2020 Award Presentations

We were delighted to have His Excellency The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia present awards to the winning and runner up teams, as well as the Debater of the Year Winners for 2020. Congratulations to all! Our sincere thanks to Sacred Heart College for their generous hospitality of this event.

Good evening Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your address, and what an honour it is to deliver the reply speech. Firstly, allow me to acknowledge your attendance here today. As debaters, it is such an immense privilege that you take an interest in debating, as an activity we value and enjoy so greatly. We are delighted that you have made time in Your Excellency’s busy schedule to attend to present awards to us. I know that for many of us this will be a significant positive highlight in what has been a challenging year.

At the end of every season, I always think about why I do debating. At first, it seems somewhat odd that we stand up, in an artificial setting, and talk about topics which are not part of the normal discourse of our lives. Yet, after every consideration, I’ve continued.

As interesting as the topics can be to research and debate, I think the significance of debating does not lie in specifically what we debate about but what it teaches us. Debating is about communicating ideas, about rationalising thought and about presenting these ideas in a manner that is considered and effective.

2020, in my view, has been the spark of many large global conversations where more people have involved themselves in activism for change. It has become apparent through these discussions that there is increasing polarisation on issues that are reflective of a lack of logical communication and also the understanding of another’s views, beyond the headline statements. In the society we live in, the ability to communicate clearly is so integral, and why I believe that on a foundational level, debating and other similar endeavours are so useful not only as a source of enjoyment, or an opportunity to spend a night arguing about an issue, but as the learning environment for skills of diligent research and importantly, clear communication – a skill that can only be learned through experience.

Dealing with the challenges of COVID this year has taught us the importance of human connection. As students, we were required – thankfully for only a short time – to engage with online learning. And I’m sure this has reminded all of us, how much we value face-to-face communication and learning.

This is especially true for debating and other public speaking events. A successful speech or debate is not just what you have written on the page in front of you, but how you deliver it. You need to stand in front of people, you need to see a real audience, convince that real audience, and connect with that audience.

This ability to find connection, and think on your feet in a manner that is relevant and compassionate is what has set apart the great speakers of the past, and a skill that we should always continue to strive towards.

I would like to further acknowledge the immense work that goes into facilitating this competition. To that end, I thank the team at Debating SA, our parents, and our school staff in their valued contributions. Conducting the debating competition requires a huge amount of commitment and effort for all involved. Due to the occurrence of COVID this year, this was even more of a challenge than usual, and I want to pay special tribute to everyone involved in getting us to this point. It is so wonderful that debating lives on another year!

Thank you all for your attendance tonight, and I now invite His Excellency as Patron of Debating SA forward to present the awards and Dr Paul Hoadley, Chairman of the Board of Debating SA to read the citations.