On Wednesday 3 June, SMGS held its 21st annual Maria Kisich Public Speaking Competition.

A highlight on the SMGS calendar, the Maria Kisich Public Speaking Competition always treats audience members to an engaging evening of compelling, thought-provoking and comical musings from our speakers, and this year was no different.

Who is Maria Kisich?

The Maria Kisich trophy was named in honour of the school’s first English teacher, one of the founding teachers of Snowy Mountains Grammar School, and who promoted the importance of public speaking skills and encouraged their development at SMGS.

 Meet this year’s adjudicators

This year, our adjudicators were Rebekah Batson (2018) and Eve Donnelly (2019), both former successful speakers in this public speaking competition.

Former School Captain and past winner of this competition, Eve Donnelly graduated last year and has been taking a gap year before studying biomedicine and law at the University of Melbourne next year. She was hoping to travel to Sweden and across Europe this year but her plans for travelling were cut short. She hopes to get to Sweden one day… 

Former Academic Captain Rebekah Batson was a Maria Kisich winner for her division in 2016. After graduating in 2018 she took a gap year the following year, travelling Europe. She has been working in London and Sydney and is now studying Creative Writing and International Studies at the University of Technology. 

The 2020 Competition 

Seventeen students participated in this year’s event. We have provided time stamps if you wish to watch specific speeches. 

Upper Primary (Year 6) 

Toby Jani – Shopping in 2020 

Georgette Philpott – Fairy Tales 

Helena Smith – My Dream Street 

Stella Smith – Meet the Smith Family 

Junior (Years 7-8) 

Samantha Stynes-Garratty – It Could Have Been Worse 

Nell Owen – Moving 

Emily Willsmer – Being Short 

Zali Goninan – My Dog Hates Me 

Indiana Burke – Being an Only Child 

Intermediate (Years 9-10) 

Lucy Cross – The Corrupting Influence of Journalism 

Ely Frize – Kerosene 

Isabella Weston – Ban Animal Testing 

Charles Deacon – Comfort Zone 

Alexi Cross – Expectations 

Senior (Years 11-12) 

Benjamin Wynn – Ski Cross 

Zac Corcoran – Silence 

Willem Baldwinson – What DYou Want TDAfter School?  

2020 Maria Kisich Trophy and Division Winners 

This year, the winner of the Maria Kisich Trophy was Zac Corcoran. Zac’s speech focused on the importance of voice and not staying silent. Zac originally wrote this for his English Advanced assessment and was able to rework it to suit the Maria Kisich format. Zac used two literary texts to explore the idea that to, “choose to write, is to reject silence” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Congratulations to all the students who participated in this year’s Maria Kisich competition. The division winners were as follows: 

Senior – Zac Corcoran 

Intermediate – Alexi Cross 

Junior – Emily Willsmer 

Upper Primary – Georgette Philpott  

New Award – the People’s Choice Award 

After each category during the webinar, we ran a poll for attendees to vote. The inaugural People’s Choice Award for each category are as follows:  

Senior – Willem Baldwinson 

Intermediate – Alexi Cross 

Junior – Zali Goninan 

Upper Primary – Stella Smith 

Of this year’s competition, Principal, Dr Andrew Bell, said, I applaud our young speakers of all ages for having the courage to raise their hand to be involved in the first instance, a feat in its own right, with many overcoming their own anxieties. Also, for taking the initiative to do so when the easy option was to not be involved, and for applying the necessary discipline and commitment required to prepare sufficiently. The skill that was demonstrated by the speakers in executing their ideas into intelligent and coherent arguments and propositions, also was impressive, with some taking their first step into this domain, while others were refining this competency and important life skill. Everyone presented their speech very well without exception.” 

 Taking Maria Kisich online 

This year has certainly tested our ability to adapt and think laterally when it comes to the delivery of many of our programs and legacy events. Determined to ensure this year’s event occurred, our English Department decided to run a webinar.  

This would also be the first webinar for SMGS utilising our web conferencing equipment and putting theory into practice.  

On top of the technical variables, COVID-19 restrictions also provided for some interesting logistics during the event. 

A snapshot of what was happening behind the scenes:  

  • The web conferencing camera was set up at the front of the room. This is the feed that the virtual audience would see.  
  • Behind the camera sat our judges, alumnae Rebekah Batson (2018) and Eve Donnelly (2019), Dr Bell, Mr Frize and Mrs Batson. 
  • Mr Callum Ross was to the side of this group taking photos. 
  • Mr Moore and Mrs Darlington ran the webinar through two computers, one set up as the “host” computer which controlled volume and vision and the other set up as an “attendee” so that we could see and hear what our virtual audience was experiencing. 
  • We also utilised the large screen in the Hub for one of the speakers who was calling in from Canberra. 
  • Speakers were sitting in the library, where they could watch the live feed of their classmates.  
  • Ms Jones would then bring each speaker in when it was their time.  

While there were some technical hiccups, running this event via webinar provided the platform and confidence for many of our future events to be hosted in this way. The applications moving forward are immense and exciting. 

When reflecting on this year’s event, Mrs Cath Batson, Head of Faculty – English and Creative Arts, said, “I was very proud of all the students and their ability to adapt their speeches to present in front of a virtual audience this year. It was wonderful to work with the dedicated staff who were determined to ensure we could still provide this invaluable opportunity for students.” 

Thank you! 

Congratulations to our students and sincere thanks to the staff members who provided this experience: Ms Anne Jones and Mrs Cath Batson as our organisers; external judges, Ms Rebekah Batson and Ms Eve Donnelly; Mrs Brooke Darlington, Mr Craig Moore and Mr Callum Ross, each with technology support; and MCs Winsome Ogilvie (Arts Captain) and Willem Baldwinson (School Co-Captain)not to mention classroom teachers assisting in the preparation, along with some parent tips here and there leading up to the competition. Without these people, the opportunity would not exist. Well done and congratulations to all students once again. 

 To watch a recording of the webinar, please head to the SMGS YouTube Channel: