Incredible speeches on diversity, loneliness, teachers, success from failure, electricity and the importance of living in the moment have moved students, staff and families to cheers, and some tears, at the 2023 Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Voice of Youth public speaking finals.
Six Year 6 students were selected across 58 primary schools to be in the final at St John XXIII Catholic College Auditorium at Stanhope Gardens. It came after a series of school, cluster and regional finals involving thousands of students.
“As the competition developed, the excitement was just palpable,” said Paul Devlin, CSPD Voice of Youth Coordinator. “We had about 300 students, family and staff all there supporting the finalists and enjoying all the speeches. It was a wonderful celebration of learning.”
Ana Gaina from Our Lady of the Rosary Primary St Mary’s won the overall award for her speech “Pasta” about diversity and inclusion. Ana spoke about individual strengths and how our differences can change the world.
"This is an amazing opportunity and I'm so grateful to everyone who organises Voice of Youth. I'm so very proud and I'm sure my school is too," said Ana. "My family thinks I can use this talent in some way in the future and I'm excited to do that. I think diversity is important because it's something that helps our world be a better place and helps us be better people."
"I just think about our 371 kids representing over 40 nationalities," said Our Lady of the Rosary Principal Michael Siciliano. "This is about all the children who continue to strive to be outstanding students. That's what we want for our kids. We want them to be safe and respectful learners and given the right opportunities, with the support of parents, they can achieve anything."
Voice of Youth showcases the incredible talent and thought-provoking topics from primary school students, with this year’s competition presenting the following finalists:
- “From failure there is success” - Nada Al-Hallak (Holy Trinity Primary Granville)
- “Electricity” - Luke Malone (St Thomas Aquinas Primary Springwood)
- “Pasta” - Ana Gaina (Our Lady of the Rosary Primary St Marys)
- “The last chip” - Kristan Ostojic (Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary Greystanes)
- “Magical, mystical machines” - Tyahne Hamlin (Holy Family Primary Emerton)
- “Living in the moment” - Monte Piotto (St Angela’s Primary Castle Hill)
“I think our future as a nation is in great hands,” said Christine Howe, CSPD Deputy Executive Director and Director of Learning. “It’s amazing to see at a Year 6 level, the confidence and enthusiasm and compassion and understanding that our speakers presented.”
“I was so impressed with the maturity of the content and the maturity of the way they delivered their speeches,” said Paul. “Everything from the importance of diversity, the importance of seeking out and supporting people who may be alone and fostering mental health.
“The inclusion of other members of the world's community as in Nada's amazing speech about having come to Australia from Lebanon, overcoming many challenges and being made to feel welcome at school. How powerful is that!”
Judges for the final were CSPD Teaching Educators Noreen Keane, Joanna McKay and Kim Platts with Nicole Sprainger and Emma Mizzi helping judge the semi-finals. Students were judged on the quality of their thesis statement, speech delivery, gestures, tone of voice, the uniqueness of their speech and overall effect.
“Nada, your speech gave me goosebumps,” said Judge Joanna McKay. “I loved the way you said we have to find our wings and our only competition is ourselves.”
Runner-Up was Luke Malone from St Thomas Aquinas who gave a thought provoking speech on the journey of electricity and challenged everyone to also think about our future.
"To come runner up is really special to me,” said Luke. “I pride myself in my schoolwork and my academics so to do well in speeches is really fantastic.”
Kristan Ostojic from Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary Greystanes won the Social Justice Award for his speech ‘The last chip’ where he reminded us that in life we are all chips in the packet, there is room for everyone and we need to make sure to open our hearts to include everybody.
"My speech was about being lonely and I want all students out there to remember to look out for each other and ask 'Are You OK?'," said Kristan.
Tyahne Hamlin from Holy Family Primary Emerton got plenty of laughs from the audience with an entertaining speech about teachers and how they not only give students lessons of the curriculum but also lessons of life.
St Angela’s Catholic Primary Castle Hill student Monte Piotto’s speech conveyed a beautiful message about living in the moment and that being present and happy is so important.