Video transcript
Plain English Speaking Award 2021 - NSW State Final

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[intro music]

JUSTINE CLARKE: All right, good morning, everyone, and welcome to this New South Wales State Final of the Plain English Speaking Award for 2021. My name is Justine Clarke, and I'm the speaking competition's Officer for the Department of Education at The Arts Unit. Before we go any further, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, from which I'm speaking to you today, which is the lands of the [inaudible] and Gunditjmara people. And I would like to extend that respect to all elders past, present, and emerging who are with us today.

And as we're all speaking from different areas across the state today, I've asked each speaker to just unmute quickly, introduce themselves, and do their own acknowledgment or welcome to country.

EMILY ADAMSON: Hi, I'm Emily, and I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which I stand today, the Eora people of the Eora nation. I would like to extend this acknowledgment to the traditional custodians of the lands on which you all state today as well. It is a privilege to work, learn, and play on Mongol ancestral land, and I pay respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and extend this respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people present with us today. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

SIMONE ALLEN: I'm Simone. I'd like to acknowledge the Bidjigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of the land I am standing on today. And I'd like to pay my respect to the elders past, present, and emerging.

GEORGE TEASDELL: Hi, I'm George. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in which I'm speaking. The [inaudible] people, and extend that respect to the elders past, present, and future.

ELLIE DOBLE: Hi, my name is Ellie. I would like to acknowledge the Garigal people of the Eora nation as a traditional custodians of the country I'm speaking at today. I recognise that continuing connection to the land and what is and thank them for protecting this coastline and its ecosystems since time immemorial. I pay respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all first nations people present today.

NIKKI HAN: Hi, I'm Nikki. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Cammeraygal people as a traditional custodians of the land on which I am present today. And I pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. And I extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

TELESHA KING NEVILLE: I would like to acknowledge the Wiradjuri people, the traditions custodians of this land. I would like to pay my respect to elders past, present, and emerging. Thank you. And I'm Felicia, so sorry.

JUSTINE CLARKE: I'd like to also welcome our guests today, parents, friends, principals, deputy principals, and of course, the teachers who have supported your lovely young speakers to get to this point today. We know how much hard work you put into them. We appreciate you all joining. And of course, our speakers, we're very happy to welcome all 6 of you today. And thank you for joining us under these different circumstances. We're sure you will be wonderful.

The Plain English Speaking award is one of the premier events in the speaking competitions calendar. Last year saw some major changes due to COVID, with all rounds amended to create a purely online competition. And as proud as we were to be able to give the students of New South Wales a platform on which to speak despite those challenging circumstances, this year it was really, really nice to be able to hold some live in-person local and regional finals as well as a state semi-final where all 24 speakers were able to give their speeches in-person to a small but live audience. And that was really lovely, and I can testify to the fact that all of the speakers have legs because we saw them that day.

Of course, we can't control everything, and here we are again. But I'm so looking forward to hearing all these exceptional young speakers again today and even more grateful that I don't have to make the decision on who wins. So that brings us to the adjudication panel who are going to have the really difficult decision to make today. Our 3 adjudicators are Elinor Stephenson, Justin Lai, and Lloyd Cameron.

Lloyd Cameron retired as the speaking competition's Officer in 2017 after a very long time doing this role. In that role, he coordinated debating and public speaking in New South Wales primary and secondary schools for over 20 years. He was also national chairperson of the Plain English Association from 2000 to 2017. Welcome, Lloyd.

Elinor Stephenson is a former state finalist in this competition as well as being an integral member of her state champion debating teams from Smith's Hill High school during high school. And of the combined high school's representative debating team of which she is now one of our coaches, Elinor has also recently reached the semi-finals of the 2021 Career World University Debating Championships-- just an amazing achievement. Welcome, Eleanor.

And the third member of our panel is Justin Lai. Justin was also an excellent debater as part of his Sydney Boys High School debating team when he was in high school. But perhaps his greatest achievement is being their state champion and national champion of this Plain English Speaking Competition in 2018. In 2019, Justin travelled to London to represent Australia in the international level of this competition and was announced as the runner-up of the whole world. So, as you can see, you have an excellent panel making your decision today.

We now come to the prepared section of this competition. Each speaker will speak for 8 minutes on a subject of the contestants choice. Tony will be running a clock timer to alert speakers when they have reached the minimum time of 6 minutes, the maximum time of 8 minutes, and when they've exceeded that maximum time by 30 seconds. Our first speaker today is Emily Adamson. Emily is a year 12 student at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney. And her speech is entitled culinary colonisation. Welcome, Emily.

EMILY ADAMSON: When I was about 5 years old, my dad decided to buy a block of land. There was nothing special about it. It was an hour from my home in Griffith and very much wild overgrown bushland. But a little 5-year-old me, it was magic. Why? Because out of the ground, I could see all around me would come my favourite thing, food.

But what we had to do to that land in order to get that food was far from magic. The land had to be stripped, trees felled, soil ploughed, and poisoned with pesticide. And then ploughed again, and then irrigated, then treated, then sown, and then it could create food. In short, it needed a total transformation. At least, that's what current Australian agricultural practises tell us.

But these practises, according to Aboriginal elder Nathan Moran, are a desecration of our lands. Because when we look deeper, there are already fruits-- berries, seeds, fruits, animals, leaves-- all of these native products that buy these practises are continually ignored, disregarded, and, worst, killed. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you the sad story of Australian agriculture. It is a story of how its native foods have been lost and its lands and people afflicted in the process. And this story goes by the title culinary colonisation

And so, we begin with our orientation. Less than 300 years ago, 29 sheep, 74 pigs, 6 rabbits, and 7 cows disembarked from a boat full of criminals. Alongside them were the first agents of ecological imperialism, wheat, oats, vegetables, fruit, trees-- all of these things that we now see in supermarkets and would associate as Australian products. As our founding fathers favoured Western farming practises, native foods were overlooked.

According to the book 'The Emigrants Friend,' they were thought to be unremarkable, unuseful, and really only good for their flowers. And so, the small empires of Western-style farms grew larger and larger in line with unsympathetic farming practises. And it is from this that our first problem arises. See, manipulating or changing natural ecosystems in order to support introduced species has extremely negative consequences, from soil erosion to rising water tables to poor crop yields. Introduced species which alter the way our environment works actually hinder our lands.

For native food, in particular, introduced species mean the destruction of habitat for native animals or destruction of crops for, let's say, a few introduced cows. Let me give you an example of this. We all saw the photos of the Murray cod lying in the river beds in the fish kills of 2019, a direct consequence of manipulating Darling river flows to support agricultural practises. But what we didn't see is that they weren't just fish. They were food sources with significant cultural importance for Wiradjuri people.

These fish cleaned and regulated our rivers, and now they are critically endangered. This is one example in so many. Bushfires, floods, droughts, a native species under threat are all standing reminders of the way that native foods are being lost and the land afflicted in the process. But there's also another problem that arises, that is the impact on the current health and well-being of Indigenous peoples. 3 in 4 indigenous peoples are overweight or obese, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in indigenous communities.

