The Premier's Debating Challenge for Years 11 and 12

The competition is open to senior students in NSW government schools. Teams compete in a series of knockout debates to decide the winner of the prestigious Hume Barbour Trophy.

debating team

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The Premier's Debating Challenge for Years 11 and 12 has wrapped up for the year with a smashing state final between Cammeraygal High School and reigning champions Sydney Girls High School in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney. In the end it was Sydney Girls High School who won a narrow victory by successfully negating the topic 'That Australia should ban facial recognition systems.' We'll post a video of the entire final at the bottom of this page as soon as we have it ready so that you can relive every moment or catch it for the first time if you weren't there for the big day. On behalf of the NSW Department of Education, a well-deserved congratulations to all eight finalists, their coaches, their schools and their families on reaching the last debate of the tournament!

Cheers to all the teachers, students, coaches and adjudicators who worked so hard to make the 2023 tournament such a success. Best of luck for any upcoming exams and for your future debating careers!

You can access the detailed information on how the competition runs by downloading the 2023 Years 11 and 12 debating information (PDF 1.11 MB), and you can use this link to see a summary of the teams involved and their win/loss record.

About the competition

This competition began in 1930 with the generous donation of a trophy by Miss Hume-Barbour, a descendant of Hume the explorer, after whom the Hume Highway is named. The trophy, depicting the Ancient Greek orator Demosthenes, was the work of the noted sculptor Rayner Hoff who was also responsible for the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park.

Teams take part in a series of one hour preparation debates with both sides having a choice of 3 topics. This age division of the challenge is supported by the Law School of the University of Sydney.

Format of the competition

The Years 11 and 12 competition runs differently to the other age divisions with a more flexible draw to allow busy senior students to compete. Teams will compete in a knockout competition where they will be matched up against another team for their first debate as soon as they are entered, and they’ll debate online over Zoom with The Arts Unit providing the adjudicator. If they win that first debate, they’ll move on to round 2 and be paired up against another winner. If they lose, each team will have 1 life, so they won’t be eliminated but won’t progress to round 2 either – they’ll just be paired up against another team who needs a round 1 debate. Teams can use their life at any time during the first 4 rounds. If they lose a second debate they’ll be eliminated, but we’ll continue to match up teams for as many friendly debates as they’d like.

If 2 teams can’t agree quickly on date and time, the organisers will find them different opponents, and if things get too busy or the team starts to feel overloaded, teams can drop out without having to forfeit and cost someone else a chance to debate. The competition will begin in February with the state final to be held in early August.

Watch past Years 11 and 12 state finals

NSW Premier’s Debating Challenge 2021 - Years 11 and 12 State Final

This is the final between Smiths Hill High School and Sydney Girls High School. Held over Zoom on Friday 17 September 2021, the topic of the debate is 'That employers should be allowed to fire unvaccinated employees.'


NSW Premier's Debating Challenge 2022 - Years 11 and 12 state final

This is the final held in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney on Friday 5 August 2022 between Rose Bay Secondary College and Sydney Girls High School. The topic of the debate is ‘That we should stop having a prime minister.’

NSW Premier's Debating Challenge 2023 - Years 11 and 12 state final


Enjoy the lively debate of this live-streamed final from the Great Hall University of Sydney on 1 August 2023 for the Hume Barbour trophy. This debate is between Cammeraygal High School and Sydney Girls High School.