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Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award 2021 - NSW State Final
JUSTINE CLARKE: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this online state final of the Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award for 2021. My name is Justine Clark, and I'm the Speaking Competitions Officer for the Department of Education working here at The Arts Unit. Before we go any further, I would first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I'm speaking to you from today, which is the Darug and Gundugurra people. As we listen to the speeches today, it's important that we first acknowledge our original storytellers and pay respect to that oral tradition that lays the foundation for us all. I pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.
Obviously, our speakers are all from different places across the state today, so I now invite each of them to unmute and perform their own acknowledgment of country in the order in which they appear on the programme, beginning with Aminata.
AMINATA DIAGNE: Hi, my name is Aminata Diagne, from Sarah Redfern High School on the traditional land of the Darug people.
VIOLET FITZSIMMONS: Hi, my name is Violet Fitzsimmons from Oxley college, and I'm speaking today on the land of the Gundugurra people.
NEVE O'NEIL: Hi, my name is Neve O'Neil from Kambala School, which stands on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.
JOY YE: Morning, I'm Joy Ye from Pymble Ladies College, speaking to you today from the traditional lands of the Kuringgai people.
AVIGAL HOLSTEIN: Hi, I'm Avigal Holstein and I'm speaking from the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.
HAIDEE UNDERWOOD: Hi, I'm Haidee Underwood from Gosford High School. I'd like to acknowledge the Darkinjung people, both Elders past and present.
KIMBERLY SAMUEL: Hi, I'm Kimberly Samuel from Willoughby Girls High School and I'd like to pay my respects to the Cammeraygal people, who are the traditional owners of this land.
HARRIET HAHN: Hi, my name is Harriet Hahn from MLC School, which is situated on the land of the Wangal people of the Eora Nation.
JUSTINE CLARKE: Thank you, Harriet, and thank you to all of the speakers. I'd like to formally welcome family members, friends, teachers and distinguished guests today, both from Sydney Legacy and from the Department of Education, including the Director of Arts, Sport, and Initiatives, Jordi Austin, and Andrew Lasaitis, who is the Arts Programmes and Partnerships Coordinator at The Arts Unit.
It is my pleasure, now, to introduce the president of Sydney Legacy, Nikki Hollis, who has recorded a special introduction for today's final.
NIKKI HOLLIS: Hi. Welcome to the Legacy Junior Public Speaking Awards for 2021. My name is Nikki Hollis, and I'm the President of Sydney Legacy. Now, the last two years have been horrendous for everyone, and particularly yourselves, I imagine. It impacted your studies, impacted your friendships. We're all well aware of that. And, yeah, what can we do but hope for the best for the future?
But today is all about you. You've reached this point, and you should be incredibly proud of yourselves to have got here. I'm personally devastated that I'm not able to be there and to be a part and to witness and listen to your speeches, but I look forward to seeing the recordings.
Can I just say, be proud of what you've achieved. Be confident. Enjoy what you're doing, and have fun. Thanks very much.
JUSTINE CLARKE: We're very grateful for the generous support that Legacy has provided this year so that we could continue to run this prestigious competition. The Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award is one of the premier events in the public speaking calendar, attracting hundreds of entries from all educational systems and usually feeding into a national competition that unfortunately had to be cancelled this year.
The competition began in 1995 in association with the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War with the aim of encouraging students to develop their public speaking skills while also learning about the Legacy values and the valuable contribution that Legacy makes to society. For the past two years, we've not been able to run the competition in its usual form, and this year was particularly challenging, with many students not even being at school during the initial stages. All of the students across the state who were brave enough to record and submit their prepared speeches from home should be very proud of themselves, (COUGHING) excuse me, and these 8 finalists here today especially so.
Regional finals took place just a couple of weeks ago, and I'm personally very grateful to all of the teachers and family members who have supported the speakers through this process, especially with everything else you've had to deal with this year. Before we get to our speakers, and having seen all of them in action, I don't envy the job of the 3 very important people I am about to introduce you to. Our adjudication panel for today's final is Elinor Stephenson, Justin Lai, and Charlee Jane.
Elinor Stephenson was a state finalist in the Plain English Speaking Award in 2017. That's the senior version of this competition. She's also a champion debater, being part of the Smiths Hill team that won the 2017 11 and 12 State Debating Competition. Elinor is one of our combined high schools debating coaches, having been a part of that representative team herself during high school. And, this year, she made it all the way to the semifinals of the Worlds Debating Championships.
Justin Lai was the 2018 winner of the New South Wales Plain English Speaking Award. He went on to win the National Final and to represent Australia in London, where he was the runner-up at the international final in 2019. He was also a member of the 2018 Sydney Boys High School debating team, who were the state champions of the Premier's Debating Challenge for Years 11 and 12, and one of our favourite public speaking adjudicators.
Well, they all are. Elinor is as well.
Charlee Jane was also a successful debater and public speaker during her school career at Crestwood High School. She is a state finalist in both debating and in the Plain English Speaking Award in 2018. Charlee also won the 2015 Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award and went on to win the National Championship of this competition in that same year. So we have a very accomplished and experienced adjudication panel to look after you today.
We now come to the prepared speech section of the Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award State Final and our most important guests today. In this section, each contestant may speak for 5 minutes on a topic of their own choosing. We're not using a bell today. Tony has explained the clock system and he will go over that with you as each speaker is introduced.
So, without any further ado, I'd like to welcome our first speaker for this morning, Aminata Diagne, a student from Sarah Redfern High School. The title of Aminata's speech is Untying the Knot. Please welcome Aminata.
AMINATA DIAGNE: 'I found out that my parents wanted to marry me off. I said no. But they said the wedding would take place, whether I agree to it or not.' These are the words of 15-year-old Hamsatou from Niamey, Niger, which saddened and horrified me as I read them, slowly taking in what was happening in the life of a young girl like me. I came upon her story and the truth about other young girls like Hamsatou while doing a task for my elective.
Here I was, worrying about my schoolwork and getting it right, and there was this child worrying about her future life as a married individual, helpless in her situation with no recourse coming to hear from anyone, including her parents. The knot would be tied no matter what and would become the beginning of a hellish existence, spelling the end of Hamsatou's hopes and dreams.
