Be the change, don’t sit back and wait for the Government to fix race relations in Aotearoa, was the message from Lucia-Tui Bernards, a Year 12 student from Tawa College who today won this year’s Race Unity Speech Awards.
In an inspiring and heartfelt speech, Lucia-Tui called for all secondary schools to have a race relations strategy, as well as a race relations youth council to ensure the voices of ethnic minorities are heard.
Race relations youth ambassadors would suggest policies to decision-makers and government agencies from a youth perspective.
Chief judge NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha says Lucia-Tui’s speech was fantastic.
Deputy Commissioner Haumaha has been involved with the Race Unity Speech Awards since 2008 and says young people want to see change through respect and diversity. “If people understand diversity, then they understand what unity means.
“There is now more understanding of the hopes and the aspirations of young people. I am totally inspired by what I’ve heard over the years. It gives me confidence that our country is in good hands,” he says.
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities and Minister for Youth Priyanca Radhakrishnan says all six finalists spoke with eloquence and confidence about their experiences, and “about where we are today, and where we need to get to”.
A former Race Unity Speech Awards judge herself, the Minister said she was inspired by the speeches she heard today, and the messages shared would help influence her work in Government, implementing the recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque attacks to improve social cohesion in New Zealand.
“The speeches we heard today highlighted the importance of truly valuing the diversity that exists across Aotearoa and working out what unites us – as people and as New Zealanders,” Priyanca Radhakrishnan said.
“With more than 213 ethnic communities in Aotearoa who speak over 160 languages, we all have a role to play making sure everyone feels like they belong,” she says.
This is the 20th year the Race Unity Speech Awards have been held. Organised by the New Zealand Bahá’í community, Lucia-Tui spoke alongside five other Year 11 to 13 students in the national final at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technology’s Ōtara campus this morning.
Bahá’í community spokesperson Huti Watson says this year’s theme – Kia kotahi te hoe – Paddle as one – reflects that everyone has a role to play in eradicating racism and building unity.
“By working together, we can find practical ways to shift the culture of our schools, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces and our online spaces. Empathy and compassion for others is essential for building relationships across cultural, racial and ideological divides.
“We may look different based on what part of the world our ancestors came from, but we should never imagine ourselves to be superior because of our inherited physical appearance, language or culture. It is also important we always respect Māori as tangata whenua and the unique status they have under Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” Huti Watson says.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says the March 15 mosque attack in 2019 and recent events overseas have shown that racism remains a powerful force.
“Racism is not only hurtful, it prevents people from reaching their potential, or from living their lives feeling welcome and secure. That’s why it’s so good to see these passionate young people, who are already standing up to racism and the colonisation of Māori; and will continue to have a positive effect on their schools and their communities,” Meng Foon says.
Tawa College is the first school to win the National Champion’s Award in consecutive years in the event’s 20 years history after her fellow student Jess Jenkins won last year. Lucia-Tui is also the first student to win a national category award two years in a row after last year winning the Tohu Aumangea – the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust Award for Advocacy.
This year Lucia-Tui also won the Tohu Eke Panuku – Human Rights Commission Award for Impact and the Tohu Whetumatarau – Office of Ethnic Communities Award for Vision.
Attached: Lucia-Tui Bernards – Race Unity Speech Awards winner.JPG
Video footage available from 6.30pm: https://www.youtube.com/c/RaceUnity
About the Awards
• The New Zealand Bahá’í Community established the awards after the tragic death of race relations advocate and Bahá’í Faith member Hedi Moani.
• The Race Unity Speech Awards are organised by the New Zealand Bahá’í Community, a religious community concerned with promoting the oneness of humanity at the local, national and international levels.
• The Hui and Speech Awards are organised by the New Zealand Bahá’í community and are sponsored and supported by the NZ Police, the Human Rights Commission, the Federation of Multicultural Councils, Manukau Institute of Technology, the National Commission for UNESCO, the Office of Ethnic Communities, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Speech New Zealand and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust and Studio Marque.