23 April 2007

The University of Queensland has outwitted the opposition to become national debating champions for the first time.

Competing over the Easter long weekend at the University of Sydney, a UQ team of Alice Heathcote, Oliver Badenhorst and Nihal Kumta defeated the University of Melbourne in the grand final, rewriting the record books in the process.

Team member and University of Queensland Debating Society (UQDS) president Ms Heathcote said the result continued UQ’s recent success at major tournaments.

“We’ve been working towards this for a number of years and it’s such an honour to finally break through.

“Four of the top six teams in the competition were from UQ, which hasn’t been achieved by any other university at nationals before, so it was an incredibly exciting event for the whole team.”

UQ’s success in Sydney was such that their fourth ranked team (who placed sixth overall), qualified for the finals but couldn’t compete due a three teams per university rule.

The winning trio made their way through a series of preliminary debates before tackling the topic ‘The permanent members of the UN Security Council should get rid of their nuclear weapons’ in the final.

Ms Heathcote said the championships were designed to allow novice speakers to compete alongside more experienced debaters, with the University fielding its largest ever team.

“It was great to get nearly 30 new members coming to Sydney out of a contingent of over 50,” she said.

“Many of those new students had never debated before and it was impressive how rapidly their speaking confidence and general knowledge improved.”

The UQDS is one of the country’s largest debating societies, holding a regular social competition at the St Lucia campus.

The society’s next goal is to fund their trips to the upcoming Australasian championships in Malaysia, and the 2008 world championships which take place over the New Year in Thailand.

Media: Alice Heathcote (0432 624 679) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)