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Students’ Heartfelt Plea For Aotearoa To Be Racist-free: Race Unity Speech Awards 2024

Chief judges and national finalists at the Race Unity Speech Finals 2024 held at Auckland’s Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technolgy.
Credit - Race Unity Speech Awards: Ben Parkinson

Seven secondary students from around the Mōtū have issued different challenges on how Aotearoa can move towards being a racist-free country, at the Race Unity Speech Awards national finals in Auckland on the weekend.

The Year 11 to 13 students delivered touching personal stories and bold solutions around the theme ‘The Rope of Unity – Te Taura Tangata’ at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Jessica Tupa’i, Year 12 from Wellington’s St Mary’s College, was named the Race Unity Speech Awards National Champion for 2024 and received the Tohu Raukura ā-Motu – New Zealand Police National Champion’s Award.

New Zealand Police Deputy Chief Executive Iwi & Communities Pieri Munro said the discourse shared by rangatahi at the Race Unity Speech Awards was “nation-building”.

“We had seven beautiful orators from our whakatipuranga – our next generation… I want to acknowledge their tenacity and the key messages that they’re delivering, not just to this audience, not just to ministers, but to the whole country,” said Munro.

Jessica Tupa’i also received the Tohu Auahatanga - Speech NZ Award for Delivery: whose creative and engaging delivery captured the audience’s attention.

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Former Trustee of Speech NZ Meredith Caisley said Tupa’i’s message was not only memorable, but her delivery was also captivating.

Additionally, Tupa’i also received the Tohu Māramatanga - Bahá’í Community Award for Insight - providing deep insights into how we can bring about the oneness of humanity in Aotearoa.

Member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New Zealand Dr Audrey Aumua said Tupa’i put out a strong and significant challenge to Aotearoa.

Leo Mwape, Year 13 from Palmerston North Boys’ High School, received the Tohu Eke Panuku - Human Rights Commission Award for Impact - providing an effective practical suggestion for ending racism and improving race relations in Aotearoa.

Human Rights Commission lead advisor Kat Eghdamian said all the speeches heard were impactful, but Mwape’s especially stood out.

“Leo spoke about the relationships that we build; they need to go beyond agreement… building relationships of love and of deep connection,” said Eghdamian.

Tanyn Wood, Year 12 from Cambridge’s St Peter’s School, received the Tohu Aumangea - Hedi Moani Memorial Award for Advocacy - demonstrating how to stand up for our rights and the rights of others.

A representative of the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust Kerry-Ann Stevenson said it was a blessing and an inspiration to hear the solutions put forward by rangatahi.

“It is a blessing to hear the voice of youth, it reflects the environment in which we live,” said Stevenson.

Caleb Jenkins, Year 12 from Auckland’s Selwyn College, received the Tohu Ahurea Rau – Multicultural NZ Award for Diversity - fostering empathy and understanding of the cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of Aotearoa.

Tanya Moeono, Year 13 from Dunedin’s Otago Girls’ High School received the Tohu Whetumatarau - Ministry for Ethnic Communities Award for Vision - helping to envision Aotearoa’s future as a multicultural society founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

A representative from the ministry Kimberely Wu said Moeono’s speech shared a visualisation on what Aotearoa could look like without racial discrimination and biases.

Ansh Dhot, Year 13 from Tauranga Girls’ College received the Tohu Manaakitanga - Manukau Institute of Technology Award for Manaakitanga - demonstrating manaakitanga through ngākau (compassion) and aroha (empathy) in overcoming prejudice and building bonds of kotahitanga (unity).

Rewi Te Kani-Nankivell Jr., Year 11 from Te Tai Rāwhiti’s Campion College, received the Tohu Manukura i te Reo - Māori Language Commission Award for te Reo Māori - using te reo Māori eloquently and effectively in their speech.

Language planning advisor at Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Rangiora Trotman, said Te Kani-Nankivell beautifully drew inspiration from his tūpuna in his speech.

The Race Unity Speech Awards are organised by the New Zealand Bahá’í Community and were established after the tragic death of race relations advocate and Bahá’í Faith member Hedi Moani.

One of the national co-ordinators of the Race Unity Speech Awards Bev Watson says hearing the young people speak on such sensitive issues is refreshing and essential.

“In a world that often feels more divided every day, it’s essential that we listen to the voices of our rangatahi as they share their views, ideas and insights about one of the most divisive issues of all – race relations,” said Watson.

The Race Unity Speech Awards allow our youth to do exactly that, and they are well worth listening to.”

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