Ladies and gentlemen, the tying of the knot between a child and a much older adult is an evil practise and a scourge in society. Approximately 650 million girls and women alive in the world today were married as children, and a few million are no longer here with us today. They lived in desperation, hoping the knot of marriage would be untied.
A country like Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with 77% of girls being wed before the age of 18. Think about that. Then followed by Bangladesh, with 74%, and Chad, with 69%. You might think this is something that happened a long time ago, but no! It's still happening to this day. And if we don't do anything about it, it will just continue for many years to come.
Half of Niger subsists on less than $1.25 a day. Extreme poverty is, thus, a major factor in the prevalence of child marriage in Niger, where girls are forced into marriages arranged by parents and relatives. Niger is also home to the world's most vulnerable women and children, where child marriages reflect on gender disparities and the belief that girls and women are less capable and are burdens unto their families, hence they are dispensable.
Some of the social consequences of child marriage are also horrific and make me realise how evil this is. Can you imagine what those girls go through when they are told they cannot see their mates, go to school, or play on the playground because they are to be married? Marriages such as these lead to sexual exploitation of young girls, which is very dangerous as it could lead to many dangerous diseases such as cervical cancer and death during childbirth.
This brings me to think of a solution. What can be done in a situation where laws alone are insufficient? Any enforcement of child marriage legislation should be done in collaboration with the civil society organisations and should prioritise girls' rights while complementing and supporting community-based attempts to reform the social and gender norms that lead to child marriage.
There are no minimum age restrictions to get married in Niger. As a result, they leave responsibilities to village elders, religious leaders, and fathers. I believe we need to ensure the eradication of this problem by spreading social awareness and educating both men and women. Right now, awareness is being made through agencies of the United Nations and other organisations such as CARE Global, Forum for African Educationalists, and many more.
But what can we students of Australia do? We can adopt a girl student through Girls Not Brides. By doing this, we are making 1 small contribution into untying the knot that binds these young girls. We can also advocate for the end of child brides through our social media posts and use our platforms to shock those around us. Our governments could address the issue and put pressure on the United Nations to take more concrete steps into bringing child marriage to an end. And, above all, let us remember that even small steps we take can bring an end to the terrible ordeal of child marriage.
I would like to leave you with the words of Naila Amin, a child marriage survivor, who has a law named after her, then Naila Law, which bans the practise of child marriage in New York. This law came to be passed due to her efforts and persistence. Naila says, 'My hard experiences made me realise there is a fire within me that cannot be extinguished.'
It made me realise women can do anything. We can do anything. All we need is to be cherished, valued, respected, and loved.
VIOLET FITZSIMMONS: You will listen to many speeches today, and I sincerely doubt that you'll be swayed by anything that you hear. Let's be honest. You probably didn't want to listen to me in the first place. After all, there's nothing an adult loves more than being lectured by a teenager.
You probably heard what I have to say a thousand times before. You've ruined the environment. You've ruined society. You've ruined me. Have you ever used a plastic straw? For shame!
Each and every one of us stands before you, mannerisms practised to perfection, feet positioned to prevent swaying, trying desperately not to go up at the end of every sentence. We each have a speech polished meticulously by our parents and teachers, the topic politically relevant but so far from our real lives that we often don't really understand what we're saying.
Now, people are always complaining about politicians, how they weave around answers and never actually say what they believe. Well, ladies and gentlemen, take a look around. Welcome to politician training camp. We created the system of persuading children to behave like adults, talking about things they won't necessarily care about, making jokes they don't really understand, and spending hours trying to come up with something that sounds smart enough to win the election-- I mean, public speaking competition.
This is not public speech. This is question time at the House of Representatives. Public speaking began in Roman forums and Greek agoras. People spoke their minds and gained understandings of each other's beliefs.
So the validity of thought and belief was spurred on by passion. It was not practised speeches about things that are politically complex, but foreign to the speaker's youth. It was the encouragement of thought and debate, discovering new ideas while still allowing individual beliefs.
And, if, in the Forum, if the speaker gave a bad speech, people would throw things at them. If they gave a really bad speech, they would get lynched. Adjudicators were really harsh in Roman times.
Somewhere along the line, we have lost sight of this beauty. We've lost sight of the artistry that speech demands and have, instead, drilled ourselves on the structure and turn of phrase. Now, that's not to say that we've lost the ability to convey complex ideas, but forcing eloquence and elaboration is unnecessary to further our understanding of each other.
The most meaningful moments in our lives are not the skillfully delivered seminars and lectures, but the quiet revelations and personal reflections that lead to life-changing epiphanies. Allowing us to talk to you the way that we want to is the choice for rhetoric. Greta Thunberg is an incredible example of this, as she so simply sums up not only her idea but the passion behind it with the simple words, 'How dare you!' That and the slightly terrifying gleam in her eye.
Though communication is beautiful in all its forms, I don't think the way that my generation chooses to express itself should be degraded. So what if I say 'like' after every word, if I stutter, repeat an idea, or express my view with a limited vocabulary? As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, 'Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.'
This idea of free and honest speech is not distant to anyone here today. We are the people trapped within this rigid structure to express ourselves with, and you are the people who only get to see the precipice of my generation's perspective.
We are all worse off because of this, but luckily we are the same people who can change this. Instead of looking for political ideas that make it sound like you read the 'Australian Financial Review,' look for ideas that are truly relevant to you. Instead of giving a competition like this as a battlefield to see who can sound the most intelligent, focus on spreading a message you care about to your peers.
Think about it. Are you happy with the quality of our education? Are you comfortable walking alone in your area? Does your identity affect how authority figures treat you?
We're all here today trying to express ourselves in the best way that we know how. Instead of viewing each other as competition, we should support each other in sharing our beliefs, our perspectives, and our knowledge. We've been holding ourselves back for far too long, and we need to regain that sense of mateship and trust in our peers so that we can actually learn something from each other.
So help us to have a discussion about things that we are actually knowledgeable about. Encourage us to discuss the social pressures of high school, the stress of friendships and final exams. Though they may not frequently set the headlines, they matter because we matter.
