Year 5 and 6 students impress judges and guests at 2018 Christmas Story Art Exhibition

News | Year 5 and 6 students impress judges and guests at 2018 Christmas Story Art Exhibition

Posted 23 September 2018 by Catholic Education in News

In early Term 3, over a thousand Year 5 and 6 students started with a blank canvas for the Christmas Story Art Competition. Now, after weeks of reflection, planning and work with a range of art materials and techniques, 50 talented young artists have had their artworks selected and celebrated at CEDoW's 2018 Christmas Story Art Exhibition.

The Stage 3 visual arts competition and exhibition is an initiative of the Catholic education offices in Wollongong and Sydney, designed to explore and feature the children’s creative and artistic abilities in illustrating the Christmas story.

The 50 student entrants - along with very proud parents and family members, staff and principals from our Diocese’s primary schools - filled the Xavier Centre’s rooms in Wollongong for the official opening of the exhibition and announcement of the evening’s finalists and award winners. 

Skip to our interviews with the major award winners

They were joined by several representatives from CEDoW, CatholicCare and the Bishop’s Office to share in this community celebration of art as an expression of our Catholic faith and experiences of God in our world - something that has been demonstrated so skilfully and richly by our young students.

180919 Christmas Story Art Panoramas

For several weeks, Year 5 and 6 children across the Diocese engaged in a reflective process that allowed them - with the guidance of their teachers - to break open the layers of meaning of the Christmas story, using Scripture references from the Religious Education curriculum. They then demonstrated their own interpretation of the story through an individual piece of art to enter into the Christmas Story Art competition.

Schools then selected their top six artworks - three from Year 5 and three from Year 6 - to send to the Catholic Education Office in Wollongong for the opportunity to be exhibited at the Xavier Centre. 

The judges examined over 170 entries from 28 schools thoroughly, looking at both their artworks and accompanying descriptions for factors such as the originality of the illustration; the standard of skills and techniques; the consistency of style; the depth of the personal reflection; and connection to the Scriptures.

180921 Christmas Story Art Collage

View our photo gallery of the exhibition here.

It was clear that many students had put considerable thought, time and effort into developing their concepts, selecting the right art mediums and surfaces, and practicing their applications. The competition produced a diverse range of exceptionally high-quality artworks - each reflecting a unique creativity and interpretation of the birth of Jesus.

Chair of the judging panel, CEDoW Education Officer for Gifted Education, Creativity and Critical Thinking, John Charadia, commended the students for not only their talent, but their persistence, perseverance and commitment.

“We’ve seen diverse personal connections; high-order emotional intelligence; authentic imagery from the Holy Land; and many who have captured the wonderful Christmas message of joy, hope and peace in dynamic ways. It is to be celebrated,” he said.

“I hope you’ve seen new perspectives and new ways of encountering the Christmas story. Read carefully, look closely and revisit the message of Christmas message through the reflective eyes, hearts and minds of your children. You will be rewarded.”

Listen to John Charadia speak about the Christmas Story Art competition and the processes involved, including a SLIDESHOW of our 50 exhibition artworks.

The judging panel praised the students for producing artworks that had “moved, challenged and enlightened” them. They made particular note of the difficulty they’d had this year in narrowing down a top 50 artworks to display at the exhibition, let alone selecting the finalists. 


A very special congratulations to the students who received the following awards: 

Students' choice award


The CatholicCare ‘Star of Hope’ Award was presented by Executive Manager of Family Services at CatholicCare Wollongong, Roseanne Plunkett. She told those gathered that Leo’s artwork stood out to her in its ability to encapsulate the essence of joy.

“Through the use of oil pastels on back card, Leo’s depiction of the joy experienced by the three wise men is a thing of great beauty. It is a great honour for us to have his artwork on the front of our 2018 CatholicCare Christmas Card,” Mrs Plunkett said.

