In 1994 as a Year 10 student In Townsville, I entered the Rostrum Voice of Youth competition. It was my very first public speaking competition and I loved the experience. Especially the impromptu sections which we had to do back in those days even at heat level. I ended up doing very well and made it to the State Final where I came third. For my parents who migrated from Sri Lanka and my Sri Lankan community this was a great source of pride, of which they still talk about to this day.
After Rostrum I entered a number of Public Speaking Competitions in my Senior years of schooling. I was the North Queensland winner of Jaycees Youth Speaks for Australia, North Queensland Lions Public Speaker of the Year and in 1996 I won the Queensland State Final of the Plain English Speaking Awards and then came third at the National Finals. After finishing school I went on to study Law. During my University years I coached Debating teams in the Townsville Schools Competitions and I adjudicated many Public speaking competitions including Rostrum Voice of Youth. After becoming a Solicitor I entered a Public Speaking Competition for Solicitors in QLD. I won the QLD final and went on to represent Queensland at the National Final of the Golden Gavel Competition.
After taking on Youth Work I developed a particular interest in supporting students to enter competitions like Rostrum to build confidence and to use their voices to make a difference. From 2009 – 2016 I coached young Indigenous students of St Teresa’s College Abergowrie and Good Shepherd Catholic College Mount Isa who went on to regional, state and national competitions. Many of these students were from remote Queensland communities. A vast majority of these students were boys, and for many this was the first time they had spoken in front of peers and adults from the broader Australian community. I follow these young men and their lives with great interest and pride now, many have gone on to University, to be leaders of their communities, and to represent their people at International forums like the Unites Nations. Whenever I see them they are always so grateful for the encouragement and the gentle pushing to put themselves out there, and to use their voices to make a difference.
I now work in Humanitarian Settlement in Cairns and hold the Youth and School Engagement portfolio. Once again I am helping students to be a part of these great competitions. This time students of refugee background and they have so much to offer and to share. They are natural storytellers and they have so many dreams and aspirations for their lives in Australia, they are proud of their cultural heritage, and they have a lot to offer.
My husband Wayne is Principal of St Mary’s Catholic College and that is what brings us to Cairns. I have three children Gabriel 13 , Eliza 7 and Raphael 5. All my children take after their Mother, they love to talk and they are very comfortable up in front of people sharing their ideas – they have been encouraged since they were tiny tots! Rostrum was a defining moment of my life those 24 years ago and as you can see it not only opened up a lot of opportunities for me, but the young people I have worked with over the last decade.