Now while there are many factors that contribute to this, diet is an overwhelming part of the equation. See, now, instead of having the healthy high protein, high omega foods of their traditional diets, indigenous peoples eat commodity foods or those carb-loaded, highly processed hard to digest foods which just aren't that healthy. And so, with its negative impact on the land and the people, we see that culinary colonisation has had devastating effects. But we cannot forget that this is a story, a story that is very real and one that we may have written but also now one that we can create the solution to.

I propose two ways in which we can change the story. Firstly, we must educate and change our own eating habits so that we're more sympathetic to the land. One of the best ways this can be done is found recently in Australia, where in March of this year, indigenous chef Clayton Donavan created a dining experience, cooking with nothing but native foods in order to teach people how they could use them for themselves. And shopping for indigenous products isn't as hard as we may think. Online stores such as and Bushtucker shop offer an array of jams, spices, chocolates, and native products that we can use in your own pantries.

Even mainstream grocery stores such as Coles and Woolworths are adding kangaroo and emu meat options to their shelves. Shopping for indigenous products is so essential in creating the solution and is something that can be so easily done by each and every one of us. Secondly, we must establish local content laws for restaurants and grocery stores and even fast-food chains that mandate the availability of indigenous food options. While changing our eating habits will ensure demand for native products, we also need to ensure that there is a supply of them.

Whether this be that a certain quota of ingredients are sourced natively, or a minimum number of dishes are native dishes, we need to ensure native foods can be accessed by all peoples, indigenous and non-indigenous. Whether this be that a bakery creates creations with wheat flour and indigenous seed flour, or a supermarket may sell seed flour alongside the normal wheat flour that we all know as, or a restaurant may have at least one native dish on the menu, for example, a possum dish or a kangaroo dish such as dishes being offered by the Warakirri Cafe in Mudgee.

Recently we celebrated Native Week. And the question that was asked over and over was how can we heal country? Well, the simple fact is that this country cannot even begin to be healed as it's colonised by our taste buds. And if bushfires, floods, native species under threats have taught us anything is that time to change is running out. Our time to change the story is running out.

My dad never ended up stripping that block of land, but that didn't make it any less magic. It just meant that I had to find new ways to find these foods. Australia, we all have to find new ways, new ways of cooking, new ways of eating, new ways of consuming so that this land can finally begin to receive its healing.

JUSTINE CLARKE: Our second speaker is Simone Allen. Simone is in Year 12 at Caringbah High School. And her speech is called cats will be cats. Welcome, Simone.

SIMONE ALLEN: The chicken was dead. Its eggs were gone. The only clue left by the vicious murderer has a trail of bloody paw prints on the branch of the frangipani tree that chicken had settled on every day, watching the feral cats trek up and down the stormwater drain. A compelling tale, certainly, and I'd like to tell you the bit about my suddenly chickenless cousin wondering why Australia has such a terrible feral cat problem, but the ending.

The chicken has a shameful funeral involving a cardboard coffin buried underneath the washing line alongside all the other murdered chickens, and the feral cats multiply. My cousin gets another chicken and calls it Betty, but we're all waiting for the phone call that feral cat number 1,071 has gotten away with it. Off the hook. I mean, cats will be cat, am I right? Retractable claws sink back into paws guarded by swarms of 'animal lovers' bearing excuses and entitlement.

We all a couple of feral cats, don't we? Use your imagination again for a second. You're 12-year-old female wearing an alluring combination of skull jumper and purple overalls on your way home to watch Looney Tunes. P-plater pulls up, ears flicking at the flies, screeches some obscenities about the attractiveness of your prepubescent figure, retracts their claws, and drives on.

And that memory is shut up in a cardboard box and buried under the washing line that sits next to the frangipani tree that too many teenage girls have set on watching the feral cats track up and down the stormwater drain. We're just asking for it, really, sitting in full view on that tree. Boys will be boys. We all know a couple of feral cats, don't we?

I wish it was just my story. I wish we didn't have to watch toxic masculinity sink its claws into so many young men. Watch teenagers become sexual offenders. Grow their claws. Turn feral-- predator-seeking prey. In theory, we all carry a single ultimate verbal defence against these feral cat attacks. That is if the cats in any way understood what it actually meant.

No. Negative, nope, nah, yeah nah, the opposite of Yes. Call it what you will, but what could this word possibly mean? Well, in 1926, Australians sought to solve this mystery once and for all with the introduction of sex education into schools. OK, 'sex ed' is quite a loose definition for just telling teens to remain abstinent, but luckily the sexual revolution of the 1960s took the baby steps towards the 1981 creation of the Official Australian Sex Ed Curriculum.

There was just one problem. This curriculum never solved the mystery of the word no. And the feral cats multiplied. The feral cat breeding ground, or by its scientific name, the high school party scene. Armed with the half-hearted 'don't drink underage' bestowed upon them by their PDH teachers, young teens trek into the wilderness, feathers ruffled and ready.

What they fail to mention in that PDH class is the 'classically Aussie' pressure to drink, the roving claws of the cats, the shaming and blaming that is to follow. That PDH class didn't mention the intricate network of entitlement to other humans bodies weaving its way through this party culture. It didn't tell young teens to prepare themselves for a lifetime of being objectified and sexualized. And it didn't tell them they could say no.

What did the government say to this? Don't smear milkshakes in other people's faces-- bafflement, confusion, nervous laughter. A quick survey of my classmates faces summed up the general reaction to the government's once-off milkshake-based video that, if I'm going to be generous, distantly alluded to the importance of consent. Though I guess the cats got the cream in the end because not only did the video manage to not mention sex at all, but swiftly caused a nationwide rise in teenage lactose intolerance.

While I would like to pretend that this video is merely a once-off embarrassment, it's just one brick in the road to the belief that consent education is a complete joke. That consent is a joke. You can't change a cat's claws. What's been long brushed aside for the job of the parents to explain has become increasingly prevalent at an earlier and earlier age, perfectly illustrated by Chanel Contos' petition that calls for improvements to consent education for young teens.

Containing more than 4,000 confessions of girls and women across Australia, girls as young as 13 and 14 detail how they were pressured, coerced, drugged, or forced into sexual acts with classmates and teenage partygoers. How they were shamed and blamed by friends, family, school peers, employers-- the animal lovers, the cats coddlers. Yet the rape of not only these girls, but all sexual assault victims, male or female, has nothing to do with what they were wearing or how much they'd had to drink or how they acted or what they said. It's about what they didn't say. They didn't say yes.

For every feral cat we see, there are hundreds of sets of paw prints tracking behind it. Years of excusing and enabling has caused a situation to get this bad. And it's never enough to assume 'kids will understand it when they're older.' Whether you like it or not, many sexual assault cases involve young teen girls, girls who've barely hit puberty, barely know what sex is, have barely laced up their school shoes, and put on their brand new high school uniform for the first time. And it's just not good enough to distribute a once-off vaguely informative video to older students at some sort of belated apology, a quick file of the claws if you will.

