February and close Tuesday 30 June, with winners announced in September
  • Entries are open for the biennial national 2020 Spiritus Short Film Prize, an initiative of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACC&C) at Charles Sturt University.

There are six prizes in three categories, and entrants can enter their film in more than one category and can receive more than one prize.

The categories are:

  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – Regional Australia Prize (open to entries outside an Australian Capital city). Cost to enter $5
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – School Category (This is open to entries from school students (under 18 years of age) who attend a school in Australia. Cost to enter $10.
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – Open to all. Cost to Enter $20.

There is $5000 in cash and prizes available, donated by Clive and Lynlea Rodger. The judges award the prizes, but they do not have to award all prizes:

  • Regional Australia Prize for entries outside a capital city – $500
    School category (for school students only in Australia) for equipment for school to value of $1000
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – Winner $2000
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – Highly Commended $750
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – Commended $500
  • Spiritus Short Film Prize – People’s Choice $250 (Awarded on the night)

More information about the 2020 Spiritus Short Film Prize ‘Conditions and Criteria’ can be found here.

My God is an Open Book

My heart is an open door and you’re all it took,
You’re all it took,
And I’m sore and shallow and sorry somewhere
And it seems she’s taking steps
To remind me she’s taking steps
to remind me she’s talking
like a whisper …

Like a whisper that changes seasons
That concurs demons
That breaks all reason
Till we’re bruised and bleeding
Till we’re raw
and true
And our spirits screaming
Till our hearts are beating, again
… and In some
place, We’re sane …

And the love…
and lovers that we once sought
Are more than just our loves in name.

She whispers
and He whispers
and They whisper your story Open
And dare you to stand
Dare you to run
to laugh, to play, to weep those tears till your body is soft
to dance this dance
Till your being is lost …

Till all your breaking
Is found in its cost.

My God is an open book.
My God is an open Heart
and you’re all it took.

You’re all it took.


P. J. Banks is an aspiring writer and poet, and a candidate for pastoral ministry with the Uniting Church. He is passionate about the arts and theology, and their pursuit and understanding of consciousness, meaning, and the nature of reality. He lives and works on Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung Land.

Telling Aurelia


In the week following my mother’s funeral I wake up knowing I need to begin cooking again. For all of January my mother’s death has been my whole world. But now the gifts of home-made food have slowed. It is time to come out of the cocoon I have wound around keeping vigil and arranging the funeral. In the small hiatus between the bushfires and the Coronavirus lockdown, we’ve had the privilege of a communal farewell. Now I need to enter the world beyond my door. It takes me until lunchtime to coax myself out from under the doona. I will walk up to the local shops for bread and vegetables.

The Italian fruit and veggie shop has an open storefront facing the street. I recognise Aurelia as she stands in the aisle, lightly stacking gleaming fruit. She has worked here for as long as I can remember, though she only appears to be in her early 40s. She wears a navy-blue uniform stitched with lime green highlights. It bears the names of the brothers who own the business.

As I approach her in the narrow aisle, Aurelia is deftly placing plums. Her coral pink fingernails flash amidst the dark purple. She turns towards me with a bird-like quickness in the movement of her head. Her hair is full of impish drama, the top sticks straight up, the sides are close cut. When Aurelia cocks her head to one side, her bright eyes meet my gaze. I realise I’ve felt on my guard coming out into the world again, but here is curiosity and kindness. Aurelia’s eyes are alive and alert, undimmed by years of customer interactions.

The colour and sheen of the shop are open to the street and the weather. I have been feeling hidden, but Aurelia’s presence welcomes me back. Her face is mobile, attentive, there is no risk her strong make-up will mask her loveliness. The clean lines of her eyebrows, cheekbones and lips are accented and clear. ‘Hello’, she says, ‘how are you?’ Aurelia stands back and rocks on her heels as she says this, then grounds her two feet slightly apart. Her ready stance tells me she means the question.

I realise I want her to know that my mother died. I don’t need her to do anything, just know. I tell her Mum had a good death at the end of a long life. There is a pause that marks that this is a new absence. Aurelia is perfectly tuned. Her eyes rest on me as she asks, ‘Are you OK?’

Standing next to the fruit stack, Aurelia tells me about her grandfather’s death in Italy. She had visited him there many times but could not be there when he was dying. She rang while the family were gathered. Someone held the phone to his ear. He said her name. ‘Aurelia’. And then he said, ‘Goodbye Aurelia’. Later she learned these were the only words he spoke in the last weeks of his life.

‘You take care now’, she says as she gently straightens my collar.

The evening Mum died, when it was finally time to leave the hospital, I stood in the corridor, outside her room. A nurse came to farewell me. She held a clipboard in one hand but with the other she reached up and patted down my crooked collar. Sometimes this would feel patronising, but not in these moments. I am one of the motherless now, the gesture is instinctively soothing.

When I am about to leave the shop, I look for Aurelia to give her a wave, but she’s gone out the back. It doesn’t matter. The transaction is complete. Something important in each of our lives is known to the other. Aurelia’s shining listening and quiet telling have allowed me to re-enter the world. In returning to ordinary life I don’t need to feel I am betraying or ignoring what has happened. One person in this shopping strip knows my truth.

