ANU at the Australian Intervarsity Debating Championships

Whether you joined the ANU Easters contingent as an experienced debater or a novice, the chances are you were a little uncertain about the competition. There were so many unknowns going into a university debating tournament for the first time. What kind of people would be there? Would it be very competitive? Would we only ever talk about the news and never socialise? But given Easters is the biggest annual development tournament in Australia, attracting hundreds of people every year, I should have had higher expectations. In the end, Easters was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The debates were interesting and challenging, but most importantly the social scene, particularly with the ANU contingent, was inclusive and fun.

In terms of the actual debates, Easters was a great opportunity for skills development. You can read as many news articles as you want, but the truth is that the best way to improve your debating skills is to practise. In the lead up to the competition, the ANU contingent had a few practice debates and a very successful day tournament. These were a chance to meet the other people in ANU debating and debrief about the debates over Thai food and Aldi wine. The tournament itself was structured in a way that facilitated good feedback and the chance to improve. Teams of comparable skill level were paired against each other, meaning that even the best teams still found the debates challenging. Novice adjudicators also had the chance to improve by panelling with other, more experienced adjudicators.

The selection of teams for the final rounds was balanced, because every institution competing at Easters had a cap of three teams that would be able to break into the finals. This year ANU maxed out that cap, and ANU 1, ANU 2 and ANU 3 all made it to the final rounds. This was such a successful result, especially considering that the ANU hasn’t done so well at Easters since 2009. Particular mention must go to Bostan Nurlanov, who was ranked as the third best novice at the tournament, and to Jessy Wu, who ranked as equal fourth best speaker with Bostan on the overall tab. The shared sense of pride and excitement among the ANU contingent was electric when we found out the results at the championship dinner and the grand final.

As good as the debates were, the highlight of Easters was definitely spending time with the ANU contingent. Debating is a counter-intuitive social scene – you would think that it’s hard to make friends with people who you argue with for hours at a time. And, partly for this reason, people tend to assume that debating attracts arrogant, over-confident wankers. This may be true in some cases (read: single-sex private schools), but not in the ANU debating society. Debating is a really bonding activity, because it always gives you something to talk about – and often talking about debating leads to conversations about other things you might have in common with the people you’ve just competed with. Easters was a fantastic opportunity to meet some new people and bond over your common interests – debating and exploiting the bar tabs effectively. Moreover, your ability to socialise, isn’t dependent on your skill as a debater. Everyone, whether you’re a total debating noob or a die-hard debater, is equally welcome.

So, congratulations to the ANU contingent for a great performance at Easters and, if you’re keen on trying debating, then don’t hesitate to get involved!