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​VCAA Bulletin
No. 29 - June 2017
And Awards

Excellence & Awards


Plain English Speaking Award

Victorian PESA winner triumphs at the world’s largest public speaking contest

winner of the international public speaking competition luke macaronas with barrister and news broadcaster sophia cannon

Winner of the 2017 International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) Luke Macaronas with PESA judge and
well-known UK barrister and News broadcaster Sophia Cannon (Pic: English Speaking Union, Gigi Giannella 2017)

Luke Macaronas was announced the winner of the 2017 International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) in London on Friday 12 May 2017.

Luke secured his place at the IPSC by first taking out the Victorian and then the Australian Plain English Speaking Award (PESA) in 2016. The IPSC, run by the English Speaking Union (ESU), is the world’s largest public speaking competition. Over 50,000 teenage students from 48 countries contested heats over the last 12 months for the chance to compete on the international stage in London.

Luke’s IPSC speech ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ explored the use of drone warfare as a way to carry out war without ever having to declare it. Drones are used ‘as a form of counterterrorism, but because there’s no way to see a terrorist from 30,000 feet, this often results in the deaths of innocent people,’ Luke says. ‘My speech explores the terror imposed on those living beneath drones, and also those who operate drones, and calls on you to demand change.’

In 2016 it was Luke’s speech on locker-room culture that led him to win the Victorian and National PESA competition. He credits a willingness to be absolutely open with an audience as key to achieving success in public speaking. ‘There is an incredible vulnerability in standing up and sharing your personal ideas and dreams with an audience,’ he says. ‘The best speeches are those that put your heart on the line. Make yourself vulnerable to an audience and they will come with you wherever you lead them.’

For students about to enter the 2017 PESA semifinals, Luke has some sage advice on preparing to speak in public. ‘Allow other people to hear your speech, especially people who would disagree with you,’ he says. ‘You have to convince someone else of your idea. Be yourself when you speak. Don’t hide behind your manner, or your cue cards, let the audience truly see you.’

Of PESA, Luke says it is ‘more than public speaking – it is an opportunity for you to tear down walls, rebuild worlds and find your own story.’ The competition celebrates the perspectives of students aged 15–18 by allowing them to delve into issues they are passionate about with no restriction on the topic in a six minute prepared speech. It is a unique opportunity for self-expression, and for students to develop their research and critical thinking skills. Sponsored by the Australia Britain Society, this year PESA will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the national competition with the national final taking place in Melbourne in August.

School groups are encouraged to attend the semi-finals, as well as the state and national finals. The full list of dates can be found on the PESA webpage. To register your interest, please contact the Student Events team, email:

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VCE Leadership Awards

Applications now open

Applications for the 2017 VCE Leadership Awards are now open to all current VCE students from government, independent and Catholic schools. Mature-age students, overseas VCE students, and students engaged in community and social justice activities beyond the school environment are encouraged to apply.

The Awards recognise the efforts of VCE students in promoting leadership and participation in their school and local community. Previous winners were active in their communities through supporting LGBTQI rights, working with refugees, volunteering to help the elderly and disabled, coaching sports and organising charity events.

The selection panel will be looking for activities that are self-generated or demonstrate ways in which students have shown leadership, compassion and initiative to make a difference outside established organisations. At the end of the year the winners will be presented with a trophy and computer prize at the Victorian Senior Secondary Leadership Awards, which also include the Lynne Kosky Memorial VCAL Scholarships. Each award recipient will also be featured in an article in the Herald Sun. The VCE Leader of the Year will be announced at the ceremony.

Applications close Friday 11 August 2017. For more information, including how to apply and profiles of past winners, visit the VCE Leadership Awards webpage.

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VCE Season of Excellence

Season students weave their magic on the Top Acts stage

The VCAA was delighted to have the Hon. Gavin Jennings MLC Special Minister of State open this year’s Top Acts concert at the prestigious Melbourne Recital Centre on Friday 12 May. Minister Jennings congratulated students on their achievements, and reflected on the importance of the arts for self-expression and sharing people’s stories within our communities.

Top Acts was the final event in the 2017 VCE Season of Excellence. This stunning showcase of VCE performing arts students was curated from the performances held during the Top Class concerts across February and March. Captivating original music compositions, choreographed dance, and dramatic monologues entertained and delighted audiences throughout the special evening.

For the first time at a Season concert, imagery from Top Arts and Top Designs entries featured on stage behind student performers. The imagery blended with the stories being told in each performance.

Excerpts from Top Screen video Monday by Shanon McKenzie (Mentone Girls’ Secondary College) was also used throughout the concert. Artistic Director Dan Mitchell inserted the video segments between student performances to weave the items into a single narrative across the evening. The result was a unification of the diverse body of work from across all the Season events in one amazing concert.

drummer jasper bruten

Jasper Bruten

A highlight of the showcase was the impressive duel between drummer Jasper Bruten and tap dancer Kade Hughes. Jasper, from St Leonard’s College and Kade, from Overnewton Anglican Community College, performed this interlude between student performances, delighting audiences with their talents. ‘Top Acts 2017 was possibly one of the most exciting performances I’ve been a part of. Being able to display my hard work and efforts in such an encouraging environment of people was very rewarding and something I won’t forget,’ Kade said. He hopes to pursue his love of dance through a career in musical theatre after he completes his VCE studies.

dancer kade hughes

Kade Hughes

For Kevin Jian of Melbourne High School, Top Acts represented an opportunity to further his development as a performer. ‘The whole experience gave me more confidence on stage and allowed me to make friends with fellow performers. I am extremely grateful,’ he said. Kevin mesmerised audiences with his impressive piano skill playing Scherzo in A minor from Ten Pieces, Op. 12 No. 10 by Sergei Prokofiev. Kevin looked completely relaxed as he took to the stage and deftly played the technically demanding and daunting composition. Currently completing Year 12, Kevin hopes to go on to study science or music at university.

Isabelle Greenwood of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School wowed audiences with her contemporary dance solo, demonstrating the expertise and precise body control she developed over many years of training. ‘I always love performing as it gets me on this incredible high and makes me realise how much I love what I do. To be a part of Top Acts 2017 was an incredible honour,’ she said. In August Isabelle will be moving to Germany to take up a full time position at The School of Hamburg Ballet. Isabelle will take with her the memories of seeing the other students perform on stage. ‘I was able to observe other students’ incredible and diverse talents in other aspects of art, which was an unforgettable thing. They were the most humble and passionate group of students I have ever worked alongside. It was lovely for us all to come together and share all of our hard work in this wonderful program.’

flynn smeaton as titania

Flynn Smeaton

Flynn Smeaton of St Michael’s Grammar school presented a classic character when he took to the stage as Titania, Queen of the Fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Flynn was regal and commanding in his portrayal of Titania, bringing to life her argument with Oberon, the Fairy King. Of Top Acts, Flynn said ‘I felt incredibly supported by the wonderful team who put the show together. The highlight for me was having the opportunity to meet the rest of the incredible cast. It was such a thrill to see those breathtaking performances in music, dance and drama and know that I’ve made some friends for the future.’ Flynn is currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne.

Top Acts was the final event in the 2017 VCE Season of Excellence. Before the 2017 Season comes to a close, teachers and students can visit Top Designs at Melbourne Museum and Top Arts at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until Sunday 16 July 2017.

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