2018 Calibre Essay Prize (Winner): 'We Three Hundred' by Lucas Grainger-Brown

I signed away ten years of my life at high school. Three hundred or so teenagers did likewise around the country; from Sydney and Melbourne to the wind-rustle quiet of burnt umber townships. We had similar reasons – wanting to be heroes and leaders, chasing self-respect, escaping loose ends, following Simpson and his donkey.

After graduation we cut our hair to regulation length, checked off items on a list in a thick wad of mailed instructions. We packed our luggage, teenage surfeit shrunk to military limits. Stiff in two-piece suits and shiny new leathers, family members farewelled, we converged on Canberra.

Canberra from above, in the throes of summer: a slice of suburbia deserted amid the pivot of a tumbleweed dust bowl; kindling grass chequered with vacant car parks; dark green mountains at the edge of the plateau. It was almost deserted. The politicians had gone home; locals had fled to the coast. The bushfire season consumed the headlines at a newspaper stand by the luggage carousel.

Buses with tinted glass awaited us. In a strange quiet, cocooned by the thrumming air-conditioning, we endured an anxious trip along the highway. Halfway up a gradual rise overlooking dry scrubland dotted with brick whitewash, our convoy turned through insignia-crusted walls. Into a strange city we burrowed, among Brutalist buildings stacked on the concave hillside like a Brazilian favela. Strangers began shouting at us. I caught the eye of another passenger and we shared a moment of sangfroid. We had arrived at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

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Published in April 2018, no. 400
Lucas Grainger-Brown

Lucas Grainger-Brown

Lucas Grainger-Brown is a Melbourne-based writer and former management consultant to the federal government. He is currently completing PhD student and tutor at The University of Melbourne, focusing on national identity and globalisation in the Howard era. He has written for numerous journals and news media and has authored two novellas, a short story collection, and the novel Cleopatra's Daughter (2016).

Comments (2)

  • Leave a comment

    This piece is a memoir essay or personal essay. Lucas Grainger-Brown uses narrative devices to mold his life experiences into a strong and appropriately structure piece.

    Friday, 21 September 2018 11:59 posted by  Jennifer Althaus
  • Leave a comment

    This is a personal memoir -- not an essay.

    Friday, 30 March 2018 16:19 posted by  John Lechte

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