“I must move forward, we must move forward - look beyond this separation within myself; a conflict of races based on ethnic prejudice and misguided inevitable judgement.”
Jess Jenkins, a Year 13 student at Wellington’s Tawa College, emerged as winner of the Race Unity Speech Awards 2020 with a highly personal plea for New Zealand to move beyond racial division.
She won the New Zealand Police National Champion’s Award – Te Tohu Raukura ā-Motu – in the national final yesterday (Sunday 17 May).
She spoke of her struggle to reconcile the historic differences in her combined Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu) and European heritage, and to move forward with her own identity and individuality – “I stand complete, yet I am divided,” she said.
Jess also won the NZ Baha’i Community Award for Insight, introduced by the Baha’i community – organiser of the speech competition since 2001 – this year.
New Zealand Police has supported the Race Unity Speech Awards as Principal Sponsor since 2008.
The organisation is represented in multi-agency support and promotion of the competition at all levels, led by Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha - who also presides as national finals Chief Judge.
“It’s been a privilege over the past 12 years for New Zealand Police to support strong, dynamic students who are often very frank about their experiences,” he says.
“I applaud their bravery and encourage everyone to commit to eliminating bias and discrimination in our communities.
“We know the incidence of hate crime has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an ugly and disturbing side-effect which shows just how critical it is for these challenging conversations to continue.
‘We have a collective responsibility to champion the powerful words of these young minds; they know no boundaries. It’s crucial to maintain momentum, so that their words are not lost to the past.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards heats and finals were held online for the first time.
In the national final, six finalists competed for a range of awards and prize money for their school and themselves.
Jen Marsh, Year 13, Otago Girls' High School:
- The Human Rights Commission Award for Impact (te Tohu Eke Panuku),
- The Māori Language Commission Award for te reo Māori (te Tohu Manukura i te Reo).
Ondre Hapuku Lambert, Year 13, Karamu High School:
- The Office of Ethnic Communities Award for Vision (te Tohu Whetumatarau),
- The Speech NZ Award for Delivery (te Tohu Auahatanga).
Lucia Tui Bernards, Year 11, Tawa College:
- The Hedi Moani Charitable Trust Award for Advocacy (te Tohu Aumangea).
You can view all the finalists' speeches at www.youtube.com/raceunity