Plain English Speaking Award 2021 - National Final
This is the national final of a public speaking competition which is open to all Australian school students aged 15 or older. The speakers present an 8 minute prepared speech on a subject entirely of their choosing, participate in an interview, and then deliver a 3 minute impromptu speech on an unseen topic following just 3 minutes of preparation time.
Our thanks Consensus Education whose sponsorship of the final was a crucial part of keeping things running in a COVID-19 affected year.
Transcript – Plain English Speaking Award 2021 - National Final
JUSTINE CLARKE: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this online National Final for the Plain English Speaking Award for 2021. As Tony said, my name is Justine Clarke, and I'm the speaking competition's officer for the New South Wales Department of Education Arts Unit. And I'm very, very pleased to invite you all here today.
Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land from which I'm speaking to you today, which is the lands of the Darug and Gundungurra people. I'd like to extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are with us today. And because we were all speaking from very different places today, we've invited each of the speakers to unmute and perform their own acknowledgment of country.
NICK RANSON: Hello, everybody. Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in which I am sitting today, and that is the Kombumerri people. I pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Indigenous members sitting here today.
NIKKI HAN: I would like to begin by acknowledging the Kamilaroi crew people as the traditional custodians of the land on which I am present today. And I pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. I extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.
ZUVA GOVERWA: I would like to extend my respect to the traditional custodians of the land in which I'm speaking today, which are the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. And I extend their respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who are here today.
RHYLEE WEIR: I would like to extend the respects to the people of the land on which we meet today here in Paralowie, the Kaurna people, and that we extend our respects to elders both past, present, and emerging. And we also extend our respects to any people here today.
JUSTINE CLARKE: Thank you, speakers. I'd like to also welcome all of our guests today. It's so great to see family members, teachers, principals here to support our speakers. Also, our valued supporters from the English Speaking Union, Australia-Britain Society, and Consensus Education and our official representative from the Department of Education in New South Wales, particularly our Director of Art, Sports, and Initiatives, Jordi Austin, from the New South Wales Department of Education. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Of course, we're all here to see our most important people the speakers. And in a moment, I'm going to hand you over to the person who is going to be looking after them today-- our chairperson and interviewer, Justin Lai.
Justin is a former winner of this competition at the New South Wales state level and went on to win the National competition in Darwin in 2018. He also travelled to London in 2019 to represent Australia at the International Final and was named runner-up. Justin is one of our favourite adjudicators in New South Wales of public speaking, and you'll be in very good hands with him as he takes over cheering and interviews you for the interview component. So without any further ado, I'd like to hand over to our chairperson, Justin Lai.
JUSTIN LAI: Thank you very much, Justine. Good morning, and welcome to the online National Final of the Plain English Speaking Award for 2021. I would also like to acknowledge the Dharawal people, who are the traditional custodians of the unceded land from which I'm speaking on. I would also like to pay respects to the elders both past and present of the nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginals present.
My name, as you have noted, is Justin Lai, and I will be your chairperson and interviewer for this, the 42nd National Final of the Plain English Speaking Award. This competition began in Victoria in 1977, and the following year, it spread nationwide. It is generously supported by the Australia-Britain Society and the English Speaking Union and this year, for the first time, by Consensus Education.
I would now like to introduce your adjudicators for today's final-- Patrick Caldwell, Emily Kim, and Andrew Lasaitis. Emily Kim was the New South Wales winner of this award in 2017 and went on to win the National Final held in Melbourne the same year. She travelled to London to represent Australia at the International Final in 2018. She was a member of the combined high school debating teams in 2016 and 2017 and reached the semi-finals of the Australian Intervarsity Debating Championships in 2018.
Patrick Caldwell was the winner of the 2002 Asia-Pacific Plain English Speaking Award and runner-up at the International Plain English Speaking Award in 2003. He is 4 times a finalist and twice a top-10 speaker at the World Universities Debating Championships.
Andrew Lasaitis was the former Speaking Competitions Officer of the New South Wales Department of Education for three years before he was promoted to the role of Arts Programmes and Partnerships Coordinator. Before joining the Arts Unit, Andrew was a secondary English school teacher and a regional debating coordinator who successfully coached his school and regional debating teams and produced a number of state champions in The Plain English Speaking Award. He is a strong advocate for public speaking, and without him competitions, such as this one could not go ahead.
There are going to be three parts to this competition. Each of the finalists will deliver an 8-minute minute speech on a topic of their choice. The speaking time is 8 minutes. Because this is an online final, a clock will be used. The clock will change for colour from grey to green at 6 minutes and then to orange at eight minutes to indicate that a speaker's time has expired if the speaker exceeds the maximum time by more than one minute.
After our finalists have delivered their prepared speeches, they will be asked a series of questions by me based on the speeches we have heard and on information sheets they have completed prior to today's final. After the interview, everyone will be moved to the waiting room and speakers will be brought back to the meeting one by one to deliver impromptu speeches on a topic provided by the judging panel. They will have 3 minutes in which to prepare a 3-minute speech. They will prep on-screen, deliver their speech, and then go to a breakout room for feedback before returning to the waiting room. The announcement of the National champion will be made at 12:15.
We now come to the prepared section of the competition. Each speaker will now speak for 8 minutes on a subject of the contestant's choice. Our first contestant is Nick Ranson, who is in Year 11 in Marymount College in Burleigh, Queensland. The subject of Nick's speech is 'Are we really free?' please welcome Nick Ranson.
NICK RANSON: Something interesting happened to me a few days ago. My beautiful cat, purring contently on my windowsill, looked a little bit too relaxed for my liking. So I decided to try something-- to completely flip the parameters of his indoor world. With a slightly sadistic smile,
I picked him up and I placed him outside. Initially, he looked OK-- confused, but OK. But then he froze, eyes wider than his own face. My lovely little cat wanted nothing more than to return to his indoor domain. Mesmerised by this, I began to think, you show somebody a new freedom-- a new way of walking forward-- and what do they do? They run back through the exit door like it's an all you can eat buffet of familiarity.
Now, there is obviously a buffet that I am not seeing here. Of course, this is not unique to humans. Everything takes the path of least resistance-- water, electricity, and even Google Maps. Wolves evolved into domestic dogs because it was easier to scavenge than to kill live prey. Just like all animals, we adapt to the environment around us. For dogs, it was the evolution of human industrialization that changed their eating habits. For humans, it is the subtle yet sophisticated use of manipulative propaganda that has constricted our freedom. And the worst part is we don't even know that it is happening.
Now, I like to attribute Mark Zuckerberg creating Facebook in his Harvard dorm room to the beginning of a freedom-- the freedom of opinion, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of worldwide connection. However, this now multinational corporation has recently been exposed for its deep roots into the information of its customers.
Facebook has perfected a sinister craft in censoring feeds and filtering information to control what we, the naive users, see as we navigate the app. The control they've been able to exercise was revealed in alarming fashion through Facebook's association with Cambridge Analytica. Information from 87 million American Facebook users was linked to the voter profiling company, information Facebook was not allowed to possess-- information that could quite possibly have influenced the entire 2016 US election.
