Sydney Catholic school students have presented a reflective and vibrant take on Christmas scripture for the 2021 Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition.

Close to 600 students in Year 5 and 6 from schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, and Diocese of Wollongong and Bathurst took part in the project this year.

The students drew on verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for inspiration.


The 32 prize-winning artworks depict gospel scenes including the journey to Bethlehem, Annunciation, birth of Jesus and visit of the magi.

Year 6 student Jeramae Gonayon from St Mark’s Catholic Primary School Drummoyne received first prize in her year category for a detailed drawing of Mary and the angel Gabriel. 

A bright blue sky and intricate facial expressions featured in St John’s Catholic Primary School Auburn Year 5 First Prize winner, Lara Elfin Aydin’s detailed painting of the nativity.

Archbishop’s Choice Trophy winning holly wreath

Archbishop’s Choice Trophy winning artwork.

St Therese Catholic Primary School Denistone’s Mila Hinves, in Year 5, was a joint awardee of the Archbishop’s Choice Trophy. Her earth-toned holly wreath was a standout sculpture among the other works.

St Therese Catholic Primary School Sadleir-Miller student Chelsea received the Executive Director’s Award for her richly-shaded charcoal drawing of doves.

“The doves in my sketch represent purity, which is a symbol in the Annunciation” – Chelsea

Usually held  at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Sydney campus, the exhibition moved online in 2020 due to COVID-19. It is a successful formula replicated this year. 

SCS Specialist: Religious Education, Jodie Micallef, praised the high quality of students’ work and thanked the teachers and principals who enabled such them to come forth under unique circumstances. 

“After a very challenging year for many, the judging experience filled my heart with the hope that the Seasons of Advent and Christmas bring,” Mrs Micallef said.

“I was able to ‘see’ the Christmas Story through the eyes of a child and appreciate their unique creativity and deeply spiritual reflections.”


This year’s judging panel comprised:

  • John Charadia – Professional Officer: Gifted Education, Creativity and Critical Thinking, Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong
  • Amanda McPaul – Artist, Heart of the Mountains Art Studio in the Blue Mountains
  • Jodie Micallef Specialist: Religious Education Primary
  • Archbishop’s Choice Trophy: Most Reverend Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney
  • Executive Director’s Award: Tony Farley, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools
  • Spirit of Christmas Award: Sally McDowell, SCS Marketer: Communications Team
  • Notre Dame Award: Dr Kate Winchester, Senior Lecturer, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney
Christmas Story judges Jodie Micallef and Sally McDowell

Judges Jodie Micallef and Sally McDowell.


Sydney Catholic Schools’ marketer and former graphic designer, Sally McDowell, has been a judge of the Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition since its inception, 16 years ago.

“The Christmas story is so rich in tradition and detail, there are so many elements they can choose to depict” – Sally McDowell

She said it was inspiring to see how each student chose to articulate what the Christmas story meant to them through art.

“I find it really inspiring to see what our young people can come up with creatively, but also in their meditative processes, when looking at the scripture,” Ms McDowell said.

“It’s really enlightening to see why they choose certain styles, and nice seeing the way the students will draw empathy for certain people in the Christmas story.

“We’ve seen artworks from the point of view of the angel, baby Jesus, the Three Kings, Mary, Joseph  and even from the donkey’s point of view one year!”

View our virtual gallery showing all our finalists and winners’ artworks, including winner’s reflections on their art, by clicking on the button below.