Debating & Public Speaking


As some of our competitions begin to transition online, it is reassuring to see our students’ agility and focus have not dwindled – they continue to seek out new opportunities in Debating and Public Speaking regardless of the forum.

Rhea Werner (Year 9) and Ava Colosimo (Year 10)

Making it to the last 13 students in the state to try out for the Victorian State Team, Year 10 student, Ava Colosimo carried with her the hopes of many aspiring debaters. Year 9 student, Rhea Werner also made it to the last twenty-four students in the state. These students returned to the Senior Debating program with sophisticated skills, which have benefited all of our eight Debating teams.

As we approach the final round of the Senior Debating season, we have two undefeated teams – Year 9 D Grade, Team 2 (Mattea Demetriou, Georgia Hennessy, Sienna Lonetti, Alice Molnar, Scarlet Westaway and Charlotte Wood); and Year 10 – C Grade, Team 1 (Ava Colosimo, Diya Kayick, Mia Krongold, Catherine Karas and Agnes Winzar-Sdraulig). We wish all our teams luck in the final round.

There is a great depth in the quality of our debaters so far this season, as reflected in our seventeen Best Speaker Awards:

Year 12 – Victoria Patsakos and Georgina Vote

Year 11 – Madeline Powell and Rosie Bogdan

Year 10 – Flora Du, Jemima Wilcox and Ava Colosimo (four times)

Year 9 – Olivia Hargrave (twice), Scarlet Westaway (twice), Charlotte Wood, Sophie Abbott and Georgia Hennessy.

Seeking new opportunities outside the Senior Debating program assists our debaters to refine their skills. Our students were also successful in the three-round debates in the DAV Women’s Competition. Experienced debater, Angela Yu (Year 11), was part of the team whose members were Runners Up for the day’s competition. Rhea Werner and Flora Du were also Best Speakers in the Years 9 and 10 levels respectively.

The Debaters’ Association of Victoria (the DAV) continues to provide opportunities for students to participate in online training sessions at the commencement of the year, as well as Debate Camps throughout the year. Students are also able to sign up for Senior British Parliamentary Debating in Term 3. Students interested in these should contact the Coordinator of Debating and Public Speaking, Ms Keratiotis.

Fostering a strong sense of support within the program, it is always heartening to observe students celebrating both individual and collective achievements. Embodying the spirit of giving back to the program, both in skill and time, are our Year 10 students who assist in coaching our Years 5 and 6 debaters. Our Year 11 students mentor younger students in Public Speaking and soon in Junior Debating. This structure allows our Senior School students to develop their organisational, coaching and leadership skills which they exercise with kindness and care.

We wish our Years 7 and 8 debaters the best of luck as they commence the Junior Debating season.

Public Speaking

Uniform and distinctive qualities, evident in the speeches of our Public Speaking students, are the confidence and sense of empowerment they possess to share issues affecting them deeply, with their audiences.

To this end, this year’s Rotary: Ainger Peck Public Speaking Award and the VCAA: Plain English Speaking Award, saw our students focus on topics as diverse as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, exploring the pollution of the ocean between Hawaii and California; and Freeing the Aboriginal Flag from Commercialisation.

Year 12, Allegra Dennison placed third at the Rotary: Ainger Peck Public Speaking Awards

Such mature issues were explored respectively by Year 11 students, Arabella Llewelyn and Madeline Powell. Our congratulations are also extended to Year 12 seasoned competitor, Allegra Dennison, who placed third in the final of this competition. Allegra spoke creatively, eloquently and passionately on the media’s erroneous representation of the streets being depicted as more unsafe for females than their homes or workplaces.

In the VCAA: Plain English Speaking Award, our Debating and Public Speaking Captain, Victoria Patsakos, spoke on the need for Australians to maintain civic engagement following the 2020 US elections and Year 11 student, Ciara Jenkins presented her views on the problematic representation of women in Hollywood.

All five students have been involved in Public Speaking since their junior years at St Catherine’s. They are strong examples of young women exploring topics affecting them uniquely. The girls are all prepared to add their voices to the multiplicity of views affecting their society and their place within it.

Younger students involved in Public Speaking can also see their personal growth in confidence and empowerment, gradually informing their own participation in the program. Year 10 students, Lucia Tabbagh, Jemima Wilcox, Charlotte Wood and Ava Colosimo, as well as Year 9 student, Rhea Werner represented St Catherine’s School admirably in the DAV Intermediate Public Speaking Competition.

Jemima Wilcox (Year 10)

Currently, St Catherine’s has fifteen committed students who have transitioned to an online internal Rostrum: Voice of Youth competition due to Covid restrictions. At the time of writing this article, the results of this were pending. Years 7 and 8 students have continued to develop their speeches and their impromptu skills as they await rescheduled dates for the DAV Junior Public Speaking Competition and the Legacy Junior Public Speaking Award.

Students interested in developing their skills in Public Speaking should ensure they contact their House Captains and Head of House to put themselves forward for the House Public Speaking Competition in Term 4.

Of course, such an extensive program cannot take place without the support of staff who devote their time, skill and energy to our students. My thanks go to the following staff for their professionalism, expertise and co-judging of the online Rostrum Competition: Mr James Brown, Ms Anita Dammery, Mrs Susan Duffy, Ms Kristy Forrest, Mr Paul Gilby, Mrs Lisa Gionfriddo, Ms Gillian Hosking, Ms Merran O’Connor, Miss Rebecca Reggars and Mrs Kim Waters.

Ms Mary-Anne Keratiotis, Coordinator of Debating and Public Speaking