Behind the propaganda, there was a company after the control of our information. What was a liberating freedom became a tantalising foe before the very eyes of the American public.
This is just one of the grim realities that will ensue when we allow corporations to dictate our freedoms and control our lives. Take the multinational fast food company McDonald's. They take advantage of our desire for convenience and implement subtle cues that appeal to our senses. We know it is unhealthy, but we still make an inveigled decision to walk through their doors.
Honestly, I could tell you about the unchecked control of Facebook or the temptation that we feel to bite into a juicy Big Mac. But rather than tell, we need to understand the immense power that we inadvertently give these multinational corporations when we succumb to their propaganda.
You may have noticed that I have orchestrated a bit of a one-sided argument here. Whilst propaganda is an omnipresent threat to our freedom, some guidance can be a great thing. Being told what to do and how to act at certain points in our lives is essential. It helps us prosper in numerous areas of personal and social life. Sure, I'm standing here by choice, but who influenced that choice? Was there a public speaking coach that encouraged me to enter this competition?
There is a direct line that must be drawn between guidance and propaganda-- a line between Facebook connecting its users and taking advantage of their actions and personal information. A line between McDonald's providing food and using it to drive profits at the detriment of consumers. When obesity rates surge and Facebook's control threatens to distort the very concept of an American democracy, it becomes apparent that there is a clear issue that we need to address.
In the words of Robert Kiyosaki, the author of 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad,' we are all stuck in the Rat Race. His wise words serve as a timeless reminder that we are under the subtle control of tyrannical corporations, and they are forcing us to conform, influencing our decisions behind our backs. Rather than a monster, these multinational corporations present themselves as unassuming heroes whose true identities and motives remain unknown. Inherently, Facebook was exposed for its disregard for the privacy of its users, showing us the control these companies really have.
I like to equate this to the emergence of the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2013. This epidemic exposed the absence of a system to target viral outbreaks, resulting in thousands of deaths. However, it was only slightly contagious, serving as a mere warning to what could happen if a virus were to manifest. 8 years later and we are amid a global pandemic, suffering because we failed to learn from our mistakes from the past and from this past outbreak.
Now, the actions of Facebook have provided us with this essential warning, and it is our duty to do something about it. Leaders across the world must unite to implement rules regulating the power given to corporations, intervening with more measures to control when companies cross the line. Whilst the countdown to catastrophe is beginning, the ways in which governments respond to this warning and take charge can ensure that the timer never reaches zero.
Ladies and gentlemen, I consider it a lifeline that we have been warned. The emergence of multinationals-- from social media to fast food companies-- provides the opportunity for growth, intuition, and the betterment of society. However, when the intentions and developments of corporations remain unchecked, the outcome can be diabolical.
As consumers and active members of the public, we must remain vigilant of the dependence we place in these services and the rights that we forfeit when endorsing their products. Quintessential to our freedoms, humans alike must abstain from the network of propaganda these companies utilise to sway the actions of the public.
Just like the way multinationals attempt to control us, I have controlled the life of my cat, restricting his actions with my own form of influence. But placing him outside and placing us into the realm of freedom is an essential activity that we need to follow. By becoming the cat that strays from a controlled life, venturing towards a new way of moving forward, we can truly thrive and truly be free.
JUSTIN LAI: Thank you so much, Nick, for your speech. I'm sure we all had a lovely time listening to it. Now I'm going to ask you a set of questions pertaining to that speech and to some of the things that you talked about in your profile. First question is what social media profiles do you currently exist on? Because I'd like to add you on those-- I'm just joking.
I'll start off with my actual first question. You talk about, in your speech, this fun little anecdote about messing and sort of tampering with your cat. What other things sort of inspired you to talk about this speech? You referred to these ideas of freedom and resisting corporate control. Were they interactions with social media on a personal scale, or maybe were you, for example, a bit intimidated by the things that you were hearing on the news?
NICK RANSON: Yep, so to an extent, like you said, it did have to do with my cat-- watching the way that I've controlled him and watching the way that he wanted to go outside and how I'm not a multinational corporation, but I'm kind of acting as one for my cat. And on social media, I have sort of seen it, like how I was talking about with Facebook, the way that they censor feeds and that sort of thing.
I've noticed it and I've read articles about it and this sort of thing where you're looking at something, let's say, on Google, and then you go on to Instagram and you get an ad that comes up about it and that sort of thing. And I sort of found that concerning to an extent, and I wanted to investigate a bit more and explore sort of the control that these places really have.
And when I was talking about McDonald's, I actually worked there for two years. And so I kind of saw first-hand the way that they use contrasting colours, the way that they have the smell of the store, and they use all these different things to bring people in. And I was sort of really interested by is it us making the decision, or are we being controlled to make the decision without us knowing it?
JUSTIN LAI: Yeah, just for my token, you don't look like a multinational corporation, either. You're someone who intends to study medicine at university. So I just wanted to get your thoughts on how, for example, we may combat things like medical misinformation, particularly that which is rife on social media-- the kinds of things that we're seeing during the pandemic.
NICK RANSON: Yeah, well, we're seeing that so much right now with the sort of misinformation that we've got with the vaccine and the way that some people maybe aren't so educated, but they have these really strong views. And of course, everybody's entitled to that opinion. And with medical misinformation, I suppose the people that we listen to should be educated, and we should be looking to doctors and medical professionals for advice. And like I said, everybody's entitled to their opinion, but maybe the opinions that we choose to value in that regard are those people who are higher up and know their stuff.
JUSTIN LAI: All right. Now, moving on to my final question, on the topic of resisting corporate control, what are some of the things that you can maybe inspire the audience to do that maybe you've done yourself which will help you achieve that sort of beautiful bliss of freedom?
NICK RANSON: Well, I used to have Facebook. I no longer have Facebook. When I found out about the things that that cooperation, that Mark Zuckerberg were able to do to the American public, I deleted the app because I didn't want that to happen to me. And yeah, I guess it's just a matter of being able to stop and think independently and think for yourself, like, am I making this decision, or is somebody else controlling me? And of course, like I said, control can be a good thing. But just, I guess, being able to recognise when we are being misled.
JUSTIN LAI: All right, Nick. Thank you so much, and once again, I think you did an amazing job with your speech. It was a pleasure listening to it. So again, a round of applause, as everyone's currently doing.
Now we're going to move on to the second contestant for today. Our second contestant is Nikki Han, who is in Year 10 at Queenswood School representing New South Wales. The subject of Nikki's speech is 'Women are powerful.' please welcome Nikki Han.
NIKKI HAN: I have practically grown up with the same group of girls my entire life. I like to think we're pretty fun, but we're not exactly a wild, rebellious group of teens. So you can imagine my surprise last year when a song was released by rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion-- a song by the name of 'WAP'-- W-A-P.