Just because we're kids doesn't mean we don't have some killer insights on how to deescalate a situation and learn from the outcomes or how to handle pressure and prejudice. The skills and experiences we already have are applicable to real-life situations, if only we utilise them. It's time to change the way that we practise public speaking. And, on that note, I'll stop speaking.
NEVE O'NEIL: You were sitting at the weekly school committee meeting. And, each week, you feel like you have all these exciting ideas. For me, I suggested that we host a science competition at lunchtime. I was basically ignored by my teachers, who dismissed my idea without even considering it.
However, the next week, I got an alert from my school website that Mr. Peak had come up with the great idea of introducing a science competition at lunch. Don't you just hate when you come up with the best idea and someone else takes it as their own?
And this isn't just the boardroom in a random school that only affects these girls. This has probably happened to just about every woman at every level of society, in the home, at school, in the boardroom of multinational corporations, even in Parliament House. Gender deafness is a phenomenon that is particularly prevalent within our Australian Parliament.
Women entering the political sphere is not a new concept, with the centenary of Edith Cowan's 1921 election to the Western Australian Parliament. Across the board, the advances and setbacks of women sitting in Parliament House of Australia is still, for an ancient continent, very much recent business, with only 13 countries globally who have 50% or more female ministers.
And the number of countries with no women in government actually increased in the last year. Although, in Australia, the number of women in Parliament now sits at 36.9%, still under the 2016 target of 50%. There is 1 phenomenon that has continually stood the test of time-- gender deafness.
Many women who experience the toxic workplace culture firsthand recently spoke out through the ABC 'Ms. Represented' programme on the impact of gender deafness. Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, in reference to the phenomenon, 'Out of all the experiences I talk to women about, that always gets the heads nodding.'
Julie Bishop describes it as, 'It happens if you're the only woman in a room and you come up with an idea or say something, so often, there's no response. And then the next person speaks. And then the next one actually appropriates your idea, and then all the men around the table nod and say, what a good idea. And you'd be there, didn't I say that? Did no one hear me?'
This is known as bropropriating, taking a woman's idea and getting credit for it. These inspirational female leaders admit that, even once in Parliament, they have to assimilate to a culture in which their ideas are being taken by their male counterparts.
A common strategy endorsed by women from the Nationals, Liberals, Labour, and Greens, all acknowledge that sometimes the only way to get a policy idea up and running was to make the bloke think it was his idea. They suggested to each other, 'Go outside and pitch him something. He'll come in and sell it to the rest,' they said.
It is disappointing that in a modern Australia, in the highest office, women need to get a male counterpart to deliver ideas. This certainly demands a change in attitude on behalf of male politicians who are perpetuating prejudice against women.
Nevertheless, we must strengthen our bonds as women and back each other vocally. Women supporting women is more important than ever in this environment, and all it takes is to acknowledge her idea. Education and leadership consultant Marcia Devlin has a solution, and that solution is, respectfully, when this type of incident happens, Parliament or otherwise, call it out.
When Sophie's idea lands on deaf ears and Mark is trying to bropropriate it as his own 5 minutes later, don't be afraid to step in and say, 'Great idea, Mark. I'm not sure if you heard it, but that is exactly what Sophie said just a few minutes ago.'
What if people around you nod in agreement? Marcia warns, sometimes men don't like this. Marcia herself was pulled aside after doing this in a meeting and told that she shouldn't have done it, as it was embarrassing for the man.
Ladies and gentlemen, do you know what's really embarrassing? That Mark heard Sophie's idea and didn't give credit to it. Alternatively, Mark wasn't even listening when his colleague Sophie spoke. And why? Because she's a woman, perhaps? What Mark did is embarrassing, but you giving credit to Sophie, the person who actually came up with the idea, that's not embarrassing. That's 1 more step forward to equality.
It's 2023, and I'm a senior prefect. I suggest a science competition at lunchtime. I'm listened to and celebrated by my peers. Isn't this the world we want to live in? Wouldn't that be a better situation for a young woman?
JOY YE: When I first heard of the Xinjiang concentration camps a few years ago and the mass atrocities committed against the Uyghur population in China, I felt more than just immense sadness and anger. In light of Australian articles accusing Chinese people of human rights abuses, I felt guilt, but I began to wonder why.
You see, for many ABC'S, or Australian-Born Chinese, the question of ethnic identity is a complicated one, and the reason often is because of the association between embracing your Chinese heritage and the adoption of Chinese political views because of the subsequent choice we often have to make between our Australian and Chinese identity. For ABCs, the best of both worlds is hard to come by.
Now, in light of the CCP's status in human rights abuses, it's not hard to understand apprehension felt towards the Chinese government. The problem is this fear that surrounds the CCP is increasingly being translated into suspicion and racism towards Chinese people. One of the clearest examples of this occurred late last year, when our very own Senator Eric Abetz called on 3 prominent Chinese-Australians to unconditionally condemn the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party. The 3 Asian Australians he brought to the spotlight, Osmond Chiu, Yun Jiang, and Wesa Chau, are all Australian citizens who have contributed a lot to Australian political discourse, public policy, and business. They did nothing to attract Mr. Abetz's attention other than to be Chinese-Australian.
While Abetz tried to justify this by highlighting the CCP's human rights abuses, the reality is that this was just an excuse for racism. Think about it. Can you imagine Mr. Abetz asking a dual US-Australian citizen to unconditionally condemn the actions of the Trump administration? No, because we don't conflate people from the US with the actions of their government nor do we do it for any other person and their government because we allow them to have the best of both worlds by creating space for political discussions to condemn the incitation of violence in the Capitol and space for Americans to be their own people. So whilst it's completely valid to criticise the Chinese government, it's not to use this criticism as a Trojan horse for racism.
Of course, this intentional grouping of political concerns and normal people isn't always as explicit as it was with Senator Abetz. For instance, sometimes legitimate concerns about China, such as the growing influence of Chinese developers in the Australian property market, are expressed by the language of invasion. Calls like Pauline Hanson's to, 'Stop the Chinese takeover,' send a coded message that all people with Chinese heritage needs to be treated with suspicion, and that's upsetting.
Because whilst it is reasonable in democracy to have a conversation about the public policy merits of foreign developers, when we start engaging in this racially coded language, it's clear that these policy questions are not what the Abetzes and Hansons of this world are really worried about. But if anti-Chinese suspicion has so much staying power, how can we change things?
