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Response to article published in The West Australian Newspaper on 5/3/18.

posted 4 Mar 2018, 20:46 by Charles Fedor

The Western Australian Debating League aspires to ensure all students have meaningful access to debating that encourages critical thinking, fosters engagement with global issues, and equips students with lifelong skills and the confidence to pursue their potential. WADL aims to do this by ensuring all WA school students have access to challenging debating competitions, high quality resources, and purpose-built development opportunities. – WADL Mission Statement.



Dear WADL Community,


This morning an article was published in the West Australian Newspaper that referred to a topic set by WADL , “That we should fully legalise sex work”. When setting any topic, the WADL Technical Committee looks for issues that are relevant and thought-provoking, in order to encourage students to think critically about the world around them, and give students the tools and confidence to engage in important conversations.


All topics are subject to review under our “Policy on Contentious Topics”, with a specific window for this to occur being given after the draw release. There are two criteria used to asses controversial topics; firstly, whether the topics are included in the scope of the Australian Curriculum, and; secondly, whether a topic requires students to rationally and constructively discuss the premises or assumptions of a particular religious or ideological belief, rather than make a value judgement. This topic was deemed to satisfy both of the requirements.


Under the first criteria, there are two subject areas that cover the scope of this topic. The Civics & Citizenship Australian Curriculum requires students in year 9 and 10 to examine principles of the justice system (ACHCK078), whilst the Health and Physical Education Australian Curriculum requires students to ‘critique strategies to enhance health, safety and wellbeing in their communities,’ (ACPPS096) as well as ‘critique behaviours and contextual factors that influence health and wellbeing of diverse communities.’ (ACPPS098)


On the second criteria, this topic does not require a value judgment to be made on the morality of sex work. Rather, it requires a critical analysis of the legal approaches to making an industry safe,  and mechanisms to protect communities. It requires students to debate the strengths and weaknesses of Government regulation in industries, whilst analysing the impact on key stakeholders within the debate.


For these reasons, WADL continues to maintain its support for giving students the opportunity to debate such a topic. We believe that learning about topics such as this with facilitation and guidance from educators will allow students to develop a well-informed opinion about sex work in a safe and mediated environment.


However, this safe and mediated context is contingent on Coordinators and parents being able to facilitate such an environment. In order to mitigate the impact of strong ideological beliefs held by teachers and parents, where such an environment could not be fostered, WADL also chose to offer an alternative topic to any schools that requested a change.


WADL would like to thank all Coordinators who had input during the review process for this topic. We are pleased to have worked with your concerns to ensure that we can continue offering opportunities for your students to be challenged and stimulated  on pressing local and global issues.


Best Wishes,


Nicholas Camer-Pesci,

President – Western Australian Debating League.