Four passionate speakers battled it out to take out the Hastings combined Rotary public speaking competition on November 13.
Talking about men’s rights, asylum seekers, sexual discrimination in religious schools and having courage, it was a hard choice for the Port Macquarie Toastmaster judges to separate the group.
Students representing four of the local Rotary Clubs delivered articulate and well researched speeches trying to secure a position in the semi-finals and then potentially the district final in March.
Charlie Martin from Hastings Secondary College Port Macquarie Campus represented the Rotary Club of Port Macquarie, Shannali Schroeder from Wauchope High represented the Rotary Club of Wauchope, Maddy Symons from Camden Haven High represented the Rotary Club of Laurieton and Olivia Stanely from St Columba Anglican School represented the Rotary Club of Port Macquarie Sunrise.
Going first, Charlie Martin spoke about how in the quest for equality for men and women men have their own struggles which must be acknowledged and dealt with.
He said it must be noted that men have higher rates on incarceration and receive harsher penalties for similar crimes to women.
“In the fight for equality you have to make sure you look at the other side of the coin,” Charlie said.
With a speech entitled Courage, Shannali Schroeder spoke about her personal experience dealing with situations well above her years and how she overcame them.
“Courage is the foundation of integrity,” Shannali said.
“Through living through experiences you learn lessons you might not otherwise.
“You become wiser and gain knowledge and get you courage.”
Maddy Symons began her speech with the line Martin Luther King made famous and quickly turned it around to talk about her dream of a world where refugees who are fleeing the most devastating of circumstances are treated with respect.
“They are people just like you and me but we see them and we don’t know enough about them so naturally we don’t care,” Maddy said.
“We palm off the problem onto someone else and make excuses like ‘that is life’ and ‘that is the human race darling’.
“But we are stronger than this. We must not be held captive by these excuses or our excuses not to care.”
To end the night Olivia Stanley from St Columba Anglican School spoke about the fact that it would be a violation of human rights if religious schools were able to discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.
“We protect our rights when we protect others. Its you. Its me. Its us.”
Overall the judges said the group spoke articulately but it was Maddy’s speech which connected with the audience the most and secured her a spot at the semi-finals in Walcha.
“I really tried to talk about something I am passionate about because it is easier to connect with and try to convince the audience they should as well,” Maddy said.
“For as long as I can remember I have felt like we don’t treat asylum seekers with the care and respect they deserve.
“Obviously we can’t ignore the people who are bad and do horrible things but no one should have to flee their country because it is no longer safe to stay there.
“In an ideal world people would only travel for fun and not to save their life but until then I think we should treat all everyone with respect.”
Maddy said she is excited at the prospect of going to the next round of the public speaking competition.
“I have not done something like this before but I have really enjoyed writing my speech,” she said.
“It is an exciting challenge and I am keen to see what happens in Walcha.
“It would be great if I could go through to the district final in Armidale in March next year.”