Now, if you don't know what 'WAP' stands for, let me just say that it would definitely not be appropriate for me to define during this speech. But the thing is most here probably do know what it means because of just how popular this incredibly suggestive, hypersexual song is-- so popular that even my little group of friends were memorising the lyrics and learning the TikTok dance.
When the 'WAP' craze first hit, I was definitely a little confronted. But over time, I've come to see it as a symbol of progress. A decade ago, it would have been unfathomable for a song so unapologetic about women's sexuality to be the number one song in the world. But in this new era, women owning and commercialising their sexuality is becoming a standard practise. And it's not just famous women-- between 2004 and 2018, the number of pole dancing studios in Australia increased 3,000%.
But not everyone has enjoyed the benefits. As a society, it seems we're still only comfortable with women owning their sexuality when they do so from a position of privilege-- when pole dancing is just an eccentric hobby after their 9:00 to 5:00 office job so long as it's not their occupation itself. Sex work might be the oldest profession in the world, but sex workers are amongst the most precarious and disrespected workers within our economy.
Now, I know. I'm a 15-year-old high school student who probably doesn't have much insight into the world of sex work and its dangers, and I'm sure there's more than a few people here who are already uncomfortable with the subject of this speech. But that discomfort is part of the problem because it's people who are privileged enough to have such little insight to begin with that have the power to create change for the better.
So what is the insight we require? How must we conceptualise sex work in order to make a difference? Traditionally, sex work has been characterised as a dangerous and coercive pathway. More recently, we've begun to understand it as a free choice and a legitimate source of income. But while we're busy debating why women enter the industry, or even whether or not the industry should exist, we're missing the point-- it does exist. It will continue to exist. And whilst women begin sex work for different reasons, they experience its dangers for the same ones-- a lack of regulation.
You might believe that sex work is uncomfortable, you might believe that sex work is empowering, or you might believe that it is coercive. That's fine. But you cannot believe it will go away. So we must make it safer.
Decriminalisation, as we've seen in New South Wales, is and always will be a good start. But this Decriminalisation is far from universal, with the vast majority of US states as well as even South Australia and Western Australia still criminalising sex work in a fundamentally sexist pursuit to control women's bodies.
This criminalization always comes with devastating practical implications. Criminalised sex workers are three times more likely to experience incidences of sexual or physical violence and twice as likely to have HIV. In fact, police officers tasked with enforcing these laws are often complicit in this violence. One study in New York found that 17% of sex workers have been harassed, abused, or raped by police themselves.
And so the Decriminalisation of sex work reduces its risks drastically. It means sex workers can negotiate with clients. It means they can report violence and assault without fear of being arrested themselves. It means they can seek medical attention when necessary and be honest about how they sustained injuries. It means they can unionise and demand that their workplaces enforce the standards of safety that they deserve.
States who oppose Decriminalisation often argue that it will only enlarge the industry and its inherent dangers, but they've been proven wrong on this front time and time again. When Scotland introduced laws criminalising sex work in 2007, rape and sexual assault reports increase twofold. And yet when New South Wales decriminalised sex work in 1999, the number of sex workers didn't increase at all.
So the question becomes if Decriminalisation can make sex work safer without making it the preferred option of more women, why hasn't it happened in so many countries? The answer is simple-- politicians know that it's easy to ignore sex workers because that's what our parents and popular culture want. They know that it's easy to forget about sex workers because that's what legislation that pushes sex work underground mandates. They rely on that inkling of discomfort that people feel because it makes it easy to sweep sex workers and their problems under the rug.
Ultimately, it's hard to ensure legislative reform for a group of people that society perceives as immoral, demeaning, or uncomfortable. That's why the solution has to go beyond Decriminalisation-- to destigmatization. We can't be afraid of talking about this issue and these people, and we can't accept the stigma that our representatives rely on when we do because the consequences of that stigma-- even just in New South Wales-- are severe.
We turned a blind eye to Michaela Dunn. We forgot about Julie McCall. We victim-blamed Kimberley McRae. If those names aren't familiar to you, that's exactly my point.
And the women who suffer the most at the hands of this inaction are those who are already marginalised in other ways, whether it's trans women like the 41.9% of trans sex workers who report higher rates of arrest simply for being trans or women of colour like the 8 Asian women in Atlanta who were recently gunned down at work. The problem shouldn't be these women consensually selling their bodies. People do it all the time in other forms of labour. It should be that they are far too often murdered or raped for it and that our politicians aren't doing a thing.
In March, women across this country took to the streets to demand a change to our culture of violence and sexism. That march for justice won't be complete until we insist on a simple truth-- sex work will continue to happen regardless of how many times we try to ignore it, and women will continue to die each and every time we do. Disagreeing with someone's occupation should never give you the power to make that occupation unsafe. As we enter a new, more liberated era, we must insist that empowered sexuality cannot be solely reserved for privileged women and the industries that will always profit the most.
If you enjoy dancing to 'WAP,' or even if you're a parent who hopes your child never does, this is the truth. Our support for women, their bodies, and their right to profit off them cannot be contingent on how catchy, mainstream, or palatable the final product is because that product belongs to a person, and that person is someone who deserves our protection.
JUSTIN LAI: Congratulations, Nikki. Thank you so much for that speech. I'm absolutely sure we all had a wonderful time listening to it. If you don't mind, I'm going to be asking you a couple of questions about that speech, and of course, some of the questions that you answered in the profile you sent us a bit earlier.
So throughout your speech, you refer to the law as a bit of a touchstone. You speak about decriminalising sex work as a necessary first step in both legislative reform and then creating broader sort of social reform-- from the top, make it drop, if you will. In your profile, you mentioned a desire to study law at university, and you've also mentioned that you've binged 15 seasons of Criminal Minds in a month, which is one of my personal favourite shows. I just wanted to ask where this passion for the law comes from, especially at such a young age.
NIKKI HAN: Well, I think I've always wanted to be a lawyer from as far back as I can remember. I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed studying the law is because my parents put me in debating classes when I was really young, which meant that ever since I was quite young-- in, like, Year 5 or Year 6-- I always enjoyed arguing about different topics, speaking about different topic areas, different complex issues. And that's tied in really nicely with, I think, how the law operates and what it might be like to be a lawyer-- for example, a barrister in an actual court.
So ever since I was young, I've always enjoyed speaking to people and arguing for my case arguing for my side, which is why I've always found the law really interesting-- especially because my sister is also studying law right now, so that might be something that runs in the family. I'm not sure. But I've always wanted to study law because I feel like it's an area in which I can actually make a difference.
I can help people either individually or even try, if I get far enough, to try and change the culture and to change the actual way our legal system operates because I understand that right now, our legal system is quite flawed and often quite corrupt. So that's always been something that I've felt passionate about and something that I've wanted to change. And that also influences-- it has influenced the way I think about sex work and about the different laws that apply to sex workers.
