Clarence Valley Council last Friday announced the winner of the ‘plunge’ category of its IN FOCUS Photography Competition – the winning picture graces the program cover for the plunge arts and crafts festival 2016. Hailey Voorand’s photograph, Oceans Energy, was a unanimous winner in the minds of judges Adam Hourigan, Debrah Novak and Simon Hughes. The 19-year-old has been bowled over by the country’s diversity since arriving in Australia, when compared to her Canadian homeland: she is staying with her aunt and uncle in Yamba. “The diversity in the nature and the environment, even in the people, it’s crazy how diverse it is here, and it’s great because you get to see a little bit of everything,” Hailey says. The photograph’s subject, Grace Hickey, is a Lower Clarence singer and artist. “I actually met her at one of her gigs, and afterwards we were kind of like, ‘hey, we may as well get together”, so we became friends,” says Hailey. “And for taking the photo, I thought she’d be perfect as the face of the Clarence Valley because she is already so involved in the community. “Not only does she have an exquisite voice, she has the most gorgeous personality, and is one of the kindest people I have met.” The picture was taken at Pippi Beach in Yamba. “The beach was a good background; … the beaches and the river are basically what surround Yamba and the Clarence Valley, it plays a big part in the community.” Hailey is heading back to Canada next year to take up a two-year program in photography. “While I’m here I’m just going to soak up as much of [my experiences] as I can with photography and try to learn as much as possible,” says Hailey. The ‘plunge’ category is the first of four categories to be announced for the IN FOCUS Photography Competition. The DLSR, compact and mobile camera categories will be announced on March 18 at the Grafton Regional Gallery’s launch of the plunge festival. Hailey will also receive a $500 prize and will have her photograph displayed at the gallery for the duration of the plunge arts and culture festival 2016.