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Young voices speaking for a bright future

Front L-R In 3rd Place, Leah Rahmani of Serpell PS, 2nd Place, Charlie Glenn of Wandin North PS and in 1st Place, Mitansh Raja of Birralee PS. Back L-R District Governor Ian Ballantine, Mayor Carli Lange and Rotarian and Chairman of Manningham Community Enterprise Ltd, Ian GoldSmith. (Photo by Anthony Callinan).

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It was an exhibition of young talent on November 15th, 2023, as the Grand Final of the 2023 Primary Schools Speech Contest took centre stage at the Manningham Hotel and Club in Bulleen. Students from Manningham schools competed alongside other eloquent speakers from the broader Rotary District 9810 area, and it was a night showcasing the true power of words. 

This contest, held since 2013, previously encompassed only those schools within the jurisdiction of the Rotary Club of Templestowe.  However, this year saw primary schools such as Templestowe Park, St Clement of Rome, Birralee and Serpell contending with schools from other areas in District 9810, such as Cockatoo, Woori Yallock and Rowville.   

Masters of Ceremony, Brian Tyedin from Rotary Club of Manningham City and Marlene Sinclair from Toastmasters, facilitated the event and provided comedic relief in between the stellar speeches.  And speaking of speeches – how good they were! 

From Chelsea Van Eijk’s (Woori Yallock Primary School) eye-opening attack on the problematic patriarchal viewpoints of our time in “Gender equality”, to Eddie Newman’s (Chatham Primary School) hilarious anecdote about how getting a sea urchin stuck in his foot engendered his newfound hate for the ocean, the audience were treated to topics that provoked and amused. 

However, there had to be winners, and sympathy must go to the judges, provided by Toastmasters International, who were given the difficult task of choosing which of the fourteen amazing contestants came up trumps.   

Three prizes, sponsored by the Bendigo Bank, were on offer. 

So, who were the winners? 

Third Place:  Leah Rahmani (Serpell Primary School) 

Topic: Why humans should colonise Mars 

Winning the $100 prize, Leah put forward a commanding case for the use of Mars for innovative farming and agriculture in the midst of an overflowing and overpopulated Earth. Leah’s persuasive rationale, citing the vast crop growing areas, valuable minerals and fertile soil present on the red planet was a real highlight and key to her superb speech.  

Second Place: Charlie Glenn (Wandin North Primary School)  

Topic: Ways to improve the world 

Charlie was an equally amazing speaker and the winner of a $200 prize. Her use of ethos and a highly effective, direct delivery style accentuated our need to be grateful for living in Australia by drawing harrowing comparisons with the experiences of those around the world who live in poverty. Charlie indicated that freedom of speech, naturally taken for granted by us, is not even a thought-of notion in many other parts of the globe, and spoke of the vital need for appreciation of the things we have. 

First Place: Mitansh Raja (Birralee Primary School)   

Topic: If I could change the world 

Mitansh was the deserving winner of the $300 prize, speaking fluently with a composure that eludes many a public speaker.  His compelling speech, on the dangers of modern consumerism and technology, and how to recognize harmful content in the media dominated landscape, illustrated maturity beyond his years in acknowledging and attempting to rectify the problems facing the current world. 

Congratulations to all fourteen students from the 11 schools that were represented.  No doubt immense preparation, talent and hard work were all factors in their public speaking brilliance. At the end of the night, Manningham Mayor, Carli Lange, commented on her pleasure at seeing such “intelligent human beings speak wonderfully in the face of nerves and fear.” 

Seeing such a contingent of young people using their voices to disrupt the norm and seek change for the better in this subsection of Melbourne is a sure indicator that the future is safe in their hands. It was a wonderful night, and kudos to all involved.  

Sean lives in Doncaster East and is a Year 12 student at Melbourne Grammar School.