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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 2020 state finalists

The VCAA congratulates this 6 state finalists for the Plain English Speaking Award 2020.

Student nameSchoolSpeech topic 
Mateo Acosta FernandezMazenod CollegeVideo games should be considered art
Fatima ArshadSuzanne Cory High SchoolThe two faces of TV
Prachi BeniwalNossal High SchoolEquality – why our movements aren’t enough
Tierney KhanCornish CollegeNot another speech about feminism 
Oscar PearceAlbert Park CollegePlain English 
Mietta VellaHume Anglican Grammar SchoolThe reality of fast fashion

The State Final will occur on Friday 14 August.

PESA 2020 semifinalists

The VCAA is proud to announce the 28 PESA 2020 semifinalists.

Over 100 students competed in the State Heats of PESA 2020.

The PESA semifinals will be conducted on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 of June

PESA 2020 dates

All state heats will begin at 9.30am. Registrations for the week of Monday 26 to Friday 29 May will become available if additional sessions are required. 

PESA 2020 state heats schedule
Monday 18 May
Tuesday 19 May
Wednesday 20 May
Thursday 21 May
Friday 22 May

2019 Victorian State Final

Winner and runner up of PESA

An Dang and Oscar Pearce

An Dang from Brunswick Secondary College won the Victorian State Final on Friday 26 July 2019 at the State Library Victoria, where she delivered a passionate speech about the deaf community's place in Australia.

An presented her speech in spoken word combined with Auslan, the Australian sign language. At one point during her performance, she invited the audience to learn how to say a few phrases in Auslan, including 'hello', demonstrating that learning sign language is not too difficult.

'Speaking about something you are already passionate about is such a joy,' An said.

'I really wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, whether that be a friend or a community that is unable to share their thoughts and opinions due to limitations such as physical, social or cultural.'

'I feel grateful to be able to pass on my message to a larger audience and speak about what I am passionate about, especially as a young person,' she said.

The runner-up in the Victorian State Final was Oscar Pearce from Albert Park College, whose thought-provoking speech challenged the audience to consider how emotion has crept into politics. He used examples from the recent Australian federal election campaign, Donald Trump's rise to the US Presidency and post-Brexit Britain.

Other state finalists include Tom McKenzie from Ballarat Grammar, Amy Chilcott from Fintona Girls’ School and De Kai Chue from Suzanne Cory High School.

The prepared speeches

The Victorian state finalists spoke on a range of topics including commercialisation of sport, emotions in politics, negative impacts of social media, sign-lanuage and racism. 

For more information about the speeches see the State Final speeches page.

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