In an event-first, the 50 students present at the opening night all had the opportunity to vote for which artwork they considered their favourite amongst their peers. Leo was thrilled to receive this Students’ Choice Award as well, but humbly acknowledged his surprise at the recognition, given the high standard of artworks on show.

Listen to Leo Wallace-Pannell explain his artwork below...

Bishop’s Choice Award


The Bishop’s Choice Award was for an artwork that was powerfully representative of the Christmas Message. This was presented by Vicar General, Fr. Bernard Gordon on behalf of Bishop Brian Mascord, who commented on the cleverness of the artwork’s concept of seeing Mary and Joseph in the eye of the donkey as well as the artists’ accompanying explanation.

“What struck me profoundly was the idea of [the donkey] ‘admiring’. This whole idea that, when we’re caught up in the goodness, wonder and beauty of God in other people, we quite easily fade into the background ourselves - it enables us to see the great qualities in others and the mystery of God.”

Listen to Amali Dimond explain her artwork below...

Director’s Christmas Story Award

Nash LINSLEY - St Michael’s, Mittagong

The Director’s Christmas Story Award was given to the artwork that best expressed the essence of Christmas and a message of peace, hope and joy. CEDoW Director of Schools, Peter Turner, praised Nash and all the artists for their depth of the connection with the scriptural story and for conveying this so effectively.

“The exceptionally high standard of work that these young artists continue to produce never ceases to amaze me,” Mr Turner said. “The integral message of the Christmas story is captured so beautifully through these young eyes.”

Listen to Nash Linsley explain his artwork below...


The judges selected 16 artworks as finalists, which will go on to represent the Diocese of Wollongong in the larger Sydney Christmas Story Art Competition and Exhibition hosted by the Archdiocese of Sydney. This will be held at Notre Dame University this year, from the first Sunday of Advent in December.

Click on the names in orange below to see the finalists' artwork and explanation.

Year 6 Finalists

Lucas Rhodes

St Thomas Aquinas, Bowral

Olivia Cimino

St Paul’s, Camden

Ebony Payne

St Paul’s, Camden

Samantha Cowle

St Columbkille’s, Corrimal

Jessica Lo Surdo

Good Samaritan, Fairy Meadow

Lola Lochrin

St Michael’s, Nowra

Andre Sembrano

St Justin’s, Oran Park

Amali Dimond

Stella Maris, Shellharbour

Bronte Hawkesby

St Therese, West Wollongong

Year 5 Finalists

Isabelle Streater

St Paul’s, Camden

Christian Mifsud

St Paul’s, Camden

Olivia Abdal

St Francis, Edmondson Park

Lourdes Elias

St Francis, Edmondson Park

Leo Wallace-Pannell

Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama

Nash Linsley

St Michael’s, Mittagong

Tessa Bõdy

St Michael’s, Thirroul


While the finalists may have been decided, there was still plenty of deserving recognition to go around. Acting Head of the Catholic Life, Education and Mission (CLEM) team, Suz Marden, presented the following students with ‘Highly Commended’ certificates for their artistic achievement and understanding of the meaning of Christmas:  

Year 6 Highly Commended

Ruby Lowe

St Thomas Aquinas, Bowral

Charles Watkin

St Joseph’s, Bulli

Gabby Brajuha

St Paul’s, Camden

Natasha Ferrer

Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale

Oliver Kuk

St Francis, Edmondson Park

Bronte Herft

Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama

Emilia Barry

St Thomas More, Ruse

Chloe Micallef

St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong

Year 5 Highly Commended

Emily Di Pietro

St Paul’s, Albion Park

Felicity McIntrye

St Columbkille’s, Corrimal

Aidan North

St Francis College, Edmondson Park

Livinia Harbidge

Holy Family, Ingleburn

180919 Christmas Story Art Exhibition 83

Each of the 50 young artists also received a Certificate of Artistic Achievement - a sign of gratitude from CEDoW for the students’ hard work, dedication and creativity.

