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Fifty Years of the Japanese Language Speech Contest

Then and now: Japanese as a springboard to a fulfilling and varied career


The National Japanese Language Speech Contest was inaugurated in June 1970, following Japan Airlines’ launch of its Tokyo to Sydney service, flying twice a week via Hong Kong. The contest was established to acknowledge over half a century of Japanese language education in Australia, as well as to encourage Australians to develop a keener interest in the language and culture of Japan.

The Speech Contest celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. To mark this event, we asked some of the participants from the first decade to reflect on what the contest had meant to them, and on the ways in which their study of Japanese provided a launching pad for fulfilling careers and interesting lives. Interestingly, none of these sempai won the national contest, but as Veronica Taylor makes clear in her reflection: “The real prize in this competition is having Japanese language take you places in your life that you can’t imagine.”  Veronica Taylor and Chris Nailer’s reflections are based on written comments, while those of Monica Pinda and David Harvey are based on interviews conducted by Robyn Spence-Brown. We hope you enjoy reading their stories.

Sempai interviews

Chris Nailer

1971 Speech Contest,
Open Beginners Division

Read Chris’s reflection here

Monica Pinda

1971 Speech Contest,
Open Division

Read Monica’s interview here

David Harvey

1979-1980 Speech Contest,
Open Division

Read David’s interview here

Veronica Taylor

1988-1989 Speech Contest,
Open Division

Read Veronica’s reflection here

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Sempai profiles

Chris Nailer (Speech Contest finalist 1971, Open Beginners Division)

Christopher Nailer is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Management, College of Business and Economics, at The Australian National University. Chris studied Japanese and Chinese at Melbourne University and participated as a second-year student in the 1971 Japanese Speech Contest (Open Beginners). He got through to the finals, with a speech on the works of Thomas Mann, but came last out of 5.

After graduating, Chris was awarded a Mombusho scholarship to complete a Masters at Waseda University in Tokyo, then worked in translation, being appointed manager of the local Translation Section of Fujitsu in Sydney in 1983. He later completed an MBA, and worked as a consultant in Australia and Singapore. Moving back to Australia, he finished his career as a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and international business at the ANU.

He notes that although he later moved beyond a narrow focus on Japan, his studies of Japanese and Chinese provided the initial foundations for his entire career.

Read Chris’s reflection here.

Monica Pinda (2nd place winner 1971, Open Division)

Monica Pinda is a veteran professional translator, whose work has spanned a wide range of industries and topics, from mining and manufacturing to health care. She has also worked as a teacher at tertiary and secondary levels, and is the joint author of textbooks for senior secondary students. Monica lives in Melbourne, and regularly travels to Japan.

Read Monica’s interview here.




David Harvey (Finalist 1979, 2nd place winner 1980, Open Division)

David Harvey has had an international career in Australia, Japan and the US, having worked in the Japanese finance industry for more than 30 years.  He is a director of the Asian Finance Group, which specializes in research on Asia and translation of business, finance documents and policy papers. He holds a Bachelor of Science, Graduate Diploma in Banking and Finance and Graduate Diploma of Japanese Studies from Monash University.  He also maintains a strong interest in music and community organisations, and is currently a board member of Music for Canberra. 

Read David’s interview here.



Professor Veronica Taylor (Speech Contest finalist 1988 and 1989, Open Division)

Veronica L. Taylor is Professor of Law and Regulation at the Australian National University (ANU) in the School of Regulation and Global Governance. Her work focusses on regulatory justice, rule of law and institutional reform, and corporate governance issues in Asia. Her international work as a development law reform advisor and designer has taken her to Afghanistan, China, Eurasia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. Since 2018 she has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo, co-teaching the program she designed in South-East Asian Business Law. She is currently a seconded advisor to the Deregulation Taskforce in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Deputy Chair of the Australia-Japan Foundation (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and a Director of the Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies and the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee. She is also a Tea Master in the Urasenke tradition (Tea name 宗衣 Sôi) and the Executive Director of the non-profit Chadō Urasenke Tankōkai Melbourne. She received the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Citation in 2017.

Read Veronica’s reflection here.

The Japanese Language Speech Contest throughout the Years

A number of newspaper clippings and photos from the early years of the National Japanese Language Speech Contest (1971-1980) can be viewed below.

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