The 2023 national winners of the PM’s Spelling Bee are announced
After nearly 60,000 student registrations, three exciting rounds and every state and territory in Australia getting busy with their ABCs, it’s time to meet the 2023 PM’s Spelling Bee champions
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Call it the Zac Attack, because 2022 reigning* champion Zachary Cheng, Year 8, has successfully defended his Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee crown. Claiming the Red level title in consecutive* attempts, the Victorian super speller also delivered a hat-trick* for Haileybury College, with the Melbourne school in the winner’s circle for the third straight year.
Competition kicked off with nearly 60,000 students registered, but Zac’s score of 28/30 in just 1:25.596 was nearly twice as fast as his nearest rival in the finals.
After getting two words out of 30 wrong – cystitis* and Burramys (Australian pygmy* possums) – Zac said winning was “pretty surprising”.
“I couldn’t believe it, honestly, because I didn’t feel good about only (getting) 28,” he said. “I was pretty sure I was not going to win.”
The hardest word Zac faced in the final was “catarrh*” – not that he misspelt it.
“It’s not the country (Qatar*), it’s something to do with … your body,” Zac said. “I think I read it in a book … and I just remembered it.
“Most of the words I got right I did read from books, because I read a lot every day.”
Parents Caroline and Ronald were “super proud”, according to the Bee whiz.
“My dad said he wanted to go on the plane (to Canberra) this time, instead of in the car,” he said.
Crediting his class teacher, middle school department head Sarah Haley, with “pushing us to read a lot”, Zac said library sessions helped too.
Zac and Ms Haley agreed that avid* reading played a big role in his success.
“He is an inspiring* example of how dedication* and a deep appreciation* for literature* can lead to excellence,” Ms Haley said.
Zac was not Haileybury’s only top performer. Green level competitor Will W, Year 4, came 2nd in his category final, and Aariyan M, Year 8, finished 5th just a few places behind Zac.
“Congratulations to Will, Aariyan, and all our students for their exceptional achievements, and to Zachary for his remarkable back-to-back victories,” Ms Haley said.
Of the grand prize trip to the nation’s capital with the other two winners, Zac was most looking forward to “meeting the Prime Minister again, seeing if maybe he recognises me” – and was “inspired” to throw another spelling curve ball Mr Albanese’s way.
With the other two champions again hailing from WA, Zac has the big job at Parliament House of representing all the eastern states for a second time.
“I feel really proud that I’m representing the eastern seaboard*,” he said.
First runner up in Years 7-8 (Red level) was Queensland’s Deona Emmanuel, 11, a Year 8 student at St Patrick’s College, Townsville. Deona equalled Zac’s score with 28/30 and came second in the country in 2:38.943.
If 11 sounds too young for Year 8, it’s because the second-time national finalist skipped Years 5 and 6 and competed at a year group level two years ahead of her age.
“When I was in Year 4 at Holy Spirit Catholic School, Townsville, I was given a lot of extension work,” Deona said. “Achievements in the Spelling Bee, together with other extra-curricular activities, enabled me to go straight to Year 7.”
Encouraged “in many ways” by both schools, Deona said she was also supported by her family.
“Without their motivation I would not have tried this hard,” she said.
As with all the Bee’s top performers, Deona loves reading in her spare time.
“That’s where I got a lot of my vocabulary from,” she said. “I also like playing chess, the piano, and violin and have a black tip in taekwondo.”
A science lover with hopes of becoming a research biochemist, Deona’s two misspelled words were “jejunum” and “scurrilous”.
“The Spelling Bee is a great opportunity for all of us to test our spelling with AI across the states in addition to traditional classroom spelling tests,” she said. “No student should miss this amazing opportunity.”
Orange level (Years 5-6) winner Abigail Koh, 12, knocked defending champion and fellow Perth student Ozi Egesi into second place with less than 13 seconds between their two perfect scores.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” the Oberthur Primary School star student said. “I actually found out two days before my birthday, so I think it was a really nice present.”
Bound for selective* high school Perth Modern next year, spelling isn’t Abigail’s only gift.
“I really love everything to do with English, writing and of course music,” she said. “I play two instruments, the piano as my main and violin.
“I love writing, it’s my absolute strongest subject. I do a lot of writing in my free time, I have a 160-page document* in my MacBook that I use to write my own stories. I like writing about my own passions, mostly music, but I also write a lot of fantasy, zombie apocalypse* sort of things.”
As for meeting the PM, Abigail said she already has a word ready for him, combining her two loves, English and music: “Ethnomusicological.”
The big question is what’s in WA’s water, with the state home to four of the last six winners. And it’s a small world over on the west coast. The new Green level (Years 3-4) champion Samuel Wright, 9, is a Year 4 student at Providence* Christian School, also attended by Orange level runner up Ozi, now in Year 6.
