A speech that urges New Zealanders to embody our national anthem and stand up for others when they are racially abused has won this year’s New Zealand Race Unity Speech Competition.
“What kind of country are we? What do we stand for?” Te Ariki Te Puni from Palmerston North Boys High School asked in his winning speech.
“God defend our free land . . .but what use is free speech if we don’t use it?”
Do we pretend we don’t hear a Muslim woman being insulted in the middle of town or do we laugh at our friend’s racist joke he asked.
Judges were impressed by Mr Te Puni’s inspirational presentation.
“We have a lot to learn from outstanding young New Zealanders like Te Ariki whose message is simple and memorable: don’t be a bystander, stand up and speak up for others because we are the ones who decide what kind of country New Zealand is,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.
“We live in one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth as well as one of the most peaceful. Kiwis need to listen to Te Ariki's wise advice: God Defend New Zealand is about standing up for each other.”
Hundreds of college students across the country have taken part in regional competitions that culminated in the national finals held last night at Te Mahurehure Marae in Auckland.
In his winning speech Mr Te Puni spoke of New Zealanders who stood up for what they believed in: Dame Whina Cooper, Kate Sheppard and his own personal hero, the late Pa Dawson Tamatea who taught at his college. The spine tingling haka performed by 1500 Palmerston North Boys High students at Pa Dawson’s tangihana went viral around the world, “United we found strength, alone we can be broken, standing together we are invincible,” said Mr Te Puni.
“We are all equal because we are all different, we are all the same in that we will never be the same, we are all connected to earth by the same force of gravity .. we all share this country Aotearoa” said Mr Te Puni.
“The choice is ours do we stand up for racial unity and build a country of rich diversity or sit by silently and watch it dissipate? Let our cause be just and right: God Defend New Zealand.”
Launched by the Baha’i community and Hedi Moani in 1999 after a spate of racially motivated attack, the Race Unity Speech Competition is open to secondary school students across the country.
Sponsors include the Human Rights Commission, the NZ Police, UNESCO, NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils and the Office of Ethnic Communities. A third of all complaints received by the Human Rights Commission are to do with racial abuse.
Last year Mr Te Puni won the prestigious national Korimako speech award at the Manu Korero speech competition when it was held in Porirua.