We need to start by moving this form of racism into the limelight. When people use the Chinese government's human rights abuses or unpopular diplomatic behaviour as an excuse to dehumanise Chinese people, we need to hold them accountable. At the same time, let's create spaces for legitimate criticism of the Chinese government, divorced from the citizens who have barely any say in its policy, the way we should do for all governments.
Next, on a practical level, we will have a better chance of combatting these racist narratives when Asian-Australians are more widely represented in both worlds of Australian politics and media. And perhaps, most importantly, to all the Asian-Australians and other ABCs out there like me, let's all stop giving into the pressure to live a double life. We shouldn't have to choose between our Asian and Australian identities just because one associates us with shame in the eyes of others. Let's be proud and unapologetic about whatever mix of cultural heritage and experience we bring to Australia. After all, we're the best of both worlds.
AVIGAL HOLSTEIN: Riots and rights, equality, looting, stealing, violence, and Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, the Myanmar protests, the School Strike for Climate and, most recently, the Sydney anti-lockdown protests, these may be just some of the things that come to mind when we think of protesting. However, the fight for issues near and dear to our hearts cuts across generations. For my generation, we fight to combat issues created by older generations for a world they won't grow old in. Our right to protest seems universal to democratic living, so who would question whether we, as Australians, have the right to protest?
Protests have been a concrete part of freedom of speech for all of history. They are 1 key way for the public to have a voice beyond the set political system and how we can exert our right to freedom of speech. And, for young people, who don't have a vote, protests are sometimes the only way we can have our voices heard and instigate change.
But us Aussies wouldn't dare to think that we don't have the right to protest! Right? We have freedom of speech, right? Well, unlike America, who has the First Amendment, we don't actually have the right to protest written into a constitution. Australia is a party to 7 core international human rights treaties, two of which feature the right to freedom of assembly and association. But, shockingly, this right is not recognised on the national level, meaning each state can, and has, made their own rules surrounding protesting.
Some states like Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT have the right to protest protected in their state-based Human Rights Act. But here in New South Wales, this is not the case. There is a law in New South Wales that allows the right to Peaceful assembly. In New South Wales, protests are always legal, but they may either be authorised or prohibited.
But this right has been constrained and downright restricted. The state government has introduced laws directing at curbing protest rights known as anti-protest laws. In 2017, new laws were introduced that increased fines tenfold for people protesting against mines and fracking and with up to 10 years in gaol for hindering the use of mining equipment.
In November 2019, New South Wales Parliament passed the Right to Farm Bill, which punishes unlawful entry upon a disruption upon enclosed lands with up to 3 years in gaol and fines of up to $22,000. These laws have been criticised as being vague and ill-defined, allowing excessive police powers, giving disproportionately harsh penalties, and prioritising forestry and mining operations.
It can be argued that these laws are in place for theoretically good reasons. Protests can cause damage of property, and they need protection from vandalism as well as the protection of people in case of violent protests. COVID-19, for example, has caused the New South Wales government to enforce new restrictions on protesting in order to stop the spread.
However, in some cases, COVID has been used as an excuse to limit protests. Sydney University protests in October 2020 were limited to only 20 people outdoors. In the same university, 30 were allowed in a classroom. Therefore, the rules seemed somewhat illogical. There is a crucial balance between straight anarchy and authoritative, constrictive laws when it comes to protesting.
The potential solution lies in the balance between the legislative recognition of the right to protest in lawful and peaceful ways and the safety of property and people and, in these times, public health. These include principles suggested by the Human Rights Law Centre, such as limiting protest regulation to what is absolutely necessary and proportionate and reviewing protest law. Protests should be drafted clearly and carefully, and laws regulating protests should not rely on excessive police discretion.
When our ability to protest in person is limited, we need to utilise technology to be able to be heard in a meaningful way, for example, online meetings and signing petitions.
Having the right to protest but then implementing extreme laws surrounding protesting does not give Australians the right to protest. Not only is making anti-protest laws hiding behind bureaucracy, it is also censorship. Issues are not being taken up by governments. These laws are taking away the only other way we, as the public of Australia, can speak out and be heard. Protesting is an essential human right, allowing people like me and you to have a say about the world that we will grow old in.
HAIDEE UNDERWOOD: I love the beach and I've spent my childhood riding the waves. As a toddler, I learned the importance of raising my hand when I needed help in the surf. Since then, I've gained my Surf Rescue Certificate and began my journey to becoming a lifesaver. It makes sense, as a lifesaver, that the first rule is to help and protect. So why is it, when people are drowning and their mental traumas, are we not doing the same? Why is the life-saving work of suicide prevention treated so differently?
On Sunday, 6 of February, 1938, there was a mass rescue at Bondi Beach, with more than 200 people saved from the water. 35 had to be resuscitated. Since that day, Bondi has become even busier. And, every summer, countless lives are saved. Again, we ask, what if that same effort was put into saving those suffering mentally?
So who is suffering? Let's consider 1 in 8 Australians had serious thoughts about taking their own life. 1 in 25 have made a suicide plan. 1 in 33 have attempted suicide. As of August 2021, there have been more than double the number of deaths from suicide in Victoria and New South Wales alone, as there have been from COVID in the whole of Australia over the preceding year. It isn't OK. It never was.
These statistics might be seen as just another number, but they're each a person. A person with loved ones. A person who had a life, who had a future.
As a 14-year-old, I know how complicated life can be. As technology is developed, social media has become more prominent and widely used. Teens experience bullying from those hiding behind the anonymity a screen provides. Young people rely on each other to stay afloat, but are torn down by each other simultaneously.
These social interactions have been accentuated during this year's lockdowns and loss of our usual face-to-face contact. COVID is one of the most significant problems our modern world has ever faced, and we tend to focus on the devastating daily statistics without acknowledging the effects it's having on individuals' day-to-day lives. For 17 weeks, we were stuck at home and away from friends.
Families were struggling with loss of income and the stress that adds already strained relationships. We just don't know what's happening behind closed doors. We were more isolated than ever before.