CEDoW CLEM Education Officer, Cath Hailstone, told the students on the night that not only had they created a piece of religious art, they had also given expression to the faith and identity of our Catholic schools.  

“What an enormous privilege it is viewing these beautiful interpretations of aspects of the Christmas story and reading the deep reflections on the story and artistic processes from our students,” Mrs Hailstone said. 

“Thank you boys and girls, young artists - I congratulate you on this significant achievement.” 

See our time-lapse of the Christmas Story Art Exhibition - from set up to the arrival of guests on opening night.

Mrs Hailstone went on to thank CEDoW staff who had assisted in the event - especially all the teachers and staff in our school communities who have been involved in this competition at a school level.

“You have assisted and supported our students, providing them with the opportunity to participate in this significant event. This opportunity makes a difference to students. The work you do to support them makes a difference.”

The CEDoW Christmas Story Art Exhibition will be open to family, friends and the public from Monday 24th September to Wednesday 26th September during the hours of 12:30 - 4:30pm at the Xavier Centre (38 Harbour Street Wollongong).

For more information on the competition and exhibition, visit our CEDoW Christmas Story Art webspace. 

Sydney Christmas Story Art Exhibition

On Sunday, 2 December - the first Sunday of Advent - the University of Notre Dame hosted the opening of the 13th annual Sydney Catholic Schools Christmas Story Art Exhibition.

Over 900 entries for the Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition were received from Years 5 and 6 students across the Archdiocese of Sydney, the Dioceses of Wollongong and Bathurst, and from Catholic students in NSW public schools.

It was wonderful to see the 16 Wollongong student entries shine brightly amongst 81 finalists’ artworks selected for this year’s exhibition.

Congratulations to the following students who went on to receive awards at the Sydney Christmas Story Art Competition level:

Click on the orange titles to see the image and description of each artwork.

Year 5, Third Prize

‘Overjoyed’ by Leo Wallace-Pannell, Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama

Year 5, Highly Commended

‘The Greatest Gift’ by Tessa Bôdy, St Michael’s, Thirroul
by Isabelle Streater, St Paul’s, Camden

Year 6, Third Prize

‘Balthazar’ by Ebony Payne, St Paul’s, Camden

Year 6, Highly Commended

‘I See You, I Hear You’ by Olivia Cimino, St Paul’s, Camden
‘Mother Mary’
by Jessica Lo Surdo, Good Samaritan, Fairy Meadow

Spirit of Christmas Award 

‘Trust’ by Lola Lochrin, St Michael’s, Nowra

Congratulations also to Samantha Cowle from St Columbkille’s, Corrimal, whose artwork, ‘The Long Walk to Happiness’, was given a special full-page feature in this year’s exhibition booklet.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said he was proud of all the Year 5 and 6 students who had participated in the competition and whose work featured in the exhibition.

“Some artistic expressions are true roads to God...their beauty connects us to God, and allows us to feel His presence. Reading and viewing our young people’s reflections on Sacred Scripture on the birth of Christ, I am filled with that sense of connection” - Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP

This year, for the first time, the Catholic Weekly will be printing 11,000 copies of the official Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition booklet. This will be available from Sunday, 9 December.

“I’m pleased that this year, our students’ artworks and scriptural reflections will be shared with a wide audience through the inclusion of the exhibition booklet in the Catholic Weekly,” the Archbishop said.

Should schools or families require more copies of the exhibition booklet, they are encouraged to contact their parish office, or order a copy ($2 each, plus postage and handling) by contacting Anita Smith at or via phone on (02) 9390 5411.

For more information on the competition and exhibition, visit our CEDoW Christmas Story Art webspace. 


South Coast Register  & Kiama Independent - 24 September 2018 - 'South Coast students star in Christmas Story Art exhibition'

Macarthur Advertiser, Wollondilly Advertiser  & Camden-Narellan Advertiser  - 28 September 2018 - 'Macarthur students named finalists in school art competition'


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