Mary Stanfield Public Speaking Competition 2022

Posted on October 28, 2022

The Mary Stanfield Public Speaking Competition was held on Monday 24 October, with alumnus and former staff member, Mark Nicholson, as a guest Judge. The topic, ‘’The Clock is Ticking…’’, although generally not one that lent itself to humorous consideration, was engaged with in different ways by the student speakers. Speakers offered thought provoking presentations, asking their audience to consider what the future holds, how we look at the world, and how we view those who are not as fortunate as ourselves.

Elizabeth Ralph encouraged the audience to connect to their personal experiences, to put their phones down and take the chance to engage with the best version of themselves; Zara Fenton provided food for thought through reflecting on the life of the condemned hero for whom the clock is ticking; and Lochie Angel prompted others to think about social conditioning and when is the best stage of life to create change for the future. 

Winner, Sahansa Udawatta’s powerful and balanced speech considered the darker side of human nature and reflected on what the world is coming to, alongside our own ability to heal it. She urged the audience to listen, reflect upon what that to which they have listened, and to act in a considered way.

In his concluding presentation, Mark Nicholson paid tribute to speakers for their courage and finding the time to prepare and participate. He implored the Year 10 audience that persuasive speaking is a skill everyone can and should develop as to convince people of your opinion is indeed powerful. Students were encouraged to override their fears of standing up and speaking in front of people by taking opportunities to speak wherever possible, and reminded to pause for effect and offer their audience an image to take away at the end of their speeches. Thanks also to Public Speaking Coordinator, Sarah Walker, for working with the students in the lead up to the Competition.

You can read the winning entry by Sahansa Udawatta below, as well as Lizzie and Zara’s entries.

L-R: Mark Nicholson, Sahansa Udawatta, Lochie Angel, Zara Fenton, Elizabeth Ralph

Sahansa’s Winning Entry

“Tick Tick Tock ” Buildings destroyed, cities deserted, and killing fields of greed. Just watch as the planet burns, as the breath drains from the last koala and the last piece of the Great Barrier reef is declared dead. A worker slaves away in a sweat shop while the more affluent wait for the release of the next iPhone. 62% of the world’s population lives on less than $10/day. More than 12 million people have fled Ukraine and are seeking a home and by 2050 our world will be 2 degrees warmer. This is the reality of the world around us. It is wounded. But how did this all begin? The clock is ticking. Can we reverse it in time for our children?

“Tick Tick Tock” Our ancestors lit the match and since then temperatures have been rising and bushfires scorching this land. Too often, while some weep over the heating of the Earth and the melting of the ice sheets, the loss of biodiversity and the unpredictable  extremes of weather, our collective inaction communicates our willful ignorance. Our planet has tried to remain resilient even as it is enslaved and absorbed in a nightmare of human intervention. But still, it is vulnerable, begging us for mercy. It is dying and we can’t keep placing a bandaid over the wound. From her land, to her waters, to her animals, her health is degrading, the blood from her ruptured veins flowing as her breath shallows.

The clock is ticking.Nowadays, the challenges we face in contemporary society are so daunting. The problem is not exclusive to climate change. The problem is poverty and homelessness. The problem is overpopulation and healthcare accessibility. The problem is civil rights and racial discrimination. While all these issues may seem unrelated, they have the same root cause: capitalism. By embracing capitalism, we are promoting a colonial mentality and a greed for money and power, ultimately, only reinforcing the broken bonds between social classes. However, if we look even closer, these problems are a symptom of how we interact with each other.

