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May 2009
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Speeches promote racial unity

The speech finalists from left: Kelsey Brown, Otago Girls High; Dhaxna Sothieson, Hillcrest High, Hamilton; Jessica Edmonds-Saunders, Whangarei Girls High; Rayhan Langdana, Wellington College; Ruth Corkill, Queen Margaret College, Wellington; Rebecca Brittain, Napier Girls High; Meaghan Li, Macleans College, Auckland.

Photo: Sylvia Aston

Wellington students Rayhan Langdana and Ruth Corkill took home the top prizes in the national finals of the annual Race Unity Speech Award, held in Auckland in April.

Launched by the New Zealand Baha’i community in 2001 to commemorate Race Relations Day, the Race Unity Speech Award is supported by Police, the Human Rights Commission and the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Rayhan took the first prize of $1500 for Wellington College.

The first male ever to have won the event, in year 11, he was also one of the youngest finalists, competing against year 12 and 13 students.

Ruth, in year 12 at Queen Margaret College, came second.

Seven finalists were selected from around the country, through a series of regional heats and semi-finals, from a total of 140 entrants.

The students spoke for around seven to eight minutes on the topic “Good neighbours come from all races and cultures”, and were asked to consider their own experience of being a good neighbour with other races and cultures.

Superintendent Wally Haumaha, National Manager Māori Pacific and Ethnic Services, one of the five judges, says he was extremely impressed by the way the students considered this year’s topic.

“The speakers made a strong call for unity and oneness in this country, but not at the expense of people’s fundamental right to exercise their cultural difference,” he said.

“They provided a strong and worthwhile message that all good neighbours need to celebrate and appreciate diversity in our communities,” says Wally.

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