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Lawrence Campbell Oratory Competition

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The Lawrence Campbell Oratory Competition is an annual competition in impromptu public speaking between representatives of each of the Great Public Schools (GPS) and Combined Associated Schools (CAS) in New South Wales, Australia. It was established in 1935, in honour of Lawrence Campbell, a famous teacher of elocution in various schools in Sydney, in the early twentieth century. Between 2006 and 2013, in all but one year (2009), the competition was won by a student in year 11. At the 2015 World University Debating Championships in Malaysia, three of the eight speakers in the Grand Final (representing Sydney, Oxford, and Harvard) were former Lawrence Campbell winners – a testament to the quality of the Lawrence Campbell competition.


The Lawrence Campbell Oratory is widely regarded as the most prestigious, and difficult of the New South Wales Public Speaking Competitions. Each school is represented by one speaker. Each speaker is required to give a speech of eight minutes length of one of three topics given to him or her 15 minutes beforehand. In this competition, the emphasis is on oratory, the art of speech, and so the manner of delivery counts at least equally with the subject matter. The emphasis is on giving a speech that combines humour with pathos, dramatic elements with more conversational moments, serious commentary with light-hearted asides, quotations drawn from a variety of sources, but all around a common thread based on the chosen topic, and showing the style of the candidate. Accordingly, the style of speech is very different from many other public speaking competitions in which candidates research and prepare speeches of their own in advance, often on questions of current affairs or public policy. With only fifteen minutes to prepare and without the aid of books or references, the content of the speech will test the candidates' general knowledge and ingenuity.

Participating schools

Crest School Location Enrollment Founded Denomination Day/Boarding School Colors Number of wins
Barker College Hornsby 2700 1890 Anglican Day & Boarding Red & Blue 3
Cranbrook School Bellevue Hill 1600 1918 Anglican Day & Boarding Red, White & Blue 2
Knox Grammar School Wahroonga 3200 1924 Uniting Church Day & Boarding Black & Blue 3
Newington College Stanmore 2000 1863 Uniting Church Day & Boarding Black & White 5
St Aloysius' College Milsons Point 1300 1879 Catholic
Day Blue & Gold 5
St Ignatius' College Riverview 1500 1880 Catholic
Day & Boarding Blue & White 23
St Joseph's College Hunters Hill 1000 1881 Catholic
(Marist Brothers)
Day & Boarding Cerise & Blue 7
Sydney Boys High School Moore Park 1200 1883 N/A Day Chocolate Brown &
Sky Blue
Sydney Church of England Grammar School North Sydney 1600 1889 Anglican Day & Boarding Navy Blue & White 7
Sydney Grammar School Darlinghurst 1900 1854 Non-denominational Day Black & Gold 16
The Armidale School Armidale 600 1894 Anglican Day & Boarding Navy Blue & Straw 0
The King's School Parramatta 2140 1831 Anglican Day & Boarding White & Sky Blue 2
The Scots College Bellevue Hill 2100 1893 Presbyterian Day & Boarding Gold & Blue 4
Trinity Grammar School Summer Hill 2200 1913 Anglican Day & Boarding Green, White & Grey 4
Waverley College Waverley 1500 1903 Catholic Day Royal Blue & Gold 0

Each school is represented by one speaker. Saint Ignatius’ College has the most distinguished history, with twenty-two winning candidates in the competition's history. Waverley College and The Armidale School have never fielded a winning candidate.


Because of the emphasis on oratory, the topics usually admit of wide latitude for the candidates to be creative. Often, quotations from literature, public figures, and popular culture are chosen as topics, along with proverbs or even single words. Past topics include:

  • Assume a virtue if you have it not
  • One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name
  • I must follow them, for I am their leader
  • He thinks too much – such men are dangerous
  • Because it was there
  • The devil can recite scripture for his purpose
  • The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars
  • I am Fate's lieutenant; I act under orders
  • Couch Jumping
  • Right as the world goes is only in issue between equals in power while the strong do as they will and the weak suffer as they must
  • Chaos Often Breeds Life When Order Breeds Habit
  • Look at my works, you mighty, and despair
  • Two cheers for Democracy
  • Blood will have Blood

Notable past winners

The Lawrence Campbell oratory competition has many distinguished previous winners, particularly in the areas of law, politics, and the arts. Famous past winners include:

The only people to have won the competition on two occasions are:

  • RW Bowie (Sydney Grammar – 1939, 1940)
  • Murray Gleeson[1] (St Joseph's – 1953, 1955)
  • Anthony Jones (Scots – 1999, 2000)
  • Jeremy Raper (Sydney Grammar – 2001, 2002)
  • Joseph Ware (Barker College – 2008, 2009)


There have been many controversies in the history of the competition. These usually arise out of allegations of plagiarism and the use of prepared material in the speech.

Often, the candidate is given the benefit of any doubt, if only because candidates train intensively for the competition and must necessarily think of themes, quotations, and one-liners that may emerge in the speech the candidate later gives at the competition. However, the wholesale repetition of prepared material is strongly discouraged, and with enough proof, a winner may be stripped of the title if wholesale preparation is shown.

