UTS journalism students have dominated this year’s JERAA 2021 Ossie Awards with seven winners and four commendations.

Students took home prizes in a diverse range of disciplines including video, audio, investigations, story writing and media ethics. Winning topics included Max Aldred’s feature on controversial lawyer Charles Waterstreet, an investigation by Hugh McClure into the Canberra rental crisis, Daniella Scotti’s video documentary on new generation farmers and a longform story by Olek Novak on singles living through the coronavirus pandemic.

Lisa Edser’s video on Afghan journalists trying to leave after the return of the Taliban and Emilia Roux’s report on drink spiking in Sydney pubs were also commended.

Two first year students were honoured: Sasha Foot who took out the two minute audio category with her food recycling report and Aston Brown, lauded for his video coverage of Sydney’s first anti-lockdown protest.

Postgrad Grace Stranger won the media ethics prize and was also a runner-up for best story over 750 words for her NDIS in jails investigation.

Judges commended students for their technical skill, insight and “ambition”, with one praising Charlie McLean’s “ability to interview individuals directly involved in the industry” for his exclusive investigation for Vice into the vape blackmarket – which took out the Best Investigative Journalism prize.

JERAA (the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia) awards prizes in 23 categories during their annual conference and the Ossies are recognised around Australian universities as the pre-eminent student journalism awards.

Professor Saba Bebawi, the Head of Discipline, Journalism and Writing at UTS, said: “We are incredibly proud of our students at UTS Journalism.

“They work hard and aspire to be the best they can be in their profession. We teach them to think outside the box and these successes are proof that they can achieve that.”

Awards were shared around several universities and colleges, with the University of Melbourne winning in five categories, UNSW and RMIT picking up two each and Sydney University one.

UNSW’s student website Newsworthy was deemed the best publication among all entrants for its issues-based reporting that “captures the modern Australian zeitgeist”.

Reuben Spargo of Charles Sturt University was named Student of the Year.

Lecturer Martin Newman, the editor of UTS’s student website Central News, where many of the winning entries were published, said: “This is an outstanding result in what has been a very challenging year for all our students.

“It’s gratifying to see students’ hard work and creativity recognised across such a variety of media.

“For all the awards won there were many other great student stories and AV submitted for their outstanding nature, that didn’t get nominated but were still a mark of the great depth of quality journalism being produced here in UTS’s journalism department.”


Ossie Awards

Commended students


Judge’s comments:

Max Aldred: “Max Aldred’s interview with Charles Waterstreet represented what was a difficult choice of subject, and one even experienced journalists would have struggled with. The judge was impressed by Aldred’s ambition, and his willingness to press Waterstreet about the more unsavoury aspects of his recent history. The judge found it uncomfortable, revealing and highly readable journalism.”

Hugh McClure: “Hugh McClure’s engaging multimedia package on the Canberra rental crisis was both ably reported and vividly told, in a delightful melding of old and new journalistic techniques.”

Sasha Foot: “Sasha Foot’s story on food established a strong angle. The natural sound helped break up the voiceover. The use of more than one talent in the story was also a bonus.” 

Daniella Scotti: “Daniella clearly has personal reasons for wanting this story told – which can often be the springboard for some great coverage of untold stories. She gave a great insight into the stress and despair of the next generation of farmers, had a commendably diverse range of interviews, and excellent use of production techniques such as editing and music to further the story.”

Charlie McLean: “This was well written and timely. The judge was impressed by Charlie’s thorough research and ability to interview individuals directly involved in the industry. The writing was also very good, taking the reader on a journey which was both insightful and enjoyable.”

Olek Novak: “Olek’s multi-media piece reflects on his and others’ experiences during Sydney’s extended COVID lockdown. With a focus on creative growth as a coping mechanism for those in a ‘singles bubble’, ‘106 Days of Solitude’ balances statistics and descriptions of the challenges single people faced during lockdown with a strengths-based and positive viewpoint.”

Grace Stranger: “Grace’s essay on the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, and its recommendations about the media representations of Indigenous people, is a well-argued paper that makes strong points about the discrimination that results from a lack of understanding many media students have of Indigenous people.”