During lockdown in Sydney, we were all able to watch the Olympics and saw a gymnast, Simone Biles, withdraw from her event for mental health reasons. As a young, aspiring athlete, she had much to gain from competing, but she knew her limits. Gymnastics is a demanding sport, and her strength to know her need to stop is so important to her own personal story. The sport, along with many others, is developing. Change would come with us removing the stigma attached to mental health.
It's undeniable that suicide and mental health issues is a grim topic, but it's important we stay optimistic. There's hope if we work together, building stronger relationships through the highs and lows.
But how do we halt this avalanche of sad statistics of young lives lost? You need to help. Talk to your peers. Reassure your friends their love. Provide the option of support or companionship, or simply say you're there for them. Don't dismiss the problem. One day, you might find it's too late.
Platforms like Headspace are available to be used. And while a 1-on-1 call with someone not invested in your life can often be a good thing, like anything else, it has its limitations. The calls are often only taken up as a last resort and often short-lived solutions for someone's mental health that is already been deteriorating. By offering close support networks, these big corporations will be needed a lot less.
By parents, teachers, communities, and the government all working together to implement strategies, we can create change. We could all benefit from learning resilience, thought management, and mindfulness. Talking about suicide is so often discouraged. Maybe you think you're putting ideas into other's heads. But the fact is, by normalising the issues, we can create more viable solutions.
Parents need to be taught how to build mentally flexible children and develop realistic perspectives. It's OK if kids don't want to talk to their parents about every issue, but just knowing the supporting adult is available is really important. And, lastly, by improving services for at-risk children, including those with parents with drug and alcohol problems or those suffering from abuse, we can ensure that everyone feels safe in their own homes.
This isolation and widespread struggle we've been facing globally for the past two years has forced us to confront our own mental health and the importance of sharing experiences and troubles. Rather than forgetting the ordeals we face, we need to re-enter the world and use this conversation and lockdown as a reminder of how important it is to look after one another.
Every weekend, I use my Surf Rescue training on patrols, and I know what I need to be looking out for to save lives. Australians go to the beach feeling the safety and security of knowing others are there to keep them out of danger, while allowing them to do what they love. Let's replicate this world of happiness and health away from the beach as well. By training awareness, we can be there to save each other.
Youth suicide continues to rise. We need to create change now. Because if someone drifts off into the ocean, we don't blame them or turn a blind eye. We simply get in and save them. Thank you.
KIMBERLY SAMUEL: As an avid movie watcher, I always hated the female protagonists that I like to call the blank canvas. Now, the blank canvas can be described in 1 word, pathetic. 'Twilight''s Bella Swan is a classic example. It is a truth universally acknowledged that these characters are bland and have no personality or goals of their own. Incapable of saving themselves and only existing to be nurturing and submissive, they define femininity as victimhood, useless, malleable, weak.
Therefore, I gravitated towards female characters like Katniss Everdeen from 'The Hunger Games,' who are motivated, tough, and could defeat guys twice her size. I refer to them as the renegades. So is this formidable fighting machine the antidote to the Bella Swans of the world, a strong female character that young girls like myself can aspire to be? Well, not necessarily.
The renegade is exactly like the blank canvas, only with the addition of strength, an emotional wall and-- brace yourselves-- masculine traits. That's right, the character we hold up as a glowing example of empowered femininity tramples all over it while telling us what girl power should look like. The renegade saw the failings of the blank canvas, how femininity was equal to weakness and spinelessness, and decided that being manly was the only way to be strong.
Take Athena, the Goddess of War and Wisdom. She has broad shoulders, wears a full suit of armour, and was born from the head of Zeus himself. Only under those masculine prerequisites can she be the Goddess of War.
Can women only be powerful when they act like men? Traditionally, masculinity is tough, brave, and assertive, while femininity is frail, gentle, and pink. And there's something wrong with the stereotype that femininity is weak while masculinity is strong.
Throughout history, masculine men have always held the most power. Therefore, many feminist movements occurred throughout the 1900s, where women separated themselves from femininity to show that they, too, could fulfil masculine positions. However, while liberating the masculinity in women, we've denounced and devalued their femininity simultaneously, causing it to be viewed as weak and useless. And through characters like the renegade, this message we reinforce is that, to gain any significant achievements, girls need to adopt masculine traits.
So if the renegade or blank canvas aren't strong depictions of femininity, what is? We need women who are feminine, yet powerful, and Taylor Swift is a perfect example. She shows this by stating, 'I want to wear pink and tell you how I feel about politics. Those things don't have to cancel each other out.'
And, in fact, Swift has taught us how she feels about politics. In the 2018 midterm Tennessee elections, her Instagram post sided with the Democratic Party, encouraging her followers to vote alongside her. And according to vote.org, there were 51,000 new voting registrations in the last 24 hours of Swift's post, which was more than in all of August that year.
Swift has a feminine image, but uses her voice in a whole new way to effect change. In fact, she utilises the strength of her feminine appeal to reach a different audience who may not be drawn to the masculinity of politics, bringing many new voices unheard before. She proves how you can wear pink and be feminine while still holding political power.
Although I believe we should live in a world where masculinity and femininity are equal, we do not. Modern-day feminists Mary Beard says, 'If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power we need to redefine rather than women.' Redefining power teaches women that being masculine isn't the only way to be strong and teaches men they do not have to fit into these narrow confines of masculinity.
We can do this by listening to the voices of femininity, whether it be from Taylor Swift or the women around us. For me, it was a former student from my school who spoke at our International Women's Day assembly about the charity she started called Kind Necessities. She empowers women locally using the feminine quality of kindness, making it clear that we can be strong because of our femininity, not in spite of it.
Stories like these are essential to hear, as they showed the strength of femininity, not womanhood as weakness. Let's shift the narrative of what femininity is and encourage everyone to explore and value it, not mock it. Femininity isn't a blank canvas or renegade. It's beautiful, just as it is strong. Remember, masculinity doesn't equate to power because power exists in femininity as well. Thank you.
HARRIET HAHN: I've never really enjoyed being young or appreciated the freedom of childhood. When I watched Disney princess films, I only wanted to be the older king who bosses everyone around. And, in primary school, I made a lot of enemies-- not of my peers, but of my teachers. They were terrified I was trying to steal their jobs.