Samuel said he was “very surprised and excited” to be named the 2023 Green level national champion. The keen photographer and Enid Blyton fan said while he was “nervous” about meeting the PM, it was “very nice” sharing his win with his family, friends and school community, including overjoyed class teacher Lara Steele.
“She couldn’t believe it either, she was so excited,” Samuel said with a giggle. “It’s very nice because they have helped me a lot as the years have gone by and they’ve been very kind to me.”
Samuel’s dad Jason said he and wife Naomi were “stoked*”.
“We were in disbelief, it was amazing,” he said.
Meanwhile Year 6 Epping Public School super student Aditya Paul has only just turned 12, but he can lay claim to being NSW’s best young speller.
A two-time national finalist in the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee, Aditya has been a state finalist every year since the Bee began in 2021.
In this year’s Orange category (Years 5-6), Aditya placed fourth nationally and was the only NSW student to earn a Top Five spot across three age categories.
“The competition is a whirlwind* of words, hints and sentences,” Aditya said. “Throw in a 25-second timer and you have a truly amazing experience.”
His favourite thing about the free, digital competition run by Kids News was the combination of speed and accuracy.
“The fact that it’s a national competition also appeals to me – I can test myself compared to people from other states,” he said.
Aditya’s next challenge is the upcoming state finals of the NSW Premier’s Spelling Bee.
“But the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee is certainly one of my favourites,” he said.
NATIONAL PLACINGS REVEALED
The fun but hard-fought third and final round of the Bee saw 69 students around the country battle it out for the chance to claim the grand prize trip to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister at Parliament House, among other prizes.
In each state and territory, across three competition categories, here are the results of the national final, including each student’s national placing in their category.
Congratulations to all the b-r-i-l-l-i-a-n-t and b-r-a-v-e Bees who took part this year!
VIC GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
2nd place – Will W, Haileybury College (City): 28/30, 1:41.060
5th place – Miles M, St Joseph’s School: 26/30, 2:48.042
6th place – Muntaha I, Sirus College: 25/30, 1:32.501
VIC ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
3rd place – Dion C, Epping Views Primary School: 29/30, 1:15.448
13th place – Will R, Mentone Grammar School: 24/30, 1:27.136
17th place – Thomas N, Serpell Primary School: 23/30, 1:57.023
VIC RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
1st place – Zachary C, Haileybury College: 28/30, 1:25.596
5th place – Aariyan M, Haileybury College City: 26/30, 1:14.302
11th place – Cameron W, Scotch College: 22/30, 1:41.142
NSW GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
8th place – Kayla V, International Grammar School: 25/30, 2:00.421
11th place – Amos M, Wagga Wagga Christian College: 24/30, 1:42.630
19th place – Elliot F, St Andrew’s Cathedral School: 22/30, 2:22.156
NSW ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
4th place – Aditya P, Epping Public School: 28/30, 1:16.064
6th place – Hamza W, North Rocks Public School: 27/30, 1:43.345
19th place – Santana T, McAuley Catholic Primary School: 22/30, 3:49.724
NSW RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
6th place – Sophia D, Georges River Grammar: 25/30, 5:31.354
8th place – George W, Newington College: 24/30, 3:21.308
13th place – Rhea Y, Cessnock High School: 22/30, 6:01.219
QLD GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
12th place – Isabella R, Queen of Apostles Primary School: 24/30, 2:31.699
18th place – Jack F, West End State School: 23/30, 3:00.491
20th place – Ruby Q, St Joseph’s School: 22/30, 2:22.445
QLD ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
5th place – Jillian S, Pullenvale State School: 28/30, 2:12.491
14th place – Leila R, Somerville House: 24/30, 1:51.329
16th place – Akira K, Picnic Creek State School: 24/30, 2:52.484
QLD RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
2nd place – Deona E, St Patrick’s College Townsville: 28/30, 2:38.943
14th place – Ava B, Moreton Bay College: 20/30, 3:49.198
17th place – Ethan K, Kingaroy: 15/30, 1:56.716
SA GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
7th place – Sana P, Avenues College: 25/30, 1:43.479
9th place – Henry W, Black Forest Primary School: 24/30, 1:23.939
13th place – Peter A, Riverdale Primary School: 23/30, 1:14.453
SA ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
11th place – Melinda W, Pedare Christian College: 25/30, 1:25.644
20th place – Salima S, Avenues College: 21/30, 3:06.853
21st place – Chloe S, Thomdon Park Primary School: 20/30, 1:54.155
SA RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
7th place – Musashi N, Modbury High School: 24/30, 2:57.246
20th place – Willem S, St John’s Grammar School: 10/30, 2:23.249
21st place – Ethan W, St John’s Grammar School: 10/30, 6:50.370
TAS GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