A couple of months back, Victoria became the first state to mandate consent education in the school curriculum. Sure, congrats. Good on them. Why not all states? Here's what I propose. Consent needs to be a word that worms its way through our school curriculum and doesn't just puddle in the corner of a PDH class.

We can keep pretending that the occasional petition and sensationalist news article and even the talk with your parents is anything more than just a band-aid, but what we need is for people to realise that sexual assault isn't inevitable. It's preventable. We need the government to restructure not just the PDH curriculum but the English, the history, the geography curriculum so that students realise the integral role consent plays in every aspect of society. I want students to be reading prescribed texts explore gendered violence, and writing essays that challenge notions of toxic 'masculine' traits. I want young men to be hearing that respecting women doesn't make them any less of a man.

But if we're going to teach kids that consent is so necessary, we need to remove the legal loopholes that allow Australian law to still consider consent a 'grey area.' New South Wales sexual assault law needs to be reformed to put the focus on affirmative consent-- the idea that consent requires a communicative act, placing the simple burden of asking before acting on the accused. And the 2009 Fair Work Act still needs to be rewritten to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in schools.

But this isn't just the government's problem. It's our problem. It's the problem of the victims and the offenders, and the enablers. We need to not stand by when we see people glorifying harmful stereotypes of masculinity or brushing off harassment as 'boys will be boys.' We need call ourselves out the moment we excuse an assaulter because of their gender or their age because they're a 'good person.'

We need to realise that what our society tells young men they should grow to be is not good enough. And we need to never stop the 'uncomfortable' conversations if consent it's to ever be anything more than topical buzzword in society. A word that people will continue to equate to a 'maybe' or 'I don't really want to' or even a 'no' if schools don't step in early. The victim-blaming and normalisation of sexual harassment and rape within our culture needs to stop. The cats need to stop being coddled.

Here's a bit of a different story. Back in June, I helped my cousin to build a fence. It's a nice fence. It sits around the frangipani tree. Betty, the chicken, isn't quite so happy with these new imposed boundaries, but I guess she knows it's needed. Feels safe with it.

The fence shouldn't have to be there. There shouldn't need to be anything for the fence to keep out. And parents shouldn't have to tell their daughters to 'not go outside dressed like that' or to wolverine their keys between their fingers or to watch their drink and take it to the bathroom with them. To not sit in full view on that frangipani tree because the cats never should have been feral in the first place.

JUSTINE CLARKE: Our third speaker today is George Teasdell. George is in Year 12 at St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie. Welcome, George, with his speech which is called your undivided unattention.

GEORGE TEASDELL: Pay attention to this. Listen. See here. Have you noticed how when you say see here, you really mean, listen or hear here, but if you say hear here, that means you agree with someone? Sorry, sorry. Listen, listen to this story I'm about to tell you. Oh, by the way, did you know that introducing yourself to someone with a self-deprecating story makes you seem more likeable? Here are 10 more tips for success in your social circle.

Sorry, I'm not sure what's coming over me. I'm just trying to tell you a story. That story now comes from the Latin word historia, which evolved to the Anglo-Norman French history, which evolved to the story which we use in the modern context, which is used in several different context-- this is what it's like to try to be online today. Your focus is being pulled in a new direction every second second. And to truly listen to something for more than a moment takes a serious mental commitment. Luckily, right now, I can with this story, and you have no choice but to listen to it unless you subtly mute the Zoom and pull your phone out.

I am one of way few, way lucky few with a younger brother who naturally becomes-- I'm looking for a nicer word than test subject-- a lab rat, especially when you are deep in the throes of speech research. So I was trained over his shoulder in my normal lab auditor position. And I was watching him watch YouTube. And there was something fascinating about his habits in his natural environment.

You see, despite having a substantially large iPad, he didn't watch a single video in full screen. Each video kind of went the same way. He would open the video and take it in for a couple of seconds. He'd then scroll down to the comments to read other people's reactions to the video. But the most striking thing is he would start sorting through the recommended videos to see one that caught his eye.

He was looking for something to watch while watching something he already looked for. And 9 times out of 9, he would click the next video before the current one even reached halfway. But if you thought he was now satisfied because he especially picked this next video to meet his needs better, he would do the same thing with the next video, and the next video, and the next. I thought this is really problematic. So to work through my feelings about it, I texted all my friends.

But while I was waiting for both of them to reply, I kind of opened up Instagram and watched that one video, and I started scrolling. Yeah, I'm not really exempt from the problem. And the problem is one of attention. What is attention? Well, it's our brains ability to devote cognitive processing power to certain tasks or observations over others. It's a pretty useful tool evolutionarily because if we had no sense of attention and gave everything we observed equal thought power, then our brain would be just as committed to counting the petals on that flower there as it is with running away from that sabre tooth Tiger.

A 2019 study by the Technical University of Denmark found that our attention spans, at least as a population, are shrinking. Well, I tried to read the whole study I kind of got bored halfway through. Professor Sune Lehman, who worked on the study, said that we have more to focus on than we've ever had. She said it seems that the allocated attention time in our collective minds has a certain size, but the items competing for that attention span have become more densely packed. We have more to focus on now than we've ever had but less time to focus on it.

The study shows that our collective interests are becoming more fleeting, fleeting, fleeting, fleeting. The phenomenon is not unlike a fleeting word that is repeated, loses its meaning, and we have to replace it with other words that still have meaning to get our point across. It's as if the internet is just collectively repeating words in our face, and collectively, we're moving on faster and faster. But why is it such a big issue? The internet is a tool, isn't it? I'm not really going around getting addicted to my iron, my oven, or my screwdriver.

But it's not quite like that, is it? It's more like if my screwdriver was purposely designed to get the screw in but slightly stick it out again once I leave, making me come back and screw drive again, making the wall less structurally sound, so now there's screws popping out all over the place. And then, let's say, the companies see how much I'm using this screwdriver, so they start attaching a glue stick head, maybe a saw blade, and a toothbrush end. See, the companies behind our phones and the apps inhabiting them get money every time we use them. We click again. They win again.

You aren't paying attention to your phone. You're paying with attention. In order for this model to work, you need to be able to refresh a feed every few minutes and see new focus-grabbing things there. This is flooding websites with a constant stream of short-form entertainment. Pieces to yell, 'look at me!' to your brain with flashing neon reaction shots, random fun facts, or regular jump cuts. A two-hour movie now feels like a serious investment of time, but we can easily watch consecutive 30-second videos for just as long without feeling bored for a single bit of it.

And once you're accustomed to these microscopic pieces of media, even a 10-second video where the first 7 seem roughly the same until a twist happens at the end needs a giant bold caption saying wait for it dot dot dot. And friendships are similarly turning into instantly gratifying transactions. Unlike a text or an email, a Snapchat notification doesn't tell you anything about its contents, just who it is from. You have no choice but to open the app and open this little box of surprises.