So you can imagine how excited I was to throw off the shackles of childhood, to watch more mature movies, to blame all my rudeness on the fact that I'm becoming an adolescent, and to get a tiny taste of the power of teenagehood.
But this taste made me realise the power of adulthood doesn't come free. It's paid for with a heavy price, a responsibility in consequences. The privilege of childhood is that you're allowed to make mistakes without fear of long-term repercussions. But not all children are this lucky.
Within Australia, children as young as 10 can be held criminally responsible for their actions. Discovering this as a 12-year-old when reading an article surrounding this issue in my newsfeed, I was shocked that even I could be labelled a criminal. But, upon further research, I learned that this was unlikely because youth criminalization disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged children. That's why, in Australia, Indigenous children are incarcerated at 17 times the rate of their non-Indigenous peers.
Research has always found that children from racially marginalised backgrounds are often assumed to be older than they are. But it's the Black Lives Matter movement that opened our eyes to what this actually means for justice.
It means that Indigenous children are more likely to receive harsh punishments at school and to be targeted by police. It means that, on an average night, Indigenous children comprise half of all young people in detention, despite only comprising 3.3% of the general population. It means they're surrounded by other children who are also violent, exposed to drug use, scrutinised by guards who are rough, like what we've seen in Dondale Prison, where they put sacks on children's heads. It means that they're less likely to finish school or find a job and more likely to die an early death.
Meanwhile, the most privileged kids are able to lot of protections of childhood long after they should have grown up. Take the example of Brock Turner, a Stanford University athlete who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Turner was 20, but his father persuaded the court that he shouldn't go to gaol because he was, 'just a kid.' In the end, he only spent 3 months in prison. Turner's privilege as a white, wealthy, educated man allowed him to present himself as just a kid, even though he was legally adult.
But it's a different story when we compare this to the experience of Indigenous activist William Tylmouth, who was imprisoned for a year after running away from a children's home he didn't belong in. At the age of just 14, he was much younger than Brock, didn't commit a serious crime, one that shouldn't have even been considered a crime, and was gaoled for longer.
Undoing the centuries of systemic racism that fueled this hypocrisy is a huge challenge. However, there are some obvious ways to make a start. First, we must raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, in line with the UN's recommendations or, even better, to 15, in line with Scandinavia's example. Not only will this decrease in incarceration overall, it sends a message that all children deserve the privileges and protections of childhood.
Next, we must stop the overpolicing of Indigenous communities and, instead, focus on funding social services that will actually help kids in need. Finally, with Indigenous kids 10.2 times more likely to be removed from their families, we need to do all we can to ensure that they're not removed from their homes unnecessarily.
Ultimately, I am still looking forward to becoming an all-powerful adult, but I also realise how lucky I am to be able to experience childhood knowing that society would give me plenty of space to make mistakes and to grow. We need to make sure that every child has those same opportunities because the privileges of childhood set us free. And that freedom should be available to everyone.
JUSTINE CLARKE: Thank you, Harriet. We will now move on to the impromptu section. The speakers will have 5 minutes to prepare on a previously unseen topic, and then they will deliver a 2-minute speech. The clock will be used again, and it will change from 1 and 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes to 3 minutes if the speaker exceeds the maximum time by 1 minute. The topic for the impromptu today is Missing the Point.
AMINATA DIAGNE: My grandfather was at a point where he was going to give up. He was having trouble finding a job to provide for his family. You see, my country, Senegal, lacks job opportunities, and he was really struggling. My grandmother was sick. He was having trouble to find medication, to buy medication, and to provide for his family of 9 until my grandmother told him something that changed his perspective.
Which translates to, 'You're missing the point.' You are not thinking of your family, and you need to start thinking and put your head in the game.
He told me this story when I was struggling with my business. You see, I had an art business. I still do. I have an art business that was struggling. No one was buying my artworks, and I was really desperate. I was thinking of just giving up until my grandfather told me the story of this.
He told me I'm missing the point and how I should keep going and never stop trying. I should keep fighting. And it may take a week, a day, a month, a year. Who knows? But I can never give up.
And my business is now going well. People are buying my artworks. I'm doing fine. I would like to say, ladies and gentlemen, my country, Senegal, like I said earlier, lacks job opportunities. There is a poverty line of 61%, which hurts me to hear. My own people are not having enough money to provide for their families, which made me think we can start online businesses to buy the produce in Senegal.
I remember, when I went to Senegal, I saw a lot of little shops making baskets and making food, clothes, all these things. And I thought to myself, we can, online, buy their produce. And, by doing that, they can support their families. They can help their families.
And, Australia, we can help these people. We can help the Senegalese people because their government does not care. Their government has all the power, but they lack compassion for their people. We need to bring hope for the people of Senegal and help them with their problem. Thank you.
VIOLET FITZSIMMONS: As any self-respecting teen would, I spend the majority of my free time in Cotton On. But the confusing thing is, no matter how many times I enter the clothing aisle, the size I seem to be always seems to change. At Cotton On, I'm size 6. At Seed, I was flat size 14. At Target, I'm a Medium and at a boutique, I'm a size 23.
Which isn't that big of a deal. So What? I have to navigate a couple of confusing clothing sizes every once in a while. But this is a reflective of how society's standards always seem to be shifting for girls. At school, I'm seen as skinny. Online, I'm seen as pudgy. In stores, I've seen is just too tall.
If we're constantly holding girls to these shifting standards, which is far more impossible than these ridiculous set ones, we're completely missing the point of body positivity. We're told constantly that it's OK to be whichever size you want to be. It's OK to be plus-size. It's OK to be skinny. It's OK to be in-between.
But that misses the point completely. We shouldn't need outside validation telling us that it's OK to be whatever size we are. It's OK in the first place. Just because the store tells us otherwise doesn't change the fact that our body is ours and no one else's.
We've created this problem for ourselves of trying to categorise girls by different sizes, and we all seem to be in a mess and so confused as to which one is correct. The solution should be, instead of trying to categorise girls as size 6 or size Medium or just too tall or too small, we need to categorise them as happy or comfortable or safe. We need to let girls wear whatever they want to and be whichever size they want to be because, at the end of the day, every size is OK as long as they're happy, safe, and comfortable with who they are.
