Emile’s trip to Bali with La Trobe’s Organised University Debating team

Emile’s trip to Bali with La Trobe’s Organised University Debating team

To say that as novice debaters we were nervous would’ve been a gross understatement.

Bachelor of Arts student Emile Pavlich, attended the Bali Australs Intervarsity Debating 2019 with LOUD (La Trobe Organised University Debating) on a trip filled with diversity, intellectual endeavour and, most importantly, pool-side banter.

Emile Pavlich, Karena Ogloff and Kieren Bramham competed for the LOUD team at Bali Australs 2019

How the Bali Australs competition works

Google was not permitted in the 30 minutes of prep time which made it all the more stressful and exhilarating.

The Bali Australs competition featured 76 teams from 40 institutions around the Asia Pacific region. To say that as novice debaters we were nervous would’ve been a gross understatement.

Bali Australs took place at the beginning of July and consisted of 8 debates in the first three days, a break day and two days of finals in three separate categories – Open, English Second Language and English Foreign Language.

The motions were mostly current issues on politics, international relations, religion and economics. The odd philosophical conundrum was thrown in there to keep competitors on their toes.

Motions were released in threes for each round and the two teams opposing each other ranked the motions one to three. One being most preferred and three the least preferred topic.

After figuring out what motion was going to be debated all teams had 30 minutes of prep time to formulate their arguments. Google was not permitted in the 30 minutes of prep time which made it all the more stressful and exhilarating.

Stiff competition

All three of us had sweaty palms and butterflies in our stomachs as we waited for the judging panel to come to a decision .

We had a reasonably slow and agonising start by losing our first 6 debates, two of which came at marginal decisions. It’s fair to say that after day two the morale was low, and we were hungry for our first win.

In round 7, it seemed the debating gods had it out for us as we debated a motion on Indian hegemony in the South Asian region against a Bangladeshi institution. The odds were certainly stacked against us.

The debate was stimulating and focussed on religious autonomy, state-led political interference and elements of the Indian constitution. We had delivered some quality arguments and felt we were a real chance.

All three of us had sweaty palms and butterflies in our stomachs as we waited for the judging panel to come to a decision. WE HAD WON! Our first competitive debate and boy it felt sweet.

We went on to win our final debate and were content with the two wins from eight debates fraction. It had been tough at the start of competition, but all was forgotten after the jubilation of our first win.

Cocktails and beach parties

Bali Australs was capped off by a formal Gala event and sit-down lunch, which seemed quite the juxtaposition to the Australian yoga enthusiast or sun-kissed surfer who tend to frequent the Indonesian island around that time of year.

Charismatic Singaporean convener Andre Kua stole the show on many occasions with his exuberant speeches to the 300 or so debaters. Additionally, he delighted the crowds with his well-orchestrated social events; one of which featured a night dedicated to a drink called ‘Yakka’ – a trashcan cocktail that is emblematic of university level debating. Invented by dinosaur debaters in South Africa, the ingredients and method are simple. Bottom-shelf vodka, lemons and white sugar collide to provide social lubricant for the curious and nerdy demographic.

Later, on the break night, we were escorted by police convoy to a private beach where competitors revelled and those who missed out on a finals place nostalgically looked back at the Bali Australs 2019 that was.  

Throughout the competition, we developed key relationships with interstate and international students by negotiating the ins-and-outs of the multicultural buffet breakfast. We secured great relationships with institutions across the world by yelling at each other in a very controlled and calculated manner.

Bali Australs was capped off by a formal Gala event and sit-down lunch, which seemed quite the juxtaposition to the Australian yoga enthusiast or sun-kissed surfer who tend to frequent the Indonesian island around that time of year.

Competitors and adjudicators joined arms at the Gala to watch the open final which was hotly contested by the top ranked teams of Melbourne University and Australian National University. The motion: That we regret the vilification of communism.

Melbourne Uni took home the silverware in a relatively even contest that saw the judges vote 6-3.

Debating provided a very stimulating and curious way to spend the mid-year break and all three of us learned great amounts from the experience in Bali. Although we didn’t make the finals, it encouraged a passion to continue the expansion of LOUD (La Trobe Organised University Debating) and the debate community at La Trobe University.

Want to try debating?

Keep an eye out on the LOUD (La Trobe Organised University Debating) Facebook page to find out when our next event is on

If you have any questions or want to get involved, please don’t hesitate to message them on Facebook, email, Instagram or by text!

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