Is it a compliment? An untimely confession of love? A gut-wrenching breakup? Ah, it's just a picture of their face. Because they want to keep the 100 and counting day streak alive of sending each other snaps because that's a feature that could have no possible psychological downsides whatsoever. Us humans have a wonderful, productive tendency as time goes on to streamline everything we can. We've come from horses and carts to bullet trains. And we've come from radios to computers. And all of this has considerably improved our everyday lives.

But while I suggested that streamlining our social interactions and our storytelling, in the same way, is actually beneficial to us, we aren't meant to have tiny stories with instant resolutions because that's not how life works. Life is long-form, along with all of its problems, nuances, and relationships. And if we aren't actively seeking out meaningful long-form pieces of art, novels, trilogies, albums, are we missing art's whole purpose of reflecting our own human existence?

Not only do we need to consume more extended stories, we need to give ourselves a longer time to go off and be creators. There's a tangible pressure from social media to keep putting out updates, keep staying relevant. We've all seen people on Twitter saying things like just finished chapter 2 hashtag #thatbooklife. And what it really comes from is a fear of being forgotten by the world.

Think about the best literary texts ever written. They come from a time of the world where you could self-isolate for years, plant the seed of an idea and water it to its full extent, and then present a finished work. Have all of the greatest works of literature already been written when people didn't have to worry about not being in the public eye and weren't put off by not being instantly rewarded? Right now, it is difficult to enjoy doing difficult things. But if we move forward with the awareness of all of these two and fro tug of wars in our brain and step back from them, we can at least give it our best shot.

And you don't have to rip your nose completely off the internet grindstone. I just think it's better if we're all aware that it is a sweet-scented grindstone that keeps us sniffing right back up to it. Give yourself space to make something long, like, say, a speech. All of us here today are reclaiming the ancient art of putting time and effort into something to be a little bit proud.

And think of the upsides of a shrinking attention span. To be saying you have no choice but to try and make the best thing possible and the like-dislike democracy of the online world means you generally seeing the cream of the crop. Also, there's something I'm not telling you. The trend in the study I mentioned earlier started at least 100 years ago, long before social media and the internet. It's not just social media. It's books, newspapers, theatre show popularity. People have been moving on to newer subjects faster for as long as we know.

And this is the problem with short-form eye-catching media. I can start a speech and tell you how the internet is shrinking our attention spans and how these giant corporations are targeting our every thought, lay that in the air and quickly move on, or I can talk for a little while longer and reveal that it's a natural process that humans have been going through since the minute we started running from sabertooths. Thank you all for your undivided attention.

JUSTINE CLARKE: Our fourth speaker today is Ellie Doble. Ellie is a year 11 student at Cammeraygal High School. Ellie's speech is called worth dying for. Welcome, Ellie.

ELLIE DOBLE: Good morning, everyone. Today, I would like to talk to you about what I believe is worth dying for. A few months ago, I went a bright classic blonde. I felt it was a good lifestyle choice. I mean, blondes have more fun, right? But something weird started to happen.

Men I didn't know well decided to cold homemade sweet and honey, and they spoke to me with unnecessary gentleness. I guess it wasn't too bad until they began explaining simple concepts to me like I was a child and then joking that I would probably rather be out shopping. Like, no, Mrs. Smith. I'm perfectly happy in your math class.

Of course, the dumb blonde stereotype was to be expected. I told myself that I could stick it out for just a while longer. But it got worse. Men called out obscene things at me from their cars and winked as they passed by me in the street. This treatment was starting to get to me, so while trying to find the motivation to stay blonde, I thought of Marilyn Monroe, history's favourite beauty icon.

I thought that her Legacy alone would be enough to remind me of why I dyed my hair in the first place. Instead, I was reminded of a woman described as the quintessential victim of the male. Monroe's image was controlled by Hollywood producers throughout her career, and she was viewed as nothing more than a body by the public. This body is rumoured to have an IQ higher than Albert Einstein.

This body owns a collection of over 400 books spanning a multitude of genres. From art to psychology, Marilyn had read and even annotated it all. Her books were a refuge from her insomnia and haunting memories of sexual assault. Well, she was obviously still a smart, powerful woman. Marilyn was subject to copious amounts of dismissal and sexualization. That wasn't how I wanted my life to be.

I needed to turn it down a little, literally. I decided to leave the blonde me behind and book a hair. And so began my expensive and damaging experiment with a variety of hair colours, each one obviously having an outstanding impact on my life. I walked out of the salon the day of my appointment with a fiery new confidence to match my hair. No one could stop me. I was a redhead.

I felt just like Taylor Swift in her iconic 'Bad Blood' music video. My new attitude had come at just the right time as well. I had recently been elected as a student council representative. I showed up to my first meeting with an extensive list of the changes I wanted to implement at school-- study workshop for seniors, new bubblers, and a ban on side ponytails. My teacher was impressed by my assertiveness and happy to help me execute my suggestions.

However, even though it is pretty much universally agreed that clumpy mascara is, in fact, offensive, I apparently could not enforce rules based on what I personally thought to be fashion crimes. On the plus side, study workshops and bubbles were soon to be added to my long list of legacies at Cammeraygal High School. Little did I know my fellow representatives were not as happy with how the meeting went as I was. They spread around the school that I was bossy, that I spoke too much, and that I had gained weight since last term. Way harsh, right? So harsh, in fact, that I was reminded of fellow redhead Julia Gillard's time as PM.

She was really nice for not conforming to the mould of a quiet childbearing woman, and the size of her behind got more media coverage than the size of the bill she was passing. What's disappointing is that this culture can still be seen today in parliament. It is clear that women are still being treated as less than when the prime minister stands by a man accused of rape, when sexual assault is only unacceptable because the victim was a man's wife, daughter, sister, or mother, when women are raped in parliament, full stop.

But no matter what, I still wanted to be part of the SRC. I decided that if maybe I was a little less confrontational, I'd be able to get what I wanted without being ridiculed. So naturally, I turned to my hairdresser for help. Guided by her advice, I decided to go with something a little more subtle this time, a simple brown Bob. Of course, I only had some highlights put in, a keratin treatment, a few layers here and there, and some bangs because I needed the simplicity.

On the first day back at school, I was totally convinced that this quiet brunette persona was a big step in the right direction. No one thought I was too dumb or too bossy, and I slid perfectly under the radar. In English class, my teacher posed a question about the text we were reading. My head shot up, and I answered so eloquently and in such detail that I thought the class might burst out in applause by the time I'd finished.

They didn't, but nonetheless, the boy in my class chimed in to agree with me, summarising my point in a blunt sentence. The teacher smiled, nodded, and said, 'Excellent work, James.' Had the teacher gone deaf or mad? I mean, I might as well have been Rosalind Franklin, a woman who not only mastered professional short brown hair but also the study of DNA. I had essentially produced the Photo 51 of Macbeth analysis, and just like Rosalind, a boy named James had taken credit for my work, except in Rosalind's case, James had received a Nobel Prize.

Like a lot of other people in my life, too, you might be thinking that I am once again being dramatic, but this disregard continued throughout the whole day. In math, French, history, my words were only perceived as intelligent or even significant when coming out of a mountain mouth. And I'm not the only woman this happens to. In fact, there are a lot of women who have it much worse than me.

