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Justice Kirby’s ‘accidental’ success story at Kirby Cup Grand Final - 22 May 2009

Recently retired High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby, told of his “accidental success” in student politics when he returned to the Refectory at the University of Sydney Union (USU) on 21 May 2009.

Mr Kirby was present for the Grand Final of the USU’s prestigious public speaking competition, named in honour of the prominent alumnus. Mr Kirby, the esteemed guest of the USU, is patron of the Justice Michael Kirby Plain Speaking Competition, in which 12 students delivered prepared and impromptu speeches before an audience of more than 150 guests. A judging panel, consisting of champion public speakers, USU Board Directors and barristers had the difficult task of choosing a winner. “The standard in this competition is remarkable and I applaud all competitors” said Patrick Bateman, Chair of the judging panel.

Mr Kirby addressed the attendees about his “Glorious Career in Student Politics” and said that it was all “the result of a mistake…a complete fluke!” According to Justice Kirby, his glorious career (President of the University of Sydney Union, Sydney University Law Society [SULS] and twice President of the SRC), was helped along with a stroke of luck. He recalled being absent from class on the day he was nominated to join the Executive of SULS. In his absence he was elected President. “Life hangs on a thread” he mused, “we never know where the ripples of life will lead to and how the accidents…fate… will lead to a glorious career.”

The competition’s main attraction however, was the captivating, impromptu public speaking skills on display from the finalists. The introduction of a second competition stream for speakers with English as a Second Language (ESL) this year added a welcome variance to proceedings, and was lauded by Justice Kirby as a “marvellous innovation”.

In the Non-ESL stream, Eliza Forsyth rose above six other speakers to take the cup, while Wei-Jia Chen was victorious in the ESL stream. Tim Mooney and Sophia Chen finished runners-up in the Non-ESL and ESL streams respectively.

The winners took home $1,500 worth of prizes. 

Mr Kirby hailed the competition as a success, and said he was deeply honoured that the USU holds it each year. “Of all the prizes I have, this one is closest to my heart,” he said.

March 2012

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