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What is PESA?

About the competition

PESA is a public-speaking competition for students aged 15-18 years. It provides an excellent opportunity for students to build self-confidence and extend their skills in oral communication, speech writing and research.

The competition encourages students from government, Catholic and independent schools to speak to their peers from other schools on topics they are passionate about.

In Australia each year states and territories organise and conduct competitions at school, regional and state levels. State winners then go to the national final, which is held in the various states and territories on a rotational basis.

In Victoria, PESA is organised and conducted by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

PESA 2021 state final

Presented in partnership with The Wheeler Centre, the Victorian State Final was live streamed on Tuesday 10 August 2021.

Zuva Goverwa from Haileybury won the state final, delivering a passionate speech about giving young people a platform to express their ideas.

'For too long, young people have been made to stand voiceless in social and political matters, relegated to the peripheries of important discussions despite often being key stakeholders,' Zuva said.

'In a world that is constantly and rapidly evolving, we must recognise the valuable contributions of our most adaptable demographic: the youth.'

The runner-up was Leo Louis from Melbourne High School. His thought-provoking speech was an incisive analysis of racism, prejudice and hypocrisy in Australia.

PESA 2021 state finalists

The VCAA congratulates the six state finalists for the Plain English Speaking Award 2021.

Speech Topic
Zuva GoverwaHaileyburySeen and not heard
Leo LouisMelbourne High SchoolFixing racism with kebabs
Gitaanjali NairPenleigh and Essendon Grammar SchoolThe perils of privilege
Skyla RuthvenMcKinnon Secondary CollegeWasting away
Leanne SebastianSt Monica's CollegeConsent education
Alexander XingSt Kevin's CollegeThe greatest threat to democracy


PESA 2021 semifinalists

The VCAA is proud to announce the PESA 2021 semifinalists. Over 150 students competed in the state heats of PESA 2021. The PESA semifinals took on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June 2021 at Forum Theatre, The University of Melbourne.

What is plain English?

Learn more about the competition and what it means to speak in plain English.

 What is PESA transcript (docx - 27.49kb)

History of PESA - 40th Anniversary

This short documentary celebrates 40 years of the national competition. The 40th anniversary national final was held in Melbourne in 2017.

 History of PESA - 40th Anniversary transcript (docx - 31.3kb)

National final – Plain English Speaking Award – 14 August 2017

The 2017 national final of the Plain English Speaking Award, hosted by the VCAA, took place on Monday 14 August at the National Gallery of Victoria. Seven Finalists gathered from around Australia to share the winning speeches from their state and territory finals. The competition was extremely close and saw Emily Kim from North Sydney Girls' High School in New South Wales take out top honours, with Aditi Tamhankar from St Peter's Girls' School, South Australia as the runner-up.

Emily Kim, whose winning speech 'The P word' unpacked the stigma around menstruation, will go on to represent Australia at the English Speaking Union's 2018 International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) in London. The IPSC is one of the world's largest public speaking competitions, attracting more than 50,000 students from up to 50 countries across the globe.

Victoria was represented by state champion Fergus Dale, Caulfield Grammar School, whose speech 'The disregarded identity of regional Australia' challenged the long-held stereotypes of rural Australia by highlighting the innovation that occurs within regional multicultural societies.


Past Participants of PESA

2017 ESU International Public Speaking Award winner, Luke Macaronas