What a momentous occasion it was last Monday morning when no less than nineteen students presented speeches to the School, as the last stage of the annual Elizabeth M Butt Public Speaking Award.
Every year, the Elizabeth M Butt programme begins in the English classroom, where early in Term 3, each student from Years 6 – 11 researches, writes and presents a speech to class. The class then votes for two of their number to speak in Assembly, and on that occasion, adjudicators select the best performance to appear in the Final. In other words, what the audience sees at this third stage is the result of whittling down approximately three hundred girls to nineteen.
This year’s Final began, as it always does, with the Year 6 and 7 students delivering their individual versions of the topic ‘What I Love’ or ‘What I Would Love’. What an impressive bunch they were and so well-rehearsed. Older students – take note! These girls explained why they are passionate about things ranging from travel, to reading literature, or why it would be a good idea for someone to invent a ‘consequences’ button whereby we can renege on past decisions.
Public Speaking Captain Mona Lisa Taouk then introduced the Year 8 and 9 students who, in the persona of a famous Australian, argued why they should be the sole passenger to survive on a sinking balloon. Gough Whitlam with his booming wit and acerbic asides to his parliamentary foes, alongside an earnest and fragile Truganina, writer and disability advocate Stella Young, and others, made for a very diverse and eccentric group of Australians, each pleading to survive the fateful balloon journey.
After giving the audience a moment to shake themselves, having listened already for more than an hour, Mona Lisa went on to introduce the Senior girls. Six Year 10 and 11 students delivered their interpretations of the phrase ‘The Big Picture’. The content of these speeches proved to be as eccentric and original as the girls themselves, including a startling comparison between terrorism and half and orange, and the welcome revelation to many in the audience that students can leave school at the end of Year 10. The standard of these presentations was outstanding; as the senior students in the competition, the audience could literally witness the maturity in public speaking skills and performance, developed over years of Elizabeth M Butt participation.
To conclude the morning, Yelena Yang and Inez Trambas gave performances as the Elaine Warne Spotlight Speakers. These presentations are not included in the formal adjudication process but are selected as exceptional speeches given in the classroom. It was gratifying to have Mrs Elaine Warne present in the audience; it was Mrs Warne who, at the bequest of former Principal Mrs Deborah Seifert, instigated and developed the programme.
Guest adjudicator Mr Nick Franich, Head of English at Xavier College, was kept extremely busy. Nominating a winner in each category was never going to be easy but eventually a decision had to be made. After commenting on each separate performance, punctuated by pertinent and humorous remarks, Mr Franich nominated Hannah Ogawa as the winner of the Junior section, Rosie Batty (Jacqueline Xavier) intermediate winner and Gayatri Chaturvedi (Year 10) as Cup winner.
Thank you Mrs Deborah Seifert, former Principal, for visiting the School for the occasion, as she often does; we appreciate it. It was delightful to have retired teachers Mrs Warne, Mrs Elaine Boucher and Mrs Liz Bradlow in the audience as well. Thankyou Mona Lisa for being such a gracious and poised Mistress of Ceremonies. While Miss Elizabeth Butt was unable to attend, the winning speakers will give their presentations to her personally at a special luncheon.
We will leave the final words to Mrs Elaine Warne: The range of topics was fresh and notable for the grasp of both philosophical points as well as vital current affairs. I was glad to see some really effective use of gesture in some speeches. Each girl at Fintona is enriched by the programme, both as performer and listener and it is a jewel in Fintona’s crown, shining more sparklingly each year.