“Tick Tick Tock” Let’s travel back in time to 9/11. Did you know as part of the global war on terror at least 39 men thought to have connections to the attack were subjected to state sanctioned torture by the CIA? The movement of the minute hand only slowed down for these men as their sleep deprivation, the stress positions and the freezing cold water evolved into something much worse – the enhanced interrogation techniques. These methods relied on learned helplessness and were based on experiments on rats that found if you hurt and humiliate them enough they will eventually stop resisting. Prisoner Abu Zubaydah was the guinea pig for these techniques. He reached such a place of helplessness that as soon as the interrogator snapped his fingers twice, he would lie flat on the waterboard and wait to be drowned. Just imagine being bound to a sloping board with your mouth and nose covered as water is poured over your face – one, two, three..the litres of water just continue. Not once but 83 times to coerce you into giving unique intelligence that would “save lives”. As Zubaydah felt his lungs fill with water he knew his time was limited. I am not suggesting for a moment that what he did was right. It was not. But the clear violation of his human rights is also not right. Why are we so consumed by our greed and selfishness that it blinds the plight of others and makes us willing to be cruel?

“Tick Tick Tock ”, the minute hand winds around the clock, tugged forward by the iron grip of humanity, painting lives upon the canvas of destiny.

The clock is ticking. The cruelty and violence that drive such infections stretches back centuries to the beginning of humankind and continues to plague us. To let the wound heal and return our planet –  and each other –  to health we must listen, reflect on what we listen and develop empathy for what we hear. If we don’t listen, what will be left for our children? What kind of planet will they inherit? What kind of people will they encounter?

“Tick Tick Tock” We are wounded, and even when we recover, the scars will remain visible, reminding us of the damage, reminding us that we must learn, reminding us that we must change.

“Tick Tick Tock” The clock is ticking. It is time to heal our wounds.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ralph’s Entry

The average human lives to be 79 years old.

That’s more than 28,835 days.

More than 700,000 hours.

And it all goes by far quicker than you think.

PIcture this; It’s 7am on the 27th of August, 2006.

Hobart town is quiet, with only the bustling of the waking sun. Calvary hospital, the cries of a newborn girl ring out.

Do you remember this?

Picture this; It’s February 7th in the year of 2011.

First day of school, pigtails and excitement are engulfing you. There’s one small girl, much more afraid to leave her mother than she’d like to admit.

Do you remember this?

Now picture this; It’s February 5th in 2019.

Our very first day of High School, suddenly everything is much bigger than we’ve ever known before. There’s one small girl, a little bit scared about how things are going to change.

Do you remember this?

What relevance do these things have? Sure, they’re significant moments in my life that I’m sure you’ve all experienced in your own ways, but more than that they are a symbol. They are united by how they signify time flying quickly; Our lives flashing by like the ticking of a clock.

But the clock keeps ticking, And now we’re here – we’ve forgotten everything we used to know in the past. Phone screens keep us up past late and social media thrives of our insecurities. Today it’s all about the future – what are you taking? What atar do you want? What do you want to be?

Things keep moving and next year the question becomes all too real – What do you want to be? Things are going faster and faster and exams fill our heads and we’re surrounded by the question – What do you want to be?

Suddenly it’s year 12 and it’s time to make decisions. There can be no more mucking around; this test defines your life. This number, this ranking, decides who you are. Cope by scrolling instagram, shut it out and it can’t hurt you. The question is choking you – What do you want to be?

Again, it is these events in our lives that display the overwhelming feeling of us all growing up much too fast.

In 2017, the Royal Melbourne Children’s hospital did research into the integration of media and digital technology in the lives of Youths. According to their data, half of all Australian teenagers spend more than 6 hours using technology on a typical weekend day. A lot of the time, we’re only awake for 16 hours give or take, why are we letting ourselves be sucked into this media, when the whole world is right at our hands.

We’re still so young, only the smallest part of our lives has been lived. Don’t waste it now. Do everything that scares you; nominate yourself for that position, put your resume in at that place, ask her out, you could even publically speak for all I care. All I care about is that you find the best version of yourself, and love every second of it.

Basically, what I want you all to hear from me, is that time keeps moving forward and the world will keep spinning even if we aren’t paying attention and screens aren’t going to save us.  If we don’t stop and look around for awhile, we’ll be six feet under before we even realise. Our time is now, the time has come to take a second to breathe. It is now that we must understand we only get one chance at this. Because, if we leave it any longer, you won’t remember anything at all.