JUSTIN LAI: Yeah, thank you for that. You take a lot of your speech to sort of focus on a legalistic and very sort of structural approach to examining sex work. And so I wanted to ask, since a big passion of yours is framing and understanding intersectionality in certain issues, if you had any thoughts on how we destigmatize sex work in more sort of conservative cultural spaces.
NIKKI HAN: Well, I think that's always going to be quite difficult to do because sex work has been something that's been stigmatised for a long time. But I think a lot of that-- one way that we can do that is through the way we perceive and portray sex workers in pop culture. For example, there was a movie, 'Hustlers,' that came out a couple of years ago, which I think helped a lot of people gain understanding, even though that movie did portray sex workers in a kind of-- they were not doing some very nice things at some points. But I think it's the way we open people's minds and show them the different ways in which sex workers can be portrayed in ways that are quite palatable and reach out to conservative audiences.
And I also think, as the younger generation, we are becoming more open-minded towards these types of issues, and more young people are becoming accepting, understanding the way sex work operates. And I think that's a big way we can push for a cultural shift.
JUSTIN LAI: I think you must be-- you must have some access to my computer because my third and final question was, what are the thoughts of the merits of representing sex work accurately in the media through film and music and television and whatnot? You gave a wonderful example. I just-- maybe as we do conclude, if you have maybe one more example that you'd like to point to for people in the audience to check out, a great piece of media that really represents sex work in a great light?
NIKKI HAN: Well, for me, I think there are a lot of different books that represent sex work. Books like-- for example, there's this book written by a Sydney queer sex worker named Tilly Lawless which displays a character who is representative of her own experiences in the Sydney sex work industry and her own struggles. And it really highlights the struggles faced by sex workers, but also the ways in which we can fix that and the ways we can start to change the struggles faced by sex workers. So it's by Tilly Lawless, it's called 'Nothing But My Body,' and I would really recommend that.
JUSTIN LAI: Thank you so much for your time. I loved all the answers to your questions. Thank you very much, and congratulations again.
Our third contestant for today is Zuva Goverwa. Zuva is in Year 12 at Haileybury Girls College and is representing Victoria. The subject of her speech is 'Seen and not heard.' please welcome Zuva Goverwa.
ZUVA GOVERWA: Children should be seen and not heard. The origins of this phrase are contested, with some suggesting it emerged as early as the 15th century. And when my brother wakes me up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday yelling to everyone on his 'Minecraft' server right outside my door, I tend to agree. However, the scope of this phrase and how it manifests in the world around us is a lot more sinister than Saturday morning sleep-ins.
It's no secret that wisdom is widely considered a product of experience. You live and you learn, so to speak. And so it makes sense that the older you are, the more you know and the more your perspective is valued. But we, the youth of today, are incredibly intelligent. We've been made to adapt in a rapidly-evolving world in ways and at rates that have never been seen before. We're socially aware and tech-savvy, with the 97% of us who are on at least one major social media platform often using those mediums to advocate for good.
Three days after the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody, 8.8 million tweets were made with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. And on Instagram, there are over 940,000 posts under the hashtag #ClimateAction. As a generation that hasn't really known a world without social media-- much to the dismay of a few of our parents-- we've been made to engage with all kinds of content like this to actively invest in the progression of society and our place in it.
So why, then, are we constantly being belittled by those in positions of power? Why do we as a society mentally equate youth with naivete and even recklessness, dramatised images of crazy house parties and petty high school drama conjured up at the mention of the word teen? We're told that we don't know what we're talking about, that we'll understand when we're older, than we need to work on our anger management problems and go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend.
As some of you might have recognised, that lost one was a quote taken from former US President Donald Trump directed at a then-16-year-old Greta Thunberg. The patronising remark was made in response to 'Time Magazine's' decision to label the young climate activist their Person of the Year.
In spite of all of the criticisms that have been lodged against her, Thunberg has played a crucial role in bringing discussions about climate change to the forefront in recent years. At just 15 years of age, she sparked the Fridays for Future movement, which resulted in global-scale protests against the lack of action and accountability being taken by institutions in combating climate change.
And the ripple effects of large-scale public youth activism like Thunberg's goes beyond the tangible. A 2020 study found that 87% of young people like us are inspired by seeing our peers take a stand against contemporary issues.
X Gonzalez is another example of a prominent young activist who has inspired countless people through their activism. A survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High school shooting, they have been an avid spokesperson for gun control in America. Alongside their fellow survivors, they launched the hashtag #MarchForOurLives, which resulted in 880 similar events across the globe. And yet, despite their astonishing bravery and courage, X, too, has been met with contempt and condescension, being labelled a communist child actor by their fully-grown critics.
And it's infuriating because here are these beacons of hope for us and our peers-- living proof that we can be empowered to make a better future for ourselves. A symbolic invitation for us all to sit at the table. These are the people who speak to us and for us-- not the 50, 60, 70-something-year-old men who make up a majority of governments and a majority of the world. And yet their voices-- our voices-- are being silenced, ridiculed, mocked. We're not being heard. And really, we're being denied our chances to even be seen.
And it's not an excuse, either, just to say that we don't have enough experience because I can tell you that the opinions of someone who had to watch their friends get shot at school and wonder if they were next are just as, if not more, valid in a conversation about gun control than a rich and privileged 70-year-old man who's been cashed up by the NRA-- even if they're 18 and he's the president.
We deserve to claim our stake in the issue of climate change and ask the generations above us, how dare you, without being told to chill. After all, according to Gallup, Inc, 71% of them sleep perfectly fine at night believing that they won't be affected by it in their lifetime while a majority of us lie awake.
But, beyond unfair, this is dangerous. The willingness of society to tune out the calls of its young people is dangerous because it breeds apathy. Here in Australia, it emboldened our prime minister to denounce young climate strikers in 2018, telling them to go back to school.
Now, of course, education is incredibly important, but why? So that we can do something with it. And this instinct to tell kids what they can and can't do, say, or even think allows people to forget that. It allows them to expect complacency over critical thinking, to believe that knowledge is only seen in the image of a full classroom when it's more clearly heard in the roaring cries of a rally.
And when 300 million people's homes will be threatened by rising sea levels by 2050 according to Climate Central, or when 500 people die each day by gun violence in the US as noted by Amnesty, we cannot expect silence from the leaders of tomorrow. The world needs to hear us and it needs to be moved by us because, not to be incredibly cliche, but we are the future. And we're not just the face of it-- we echo its promises for better so no one can forget. But, with all due respect for my elders, you need to listen.
Student-led petitions calling for greater consent education, school communities coming together to call for greater treatment of refugees, social media campaigns calling for an end to human rights abuses-- these are the voices of our young people, and they deserve to be listened to. We deserve to be listened to.
So while I still firmly maintain that my Saturday mornings would be a lot better without the uproar of a gaming pre-teen right outside my door, I do believe that society needs to stop stifling the voices of its young people. Children should be seen and heard. Thank you.
