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Katie grows opportunities for regional kids

It was inspiration born out of frustration. That’s how Katie McAllister describes her idea to provide regional students with more speaking opportunities beyond the classroom.

Katie, 18, born and raised in Albany, loves to spend time with her family and friends, to travel, read and cook.

She also loves speaking and debating so much that she and her debating coach Valda Wieland successfully launched the Shout Out! Great Southern Speech and Drama Eisteddfod in September 2014, a two-day region-wide speech and debating forum.

“It all began when I helped to run the Perth Shout Out! Eisteddfod,” Katie said.

“I thought why don’t we have speaking competitions like these in Albany? A town this size really should offer the same opportunities to regional students as Perth students.”

Working together, Katie and Valda drew on their experiences from different competitions to develop a new regional event.

“The planning phase was particularly challenging, we knew what we wanted to achieve but didn’t know how exactly to start it all,” Kate said.

“Most of the work came from contacting primary and secondary schools in the region to find supportive and passionate teachers who could pass on the opportunity to their students.

“We also had to develop an appropriate program and logistics plan and promote the event to the broader community.

“I remember being incredibly nervous when the event launched for the first time. We hoped that all of our planning would come together and luckily it did.”

Students from Grade 2 to Year 11 from across the Great Southern region participated in the inaugural event, engaging in debating competitions and reading poetry, monologues and duologues.

“My proudest moment came when I sat listening to Year 3 students reciting beautifully written poems and seeing their parents smile," she said.

Katie has always been involved in the community in one way or another.

“I think we all want to help other people but it can be confusing trying to work out how we can help people best,” she said.

“To me, the ability to communicate thoughts and ideas articulately and with conviction is vital to one’s development, so it was only natural for me to want to inspire other students to do the same.”

It is Katie’s belief that speaking and debating helps students think critically and independently, allowing them to develop self-confidence and problem-solving skills. 

“Using speech and debating, students learn to trust their own voice," she said. "They can develop invaluable leadership and teamwork skills and learn to empathise with different points of view they would not have considered otherwise.” 

In recognition of her contributions to the community, Katie was named as a finalist in the Participate Award category of the 2014 WA Youth Awards, which is sponsored by the Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Katie now looks forward to volunteering with the Western Australian Debating League and UN Youth WA, and will soon return to Perth to study Economics and Philosophy at the University of Western Australia.

“My hope is that one day all regional children and young people will be able to access the same opportunities as everyone else”, Katie said.

“Geographical location should never stop anyone from reaching above and beyond their potential.”