So picture this instead: two years from now and the Class of 2024 is making their mark.

We’ve flown through two years of change and compassion. No longer is the question; What do you want to be? But they begin to ask What was your favourite part? And this time we have a proper answer, because we’ve romanticised every second of our ever flowing lives. We’ve looked around, we’ve seen the sights and done the things all teenagers should do. And we’ve done it all without the looming interference of technology.

Because the class of 2024, we have each other’s backs. We’re in this together now, so let’s finish it off just the way we like it.

Put the phone down.

Look around.

The clock is ticking.

Zara Fenton’s Entry

There are so many different clocks that could spring to mind. Cuckoo clocks, mantlepiece clocks, big grandfather clocks and little, delicate wristwatches. But no clock ticks louder than a clock on death row. For every minute, every second, that passes in death row, each inmate gets closer and closer to their looming execution.

I want you to picture that you are in a small, concrete cell in a country that you were only supposed to be visiting for a short holiday. Guards threatened to kill your whole family if you did not ‘confess’ to being a spy for your home country. Now, as you sit in your cell, you can almost hear the tick-tock of a clock bringing you closer and closer to the morning when you are ripped from your bed to be hanged for a crime you know you did not commit. You can feel the dread and the fear in your stomach. Every second spent in this prison is a second spent in terror. For Swedish-Iranian doctor, Ahmadreza, this is the reality he lives every single day as described by Amnesty International. Ahmadreza specialises in disaster medicine and, prior to his arrest, was travelling throughout Europe to assist hospitals in preparing for emergencies. For this work, he was offered a Harvard fellowship. Ahmadreza also has a young family waiting for him back in Sweden. In late 2020, thousands of people living all across the world successfully campaigned to prevent his execution, which had been set to occur within a week. Unfortunately, Ahmadreza is still imprisoned in Iran and could be killed any day. However, if it wasn’t for all those who raised their voices for him, he would be dead, his children fatherless and the world without his knowledge and expertise.

There are many other people facing the death penalty who are in desperate need of similar campaigning and support. Also in Iran, a young woman who shares my name, Zahra, has been accused of ‘spreading corruption on earth’ because she dared to raise her voice and stand up for LGBTQ+ rights. According to Amnesty, this charge carries the death penalty in Iran. Zahra is just one example of the many incredibly heroic people facing execution in corrupt countries because they spoke up against a system of oppression. In March this year, 81 men were shot in a mass execution in Saudi Arabia. According to Amnesty, some of these men had been sentenced to death for participating in peaceful protests. Have you ever attended a protest at Parliament Lawns? Maybe been to one of the many climate strikes in recent years? If you lived in Saudi Arabia, this would be enough to see you facing execution. There are people all over the world who have been sentenced to death for crimes like this. Crimes that are simply not criminal.

According to statistics from Amnesty International, people are executed every day in the 55 countries that have yet to abolish this abominable practice. Among them are innocent people and people convicted of crimes that are not criminal. If we do not raise our voices as many did for Ahmadreza in 2020, they will be killed. There is so much proof that the work done by organisations such as Amnesty, the Innocence Project, and the Capital Punishment Justice Project is successful if backed by people like you. Sunny Jacobs, Noura Hussein, Salar Shadizad, Shahrul Izani Suparman, Anthony Wright. These are all names of people who were saved from death row by campaigns from such organisations.

No clock ticks louder than a clock on death row. For people like Ahmadreza and Zahra who are awaiting execution, each tick is like a nail in their coffin. But each and every one of us can do something to protect them by signing petitions and sending letters and making it clear to people in power that this is not OK. The death penalty is not OK. Especially not when the person involved has done nothing wrong. The clock is ticking. Stand up for people facing the death penalty, because, for them, the clock ticks loudest.