4th place – Eden Y, Launceston Christian School: 26/30, 2:06.569
16th place – Cash D, Launceston Christian School: 23/30, 2:34.217
17th place – Sienna C, Table Cape Primary School: 23/30, 2:34.771
TAS ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
9th place – Sahaja B, Fahan School: 26/30, 2:12.452
10th place – Otto L, Princes Street Primary School: 26/30, 2:29.996
22nd place – Sophie O, Mount Nelson Primary School: 19/30, 1:53.664
TAS RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
16th place – Edward S, Sacred Heart College: 17/30, 5:01.793
18th place – Marious Castor M, St Helens District High School: 15/30, 4:19.988
19th place – Mia C, Sacred Heart College: 12/30, 3:39.854
WA GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
1st place – Samuel W, Providence Christian College: 28/30, 1:28.664
14th place – Jesse O, Hollywood Primary School: 23/30, 1:56.275
15th place – Declan C, Riverton Primary School: 23/30, 2:04.087
WA ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
1st place – Abigail K, Oberthur Primary School: 30/30, 1:21.819
2nd place – Ozi Egesi, Providence Christian College: 30/30 1:34.805
8th place – Samantha L, Oberthur Primary School: 27/30, 2:08.144
WA RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
3rd place – Eu Jin K, Harrisdale Senior High School: 28/30, 2:48.667
9th place – Rahi P, Willetton Senior High School: 23/30, 1:56.677
10th place – Subah H, Willetton Senior High School: 23/30, 4:08.733
NT GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
10th place – Dulcie S, Ross Park Primary School: 24/30, 1:41.508
22nd place – Aidan B, Ross Park Primary School: 19/30, 2:16.663
24th place – Noah M, Ross Park Primary School: 17/30, 2:10.717
NT ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
12th place – Koby R, Ross Park Primary School: 25/30, 3:27.296
23rd place – Hannah F, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School: 19/30, 2:03.669
24th place – Isbel H, Ross Park Primary School: 17/30, 3:35.989
NT RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
Did not compete
ACT GREEN LEVEL (YEARS 3-4)
3rd place – Lucy M, Namadgi School: 27/30, 1:25.094
21st place – Shiphrah C, Emmaus Christian School: 20/30, 1:53.331
23rd place – Charlotte W, Canberra Girls’ Grammar: 17/30, 1:18.948
ACT ORANGE LEVEL (YEARS 5-6)
7th place – Riya G, Burgmann Anglican School: 27/30, 1:49.238
15th place – Edward S, Emmaus Christian School: 24/30, 2:45.230
18th place – Andrew M, North Ainslie Primary School: 23/30, 3:04.078
ACT RED LEVEL (YEARS 7-8)
4th place – Zayan T, Burgmann Anglican School: 27/30, 4:40.247
12th place – Raghib B, Burgmann Anglican School: 22/30, 3:55.861
15th place – Maleesha G, Burgmann Anglican School: 18/30: 3:27.225
- reigning: being the most recent winner of a competition
- consecutive: following one after the other without a break
- hat-trick: series of three achievements
- cystitis: infection and inflammation of the bladder
- pygmy: anything very small of its kind
- catarrh: a condition in which a lot of mucus is produced in the nose and throat
- Qatar: Arab state on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf
- avid: extremely eager or interested
- inspiring: encouraging, making you feel you want to do something
- dedication: giving something a lot of time and energy
- appreciation: understanding the value and importance of something
- literature: the collection of artistic written works
- eastern seaboard: easternmost part of the continent
- selective: choosing certain people or things over others
- document: written printed or digital form of collecting and storing information
- zombie apocalypse: genre of fiction that sees the world overrun by zombies
- ethnomusicological: considering music from cultural and social aspects of those who make it
- providence: the care and control of God or another non-human force
- stoked: really pleased, excited and very happy about something
- whirlwind: event or action that happens or is done faster than normal
- Who has won back-to-back Bee national titles and from which school?
- Where do the other two new national Bee champions come from?
- What are Abigail Koh’s two loves?
- What do the 2023 Green level champion Samuel Wright and Orange level runner up Ozi Egesi have in common?
- What word does Abigail plan to challenge the PM with during the Parliament House visit?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Bee banner!
Have you seen the banners that AFL players run through before their games? Be inspired and design a special banner that the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee winners could have run through before the final.
Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design
Our Spelling Bee champions are going to test the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, with some tough words to spell. Write a list of tips to help him to stay calm and spell out words that he might not know. Use your research skills to find some tips if you need to.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
Imagine you were there during the event being discussed in the article, or for the interview.
Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.
Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.