Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Public Schools Public Speaking Competition

Alister Henskens SC MP presenting award to student

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Skills and Training, Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology, Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, and Minister for Sport) (17:03): It is a daunting experience for many people both young and old to speak in front of a group. Even the Late Queen's father, King George VI, loathed public speaking and was embarrassed by his stutter. Yet the skill can greatly improve a person's abilities in a variety of settings. Indeed, public speaking is common across occupations, whether it be law, medicine, business, sales and many other work environments. It is incredibly important to be able to express ideas eloquently and coherently. It would be remiss of me to overlook the importance of public speaking for members of Parliament. It is essential both inside the legislative chambers and outside in our electorates. What better way to teach young people those skills than a tried and tested public speaking student competition for primary school students.

Public speaking is no doubt a cause of fear for many students, but another important skill is having the resilience to push through those fears and have a go. After two disruptive years that prevented the event from going ahead, I welcomed the return of the Ku-ring-gai Public Schools Public Speaking Competition, which was held on 8 September this year. It is one of my favourite annual events and takes place in this very Chamber in the New South Wales Parliament. The competition gives year 5 and 6 students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and apply their communication skills in the heart of democracy and the oldest Parliament in Australia. It was yet another enlightening, engaging and entertaining event. Students prepared a response to the question: If we work together, what could we achieve? That was followed by an impromptu speech on the topic: What to do on a rainy day?

It is no easy task to deliver both prepared and impromptu speeches, but the students answered the questions brilliantly, with exceptional delivery and nuance. The adjudication was pleasingly difficult for our judges, whom I thank for undertaking the task. I congratulate all students who participated, including Matthew Loke in first place from Waitara Public School, Nathan Milne from Warrawee Public School, Tia Woollam from West Pymble Public School, Neave Barker from Wahroonga Public School, Charlotte Ross from Turramurra Public School, Samuel Xegas from Pymble Public School, Samika Abhichendani from Normanhurst Public School, Jasper Soo Thoo from Killara Public School, Grace Phair from Gordon West Public School and Zara Drinkwater from Beaumont Road Public School.

I also thank the parents for their participation and support, and the teachers who attended. I thank my electorate office staff as well as Margaret Wick and Aileen Woof, who helped to organise the competition and have done so each year since its inception in 2001 as a celebration of the Centenary of Federation. Since that time MPs and staff have changed, but one thing remains constant. The students of the electorate of Ku-ring-gai will always have a place in the halls and chambers of Australia's oldest democracy. It is a place of exploration, history, learning and knowledge. The event provides them with an opportunity to apply their communication and theoretical skills, which they have learned in the classroom, in an entirely new setting. No matter what their futures hold, the skills and confidence students develop will help them to become great leaders and communicators. Some past winners of the competition have turned into terrific adults who lead very successful careers in the business world.

I wish all students good luck in their future endeavours and look forward to seeing the continuation of that longstanding event well into the future. I am pleased that in the 2022-23 budget, students in every New South Wales public school will benefit from a $1.2 billion commitment to planned maintenance. I spent all of my 13 years at school in public education. It is important that our schools are maintained and looked after. Many schools in my electorate had leaking roofs, unsatisfactory toilet facilities and the like, which we inherited from the former Labor Government. I am glad they have been fixed up. They will provide a much better, world‑class environment for our students to develop. It is important to give them a brighter future and it is also important for our society as a whole.