Take Black women as an example, whose hair are weaponized in other and so many facets of life. Not only are Black women themselves defeminized and fetishized, but their hair isn't even acknowledged as most hairdressers in Australia aren't even trained to style it. And here I was feeling sorry for myself because I was disregarded by teachers when women of colour are not only disregarded by teachers but hairdressers as well. I mean, prior to this, I saw hairdressers as some of the very few people who did good in this world. And now, I have no choice but to see them as equals to my educators.

At this point, I would normally dye my hair again, but there were no colours left, and God knows I wasn't about to have a Britney Spears moment and shaved my head. I realised that no matter what I did or look like, I would always be a woman. It didn't matter what type of woman either. I could be sweetly feminine, bold and outspoken, or quiet and sophisticated. But in the end, no highlighter hair treatments were going to save me for misogyny. Although, I assure you they do have other magical qualities.

I was blaming myself and other women for being 'too sexualized,' 'too confrontational,' and 'too easy to disregard' when really the problem was that society was too patriarchal. Much like my speech, this was not about my hair. This was about misogyny. I wasted so much time and hair dye compromising myself to avoid sexist labels when really I should have been calling them out. No woman will ever be able to embody misogynistic standards. Only a man can do that. Now I've realised this. I realised what is worth dying for, and sexist labels certainly isn't that. Thank you.

JUSTINE CLARKE: Our next speaker is Nikki Han. Nikki is in Year 10 at Queenwood, and her speech is called women are powerful.

NIKKI HAN: I've 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 of 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 the Northern Territory 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 the violence. One study in New York found that 17% of sex workers had 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 two-fold. 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 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 Kimberly 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 marched 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.

JUSTINE CLARKE: OK. Our final speaker for the prepared section is Telesha King Neville. Telesha is in Year 11 at Tumut High School, and her speech is called I'm sorry because this matters. Welcome, Telesha.

TELESHA KING NEVILLE: As a proud Wiradjuri woman, I have been reflecting on the time indigenous peoples have been apologised to. That led me to question how much white the words 'I'm sorry' have. After all, I'm sure we've heard it many times before. Kevin Rudd apologised on the 26th of May 2008 for the ongoing segregation and removal of children from their homes. But more indigenous children are being taken away today than during the Stolen Generation period.

Sorry is meant to mean you won't do it again, right? In 2020, more than 8 times as many children were in and out of home care than when the Bringing Them Home Report was initially published. Ironic, isn't it? On May 28, 2000, 250,000 people walked across the harbour bridge as part of National Reconciliation Day. A plane wrote the word sorry in the sky as white citizens walked across in harmony.

Lots of people seem to talk the talk, but few seem to willingly walk the walk. An apology is not an apology when no action is taken. Those words that are written in the sky that float away in the wind don't have an anchor point in the ground. We need the words to have meaning, to not just disappear in a puff of smoke when the wind changes.

I'm hoping to encourage to inspire, to awaken a desire, to take that first step, to empower the words associated with apologies or the act of being sorry to enable us to walk together. So I personally want to apologise. I want to sincerely apologise to anyone, who has been insulted, who's experienced violence, or anyone who has experienced negativity based on a feature that they cannot change within themselves. The constant violence sprawled across the world by the very people who swear to protect. The very people who pledge an oath to protect society only doing the complete opposite.

Discriminating citizens by features so simple that society dubs as dangerous to a small characteristic, the pigmentation of one's skin colour. As a proud young Wiradjuri woman in this ever-changing society, I am sickened. I am outraged that we, as a collective society, still experience outdated bigotry.

In this modern society, we expect the world to be educated on the injustice, and unequal opportunities minorities have been exposed to and segregated against for centuries. Our society is constantly evolving, but the stereotypes, beliefs, and ideologies remain severely outdated. And yet, first-world countries claim to be equal. They claim to eradicate these old ideologies. And I claim that statement as a complete fallacy.

I want to clarify I do not at all doubt every single officer under the system as corrupt. The reputation of all police being immoral is completely unwarranted because every systems of foundations are bound to present individuals who manifest the reputation towards the image and title of the group. Instead of attacking the system, I am addressing the flaws. I'm addressing the issues to make a change. Instead of remaining ignorant, instead of filtering the world through a myopic lens warping to maintain the image one seeks, I am perceiving the world how it is in its own actualization.

Most people in this world are drowning in that delusional ignorance without knowing that the suffering was inflicted by one another and, more importantly, themselves. Equality, the state of being equal, especially in status rights or opportunities. Veronica Marie Nelson Walker, Zachary Rolfe, Tanya Day-- the list goes on and on for indigenous members of society that have been murdered due to police brutality or have died in prison.

Tanya Day was arrested after falling asleep intoxicated on public transport. She was not bothering anyone and not harming anyone, and she was still deemed a threat towards society. She was held in a cell and neglected like an animal. The officers did not maintain enough attention towards her, and she sustained a head injury.

She had been bleeding in her brain for 5 hours before an ambulance was called as a result of the traumatic injuries she sustained when she was unnoticed in her cell. She passed away 22 days later after never regaining consciousness. But the situation would have been different had she been white. Had she been white, she would have been left alone on the transportation as she wasn't intentionally harming or bothering anyone. Did you see that one in the news?

Media coverage in Australia focuses primarily on American police brutality, yet the media and high new sources choose to ignore or neglect the issue situated in our own backyard. These victims deserve coverage too. 51 indigenous Australians have been killed by police brutality since 2008, the very year Kevin Rudd apologised. There have been also 437 deaths in police custody since 1991.

437 people who could have lived long, fulfilling lives but now 6 foot underground as we speak. 6 foot deep, muffled from the stories as the dirt consumes and burying them deeper and deeper below the surface, bringing us further and further away from reasoning with their pleading cries for help. And yet, no one can hear them crying. No one can hear them pleading. No one can hear them begging, begging for recognition for the dead.

Aboriginal imprisonment rates have more than doubled since the early 1990s, and yet the media and high news sources choose to ignore and neglect the current issue situate in our own backyard. Not one police officer has ever been held-- sorry, not one officer has ever been held criminally responsible for an Aboriginal death in Australia. 'I can't breathe.' George Floyd pleaded on numerous accounts before his life ended. The same words begged 12 times by David Dungay Jr, an indigenous man.

On December 29, 2015, David died in Sydney's Long Bay gaol after guards rushed to his cell to prevent him from eating a biscuit, carried into another cell, held him face down, and injected him with a sedative. 'I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe!' He begged 9 more times before his life ended.

Over the last 15 years in New South Wales, the rate of indigenous arrest has declined by nearly 37%. Although the statistics are decreasing, the incarceration and wrongful convictions are increasing, a prime example of institutional racism. Aboriginal people are more likely to enter the prison system at a younger age due to overpolicing. Massively, indigenous peoples comprise almost 30% of the Australian inmate population but less than 3% of the Australian population, according to the Australian National Bureau of statistics. It's about 4 times higher than the proportion of African-Americans gaoled in the US.

