Fiona Prowse begun her debating career in the same way she ended it; on top of her game. When Fiona came to MAD early in 2005, she was a quiet, meek young girl, looking to learn about the world. (Pause for LAUGHS). But really when Fiona came to MAD in 2005 she was already a great debater. In fact it was clear to everyone that Fiona was a debating prodigy if there ever was one. Fiona started university debating with a win in her very first tournament, Freshers, with then more haired Amit Golder and Victor Finkel. Fiona continued her success that year making the Semi Finals and being named the 5th best speaker at Westers and Breaking at the World University Debating Championships in Dublin with teammate Dev Kevat. Since that impressive beginning, Fiona has gone from strength to strength. Here are some frightening stats that reflect just how prolific Fiona has been:
- Fiona has broken at 3 Australs and 4 worlds (meaning 7 of the 8 major tournaments she has ever attended as a debater)
- Fiona has been crowned the 3rd Best Speaker in the world TWICE (2009 and 2011) and made the top 10 3 times, as well as twice being in the top 5 speakers at the Australasian Debating Championships, despite losing her voice entirely for one of those tournaments.
- Fiona has also achieved success at both of Australia’s major tournaments, making the Women’s Grand Final in 2006 (with Nat Devitsakis) and being named 7th Best Speaker, and breaking at Easters 3 times (2005, 2006 and 2007) and ranking inside the top 10 speakers on all three occasions.
- Fiona has also had success in many minor tournaments, including winning Cambridge IV 2010, ADAM 2007 and being a Semi-Finalist at Oxford IV 2010.
All of these stats do nothing to explain the incredible determination and skill which Fiona demonstrated in her pursuit of the Australasian and World Debating Championships. Fiona is only the second person in MAD history to have won both major tournaments (Kim Little being the first), and her record at worlds is second to none, having broken at all 4 worlds she has attended, been a top 10 speaker 3 times, made 2 grand finals and won the championship. Even in the context of the MAD hall of fame, these achievements stand out. In reality, Fiona’s debating achievements exceed those of most people on record. She has to be given additional credit for the sheer consistency of performance, breaking at almost every external tournament she has ever attended.
However, in her spare time Fiona has also been an incredibly successful adjudicator. In the one major tournament Fiona ever adjudicated, Australs 2008, she judged all the way to the Semi-Finals (being conflicted out of the Grand Final thanks to Victor, Sashi and Kiran). Beyond that, Fi has also been the DCA of WUPID and London Australs, the Chief Adjudicator of ADAM 2011 and the upcoming Monash Women’s Intervarsity Debating Championships and Cambridge IV. There is no doubt her adjudicating career will continue with more impressive achievements to come?
Fiona’s debating success has been accompanied by consistent involvement in the behind the scenes work of MAD. Fiona served for 3 years on the MAD Exec, most notably as the Vice President under Ravi Dutta. Fiona was also the co-convener of the Monash-Melbourne Women’s Intervarsity Debating Championships in 2007. However, beyond this, Fiona has done many other important things for the club. Fiona has always been an ardent supporter of women in debating, which can be seen in her consistent involvement with the women’s tournament. Fiona has been outspoken on issues such as affirmative action and made it her personal mission to ensure that MAD was an accessible club for women. This was made all the more difficult by the male dominated debating scene that she encountered in her early career. It is a testament to Fiona’s strong-willed nature that she battled through that to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with, and she certainly paved the way for many women who followed her. Fiona has also taken a number of younger debaters under her wing during her time in the club, mentoring them and guiding their development. Not just those individuals, but the club as a whole, have benefited from her efforts in this area. Similarly, Fiona has made herself available to do training sessions and pass on her skills to younger generations. I know that I have personally benefited from her advice on a number of occasions, but especially in the lead up to Australs this year, and it is that kind of subtle involvement that is characteristic of Fiona’s time in the club.
To award a person with Life Membership is to recognise that their achievements are extraordinarily rare and awe inspiring. Life members are the type of people whom generations to come will remember and aspire to be like. To be a MAD Life Member is to be known, not just by us, but by the world, as one of the best debaters of your time and Fiona is unquestionably in that category of individuals. Because of that, it is my pleasure to commend her as a Life Member of this club.
Nominated by Gemma Buckley