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Students speak up for racial harmony

A Campion College student’s views on race relations in New Zealand was judged winner of the 2019 Race Unity Speech Awards in Gisborne and earned her a place in the national semifinals.

Year 13 student Rata Simperingham spoke on the topic Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity.

She will travel to Auckland to take part in the national semifinals on May 10 against more than 20 other students

The semifinalists will vie for a place in the national final to be held the following day. The overall winner receives $2000 — $1000 of that to go to their school; the runner-up gets $1500 — $750 to go to their school; and all other finalists get $200.

Before the Gisborne awards began, a tribute was paid to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in Christchurch.

Gisborne co-ordinator John Giffin said these events had deeply affected many New Zealanders and that was reflected in the number of speakers who touched on the subjects.

Mahmood Khan and a small contingent from the Gisborne Muslim community gave a prayer and reading from the Qua’ran. This was followed by a minute of silent reflection and remembrance.

“It is clear that more and more New Zealanders are recognising that we must address racial prejudice and injustice if we want a harmonious and unified country,” said Mr Giffin. “But it’s a big challenge to make sure our efforts create real unity in a world that is becoming increasingly polarised.

“Recent events in Christchurch have made this discussion even more urgent in our country. It must be carefully and thoughtfully addressed.”

While in Auckland, Rata will also take part in the Race Unity Hui, which provides youth and young adults aged 15 to 30 the opportunity to deepen their understanding of race relations issues and share their views on how progress can be achieved.

Judges of the Gisborne speeches this year were Shannon Matenga (head judge) from the Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Area Police Commander Inspector Sam Aberahama and Hinemihiata Lardelli from Gisborne District Council.

Hemi Porou entertained the audience with his golden voice and Gisborne Boys’ High students sang in support of te reo Maori speaker Raymond Pewhairangi.

At last year’s national final, now New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny, formerly of Gisborne, highlighted the importance of young people in the present and future.

“We always speak of (young) people being tomorrow’s leaders but they’re leading today.”