Kim Little

Debating Success

Kim LittleKim is the classic product of MAD culture. Before debating for MAD she studied at UQ and considered herself to be simply a decent adjudicator. Tournaments for her were purely social, and she could have remained one of the relatively anonymous participants at IV’s if she hadn’t come to Monash. Here she was challenged by some the best debaters of her generation and she more than rose to the challenge. Like Meg O’Sullivan, who didn’t even debate until 2nd year, Kim took a love of debating, and with the help of MAD culture and training (coupled with her own innate talent), she became an absolute legend.

Kim was arguably the most consistently successful debater in MAD’s history. She never lost a single grand final she reached (and that was a lot). Obviously she won Worlds – but more than that, she is the only person in the history of debating to hold the title of World Champion, Australasian Champion, National Adults Champion (and I think also) Women’s Champion SIMULTANEOUSLY (2000). In that same year she was ranked Top Ten at Worlds (4th to be precise) making her one of the tiny number of MADdies to ever achieve such a ranking – indeed, no MADdie since here has reached the Top Ten at worlds [correct at time of writing, Kylie Lane subsequently superseded this as best speaker at Worlds 2005]. On top of this, she was also SIMULTANEOUSLY the Best Speaker at Australs and the Best Speaker at National Adults.

Kim was one of the first people to prove that the ‘matter-file’ school of debating was unnecessary and uninteresting. Her penetrating 1st-principle’s analysis and implacable logic made her devastating in any debate. Her understanding of ‘rights’ and of 1st principles case construction/rebuttal are the cornerstones of MAD tactics today, and have been taught to generations of MAD, MUDS, VST and general high school debaters.

I think there is no argument that she is one of the top 5 (I’d argue top 3) most talented and successful speakers in MAD history. No one who has been made Life Member even approaches her debating CV except Ben Richards.

Given that Ben was essentially elected to LM on the back of his outstanding debating CV – Kim would certainly be sufficiently similar in terms of extraordinary success that we could probably stop the conversation here. But there is much more to be said in favour of her nomination.

Contribution to the Club.

Kim was an outstanding Executive Member. She is almost single-handedly responsible for generating the dramatic improvement in VC sponsorship that MAD has enjoyed over the past 4 years – it was her idea (controversial at the time) to restructure MAD’s relationship with the VC to move away from effectively begging for money as a charity, or a reward for success, and to instead lobby for it in exchange for providing services to the university – in essence, to become a partner or sub-contractor for Monash. VC Robinson loved it and the money flowed freely, and by following her lead we have maintained and grown our sponsorship. This has not only given MAD far greater resources, but by moving away from a almost purely cash-for-success relationship with the VC’s Office she has helped to give MAD a more stable and predictable sponsorship flow.

Kim was part of the brains behind the MDR and the Asia Tour (by using her knowledge of the Oxford Tour of the US she helped to plan and organise the first fully fledged tour in 2002, which is the template for the current and future Tours). Her academic skills helped lift the quality of the MDR in its second edition, from the relatively rough publication it was, and set the tone for what is now a high-quality publication that is still improving. Her contacts in the debating community and skills as Editor were the model that was used for Edition 3, which I think we all agree is now a pretty impressive publication.

So what I’m saying is that Kim was something of a visionary, she believed that MAD should take calculated risks, and her hunches always paid off. Things that are unanimously agreed to be in MAD’s interests today were argued for passionately and persuasively by Kim to an often sceptical Executive of the day. She took Jasmine Moseley under her wing and together they organised one of the best Public Debates in the last decade, and its no surprise that Jasmine went on to organise fantastic Public Debates after that experience.

Even after leaving the club Kim has remained a prime example of what we should want from our Alumni – she has graciously given up her time to select for us, she came to the post-Australs party and she helped future MADdies prepare for the VC’s sponsorship meetings. Clearly Kim’s affection for MAD has persisted despite the years that have passed since she was last a member.

And after saying all that I haven’t even mentioned that she is without doubt the most successful female speaker in the history of Australian debating (probably world debating). She did as much to lift the profile of women in debating as any women before or after her – she proved to many misogynist dinosaurs in the UK and closer to home that female debaters can have their own style, their own manner, and still thrash the best male speakers in the world.

I’ve personally witnessed the way she has inspired female debaters, especially women of ESL backgrounds, from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and beyond, to believe in their own abilities and to fight harder to win their place in teams for competitions. Women like Hanaan from IIUM, have told me that meeting Kim changed their lives. A Year 12 girl in Indonesia, Zia, who was struggling with the pressure of being on the Indonesian National Schools Team, but after spending 3 days with Kim (and Simin Kocdag too, to be fair) she was inspired to press on. These stories can be repeated over and over using examples from MAD, from her former VST kids and from others like Hanaan who simply had the fortune to see Kim debate and were instantly inspired by her.

Simply put, while Kim (like everyone else) may not have been universally loved, she was respected by every single person who ever met her. Her staggering intelligence, devastating analytical skills and total love of debating make her the perfect role model for all MADdies, men or women.

Nominated by Tim Sonnreich
October 2004