JUSTIN LAI: Thank you so much, Zuva, for that speech. That was wonderful, very inspirational. And once again, congratulations for making it to the National Final. The process is going to be broadly the same, I'm going to ask you a set of questions based on what you just said, and as well as that, some of the things you brought to me in your information profile.
So my first question is looking at sort of the pattern of history in youth activism-- that's, for example, like places in America during the Vietnam War or China during the 1980s-- I just wanted to ask you if the sort of behaviour and reaction that we're getting, to you, indicates a historical pattern, or is it amplified by a contemporary portrait of the modern youth? So people think we're very fickle or obsessive or shallow, very much sort of people addicted to social media and stuff like that? Is there kind of a difference?
ZUVA GOVERWA: I mean, I do believe that the way that the youth is seen is very cyclical in nature, and I do think there are historical patterns. I just think that the way that that's represented is very different.
Obviously, I'm currently studying English in Year 12, and we've been made to read 'the Longest Memory.' And there's a quote that comes to mind from one of the chapters labelled 'The Virginian' that says that the youth possess a kind of unmitigated idealism, and that idealism is often frowned upon. I think as youth, we aren't made to feel complacent in certain structures and systems. We're willing to look at them from new perspectives and new eyes, as was evident in Nikki's speech. We aren't bound to the confines of history because we don't have such a deep-rooted tradition.
But that's, I think, threatening to some people in the older generations. And I think that that's a sentiment that continues to exist and has existed throughout history, as you pointed out in your examples. But I do believe that the added element of social media and, as I mentioned in my speech, those petty high school drama narratives and the crazy house parties are definitely a feature of kind of modern society. But I do believe that the sentiments and the themes that are underpinned by those representations are definitely a historical narrative.
JUSTIN LAI: Yeah, I'll just add that I didn't really conform to the general stereotypes. I was more like your brother in the sense that I was yelling at mornings on a 'Minecraft' server. I had a great time doing those.
I just wanted to now ask you, because you're someone who is very passionate and very driven by music, what are some of your favourite examples of activism in the music industry by musicians-- maybe even, for example, by young musicians that you're familiar with?
ZUVA GOVERWA: Young musicians-- I think the very act of pursuing music or of young musicians is kind of a testament because, as music-- like, through songwriting and through those narratives-- I feel like just pursuing that in and of itself is amazing. I mean, currently we're seeing Halsey-- she's quite young, she's in her 20s. And she recently put out an album that kind of talks the empowerment of women from a perspective that I think has been historically shunned. And I think that's a great example of a young person who's kind of shifting the perspectives and using music as a means to inspire people across the world.
JUSTIN LAI: Yeah, that's really, really true. And just to put my own opinion out there, if you want to listen to an album, it's 'We're All Alone in This Together' by Dave, who's a British rapper. I think he's very wonderful.
Now onto my final question, I just wanted to ask, do you think that there are any positive takeaways that you can sit with in the audience in terms of the things that young people are doing? Is the trend a positive one, or is it a trend that we have to get into the trenches and really fight for? Do you think there are any sort of examples of things that are going in the right direction, or do you think we really need to fight for it?
ZUVA GOVERWA: Yeah, I mean, I think with any cause, there has to be motivation, drive, ambition. And there is definitely going to be a fight, as we've seen-- like, this has existed throughout history, going back to your first question. But honestly, I think this very competition is a testament to the fact that youth voices are being listened to. We've had such amazing speeches, and I'm really excited to hear Riley's. But these are all perspectives that are coming from young people, and we've actively been given a forum to express that and share that with the world. And I think that's amazing and just a testament to the fact that we're going in the right direction for sure.
JUSTIN LAI: Zuva, thank you so much for your speeches and the answers to your questions. They were amazing. And once again, congratulations.
Our fourth contestant is Rhylee Weir, who is in Year 11 and attends Paralowie R-12 School in South Australia. The subject of Riley's speech is 'A difficult conversation.' Please welcome Rhylee Weir.
RHYLEE WEIR: Humans are incredible. Since the dawn of humanity, we have been inventing things to make our life easier, such as fire or the wheel. But we've also been inventing things to make life more interesting, like sports or fizzy drink. And through these leaps of ingenuity, we as humanity have recognised the need for change. Take Coca-Cola, for example. The formula used to contain cocaine, but then in 1929, some very smart people realised that that probably wasn't so smart. Or how about in 1285, when corrective lenses were created, gifting people like me sight?
Despite this, we constantly focus on dividing each other based on these ingenuities-- those people who like Coke versus those who like Pepsi, or those people who have glasses versus those people that don't. Instead of focusing on the ingenuity behind our inventions, we split each other based on them instead. Seems silly, right?
Humans are incredible, but we are also incredible at categorising and judging each other. Sometimes labels are used, inventing division where, really, none should exist. Take Akbar, for example-- he's labelled as a refugee. Or take my grandparents-- they're labelled as an immigrant, even though both of these people move from one country to another.
Akbar is an Afghani refugee who fled his village in fear of his life. His father gave up all of his possessions so that he could pay a peoples per person smuggler to bring only Akbar here to Australia. My grandparents, just like Akbar, moved from the Philippines here to Australia, except they came of their own free will. And when they got here, they got a home, a job, an education.
But when Akbar came here, instead of the freedom offered by our Australian ideals, he was stripped of the little that he had and was shoved into a refugee camp. In this refugee camp, Akbar was fed bread and water 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. Such subpar treatment when prisoners here in Australia get coconut beef or lamb kofta for dinner.
Or how about the fact that all prisoners in Australia get an education? Here in SA, we provide an allowance to our prisoners to get this education. Yet Akbar is one of 15 million refugees worldwide going without an education. Britain, Sweden, Russia, Norway all offer their prisoners an education because it is a basic human right. Yet 63% of the entire world's refugees are not getting that education.
Akbar is one of 26 million refugees globally without a home. He is one of 2.3 million refugees being held in camps, and he is one refugee standing beside the 2.1 million children being stripped of their childhood. And his story is one of millions that is going untold.
But ladies and gentlemen, why am I telling you all of this? I'm telling you this because I'm here to have a difficult conversation, just like Greta with the words 'Our house is on fire.' Her words sparked the fire that birthed the Paris Climate Change Agreement signed by over 190 countries.
So at a family barbecue, we talk about climate change or maybe the footy scores, but not refugees. Why is that? Is it because we don't care? No, of course we care. You would be hard pressed to find somebody not outraged by the atrocities faced by millions of our children every day. But we don't have this difficult conversation because we don't know how it will help. So ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about Dola. Let me tell you about the Syrian Civil War.
In 2012, Dola, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee, was forced to flee her country with only her family. At the time, the Syrian Civil War was tearing through her city, and if she didn't leave, she and her family would have lost their lives. This was a topic of conversation among people every day. So countries like Egypt and Germany and Sweden made changes. They accepted 52% of the 30 million refugees displaced from their homes. Egypt welcomed Dola. It was her sanctuary.
