‘Young people have a lot of incredible contributions and don’t often get the chance to speak.’
It’s the 10 seconds or so before he goes on stage when the nerves really hit. But the Victorian state final winner of the 2017 Plain English Speaking Awards, 17-year-old Fergus Dale from Indigo Valley in the state’s north east, has a fallback plan.
‘I just picture talking to the audience like I am having a conversation generally,’ he says.
‘It calms me down a bit and I forget I am on stage.’
The tactic worked a treat when the Caulfield Grammar student stepped out on stage at the finals to speak passionately about his pride in being from country Victoria and the need for greater support for regional communities.
He won over the 180-strong audience and judges with his speech ‘The disregarded identity of regional Australia’.
Fergus will reprise the speech at the 2017 PESA National Final, to be held on Monday 14 August, at the National Gallery of Victoria, International.
If he wins, he will represent Australia at the 2018 International Public Speaking Awards (ISPC) in London. The ISPC is one of the world’s largest public speaking competitions, attracting more than 50,000 students from 45 countries across the globe.
Young people speak out
PESA is one of Australia’s largest youth public speaking competitions. The competition encourages students aged 15-18 to speak their mind on issues they feel passionate about.
Public speaking is a great way to practice and build key capabilities that contribute to literacy, oral communication and personal development.
Victorian student Luke Macaronas won the National PESA competition in 2016 and represented Australia in London in 2017, where he won the International Public Speaking Competition. This is only the fourth time an Australian has won this prestigious award.
‘There is an incredible vulnerability in standing up and sharing your personal ideas and dreams with an audience,’ Luke says.
‘The best speeches are those that put your heart on the line. Make yourself vulnerable to an audience and they will come with you wherever you lead them.'
‘PESA is an opportunity for you to tear down walls, rebuild worlds and find your own story.’
Finding your voice
For Fergus, student voice and public speaking for young people is important.
‘Young people have a lot of incredible contributions and don’t often get the chance to speak,’ he says. ‘It’s just a really great way of getting your views across and contributing, and letting people know stuff they would not already know.
‘To win the nationals and go to London would be life-changing.’
The National Final
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) coordinates the Victorian regional and state final of PESA, and the 2017 National Final.
The National Final of the 2017 Plain English Speaking Award will be held at the National Gallery Victoria, International, on Monday 14 August.
To learn more about the competition, see: VCAA Excellence - Plain English Speaking Awards