Joint Winner of the National Race Unity Speech Award by a Student from Kerikeri High School

Joe Howells of Kerikeri High School with Sheryl Chand of Masterton College after being named winners of the annual Race Unity Speech Awards. Photo / provided

A student from Kerikeri High School has been crowned the national co-winner of the Race Unity Speech Awards.

Joe Howells was named the winner alongside Sheryl Chand, of Solway College in Masterton, of the long-running annual speech contest.

The theme for this year’s awards, organized by the Baha’i community, was Ngā matimati nō te ringa kotahi (fingers of one hand).

Community spokeswoman Huti Watson said the theme highlights how wrong and harmful racism is.

Howell and Chand’s joint success marked the first time in 22 years that two people have been named national champions at the same time.

Howells’ speech called on all New Zealanders to stamp out racism by working together – like the fingers of one hand.

Kerikeri High School student Joe Howells delivers his powerful speech about Kiwis uniting to eradicate racism.  Photo / provided
Kerikeri High School student Joe Howells delivers his powerful speech about Kiwis uniting to eradicate racism. Photo / provided

“When fingers are broken, too busy oppressing each other, how can we weave together our united future? How can we live in harmony or hope to seize greatness? We cannot,” he said.

“To be able to move forward in our society, we must respect all cultures, accept diversity and learn from each other.

“All aspects of our hand work in unison with respect and aroha. Aotearoa is known to be a nation of pioneers…Why don’t we become the first to eradicate racism?”

Chand’s winning speech centered on powerful and practical suggestions for dismantling racism, including abolishing academic broadcasting in schools.

The couple and five other high school students spoke at the national final at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae on the Ōtara campus of the Manukau Institute of Technology on Sunday.

Other speakers included Huanui student Takaimaania Ngata-Henare, who won the Tohu Whetumatarau Trophy, which is the Ministry of Ethnic Communities’ award for vision.

Chief Justice, Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha said it was impossible to choose just one national champion because both “powerful speeches” deserved recognition.

“It is important that we hear the voices of our young people and their concerns about the future of this country,” he said.

Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities and Minister for Youth, Priyanca Radhakrishna, was among the audience, listening to and learning from talented young speakers.

She sees the awards as a great example of the kind of diversity and inclusion needed in all sectors of society.

“We need to take concrete steps to make our spaces more inclusive so that people from different backgrounds feel safe to share their views and experiences,” Radhakrishna said.

“That’s the beauty of these awards – they show us the true value of diversity.”

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