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The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) is the world's oldest international schools' writing contest, established by the Society in 1883. With thousands of young people taking part each year, it is an important way to recognise achievement, elevate youth voices and develop key skills through creative writing. 

Each year, entrants write on a theme that explores the Commonwealth's values, fostering an empathetic world view in the next generation of leaders and encouraging young people to consider new perspectives to the challenges that the world faces. Themes have included the environment, community, inclusion, the role of youth leadership, and gender equality. 

In the past decade alone, this high-profile competition has engaged approximately 140,000 young people, over 5,000 schools and thousands of volunteer judges across the Commonwealth. 

This year, the competition theme was 'Our Commonwealth', reflecting on our Patron Queen Elizabeth II's seven decades of service to the Commonwealth as an inspiring example of the steadfast commitment and important contribution we can all make to our societies.

We were thrilled to receive a record-breaking 26,322 entries to the QCEC from every Commonwealth region, with the winners and runners-up from New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and India. Find out more about this year's winners below and watch their reactions on discovering this significant achievement!

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Sawooly Li 

Senior Winner 

Age 17, New Zealand 

Sawooly Li is a 12th grade student from Rangitoto College in New Zealand. Reading and writing have always been second nature for her—a way of expressing visions, thoughts, and emotions. She loves drawing inspiration and learning from other great writers and their works. Both reading and writing are things which Sawooly aspires to continue far, far, into the future.


Sawooly also has a love for maths and physics, and is heavily involved in such areas in her school, running clubs and participating in competitions. Fostering a strong sense of community, she also leads several in-school organisations, such as UN Youth and UNICEF. In the winters, Sawooly enjoys snowboarding in New Zealand’s beautiful mountains with friends and family.

Read Sawooly's winning entry, 'Willow Trees and Waterholes'.


Madeleine Wood

Junior Winner 

Age 14, Australia 

Madeleine is 14 years old and lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is in grade 8 at Camberwell Girls Grammar School.


She loves travelling, particularly through Europe, and enjoys visiting the museums, historical landmarks and cities in each country. It is from these experiences that she gained a love for ancient, medieval, and renaissance history.


She is also an avid reader, plays the violin and spends much of her time playing basketball or swimming.

Read her winning poem, 'Catalina'.

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Amaal Fawzi

Senior Runner-up

Age 17, United Kingdom

Amaal Fawzi is a 17-year-old girl who was born in Egypt, raised in Lebanon, and now lives in East London. She has an Iraqi father and a British mother, and because of the education system in Lebanon, she has started university a year early! She studies English Literature with Creative Writing and has been writing poetry for many years, though she wouldn’t say she’s been writing poetry well for all of them.

Most of the poetry and prose she likes to write is concerned with culture and identity. Her years in Lebanon formed the majority of her character and cultural experiences, so learning to interact with that in the UK has been a very interesting season. It makes for a lot of writing material, and she’d say that the way she writes is always personal and drawn somehow from her own life.

Read Amaal's poem, 'Nursing Homes'


Maulika Pandey

Junior Runner-up

Age 13, India

Maulika Pandey, is an 8th grade student from Aurum the Global School.


She has always enjoyed writing since she was a child as she feels writing gives her the power to express her feelings in a creative way. Maulika also enjoys sketching and playing the guitar. Basketball is her favourite sport.

She aspires to be a successful entrepreneur but will definitely continue writing in the future.

She is a dedicated advocate for anti-bullying and body positivity.

Read her entry titled, 'The Molai Forest'.

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