Finally, at the peak of the pandemic, recognition for this heinous crime arose. George Floyd's death had stricken public outrage for this ongoing event of police brutality. Derek Chauvin, killer of George Floyd, justifies the killing of him, saying that he felt threatened in the process of arrest. But George clearly showed no aggravation in the footage, instead pleading on numerous accounts to simply be given access to breathe.

'Mamma, mamma, mamma.' 9 minutes, 9 long minutes it took for him to die, for his suffering to end. Those long 9 minutes, he constantly pleaded for air. Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 22 and 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd. He's now being held accountable.

George Floyd inspired the Black Lives Matter movement to move worldwide, to highlight the wrongdoing not only by officers but the public towards the treatment of Indigenous and coloured members of society, to address the past instead of remaining oblivious as we've been doing for so long. We are starting to open our eyes. I am pleased to see my culture introduced within my community. At the schoolwise level, we have introduced a programme called [? quanta ?] to help inform and highlight how important my traditions and cultures are to present the significance and to eradicate these views.

Change is happening gradually nationally. And as a young adult, I dread the inevitable of growing up. In simple terms, I'm terrified. But change is possessing our society each and every day and could compile into the domino effect of eradicating these older ideologies. By educating the public on these events to use as a stepping stone to form into a nurturing society.

Instead of walking away from fear, prejudices, and stereotypes, we need to learn to walk forward towards those who are different rather than walking away in fear or disgust. I am bitter with the current state of the world. I am so sorry to all the victims who have now become a statistic, but I will never ever apologise, pleading to stand here to make a change because you matter. We matter. They matter. And I'm sorry because this matters. Thank you.

EMILY ADAMSON: I was on a weekly phone call to my mother when I couldn't help but realise the tired eyes and tiredness in her voice. It seemed that she was feeling the heat of online learning, as we all are, to be honest. But see, my mother is a teacher. And this particular online environment sprung upon us yet again has meant that teachers who already were feeling the heat of their occupation are being stressed and forced into this stress.

And so today, I'd like to address why teachers are feeling the heat of online learning, not just online learning but even prior to that why they were feeling the heat and a simple way that we can all help them out of this and help release the heat that they're under. So obviously, online learning, everyone hates it, including pretty much the entirety of greater Sydney as we see lots of students saying. But teachers, in particular, have been forced to adapt their classrooms to new environments and forced to become engaging. And yet again, we're seeing these teachers working so much in order to be able to come up with this.

Now already prior to all of this happening, teachers were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression in a study done by an American University. But on top of the pandemic, this has only truly been exacerbated. The lack of a work-life balance has really put teachers under the heat yet again as home and school have not had a separation. And this is something that every single one of us are experiencing, but particularly relevant to teachers and important to teachers, because these are the people educating our children and passing on their knowledge to them.

And so under the heat of stress and all of these things amalgamating and [? nessa ?] notifications coming through, teachers are struggling. And so obviously, we need to come up with a way to have teachers released from this heat. And one of the ways that I've seen this done is in Vietnam. Back in the Longhorn days of international travel, I was lucky enough to go there and see a celebration of National Teachers Day. These teachers even momentarily were released from the heat because students were coming to their houses, celebrating, giving them presents and chocolates and sharing times together that had lasted with them for a long time.

Showing this appreciation to teachers is something that is so important to them. Now while we might not be able to celebrate big events like National teachers Day in Australia currently, even just small moments of appreciation for these people under so much stress and heat can be so important. Ultimately, I want to leave you with this. We may not be able to get rid of the tired eyes and the tired voices of our teachers who are so under the heat and under the pump, but by showing just a small amount of appreciation, reaching out, giving them a nice email can mean and brighten their day. And it can mean for us that teachers are less likely to be able to be under the heat.

SIMONE ALLEN: An endless, scrolling feed of pure white walls, succulents, monster plants, white bedsheets. Minimalism is the hottest new trend sweeping social media pressuring people into obtaining this 0 waste lifestyle with names like Marie Kondo flagging the headlines. And as always, with the arrival of a new trend in social media presence, people have this fear of missing out. They're really feeling the heat when it comes to realism, especially because of the particular promotion of a guilt-free white lifestyle that it promotes.

But we've really got to think about why it is we find it so easy to conform to this idea of minimalism? Traditionally, humans are beings that like to obtain stuff. We like shopping. We like capitalism. I think we've got to question why we feel so pressured to attain a lifestyle that in previous years we've completely rejected.

So minimalism has been spreading throughout websites like Twitter and TikTok, and more people are taking up the supposedly 0 waste healthy good for the environment lifestyle. People are saying that people living these lives that are supposedly good for the environment, good for your mental health, and well-being and they're really feeling the heat take this up because it seems in and of itself a good idea. But I think internet realism and this trend of 0 waste isn't as helpful as we think, and it really leaves us feeling the heat in more ways than one.

So, first of all, minimalism on the internet still feeds into our classic capitalist shopping cycle. It still has the same cycle of getting rid of our old stuff to buy new stuff. Getting rid of your old stuff to replace it with new white bedsheets and maybe a tapestry in the back and some succulents isn't really the 0 waste white lifestyle that this aesthetic on the internet is promoting. People are really feeling pressured to continually buy these stuff to fit this new minimalist aesthetic. And that's really being fed into by fast fashion companies such as Kmart and Forever 21.

But we're also going to be feeling the heat in a more literal sense. Forgive the pun, but with fast fashion companies digging their fingers into this ominous trend, we'll literally be feeling the heat from these guilt-free purchases as we toss clothes and landfill and we burn these fossil fuels produce nylon clothing that creates this clean 0 waste aesthetic. So I think, as always, we need to be mindful about our spending. It's particularly high with the minimalist trend because there's so much pressure around it and almost a shaming if you don't join onto this trend. It leaves people burning with shame.

I know personally, when you turn up to school in Muffy Day, it's always a bit of a contest about who's got the best aesthetic. And minimalism is really unhelpful in this sense because it leaves people so pressured to have this guilt-free lifestyle when the reality is the minimalism we're seeing right now in the internet is just a trend. It's a fad. And it's not really what we think it is. So I think it's time to metaphorically turn the air con on so that we're feeling a bit less of the heat to join into just another internet fad that'll inevitably damage the environment and ourselves.

GEORGE TEASDELL: A rainy day the other day. The sidewalk or path I was walking on had a large puddle next to it, and I was being a bit wary of it. Didn't want to slip over. Shouldn't have been wary enough, though, because as I was walking with my shopping bags, just like a movie, a car came crashing past and splashed me cinematically with water.

Ah! I took in the car in my shock. And I noticed it was a impossibly low riding Holden Commodore with a bunch of teenagers inside it blasting music. But once the shock had faded and my ears had caught up to the situation, I noticed it was actually blasting the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. This bumping Baroque bass lines had an instant cognitive dissonance with me. How a teenage delinquents listening to this kind of music and find me really consider the role of aggressive media and whether it fuels the flames and feels-- whether it fuels the flames-- sorry. The role of aggressive media as a release.

