Students from UTS have picked up six awards at the 2023 JERAA Ossie Awards for student journalism, including for best news website.

University of Queensland’s Grace Nakamura was named Journalism Student of the Year, the second year in a row the university has claimed the night’s top honour.

Awards were shared around 15 institutions demonstrating the range of achievement in journalism programmes across Australia. University of Melbourne won eight awards or commendations, RMIT and Monash five each and UQ and Griffith three each. Western Sydney, USYD and Newcastle won two awards and UNSW, Charles Darwin, University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt, Murdoch University, Curtin and University of South Australia were also honoured.

UTS students Pamela Rontziokis, Suhayla Sharif, Mary Ellen Rogers and Aston Brown all won awards and student website Central News was judged best in Australia, while first year student Acacia Soares was highly commended.

Head of discipline, Saba Bebawi, said: “At UTS Journalism we are incredibly proud of our students’ achievements at the OSSIE awards this year.

“It is testimony to the high quality work both our students and academics conduct. We are particularly thrilled to have Central News awarded as best student publication, which is reflective of a collective effort of all those involved in producing an excellent student news output.”

The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia’s Ossie Awards are the country’s top prize ceremony for student journalism.

Rontziokis won the Crikey Award for Investigative Journalism, with judges commending both her investigation into the Greek Orthodox Church and her “sharp and lean” writing. The dual Communications/Law student has also been nominated in the Democracy’s Watchdogs Award for the same investigation, alongside fellow student Jonathan Weitz-Freeman.

Crisp clear writing and simple design made Central News the standout publication in an excellent field. Especially impressive was the range of coverage and sure-footed execution.

Sharif, who earlier in August also won the NSW Premier’s Multicultural Media Award for student journalism, won the Mindframe Award for Reporting on Mental Health, with judges commenting she sensitively captured the “lived experience of anorexia nervosa”.

Rogers took out the award for Best Text-based Story by a Postgrad (over 750 words). Judges said she told her story about the impact of the varroa mite on bee colonies simply and effectively and “never allowed her own voice to overpower that of her subjects”.

Brown won the Best Text-based Story by an Undergrad (over 750 words) for his feature in The Guardian on Sydney can collectors, with judges saying it elevated the voices of the voiceless, and “sensitively and carefully told a story of highly visible, but little understood, urban poverty in our cities”.

Soares was highly commended in the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma Asia-Pacific Award for her profile on child sex abuse law reformist Harrison James.

Central News was awarded Best Publication, with judge Misha Ketchell, the editor of The Conversation, saying: “Crisp clear writing and simple design made Central News the standout publication in an excellent field. Especially impressive was the range of coverage and sure-footed execution, whether it be a news story on the decline in job ads, a panel discussion on how to cover Gaza, or a profile of a firefighter ahead of bushfire season.”

University of Queensland’s hard-working Nakamura, picked up the Australian Press Council Prize for Journalism Student of the Year as well as $750, with the judges commenting: “A very strong portfolio of work alongside a 6.75 Grade Point Average for her studies. Grace Nakamura has presented a community radio program, done an exchange in Germany, did a stint with community start-up PS Media, and gained a job with the ABC on graduation.”

UTS lecturer Catriona Bonfiglioli, the organiser of the 2023 JERAA Conference held at UTS this week, said: “As the peak body for journalism educators in Australia JERAA is committed to drawing on high level professional journalists to judge the Ossies and give all the winners and the highly commendeds the confidence that their work has reached the highest standard.

“All the Ossies winners across the country can take great pride in their success and that they have distinguished themselves.”

Main images by Aston Brown, Mary Ellen Rogers, Pamela Rontziokis and supplied.