So the next time at Cotton On, I'm OK with panicking over sizes of clothes. What I'm not OK with is being uncomfortable thinking that someone else thinks I'm too tall or too small or too fat or too thin. I should be OK no matter what size I am as long as I'm comfortable and I'm safe. We need to stop missing the point of fashion and body positivity and start accepting girls, no matter who they are and no matter what they do. Thank you.
NEVE O'NEIL: Channel 9 reported that the new era of self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill on the road. Now, before you freak out, let's hear what the real story is. In the rare, rare occasion that a crash is completely unavoidable, the new self-driving cars would choose to hit elderly people rather than the young children. But the news made you think that the new Toyota Corolla is hunting down your grandparents, when this is not the case, but then ultimately, missing the point of news.
What we receive, as the public, in the form of media is far from the truth. Sensationalism, what journalists tend to go towards, sparks interest in our minds, leading to us consuming more news. Views, in their minds, means it's successful and reliable. Right? News misleads us, causing us to miss the point of listening to the news, which is to receive accurate information on current events.
We must bring awareness to our cognitive biases and not believe everything we see. As the public, we tend to think that just because we are watching the news means that we are getting the full story and understanding everything that is going on, when this is not the case, as I demonstrated with the news story of the self-driving cars. The news manipulates the story, causing us to miss the point and not receive accurate, reliable information.
Let's not miss the point. Let's bring awareness to our cognitive biases, and let's read the news accurately.
JOY YE: The other day, I had a conversation with my lovely university. Sister and, in the middle of her exams, she was quite stressed. But here's the thing, we went with the news. And, during this time, this was the time where xenophobia, Asian hate, was on the rise. This was the time we saw elderly women get pushed down and beaten on the streets of New York City.
And so this led us to the discussion of racism and what that looks like in the forms of various different things. But the conversation ended there because what it ended with was just discussions of racism being just xenophobic comments and hate speech. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we have this perception that racism only comes in the form of speech, or perhaps vicious protests on the streets. But there's something that we've missed, and that's the point that racism still exists, perhaps in some way that we don't talk about, in the hierarchy of cuisine.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, the point is I would ask you a question. What do we associated with high-class food? Well, this looks like the cuisines of the French, the European, or the countries who colonised and dominated over the others. But, here's the thing, we missed the Chinese, the Indian, the Northern African, the countries who were colonised or discriminated against.
And so racism isn't just the hate speech, isn't just the xenophobic comments that we see on the street. But, rather, we've missed the racism that exists within our plates and our supermarkets. Because my soy sauce isn't with the tomato sauce and the condiments aisle. It's in the ethnic aisle, where everything else is grouped together that isn't Western. And so, yes, racism isn't just speech. Rather, it exists on our plates and in our Woolies.
So here's the thing. If racism isn't just there, how exactly do we start taking a change against all forms? That looks like finally recognising that there are cuisines outside of just French and European when it comes to high-class cuisine and those who are worthy of our attention. And, also, that finally looks like making sure that the barriers of entry in all places, including cuisine and our supermarkets, are broken. Thank you.
AVIGAL HOLSTEIN: Seaweed. OK, I know what you're thinking. Hear me out. What if I told you that we are all missing the point to seaweed?
What could seaweed do? Well, what if I told you that seaweed has the potential to save your life? Seaweed can be used for many things. It's a great food source, and South Korea has one of the largest markets of seaweed. It can also produce biofuels and even plastic.
But the big point that we are missing out on seaweed is that it could save our lives. That's right, seaweed could save our lives. Seaweed could set back climate change a lot. We constantly talk about climate change being an issue, but we never see a real solution.
Seaweed is a truly wondrous plant. It has 30 to 60 times the carbon-sink function, the ability to store carbon, than land plants. If just 9% of the total oceans world could be in seaweed, then we could take 52 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That could truly, truly save us all.
So next time you look at seaweed swimming in the ocean and think, ew, think about how that could save your life and that we are missing the whole point to seaweed. It could be your food or your future.
HAIDEE UNDERWOOD: Kids everywhere, these days, are doing less structured activities like mountain biking. But some councils are just really missing the point of what needs to be done to engage everyone from all over. 10 years ago, Jubes Mountain Bike Park in Wahroonga was built, but all the plans that went into this big, cool design for teens all over to enjoy were downscaled and then downscaled some more, where places are using the idea to campaign to stop it of this isn't good or this could create more traffic or teenagers doing bad things with drugs, and blah, blah. When, really, it was helping the teens.
And the designs turned it into this park no one really wanted to ride except for a few 5-year-olds, who weren't even doing the features. And then the park stopped being maintained. People rode on it in the water, and, well, it wasn't used anymore.
Fast forward 10 years till now. People all over Wahroonga and Kuringgai Council were building a illegal tracks. And, yes, they were illegal, and some of them weren't in the best places, but people were putting their hearts and souls. Teens were spending ages just working on these, and it was their own little project.
And this was really good, but then council knocked down 36 trails, and for good reason. It was affecting flora, fauna, and Jubes Mountain Bike Park still stood there unused, unmaintained, and just terrible in general. And my family, because my brothers had been really excited about building this track as well as me, they just-- we decided to create a petition.
And the council couldn't bring the new thing into line of keeping the tracks, but they could create other things. And this is when we brought in Jubes Mountain Bike Park and the idea of built by riders for riders. This was a great new initiative, where council was not missing the point anymore. They were right on point with what we needed to entertain teens, have fun, and have this cool, new community. Everyone comes, now, to Jubes to be able to use it because it's good. Councils are changing their ways for the new activities that are needed.
Teens sometimes experience troubles with drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, all this sort of thing, and the park was a great new initiative that was put through that would allow us to talk about new ideas and work together. We had planning days where teens and children got to discuss what they would like to see in the park, and then we built it.
And, still today, we're building and maintaining it. And the park, everyone comes to use it. This community task really was on point, and the missing of the point that happened 10 years ago was stopped. Thank you.
KIMBERLY SAMUEL: Earlier this year, in August, Disney's show 'Muppet Babies' portrayed a character called Gonzo who had the courage to put on a dress and become a Gonzo-rella. Now, this was obviously a major advancement, as it showed a lot of queer representation and enabled us to understand diversity in children's media.