If we can feel hate through consuming small amounts of rap and violent video games, does that keep our lives safely in the cold or to rap violent video games aggressive media give us a taste and fuel the fire of angst that leads to violence? In the famous Rat Park experiment, rodents in a habitat that were given the choice between a poisoned toxic but addictive water source and normal water chose the normal water when they were in the safe environment with plenty of activities and plenty of rats around them. But the rodents in the dangerous environment when they were isolated with no activities always chose the toxic water.

I believe that if we can feel the safety of our own homes as we play the violence and expose ourselves to the violence of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, it means that we get to feel the heat in small amounts so that the flames don't have to be released when we go out into the world. I questioned if these teenagers had been listening to rap, violently spitting about shooting and drugs, would they have splashed me more? Would they have run me over? Or would they have avoided me because they got their release already from the aggressive media that they were listening to? They got to feel the heat in small amounts. So they could keep their lives cold and have a good time.

I believe that we should let ourselves feel the hate in small amounts and then tape our lives safely chilly and cool.

ELLIE DOBLE: Privacy in the digital age is feeling the heat. I even would go to argue that it's been set on in flames. There's a mega blaze because privacy is now synonymous with secrecy, and not only is it no longer a fundamental right instead of privilege. How did we get here? Well, when I tell my friends that I don't turn on my location services, that I have Siri off. I don't let any microphones be listening to me throughout the day, obviously, I'm often put in a hot seat of questions, and I'm the one feeling the heat for being paranoid.

What have I got to hide? Who cares if Apple knows where I live, right? And this seems to be the mindset among not only most people in my generation but also just today generally. People willingly give up their location, their address, their name, health details, who their boyfriend is, who their grandpa is, all this very personal information to Apple, to Google with no real thought behind it.

However, most of us didn't have a panic attack if our dads that scrolling after we send him a photo. Most of us will not even leave our bedroom door open. Meanwhile, our virtual bedroom door has been taken off its hinges by big companies such as Apple and Google. And what's the big deal, right? What do we have to hide?

The thing is, lack of privacy is a big aspect of certain dystopian imagined futures. Take 1984 by George Orwell as an example, even Handmaid's Tale. We often theorise about this lack of privacy in a very negative light but seem to be totally complacent when giving it up in the name for optimization or convenience online.

You might be saying, what if we can get inscription services, a VPN, to protect us from this cultural shift away from privacy and instead seeing it as secrecy? However, doesn't this mean that big corporations have managed to turn privacy into a privilege? Not everyone can afford a VPN. Not everyone can afford a photo encryption services.

I think this is really telling of a dystopian future that we're heading towards. We only need to look at how entitled people feel to the lives of celebrities in today, online today, to be aware of this. So it's absolutely vital that we cool down on pri-- we cool down privacy and be wary and less complacent when it comes to giving up our privacy and making it synonymous with secrecy. Thank you.

NIKKI HAN: I'm only 15 years old so I have a long time to live my life, but I'm kind of already feeling the heat and feeling uncomfortable about getting old. And part of it is the memory loss, the lack of mobility, the being unable to move because my joints hurt too much. But for the most part, it's because the recent revelations, made by the recent Royal Commission, into aged care made me feel the heat and feel really uncomfortable about our current aged care system. It made some shocking revelations that reveal that our aged care system is feeling the heat.

So what did the Royal Commission actually say? It said a few main problems were with our system. For example, that there were a lack of workers in comparison to the number of elderly people who needed help, resulting in a large number-- a huge amount of neglect. It revealed that our workers, who we already have, were underpaid and overworked. It revealed that the system-- the waiting list for the system meant that so many elderly people were not even guaranteed access to the system. It's clear that our aged care system is feeling the heat.

And the fact that it made a total of 148 different recommendations shows just how hot it is right now. It said that we should do things like improve staff ratios, regulate for profit providers, and move to a rights-based model that sets inviolable standards for the treatment of elderly people in this country. And with the impact of COVID, the impacts are exacerbated. The system is feeling even more heat. For example, the staff shortages that we already have meant that protective equipment was applied inadequately, resulting in so many easily preventable cases in the elderly community. And the fact that there were visitor bans meant that so many people couldn't even talk to or see their families for months and are still continuing to be affected.

Look, it might seem odd for a young person like myself to be so interested in our aged care system, but I'm already feeling the heat. It's because aged care affects everyone, not just yourself as you get old. It affects your parents, and it affects your grandparents, and affects their treatment. And if the system is feeling the heat, it's not just the person who needs the care who is affected. It puts stress on people, especially women, to take on unpaid care work in order to provide for their families. And that is a problem.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We can stop feeling the heat and we can cool down the system to make sure everyone receives the correct amount of care. Because aged care facilities in other parts of the world are incredible. It's seen as a universal part of all of our experiences, so it's seen as a universal investment. So what can we do to stop feeling the heat and to remove the burden on our system?

We can begin by implementing all 148 recommendations made by the Royal Commission. And to their credit, the government has allocated a sufficient amount in their budget for the aged care system. We can go further, set our sights higher, by looking at international comparisons so our system isn't feeling the heat, and asking what we really want for ourselves and our families. Thank you.

TELESHA KING NEVILLE: As lockdowns are mandated, families are constricted to the environment of their home. They are locked in this one area where they are confined, trapped, enclosed, confined in a small area. Confined to the areas in their small homes. As families are mandated to stay home in the COVID lockdowns, the world around us we are focusing more on. These families that are trapped in their own homes that should be viewed as a safe haven, can sometimes be a family's or a woman's worst nightmare.

They are feeling the heat confined in that small space, especially from the people who was meant to love them, who was meant to maintain their sanity through these lockdowns, their partner. As these women are trapped in their homes, as they feel the heat, the heat circulates and evolves and erupts into this inferno. Into this inferno of violence. 2 in 5 women experience domestic violence in Australia. 2 in 5 women out of hundreds and thousands of people who are currently mandated to stay at home.

75% of domestic violence cases are situated in the home. No one can see through them. No one can see through these walls. There is no transparency as the heat erupts further and further, enclosing to the roof. As the heat rises, they can feel it overwhelming them as their partner's words taunt them, as their partner's words and violence sprawls around them.

The COVID pandemic helps ignore the current epidemic victims are played within their home. 3.4 women in Australia are estimated to experience domestic violence, which is an alarming rate. Which, with the pandemic, that would potentially increase. It would potentially increase and no one can save these women. No one can hear their voices screaming and pleading. 1 woman in Australia is killed weekly due to this epidemic, and yet we're more focused on the pandemic outside. More focused on what really is going to kill us, which is already killing 1 woman weekly.

Feeling the heat, as they are trapped and enclosed in these small spaces. No one can hear them, as the heat erupts, as the heat rises. Their words are vanished, their words are decreased and diminishes away, as they are feeling the heat, overwhelmed in this erupting inferno. We need to open the doors to let the heat out, to let this heat out, so we can see and view into those homes for those poor women.