But then the war ended. People stopped talking. We stopped having that difficult conversation. And suddenly, countries began, forcing refugees out of their new homes. Like many others, Dola was split from her family and was forced onto a boat with 49 other people headed to Greece. She was one of 3 survivors on that trip. 47 people died trying to find a safe home. This needs to change.
It is time, ladies and gentlemen, that we have that difficult conversation, because the last media story to talk about refugees up until recent events in Afghanistan was in July last year. Because worldwide, there are 26 million refugees without homes. Because worldwide, there are over 2 million refugees being held in camps. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to have that difficult conversation. We need to follow in the footsteps of Anh Do.
Many of you would know him as a writer or a comedian, but before he took to the stage, Anh sailed on a boat from Vietnam here to Australia. Anh realised the importance of sharing his story, stating that it was painful and that he could barely hold himself together. But Anh persevered because he recognised the need to open people's eyes to the horrors faced by people every day.
But Akbar has no freedom to share his story in his refugee camp. Dola has no home, no friends, no family to share her story, too. And the millions of refugees worldwide have no platform or TV to present their story on.
People look at statistics and go, meh, so what? But people listen to people. They listen to their stories and feel emotions-- happiness, anger, sadness. But most importantly, they feel sympathy-- sympathy for the atrocities faced by millions of people every day. And I know those are the exact emotions that you all felt in the crowd today. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to have that hard conversation.
Leaving here today, I want you to talk about the millions of refugees globally without a home. I want you to talk about the millions of children going without an education in your classrooms. And I want you to talk about this very moment here today when you go home to your families. So please, ladies and gentlemen, let's go have that hard conversation.
JUSTIN LAI: Thank you so much, Rhylee, for that speech. It was wonderful. And again, congratulations on making it to the National Final. I'm going to do the same thing as I've told everyone. I'll ask you a set of questions based both on the speech and also the questions that you answered and sent to me a little bit ago.
The government has made a bunch of, I would say, interesting decisions regarding refugees. They passed a recent migration bill which granted them the power to indefinitely detain refugees, and with the recent instance of the Biloela family, they've been criticised for harshness and a lack of compassion when it comes to people in plight and struggle. Do you think this is an issue that we need to speak with in our votes, or do you think that the way we do make change is by sharing those stories and by trying to convince people, potentially, who aren't so convinced?
RHYLEE WEIR: As I did say in my speech quite a bit, it's important about starting the conversation because unfortunately, at our level, we can't influence change that will always help people. As you said, the government, I think you said, introduced the new bills to change stuff. At my level, I can't walk into parliament and create bills or legislation to actively change that.
So it's about sharing the story and telling everybody about the atrocities that millions of people face every day because not everybody knows about it. So that's why they're not actively engaging to help. That's not their fault, but it's our job to share those stories so we can help make a change at the levels that actually matter.
JUSTIN LAI: So there was-- I think the government also got into-- and I'm saying this continually-- a lot of hot water when they barred Australian citizens returning from India in the middle of, I think, the second wave of COVID-19. And I wanted to ask, is this something which we need to think about as a problem that we culturally have with race as well as a problem that we have with policy?
RHYLEE WEIR: I think that is a bit of a political question, as many people laugh in the crowd. But the issue isn't always whether you come from one country or to another, it's rather that we don't know the struggles that people have gone through to move from this country to here. We don't know why they're coming here. We don't know, when Akbar came from Afghanistan, what the troubles are that he went through coming here. So I think it's just about sharing perspective and opening people's eyes to the challenges that people face simply to get the basic human rights, as determined by the UN. It's about sharing stories.
JUSTIN LAI: So onto my final question, you highlight an issue being particularly the education of refugees. How would you directly target that issue, being someone who cares both about social work and about teaching?
RHYLEE WEIR: So as he just said before, I do want to become a teacher. And I have been inspired by 3 teachers that I've had over the past 3 years who have inspired me to help others in the form of education. So unfortunately, I, in my current position, can't just walk over to another country and just start teaching. That's just not something that's realistic, especially in the pandemic as well.
But a big way that organisations that have the opportunity to do that like the UN-- they go into refugee camps and they educate children. And it's important that we support those organisations so that they can do the change. Although we can't directly influence their education, we can influence the organisations and support those organisations that go and help refugees and just help others in general.
JUSTIN LAI: Well, that brings me to the end of my questions. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for your speech. Can't wait to hear more in the next section. Thank you very much.
So that concludes the prepared section of today's final. Everyone will now be moved to the waiting room, and the finalists will return one by one to give their 3-minute impromptu speeches. Each finalist will speak on the same subject after a 3-minute preparation time. Guests of the speaker are invited to watch their own speaker's impromptu speech. The audience will return at 12:10 for the official announcement.
NICK RANSON: In the current climate that we live in, we are in some troubling times. And we'll see that through a few examples I'm going to bring in in just a moment. There's big things happening in the world, and so some really big decisions have to be made. And so in saying that, it becomes really important that we ask ourselves, do we play it safe? Do we recluse? Do we hide away from these big decisions? Or do we do what's right? Do we make the tough decisions and do we act as leaders?
And there are two times that I've seen this recently, the first of which is through the Olympics. Initially, there was a lot of angst as to whether we would go ahead with the Olympics. And that was personified through the current pandemic that we are in. However, we eventually decided that we would have the Olympics in Tokyo. And so we had the choice to play it safe, or we have the choice to have these Olympics. We made a decision, the Olympic Committee made a decision, and through that, the response has been amazing.
An example of that was when we saw the Afghan Paralympics, who were evacuated from Afghanistan to play in the Paralympics. And through these things and through making that decision and choosing not to play it safe, we see this uprising of communities and we see people uniting. And the response from the Olympics has been great. It's provided us with something to celebrate, something to be happy about. And this only came because we decided to make a decision as opposed to playing it safe.
And the second is, obviously, the current pandemic that we're in in regard to playing it safe. We had hard border closures, we currently still do have those. And there were a lot of-- decisions had to be made as to whether we'd give JobKeeper to all these different people. And so the leaders of Australia chose not to play it safe. They chose to go out and, as leaders of the nation, they made big decisions. They had the JobKeeper, and then they got rid of it. They chose to close the border.
And I am not necessarily saying that these decisions were good, I'm not saying that they were bad. It's quite subjective, really. But they weren't playing it safe. They didn't hide away and let the pandemic ensue. They acted, and-- yeah.
And then I guess to conclude, I'd say that it's easy to say no, it's easy to stray away, it's easy to isolate, and it's easy to stay away from making these big decisions because we want to play it safe. We don't want to act. But when we don't do that, and when we come out of our shell and when we choose to make decisions-- we choose not to play it safe-- we see results. And those may not necessarily be the results that we're after. Those may not necessarily be good or bad decisions, but at least we're trying. And if there's one thing, a part of the human condition is that we're always trying.