I step out into the street, my collar neatly arranged, salad veggies and ciabatta loaf swinging in my shoulder bag.

[Image: Stella Tzertzeveli, via Unsplash]



Gaia’s Revenge?

Gaia watches from a vale of sorrow,
her life abundant used to serve and feed
visions seeded with a bright tomorrow,
but dreamt by a voracious, fertile breed.
Weakened by a population growing,
polluted by exhausted seas and land,
hostage to consumption overflowing
she struggles to survive excess demand.
Few heed the warnings of her urgent sighs,
seduced by prospects of a better life,
tho’ Eden soon may wake to plaintive cries
interweaved with apocalyptic strife.
Bushfires and pandemics scourge the nation:
Gaia’s revenge, or human creation?

James Lovelock conceived the Gaia hypothesis, named after the Greek goddess of Earth, in 1965. Through it, Lovelock popularised the idea of the whole earth as one giant self-regulating ecosystem, describing his scientific journey as a quest in search of evidence for the idea that the earth is alive. The Gaia hypothesis attracted the attention of eminent theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, and seemed to cohere with New Age spirituality.

In exploring this concept I was influenced by Judith Wright’s poem ‘Australia 1970’, where the final verse reads:

I praise the scoring drought, the flying dust,
the drying creek, the furious animal,
that they oppose us still;
that we are ruined by the thing we kill.

This casts Land as a protagonist where we might be wary of, in Ruether’s words, ‘”Mother Earth” rising up like a chthonic Jehovah to topple human empires and return earth to pre-civilised simplicity … a justified revenge of “nature” against “civilisation”’.


Chris Dalton is a retired public affairs analyst, with a passion for public theology, particularly with regard to the environment. Author of Reimagining Land in Australia: From Terra Nullius to Beloved Companion, he finds poetry a rewarding way to explore ‘wicked’ problems. He lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung and Yuin Lands.

Sophia’s Lament

Sophia. The true unity in the true trinity, from Scivias by Hildegard von Bingen according to the Ruppertsberger Codex (around 1180) - 2
Hildegard von Bingen, Three Persons (detail), c. 1152. Published in Sara Salvadori, Hildegard von Bingen: A Journey into the Images (Milano: Skira, 2019), 26.

Are you so blind
as not to see
the outcomes of
a reckless, grasping
lust for more?

Are you so deaf
as not to hear
the cries of woe
from nature’s victims
of relentless greed?

Are you so dumb
as not to speak
the prescient words
that bigger barns
will fail to satisfy?

Yet once you ate
Wisdom’s fruit
to help discern
how you should live
in Eden’s paradise.

Gaia now waits,
brooding her revenge,
mourning barren lands,
exhausted mines
sucked dry by you.

Release your soul
and question why
you toil in pain,
addicted to gorging
nature’s bounteous crop.

Hide not from God,
come to me …
see gifts of love
gracefully clothe
the body of Shalom.

Hovering above chaos
with creative light,
fuelled by goodness,
overcome by none,
I’m dancing my lament.

Inspired by Genesis 1.1–5, Genesis 3, Luke 12.13–21, John 1.1–5, and Romans 8:22.

The wisdom proverb See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil tells of those who, like the three monkeys, turn aside when confronted by evil.

What St John says about ‘the Word of God’ was said about Sophia in the Jewish tradition.  Like the Word, Lady Wisdom was present with God before Creation. Just as the Word was with God and was God, so Sophia was. And when John writes that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus, he could just as well have said that Sophia became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus, the Wisdom of God incarnate. Sophia now hovers over the chaos of bushfires and pandemics.


Chris Dalton is a retired public affairs analyst, with a passion for public theology, particularly with regard to the environment. Author of Reimagining Land in Australia: From Terra Nullius to Beloved Companion, he finds poetry a rewarding way to explore ‘wicked’ problems. He lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung and Yuin Lands.

Things to do in the belly of the whale

When I fractured my skull in late 2019 in a cycling accident, I went into an early lockdown. While life continued for so many, mine stood still, as I learnt new rhythms of selfhood. I took Julian of Norwich as my guide and I learned to sit still. With a cat and an acorn as my teachers, I sat: as the fires provoked us, as air pollution apps were downloaded and golf ball hail rained down on parliament. I was in training; training, for the eventual lockdown of COVID-19. I emerged from my restrictive neck brace into the still-restricted confines of my small (but lovely) apartment. But now I shared the experience with the world.

What I hadn’t expected is the noise, the haste, and the pounding incessant need for ‘connection’ that now surrounded me.

We all need each other: completely! We’re all in this together: 100%.

But it’s also OK to be a bit quiet sometimes – to curl up on the couch, to think, to pass idle time, to be present to the quietness within, and to all you might find there.

This animation was made, inspired by this feeling and by the words of Dan Albergotti. His poem ‘Things to do in the belly of the whale’ captured something, somewhere quiet, somewhere where Zoom cannot prompt you back to the exterior of your life, somewhere where no wifi can find you.