You might think that this is something so heroic, which people would be applauding. However, it seems that many of the responses which Disney's show 'Muppet Babies' got were completely missing the point. So many people, including supposed activist Candace Owens said that this representation of queer characters in children's media is brainwashing children and pushing their sexual agendas onto them, the same sexual agendas that they call disgusting, gross, and mildly-- and completely inappropriate for children to see.
However, these conservatives are missing the point and fail to see that queer representation can actually be a major benefit. They need to realise that sexuality is not just a sexual agenda or what happens in the bedroom. It is about the freedom to be yourself and love who you are for exactly who you are. The average queer person realises that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community at the age of 12, and it should not be controversial for media, for TV shows, and children to understand these concepts and see them within their media.
We need to stop missing the point that-- we need to stop missing the point, as showing queerness in children's media tells them to embrace themselves and love and understand diversity. Stop missing the point, and allow our children to feel free and safe to be who they are no matter what their sexuality is. Instead of missing it, we need to embrace it with open arms and teach our children that they are allowed to love who they love and be exactly who they are. Thank you.
HARRIET HAHN: Just today, a school friend of mine asked me if I remembered the moment I became a feminist. I remember the #MeToo movement. I was 8. I remember how the #MeToo movement had really made people who were missing the point of feminism understand how powerful that it really was and ensuring that all women were now protected and represented.
However, I was really missing the point by just assuming that all women are going to be represented under this movement because media attention will never achieve justice for women who couldn't risk losing their jobs or income. And legal action would never do anything for women who couldn't afford representation.
Now I'm 12, and I'm finally able to see how the feminist movement prioritises white, wealthy, and privileged women. And that means that disadvantaged women are missing, and the feminist movement has really missed the point of representing and protecting all women.
When we advocate for putting sexual violence as a means by which to solve it without any discussions of how hard that can be for women who can't risk losing their jobs or income, we encourage society to see their inability to report as something that discredits the rest of their experiences. And when we advocate for leaving abusive partners, without professional advocacy that is often impossible, we encourage victim-blaming, and we are missing these women's voices.
Instead, we need more diverse spokespeople to advocate for solutions that are accessible to everyone. That looks like better legal aid, better domestic violence shelters, and better mental health services. The point of this movement, and feminism in general, was to protect, represent, and ensure that all women were now safer under this movement. However, this movement has really begun to miss the point, and we need to be regaining that point, analysing these women's situations in order to truly fulfil the point of this movement-- protecting, representing, and ensuring all women are safe. Thank you.
CHARLEE JANE: Sorry. Let me start by saying a very big congratulations to all speakers. I think you've all done a really fantastic job thinking critically about really important issues and articulating those ideas really, really well. OK, so I'm going to get straight to the point about what adjudicators are looking for in-- at this level of the competition. So we obviously judge on manner, matter, and method.
I'll start with manner. I think that everyone smashed it today with their manner. You know, we obviously don't like speakers who are theatric, really overly dramatic. We like speakers with a really natural, down-to-earth tone. So we want to see the real you on stage. We don't want to see a version of yourself or someone, like, completely different, so nice, natural, down-to-earth. Everyone smashed that today, so well done to all speakers.
Matter is the most important thing that we look at as adjudicators. So we really like that personal, empathetic approach to a topic. We want to see that you're super passionate about what you're speaking about right?
We also like something really fresh, something new that we haven't actually heard about before. That being said, you can still talk about well-worn topics, right, but we want you to try and think of something within that topic that we haven't really heard before, like a novel perspective with a novel solution. Oh, yeah, just a really fresh perspective on a well-worn topic, and we did see that throughout the competition today.
And, finally, we have methods. That's how we structure our speech. So obviously we need to have a good introduction, middle with your points, and a really good conclusion. It needs to flow really nicely throughout the speech. You can't be really, like, jagged. But, most importantly, what we love to see at the end of the speech is a call to action or a solution. Right?
We can't just stand up on stage and rant the audience about a particular issue without providing them with something to take away. So this could be something that's grounded in reality. So what can the audience do now to make a difference? You know, what kind of laws need to change in order for this to solve itself? Or it can also be more conceptual, right. How can the audience think differently about a particular issue? So we need that call to action at the end of the speech.
So that concludes what adjudicators are looking for in this competition and especially at this level. So I will start, now, introducing the runner-up of today's competition. So the runner-up presented a really fresh interesting speech on a really familiar topic and provided some real-- some great depth and specificity and criticised something that we initially thought might have been a really good thing. And it was a really tricky issue that they were trying to tackle.
And the impromptu speech was like a technically excellent impromptu with a great introduction. It moved really well into the topic and explained really well how conservatives really tend to miss the point about the way that we represent sexualities on screen. So congratulations to Kimberly.
Awesome. All right, so the winner of the Legacy State Final for 2021 presented a really important prepared speech. It was substantiated well with excellent research, evidence, and analogies, and it was explored in really relatable terms. There was a really strong use of personability. You know, she could relate herself really well to the topic, and there was a great level of empathy that was littered throughout the speech, which we just love to see.
Also, with the impromptu, it was impressively mature and incredibly thoughtful. Oh, sorry. Before I announce the winner, this speech is also incredibly distinct from her prepared speech. There were 2 completely different speeches being presented at the end of the day, so really well done on that distinction between the impromptu and the prepared speech. So congratulations to Harriet with her speech, Just a Kid.
JUSTINE CLARKE: Thank you, Charlee, and congratulations to both Kimberly and Harriet for two exceptional speeches. But congratulations, again, to everybody else. I know they-- I ducked in to see how they were going, and there were names flying everywhere. It was such a difficult decision. And Harriet and Kimberly were outstanding today, but so was everybody. And just remembering that those two speeches are equally weighted, it might have just been a tiny little thing, that made the difference today.
So congratulations to both of you. But, everybody, we'll be sending you medallions and certificates and working out how to get your prize money to you. But I'd like to thank the Adjudication Panel for their difficult decision today. Thank everybody so much for joining us. And that concludes our proceedings today. Well done, everybody.
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