Thursday, 3 November 2022

Welcome everyone to Government House.

Rod and I are delighted to host you for this presentation ceremony.

In particular, I am delighted to meet you tonight for the first time as Governor and in my role as Patron.

As I look around the room and see so many vibrant young debaters, it brings back memories of my own High School days in Adelaide.

Like you I was a debater, and I must admit that I found the experience quite nerve wracking at times, but I was able to find the fun elements as well.

Yes, it often took me out of my comfort zone, but I am grateful that through debating I learned the fine art of persuasion – taking an issue, advocating for one side, replying to contrary arguments – and of course the thrill of winning.

I also learned to consider both sides of an argument. I enjoyed the intellectual rigour of advocating for a position that you might not personally hold yourself.

These skills all came in handy many times throughout my career path: as a diplomat advocating Australia’s interests overseas, as an economics adviser offering options arising from data, as a government advisor recommending policy alternatives.

In my role as Governor I am privileged to meet many leaders in our community: politicians, judges, Kings Counsels, and it’s fascinating to know that many of them were debaters in their earlier lives.

So, for those whose jobs rely greatly on words, advocacy, and a well-honed message, debating is a firm foundation.

It can take you many places, including as some here found, the floor of the House of Assembly for the Secondary School Grand Final debates.

To all the award winners here tonight, I congratulate you on a successful 2022 season.

Alongside schoolwork and the disruptions of COVID, you have shown commitment and resilience. I well know that long hours were spent preparing for debates: researching, writing talking points, learning to work as a team and supporting each other during debates.

Your debates have had much relevance to today’s issues that are front and centre in our daily media and we are weighing up the pros and cons as a society:

  • That Australian primary school students should cook and serve lunch
  • That we should change our preferential voting system to “first past the post”
  • That the use of facial recognition technology in a retail setting is going too far
  • That nuclear energy in Australia should be an option.

By debating topics such as these we are taken from the here and now. Debate enables us to examine questions beyond the status quo and resultant good, thoughtful argument can ultimately influence our innovation and progress.

This year you took part in the largest competition in South Australia, with 318 debating teams representing 65 primary and secondary schools across Adelaide involving 1,500 students.

That’s both a personal and collective milestone.

I would like to thank the teachers, parents for being behind you for the successes and the challenges.

I also thank Debating SA for championing the art of debate and supporting the aspirations of these young people by staging the competitions.

To the debaters, again congratulations.

I know the self confidence you have gained, the ability to think clearly under pressure and the analytical thinking skills you have demonstrated will stand you in good stead wherever your life will take you.