NIKKI HAN: We need to abolish prisons-- not just rethink them, not just defund them, but abolish them because we can't keep playing it safe anymore. And when I say abolish prisons, I mean abolish them. So what does not playing it safe actually look like? It looks like replacing prisons with systems of rehabilitation. It looks like redistributing funding to prisons to the underlying causes of crime like wealth inequality, like housing, education, and mental health so we prevent crime before it even occurs. And it looks like developing community safety measures in cases when law enforcement is inadequate.
But why can't we actually afford to play it safe anymore? I think a lot of people here understand why our current prison system is so flawed. It functions to oppress marginalised groups. It's incredibly traumatic, filled with violence, and terrible for rehabilitation. But the question that more people are asking right now, especially with the rise of Black Lives Matter and these types of discussions, is why prison abolition rather than prison reform? Why can't we just play it safe by reforming them? Why do we have to abolish them?
It's because we can't actually change the problems with prison because those are problems that are inherent in the system itself. The system is one fueled by violence and trauma, fueled by abusive power dynamics, and we can't change that anymore. Prison reform is impossible. It does nothing to support the people who are actually being harmed and victimised by the system, so it's impossible.
But if we actually abolish prisons, one major concern that people have about actual people's safety is about what do we do with the most violent criminals? I think it's not going to be very difficult to keep the majority of society safe. Transitioning from a theory of punitive to restorative justice means that the criminals and the perpetrators of these actions will be able to actually help the communities that they have impacted. And if we target the issues underlying crime anyways, that means that there won't be as much crime in the first place.
But even if we look at our current society, it's not like prison does deter the most violent criminals. And once these people have been caught, our justice system is often really ineffective in prosecuting people like rapists and prosecuting people like the most violent criminals.
So, what am I saying? I'm saying that we can't play it safe anymore. We can't afford to do that because our system has harmed far too many people. I'm saying that we can't play it safe, that we need to just go for it, because prison abolition-- it's not as utopian as many people may paint it out to be. It's not far off, it's not going to make society any more unsafe than it actually is. So we can't play it safe because it just might help so many people who are currently being victimised and currently being harmed by our system. Thank you.
ZUVA GOVERWA: A couple of years ago, I overheard a group of girls making a smart quip about something they'd seen online. It was about an art piece made by an acquaintance of mine. Now, don't get me wrong, they were no Picasso. They were no special artist that people knew and who is famous, but there was something about their art-- something that expressed a part of them that maybe they were too shy or scared, even, to put into words. And I recognised that.
And so when I heard those girls talking about it, making fun of how daggy the art style was, it struck a chord with me. And I had two choices in that moment. I could have chosen to ignore it. After all, it wasn't a friend, it wasn't anyone famous, they didn't really have that much to do with me. Or I could have decided to say something, to let them know that what they'd been saying wasn't OK.
And that's what I decided to do. As someone who very much does not like confrontation, it was scary for me. But in that moment, I could not choose to play it safe. I had to push myself and to say something because I knew that ultimately, that was the right choice.
And this isn't a choice that only exists on such a small level. Every day, we make choices of whether we want to push ourselves or if we want to play it safe. These exists on large systemic scales as well. Things like racism, sexism perpetuated every time someone decides to play it safe, perpetuated every time you overlook a derogatory comment or something sexist that one of your mates said. And if we want to dismantle those systems, we can't play it safe.
And I'm very well aware that this is hard. But the fact that it's hard is what makes it worth it. Society thrives off complacency, that's how we maintain the status quo and keep those in power in power. But if we want to overturn that, we can't play it safe. We need to speak out. We need to sign those petitions, we need to share on social media, we need to let our voices be known. We need to defend for those who can't speak for themselves. And that's why it is my belief that we can't play it safe.
Playing it safe doesn't exist on just these small scales. It exists all around us. And with that one phrase, we epitomise complacency, which is something that, as a growing, developing society, we cannot afford. So next time someone says something that doesn't quite sit right with you but maybe you're too scared to say something, know that that fear should be fuel-- a hint to you that you are doing the right thing because ultimately, the world will be better off for it. Thank you.
RHYLEE WEIR: Playing it safe-- it reminds me back to when I would be swimming with my dad when I was younger. We'd often play it safe by sticking to the shallow end because, although I might be this tall now, I was about that tall when I was swimming with my dad. So it was always safer to be in the shallow end. We liked to play it safe.
But then after a while practicing swimming with my dad, I decided, you know what? I don't want to play it so safe. Let's live life to its fullest. And so I said to dad, today, we're going into the deep end. And he's like, are you sure? You don't want to play it safe today? I'm like, no. We're going to the deep end.
So that we did. And I've got to say, I was scared. I was a bit frightened because it was unfamiliar territory. I wasn't playing it safe anymore. But I took a deep breath, said to myself, Rhylee, you're a superstar, you've got this. And I jumped into the deep end, much to my dad's horror. But alas, I did really well. I swam perfectly, I had fun, and I didn't drown because, well, I'm still here today. And although my dad was a safety net there for me, I wasn't playing it safe anymore. I was playing it a bit more dangerously.
And I know that everybody here in the crowd likes to live life on the edge a little bit every now and then, but most of the time, we like to play it safe. But it is not always good to play it safe. Sometimes we need to step out of our boundaries. We need to walk into that unfamiliar, uncharted territory to move forward.
We as a society have progressed from living in caves to where we are now. I'm standing in a building surrounded by many smart, amazing people that's got air conditioning. And I've got a screen here, I'm talking to you all on a laptop. If we didn't step out of our comfort zone and we stopped playing it safe, we would never have gotten to this point here today. It is important that we take the steps out of our comfort zone so we as a society can move forward.
Whilst it may be nice and comfortable to play it safe, it's not always good. So I remind you all, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes it's good to step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it's good to play it dangerously. Thank you.
EMILY KIM: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for your patience. Just before I get right into it, I don't think any of you have had the chance to hear me unmuted yet, so I do just want to take a second to acknowledge that I'm Zooming in to you today from the unceded land of the Kuringgai and pay my respects to elders both past, present, and future, particularly any in our presence today.
So, having said that, I won't leave you in suspense much longer. What I'm going to do in this OA is I'm firstly going to just tell you some of our general thoughts that we thought were applicable to everyone as an adjudication panel, then I'm going to announce the winner all the way at the end. So actually, I lied about not leaving you in suspense, I suppose. I will leave you in suspense for, like, 3 more minutes.
OK, so in terms of what we really enjoyed hearing today, I think at this level, it goes without saying that the calibre of speakers is incredibly high. Everyone is rhetorically very compelling, just kind of unbelievably so, particularly for how young you all are and the fact that for some of you guys, this might be your first time speaking in a tournament like Plain English. It is just incredible to hear how just persuasive and charismatic and engaging all these speakers were. So we didn't really have anything, really, to critique on that front.
