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4 May 2002

Australian Report to 2002 Worlds Council

At the 2002 Worlds Council countries were invited to submit a report to the council to let other nations know about debating in their country.  It was not compulsory but a number of nations gave reports.

Debating In Australia

Debating in Australia falls under the governance of two separate organizations. Intervarsity debating is administered by the AustralAsian Intervarsity Debating Association (AIDA), while the schools competitions and the national adult non-varsity competition is overseen by the Australian Debating Federation (ADF). Although AIDA is the body that is most relevant to WUDC and Australian participation at Worlds there is, obviously, a great deal of cross over between AIDA and the ADF, and the participants at intervarsity and national adult competitions. Also, there has been a clear link between the expansion and improvement of the schools competitions and the increase in the size and success of Australian varsity societies.

AIDA, as an intervarsity society, is run by students with an annually elected executive consisting of a secretariat (President, Secretary and Treasurer), Vice-Presidents of Adjudication and Women’s affairs and Vice-Presidents from East Asia, West Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Committee meetings are held twice yearly (at the Australian National and AustralAsian intervarsities) with the committee made up of the Executive and a representative from each of the attending Universities. Each member of the Committee can cast one vote.

There are 3 national intervarsity competitions run each year within Australia. The first is the Australian National Intervarsity. This is a novice competition held in the Australian 3- on- 3 style. This competition has been growing in size since it was begun in 1990 with 12 institutions and 239 participants attending in 2000. There is also the National Women’s Intervarsity, another novice tournament, but for women only and held in BP style. This tournament is traditionally much smaller than the others and was abolished in 1998. Last year it was decided that there was a need the services offered by this competition and in 2000 the tournament was the largest since its inception with 9 institutions and 43 participants. These two intervarsities are run by AIDA and are governed by the AIDA constitution; the third IV is the National BP Intervarsity. This tournament is run annually by Sydney University and is known as the ‘Sydney Mini’ (Mini Worlds).

Australian Universities can also attend the AustralAsian championships and the World University Debating Championships. AustralAsians is run by AIDA and is held in the AustralAsian 3- on- 3 style. AustralAsians involves participants from Australia, New Zealand and Asia. We all know what Worlds is!

In order to compete at the AIDA run tournaments, the eligibility criteria are the same as for Worlds. The participants must be a member of a recognised debating society and must be working towards a degree or pursuing research during the academic semester preceding the tournament. For AustralAsians, participants can attend as debaters a maximum of 5 times.

Most of the debating at Australian universities happens in Internal Competitions run by individual societies. All universities run internal training programmes for their members and most run a number of competitions in varying styles throughout the year. The styles include Australian 3- on- 3 style, AustralAsian 3- on- 3 style, American Parliamentary and British Parliamentary styles. The largest societies have between 200 and 250 members (these figures represent ‘on paper’ membership active membership is significantly less than this), while some of the smaller developing societies have less than 10.

The financial position of Australian societies also varies greatly. There are some that receive significant support from their Student Unions and Vice Chancellors, while others rely almost exclusively on membership fees and corporate sponsorship. Sponsorship of debating societies and tournaments is hard to come by in Australia where corporate interest in debating seems to be significantly less than in Europe and North America. This means that a large part (or all) of the financial burden for attending intervarsities falls on the participants themselves.

Over the past few years the activities of AIDA have been directed towards the adjudication accreditation programme and on expanding debating into smaller and regional universities, Australian universities have focused on implementing these initiatives within Australia . In order to encourage new universities, AIDA has produced training videos and a handbook to help people who are trying to set up a society. There are also provisions in the AIDA constitution that exempt new and small universities from the N-1 adjudicator requirement to enable them to attend intervarsities. Australian universities have also found that hosting an IV is a good way to increase interest (among both the corporate sector and the student population) in your society. To this end, AIDA is currently seeking corporate sponsorship in order to pass these funds on to smaller and regional universities who are keen to host tournaments but are unable to attract sponsorship themselves. There are also proposals to ‘co-host’ intervarsities, where smaller universities would host but larger universities would supply some of the committee members in order to reduce the burden on the smaller institution and to act as a training exercise.

Those looking for more information can find the AIDA constitution and a list of Australian institutions which are members on the AIDA website: This website is still under construction, so for information about the AIDA adjudication accreditation programme please contact me directly. The ADF does not have a website, so for more information about them, again, contact me directly.

Catherine Orr

Please note that as an AustralAsian organisation, AIDA also has policies and implementation strategies for Asian Universities and is especially concerned with Asian representation at AustralAsians and Worlds, but that I have left details out of this report as it is primarily concerned with debating in Australia. For details, please contact me directly.

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