2017 Award Presentations

The 2017 Awards Presentations were an excellent celebration of the outstanding achievements of the best debaters in South Australia. We congratulate them on their wonderful achievements. Our sincere thanks to Mr Stephen Patterson, Mayor of the City of Holdfast Bay and Sacred Heart College for their generosity in supporting this event.

Good Afternoon Mayor Patterson, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am greatly humbled and honoured to have the opportunity to respond to Mr Houey’s address, on behalf of the debaters here today.

Reflecting on this season, I think it is fair to say that we have debated some great topics. At the senior division level, we have examined the role that diversity plays in social cohesion, both nationally and globally – an increasingly relevant issue in today’s society. We have had the opportunity to look at balancing the rights of freedom of speech with protecting vulnerable groups from racial discrimination – and we have even critically analysed the limitations of the United Nations… A big ask for teams of 16, 17 and 18 year olds, with many of us balancing this with our Year 12 studies. I am sure that other debaters in the younger year levels would similarly reflect and conclude that the season has been filled with interesting and challenging topics of debate.

This season was my first full debating season and as it has drawn to a close, I am able to identify several key skills which have developed far beyond my previous abilities.

Of course, debating provides an outstanding platform for individuals to put their public speaking skills into practice, an onerous task, particularly when discussing contentious social issues. Whilst this open rehearsal increases confidence, it also demands a heightened level of eloquence and an enhanced vocabulary to ensure that our arguments are precisely expressed. And so my first point; an improved understanding of the English language.

The exposure to controversial and significant social affairs which we debaters experience whilst researching our topics, leads to my second point; broadening our understanding of our world. We often find ourselves arguing points which we may not personally agree with, being required to set aside our personal biases to understand the opposing side of an issue. Personally, I can say that this impartial analysis has allowed me to empathise with individuals and groups within society whose beliefs differ from my own. Although I may not agree with them, I am certainly able to better understand their points of view, something I think is largely absent from our modern world.

So my final point; an increased sense of responsibility and organisation. At times throughout the season, it seemed like I was taking on an extra subject, with all of the research, meetings, and drafting of speeches which came with each topic. After the first debate, with school assessments multiplying like rabbits, something I’m sure all Year 12s can understand, it became increasingly important to prioritise my studies over debate preparation. I realised that I was still accountable to my team to have my research and speeches completed, so I soon found a pleasant balance between the two duties. Whether that meant sacrificing a lunch time or even an extra half an hour of sleep at night, I made sure that it was done.

It is for these reasons that I encourage all younger debaters to continue to debate throughout their schooling, and to inspire their friends, or even family to get involved. I know that my brother is excited to start debating in the primary competition next year, having watched me throughout this season.

As I mention friends and family, it seems timely to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who has supported us this season. Thanks must of course go to our fantastic coaches; whether you were helping us to organise our team split, helping to brainstorm rebuttal points, or nagging us to finish our speeches, you have made our experience so much easier. To all of the debaters, your unbelievable diligence and commitment throughout this season has seen some truly incredible debates; it has been a pleasure debating against, and alongside you. To our families, thank you for all of your encouragement throughout the season. Whether you’re from metropolitan Adelaide, Gawler, Nuriootpa or beyond, our appreciation for your confidence is almost always understated.

I must also thank all of the adjudicators who have provided us with feedback throughout the season, your advice has been truly invaluable, and of course crucial to our development as debaters. My final thanks goes to the team at Debating SA for their tireless efforts in overcoming logistical and organisational challenges to ensure that each debate round was executed with precision.

Congratulations to all of the award recipients this afternoon, division winners and Debaters of the Year. Particular compliments to the Senior Division winners, Nuriootpa High School, for a fierce debate against my team in the short preparation round, and for carrying their winning form through to the very end!

I would now like to welcome His Worship the Mayor of the City of Holdfast Bay, Mr Stephen Patterson to present the awards, and Mr Tony Houey, Chairman of the Board of Debating SA, to read the citations.

Thank you.