And we also thought that at this stage, you'll notice that the speakers are also incredibly talented at doing things such as, say, incorporating anecdotes or interesting examples into their speeches in a way that humanises and kind of personalises their speeches. So it is awesome to me that, at a National Final level, we got to hear stuff about like Maccas and 'WAP' and like Halsey and like Coca-Cola history and just things that make us want to keep listening and make us curious about the speaker's brain and what's going on in there and what cool thoughts they have to share. I thought all of that was done incredibly well as usual.
In terms of what I want to then recommend to the speakers to take on board for the future is going one step further than that. You all know that you need to do things like talk about interesting anecdotes and make your speeches engaging and conversational. I think at your level, with the kind of speaking capacities and clearly intelligence and knowledge about the world that you have, I think you want to challenge yourself to get into the meat of the issues in a way that somebody who just is casually listening to you talk about this issue for the first time maybe would not be able to, but that you, who's worked so hard over this speech for weeks, maybe even months, would be able to.
So what I mean by that is rather than just spending kind of the bulk of your speech explaining to the audience why the people that you're talking about or society in general is deserving of change or that a certain group is deserving of justice, I think it would be really interesting to hear more of what you guys think about the ways in which we are to go about seeking out that change or justice or the kind of movements that you wanted to talk about.
What sort of tangible things do we want to see come out of those things? Are there reasonable solutions that we can look towards? Are there either policy changes, or if you're talking about discursive changes, in what ways do those realistically-- in what ways are they kind of able to occur?
And furthermore, how are people able to engage with those solutions given that, as many of you acknowledged in your speeches, often the problem is systematic in a way that perhaps the individual listener feels like they lack agency in the situation. Can I remove myself from social media? Can I bring up these conversations in a room full of people who will shoot me down if I do?
If that is the case, if a part of the problem itself is that the system prevents individuals from having agency, then how do we navigate that? Why are there reasons for us to believe that the kinds of solutions you wanted to bring to us are not only achievable, but have the capacity to actually enact a sustainable kind of change that doesn't rely on every single individual person having heard your speech, for instance, and being very educated now on that issue. So I think that is something I think the speakers should and I think absolutely can take on board because, as I said, you're clearly all very capable speakers.
In terms of the impromptu event, which I know not all of you got to hear all of the different impromptus, so I will try to speak in a way that kind of doesn't rely on that. We really enjoyed listening to your impromptus, and I think they did drive home, really, that you are all very comfortable speakers. Everyone seemed very easy, breezy, kind of, oh, this is all fine, no preparation, no worries kind of thing, which was to be expected from the quality of your prepared speeches.
What, then, can you take away from your impromptu experience for your future speeches? I think the impromptu-- when we give you the prompt, it's not necessarily an invitation for you to broadly and kind of, in the abstract, debate the merits of that idiom or that prompt in general.
So we chose the topic, and maybe what we wanted to hear was not feedback on whether you guys thought that idiom was a good choice of idiom. But rather, if it is the case that there are instances in which that idiom, for instance, applies or doesn't apply, it's particularly interesting for us to hear a specific instance that you are interested in engaging with and telling us about.
So rather than telling me if strike while the iron is hot is a good or bad phrase to broadly apply in life, why is it the approach that we should take in one or another particular scenario that maybe I, as a listener, have not thought about? Because maybe I've heard the phrase strike while the iron is hot many times-- I'm using a hypothetical example just from-- actually from when I spoke, I think, which is a bit ago.
But yeah, so if it is the case that all of the audience members would have had that idiom before and thought about it in a broad sense but maybe haven't thought about it in a particular scenario, and when you say, well, what about this situation, don't you think in this situation we maybe should refrain from striking while the iron is hot or whatever and you make the audience kind of go, oh, I haven't ever thought of that idiom in that particular context, in that particular scenario.
And in that way, as you did with your prepareds, where you went out of your way to find something that you felt like you had the capacity and the passion to speak on in order to inform the audience about something that may have never really crossed their mind before, you're able to do the same thing in your impromptu-- to engage with that with the same kind of rigour and specificity and kind of context awareness as you did in your prepared speeches.
I think that not only makes it a really valuable opportunity for your audience, who then have the pleasure to hear four of those interesting, nuanced takes on kind of things we might not have heard about before, but it also probably will make it easier for you to continue speaking in that time because you know concretely what you're talking about and you probably already have a specific opinion on that thing. So don't be afraid to give us a take.
As you all said in your prepareds, young people are smart, and you are among the best and brightest of the people in this tournament. And you have smart opinions on things, and we want to hear them. So don't feel worried about committing to a particular perspective. We're not going to assess you on whether we personally agree with your perspective, but on the way in which you are able to kind of convey that perspective to even someone who may not agree with you, for instance.
So rather than playing it safe, I suppose my advice is to not be afraid to tell us what you really think and then to tell us why. And that's what makes your speech interesting, and that's what makes it a speech that only you can give, I think, is my advice.
So then bringing us to the winning speech today. We felt like the winning speaker was able to do a lot of the kinds of things that we did discuss just then in terms of the feedback.
So we thought that the winning speaker gave us a prepared speech that explained to us not only the complexity of the kind of issue we were talking about-- which was a difficult one, I think, to express concisely and clearly for the very reason that they identified, which is that it's one that is maybe not the topic of conversation enough-- but was then able to take it one step further and tell us not only why there is a particular solution we should be looking towards, but also why, empirically and analytically, there is reason to believe that that solution will work.
And therefore, pursuing that solution is something that is specifically worth our time. And therefore, the kind of discursive changes that the speaker was suggesting are intended to go directly towards fueling that particular solution that they wanted us to pursue for the reason that it was kind of stepped through as being the best option.
But furthermore, we thought that this speaker also gave an impromptu in which they similarly were able to engage with a very specific kind of perspective that they had on a concrete topic that we maybe had not been expecting to hear about but that tied very cleverly to the prompts that we've given and then also was engaged with a level of specificity and concreteness that meant that whether or not the audience members would have all agreed, we knew exactly what the speaker believed and why they believe that.
And it at least left us with something concrete to leave and think about ourselves. Maybe we didn't have an opinion on it, and now I feel like I've been tangibly invited to figure out what I feel about that thing in a way that was different to maybe the way that I'd been looking at society or the world before.
And so without further ado, I am very, very happy to announce that the adjudication panel has decided to award the 2021 National Plain English Speaking Award to the speaker from Queenwood in New South Wales, Nikki Han. Congratulations.
JUSTIN LAI: Thanks you so much, Emily, and the adjudication panel. And I know it's a really tough decision. Emily's been a wonderful guiding figure in New South Wales public speaking, and if you haven't, I'd highly recommend checking out her winning speech from that year. It's fantastic, and it's always worth a listen.
The winner, Nikki, will now receive $500 from Consensus Education and will also be sent the Plain English Speaking Award shield. And that brings us to the conclusion of our proceedings. Thank you to our distinguished guests and to all the speakers in the audience for joining us today. It has been my pleasure to speak with each of the contestants and to share this online National Finals today.
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