Because in 2020: Here we are, in the belly of the whale.

And, like Jonah, we have to wait.

Quietly …


Pearl Taylor is a Melbourne-based visual artist, art therapist and Uniting Church youth facilitator, invested in the ways faith forms our personal narrative. Pearl’s art practice is informed by a pinch contemplative traditions, a healthy dose of the radically-inclusive, and a touch of humour. As she dabbles in theological spaces, it is through creativity that she expresses, connects, and invites others in. She lives on Wurundjeri land.

Keeping Vigil

Embed from Getty Images

‘Are you alright?’ The text message comes in late at night at the very end of the decade. I don’t understand my friend’s concern until I recall telling her our campervan road trip plan. For the Christmas break, we were heading to Wangaratta, Corryong, Canberra, and back home via the coast. Now, apart from Wangaratta, every destination in our plan is either on fire or surrounded by it. We turn tail and head back to Melbourne.

Hours after we arrive home a call comes in. My 94-year-old mother has had a major stroke. There’s a long evening in Emergency at Box Hill Hospital and after midnight we sleep in a nearby street in the campervan.

That night curtained off from the street, I enter the cocooned time of vigil where nothing else matters and everything matters.

The following day the medical staff tell me that my mother will not recover. Her Advanced Care Plan is our guide, for she can longer speak or move the right side of her body. In the instance of brain damage, my mother has documented that the only intervention she would want is pain relief. The staff assume she can hear and speak to her with quiet respect, explaining each small action and intention.

While I stay by my mother, I glean only the edges of the news; already the horror of the fires has been at full stretch. In the quiet room where my mother lies, I think of people trying to sleep in unfamiliar environments, refugees from the fires.

When we were on the road we’d been checking with friends in areas under threat. One loses her house in Mallacoota; another finds thousands of dead birds on the beach at Lake Tyers. An extended family member is in the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales. We don’t try to contact him except to cancel our plans to visit.

I spend long hours sitting with my mother. While she sleeps, I try to rest. Periodically I check the numerous messages on my phone. When I gaze out of the window, there is smoke across the horizon. 

I think of the people who will be in burns units, the agony of the fires written into their flesh. I imagine the ones who will be speechless having witnessed trauma they have no words for. Very few will have the luxury of a peaceful space in which to come to terms with loss.

Mum’s room is filled with flowers picked from home gardens and handwritten cards delivered by people who come for brief visits and take their time alone with her. When my brother calls from overseas, he tells me he’s going to sing her a song. I place the phone next to her ear and leave the room so she can listen alone. 

The people in the fires will not have the privilege of saying farewell. They’ve had little warning to leave behind a life, a livelihood, beloved animals, and landscapes. I think of the caregivers in forests and animal refuges. Creatures are gone now in unthinkable numbers.

My friend from Mallacoota tells of a bloke who lives out of town and runs a refuge for injured animals. He had to leave his land, not knowing what might happen to the wallabies and wombats, the eastern grey kangaroo and many birds he feeds out of money eked from his pension. When he flees, he sets up water and feed, and against the prevailing wisdom, leaves the door and windows of his caravan open.

Returning, he finds his caravan rimmed by a patch of unburnt forest. The sky is yellow tinged with amber. The bush is silent. Waiting at the caravan door is a small band of creatures, inside is the eastern grey kangaroo. They have made their way back. Just before the fires, he released three wombats. When reports come back to him of a couple of wombats in the vicinity of their release, he beams with contentment.

Last Spring, in northern New South Wales, rainforests were on fire. Mount Nardi in World Heritage-listed Nightcap National Park burns. Leah White reports on the ABC Science Show that ‘Terania Creek rainforest itself burned for the first time in 1,120 years. Hundreds of brush box and other rainforest trees, many over 1,000 years old, have fallen in flames, their bases eaten out by fire’.

I text my friends who grew up in the northern rivers area. They are bereft.

Eco-philosopher Thom van Dooren teaches at Sydney University and lives in the Blue Mountains. In 2019, when I first speak to him, he describes the task of bearing witness to species extinctions. I talk to him just weeks before these unprecedented ravages of fire erase forests and habitats.

Thom quotes his mentor, the late Deborah Bird Rose. In this age of the Anthropocene, she urges us not to look away but to tell the stories of the creatures who are disappearing.

Rose says you can only miss what you love. She describes the emptiness and possible cynicism of a world denuded of creatures: ‘The emptier Earth becomes, the emptier are those who remain alive. That emptiness may produce a particular gaze, a “mere life” gaze that refuses to live fully because it refuses to face all this death’. With powerful understanding of the interconnectedness of the human and more-than-human world, she says, ‘Without them there is no us’.

In a piece titled ‘Instructions for Life’, the late poet Mary Oliver describes bearing witness in seven words: ‘Pay Attention. / Be Astonished. / Tell about it’.

From a bedside surrounded by kindness, I keep watch by my mother. The medical, nursing and palliative care staff are acutely observant. They do not turn their backs on us.