We need to help let the heat out, as they are feeling the heat, being burnt and burnt and burnt. They are trapped in the heat, feeling the heat. Thank you.

JUSTINE CLARKE: I am going to now hand over and introduce one of our adjudicators, Justin Lai, who is going to deliver the adjudication and announce our winner.

JUSTIN HAU WAI LAI: All right. So first of all, I got to say that it is a privilege to listen in and adjudicate on a state final of any kind in the public speaking calendar. Just to hear the ability of people in all respects, whether it's something that they've been working on for many months or something that they're working on in 3 minutes, I think the ability demonstrated by all speakers was absolutely exceptional today.

And combined with the fact that not only they had to do something that, in any normal conventional year is hard, that they had to do it during a year with so many interruptions, that they had to do it with an enduring change to format. All of those things mean that this year's final is exceptional, not only just because of the content they delivered, but the circumstances they've had to deliver it in. So I'd just like to provide one more round of applause for all of the speakers and the things that they've done this year.

In any respects, I think that this final was-- and I think the adjudication panel would concur-- was a very well done high quality final. And I'll prepare the feedback as follows. So we'll start off with our comments on the prepared and impromptu sections. We'll look at the things that all speakers said well and some of the things, that we thought generally across the board, speakers could take into account and move on in future competitions or speeches with. And then we'll go to the winner, as we always do, because we hate and don't want to keep you in suspense.

So in terms of the prepared speeches, we thought, across the board as a panel, that every speech had a really strong connection between the personal and the analytical. I think they did really good jobs at making attempts to make sure that the reasons they cared for certain matters and topics was spelled out in their speeches. And I think, not only that was demonstrated through things, like the passion and the eloquence of their delivery, but the way in which they were able to dive into their topics with a lot of fervour and bring us stuff and information that, in many ways, the panel was interested to hear about and also didn't necessarily know about before.

I think, in terms of general pieces of feedback that the panel had, we had some general questions and comments on structure. So in a lot of instances, speeches would endeavour to sort of reveal their hand, like very late in the speech, i.e. They would reveal a turn of face or a slightly different approach to the way in which they were thinking about the topic. Often at times, this was something which had a great effect on the audience, but the panel thought that if they could bring that earlier or maybe work it in slightly more persuasively into the speech as to sort of elicit more of a conversation and 76 consideration on the idea itself, rather than sort of using and mining it's sort of necessary shock value. It would have been really effective in those regards.

And then the second thing that we would say, as feedback to the finalists, we would sort of note that, generally across the board, people tended to prioritise things like rhetorical tricks that would get a sort of flair over clarity. I would sort of personally note that it is called the Plain English Speaking Award, and whilst we do really appreciate these attempts of really being clever and being rhetorical and doing great Ciceronian impression, sometimes we really thought that speeches could have done a bit better by looking simply at analysis, breaking down a topic, breaking of the logic of the topic, breaking down examples in why things matter and why people in the audience should care about them demonstrably.

And that all sort of feeds generally into the idea of analysis, and examples in all these kinds of things feed into the ultimate goal of our speech, in general, which is to have an original take on a topic that people have heard about. And I think that, in terms of focusing on that idea of analysis of breaking things down, sometimes you may need to necessarily sacrifice things, like rhetorical personality.

But in terms of that, that was all we had to say, in terms of the prepared speeches. In terms of the impromptus, I would just sort of broadly explain the logic of the topic, as the panel saw it. Feeling the heat generally indicates some sort of pressure and in terms of how it would play out, at least, in the minds of, say, the people seeing the impromptu. It would look like considering things like, what does the pressure look like? How do we combat that pressure before it 'bursts into flames'?

I'll just note, as before we get into it, I think we were very glad that no one talked about the very easy sort of Bay topic of the IPCC report on global warming. We were very glad that all speakers endeavoured to consider the topic deeply in terms of how it related to what they knew and what they understood, and not just sort of take topics that were sort of quite intuitive and that maybe a lot of people would have talked about. So we would commend them on that basis.

Generally, as I sort of just as then noted, all the impromptus had a really strong variety and creative interpretations on topics. However, the panel did sort of note that, in many ways in hand in hand with that, sometimes it prevented a stronger link to the topic. At times the links were tenuous and a little superficial. And I think that that is sort of combated by thinking a little bit more about the logic of the topic, i.e. what does the topic necessarily demand? What do said phrase of the topic mean? How can you even iterate on the topic?

So for example, adding certain maybe appendages or even turns of phrase to the initial conception of what you're talking about, in order to make the point that you're making stronger by even demonstrating, for example, what could be the worst case situation that could happen? What are some great situations that could happen if we work maybe to combat necessarily feeling the heat by, and as a lot of speakers noted, cooling things down?

But yeah, that's our general feedback in terms of the impromptu section. So now we move on to the winner. In terms of they're prepared, we thought this speaker highlighted a very serious urgent topic and presented it in a clear and genuine way. We thought the speaker should be commended on their ability to wade into the issue and provide a really nuanced take on the matter, drawing from lots of different examples across the globe and also within Australia domestically.

We thought that, just as a small piece of personal. As feedback, we would note that the speaker could have done a little bit more to link in terms of their personal experience to the way they conceived of the topic. But the speaker did a great attempt of that anyways.

And in terms of their impromptu, they did a really good job. In a sort of similar kind of thematic way of highlighting a very prevalent topic, looking not only to the reasons why that people should care about it as sort of as something that affects people as well as themselves, generally speaking, but also looking to solutions. I think they did a really good job ultimately of caring about the logic of their topic in correlation to their speech. And ultimately delivered a really satisfying impromptu.

So without further ado-- I'll maybe stage a little drum roll, but you can do a fake little drumming of the things if you'd like-- but the winner of this year's 2021 Plain English Speaking final is Nikki Han.

OK, that's it from the panel. Again, I would just like to emphasise, just on a personal note, that the Plain English Speaking Award is incredibly prestigious, and the fact that you hit the final round. You were the best 6 speakers in the senior division in New South Wales. That is incredibly impressive.

And that should no longer take away from anything that you guys have done. All 6 of you are amazing public speakers. And whether your public speaking journey is coming to an end or whether it is merely just beginning, we think that you have an amazing potential to do wonderful things for the world and for public speaking, hopefully, in the future. So yeah, great job. And as always, thank you so much for the privilege of your speeches.

JUSTINE CLARKE: Thanks so much, Justin, and thank you, adjudication panel. I know that was a really difficult decision with 6 such fine speakers. A final congratulations to Nikki. Well done. We'll be talking to you about the National Final soon.

Again, all of you should be very proud of yourselves. There will be, obviously, a video of this whole state final, so guests who weren't able to see the impromptus section, you'll be able to see all of that when the video is released. And we'll let you know as soon as that is all put together and edited.

But thank you so much, everybody, for joining us today. If any of the speakers would like some more feedback from the adjudicators, you're welcome to stay back and we can pair you up with some of the adjudicators to get that extra feedback. Everybody else, thank you so much for joining us. And that's it for today.

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