Monday, 29 April 2024

2024 National Schools Debating Championship Reception

It is Rod’s and my great pleasure as Patron of Debating SA to welcome you all to Government House, the oldest Government House in Australia.

It is an accolade to represent your State. Congratulations everyone on your remarkable achievement in gaining a place in this prestigious national debating championship.

Your dedication to long hours of researching, writing, and honing your listening and articulation skills has resulted in you being here and competing alongside the best and brightest debaters.

Naturally, the opportunity to host you here this afternoon has brought memories of my own school days in Adelaide.

Like you I was a debater, and I must admit that although I often found the experience nerve wracking beforehand, once I was up on my feet and through the opening seconds, I loved it. I expect you recognise those feelings.

Through debating I learned about the art of persuasion, considering an issue, advocating for one side, and rebutting contrary arguments.

As a school debater I enjoyed the intellectual rigour of advocating for a position I might not have held myself.

I drew on these skills, and tried to keep honing them, many times throughout my career: as an economic researcher offering options arising from data; as a diplomat advocating Australia’s interests overseas; as an adviser to ministers and the prime minister recommending policy alternatives.

In my role as Governor, persuasion is not called for quite as much, and nor should it be given Governors stand aside from politics and policy, but I am privileged to meet many leaders in our community: politicians, judges, Kings Counsel who were debaters in their formative years.

Friends, if I may.

As young people it is important to engage with a wide range of ideas.

A strong, democratic society is built and maintained by citizens who are actively engaged, who have informed opinions and who seek out, listen to, and consider divergent voices.

You are growing up in the thick of the information age. In these times, it could be argued, critical thinking has never been more needed.

In today’s society we are bombarded with information, often heavily curated to our algorithm-led interests. The 24-hour news cycle and the explosion of social media are catalysts for rapid dissemination of information.

But regrettably, such platforms can also be used for spreading misinformation and disinformation, for glorifying violence and feeding disrespect, grievance, and hatred.

We as a community currently find ourselves in the midst of one of our periodic debates about such issues. No doubt you have your own views, as you should.

More widely, through your competition debates, you will examine the social, political, international, scientific, legal, economic, and ethical issues of our times.

The intellectual rigour you harness through these debates will be invaluable to you well beyond the competition arena.

The skills you learn through such discourse, by articulating ideas with clarity and conviction, by arguing intelligently and respectfully from differing viewpoints, and engaging within a team, will stand you in good stead all your lives.

One day we may find you sitting on the legal bench, or on the Parliamentary benches, or representing Australia’s interests in many forums, or be known as intelligent advocates and opinion leaders.

The possibilities before you are limitless.


I thank the South Australian Debating Association for hosting the national championships and for its stewardship of the school’s competition in South Australia.

Thank you to the coaches and adjudicators for bringing your valuable skills and insights to the competition.

And behind the scenes, thank you to the students’ families, teachers and friends for their encouragement and nurturing of talent.

I trust the debaters have enjoyed the first two of the seven round robin debates this week and are looking forward to the rest of the week’s debates.

I wish everyone well, particularly as these championships will select the Australian Schools’ Debating Team which will attend the 2024 World Schools Debating Championships in Belgrade.

Again, good luck. May your arguments always be concise, well-argued, and persuasive.

Coming events