Previous winners and runners-up

Year Winner School Runner-up School Third place School
1935 RF Hughes St Ignatius' College
1936 DF Cummings St. Ignatius' College
1937 J D E Bedford Shore
1938 WB Pritchard Shore
1939 RW Bowie Sydney Grammar
1940 RW Bowie Sydney Grammar
1941 FA Jensen Sydney Grammar
1942 Not held (Death of Lawrence Campbell)
1943 AC Gould St Ignatius' College
1944 P Clyne Sydney Boys High
1945 AE Melville Shore
1946 HH Jamieson Shore
1947 AM Gallagher
W Glen-Doepel
St Joseph's
Sydney Boys High aeq
1948 B Beveridge Sydney Boys High
1949 AD Robb
AD Dingle
Sydney Boys High
Knox aeq
1950 GJ Woodburne Sydney Boys High
1951 DH Lance Sydney Grammar
1952 JM Bennett Shore
1953 A. Murray Gleeson St Joseph's
1954 M Halstead St Aloysius'
1955 A. Murray Gleeson St Joseph's
1956 JP Hamilton Sydney Boys High
1957 LD Waddy King's
1958 Mungo MacCallum Cranbrook
1959 AG Whealy St Ignatius' College
1960 BP Jones St Ignatius' College
1961 C. Wayne Hudson Newington
1962 Gerard C Windsor St Ignatius' College
1963 Nick F Greiner St Ignatius' College
1964 Clifton R Hoeben St Ignatius' College
1965 CG McDonald St. Ignatius' College
1966 Nick P Enright St Ignatius' College
1967 JS Eyers St Ignatius' College
1968 PA Boyle St Ignatius' College
1969 WJ Kavanagh St Ignatius' College
1970 L Olson Sydney Grammar
1971 JD Scahill St Ignatius' College
1972 Malcolm B Turnbull Sydney Grammar
1973 P Green Newington
1974 AC Byrnes St Ignatius' College
1975 JJ McInerny St Ignatius' College
1976 RR Harper Sydney Grammar
1977 S Marks St Joseph's
1978 DI McMahon Shore
1979 Max Bonnell Trinity
1980 CG Mangan St Joseph's
1981 CM Kelly Sydney Grammar
1982 Bruce Meagher St Ignatius' College
1983 Mark Swivel Sydney Boys High
1984 J Rice St Aloysius'
1985 S Nixon Sydney Grammar
1986 Adam Spencer St Aloysius'
1987 A McKenna St Aloysius'
1988 Andrew O'Keefe St Ignatius' College
1989 B Franklin Cranbrook
1990 JN Greiner St Ignatius' College
1991 Max Wood Trinity
1992 Angus Fitzsimons Knox
1993 Charles Firth Sydney Grammar
1994 Mark Walsh St Ignatius' College
1995 David Yeo Sydney Grammar
1996 Peter Phillips Newington
1997 Gareth Tilley Sydney Boys High
1998 Jeremy Bell Trinity James Brown Knox
1999 Anthony Jones Scots
2000 Anthony Jones Scots
2001 Jeremy Raper Sydney Grammar
2002 Jeremy Raper Sydney Grammar
2003 Not awarded Winner voluntarily agreed to give up award after a similar speech had been given at a previous competition 2nd and 3rd place also queried and so not awarded
2004 Mark Longhurst Newington Kip Williams Cranbrook
2005 Patrick Bateman Sydney Grammar Hayden Guthrie Barker College
2006 Vikram Joshi Sydney Grammar Nathaniel Ware Barker College
2007 Edward Miller Newington Vikram Joshi Sydney Grammar
2008 Joseph Ware Barker College William Harris Scots Sam Molloy Sydney Grammar
2009 Joseph Ware Barker College Conor Bateman King's Daniel Farinha St Aloysius'
2010 James Monaghan Sydney Grammar Daniel Farinha St Aloysius' Jack Price Barker College
2011 Bo Seo Barker College Michael Rees Newington James Monaghan Sydney Grammar
2012 Ed Minack Shore Bo Seo Barker College Harry Maher St Joseph's College
2013 Robbie Ferguson Knox Ed Minack Shore Manish Poologasundram Trinity
2014 Tushaar Garg Sydney Boys High Robbie Ferguson Knox Joshua Wooller Scots
2015 Alex Connolly Trinity Jake Jerogin Knox Sam Wolfe Sydney Grammar
2016 James Elhindi St Aloysius' William Solomon Barker College Zachary August Scots
2017 Joe Bonic Scots Daniel Yim Sydney Grammar Charlie Hoffman St Ignatius' College
2018 Jack Issa St Joseph's College Sebastian Braham St Ignatius' College Justin Lai Sydney Boys High
2019 Sebastian Braham St Ignatius' College Aman Mohamed Sydney Boys High Jinyoung Kim King's
2020 Finn McCredie Shore Jivan Naganathan Sydney Boys High Jack Davies

Jude Egerton-Warburton

St Aloysius'

St Ignatius' College

2021 Bernard Lund St Joseph's College Aidan Woo Sydney Grammar Jivan Naganathan Sydney Boys High
2022 Marcus Nguyen Scots Matthew Davies St Aloysius' William Ryan St Joseph's College
2023 Ethan Zhu King's Eric Scholten Sydney Boys High Daniel Carter Newington


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Lawrence Campbell Oratory". Trinity Grammar School. 5 May 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
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Lawrence Campbell Oratory Competition
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