by Greta Yeoman
South Canterbury high school pupils are being encouraged to continue conversations about racial unity by entering a national speech competition.
Afsaneh Howey, who is the regional co-ordinator of the Race Unity Speech Awards across South Canterbury, said the discussions prompted by the terror attack in Christchurch on March 15 were important and needed to continue.
“None of us are born with racism. Babies aren’t racist.”
One way of continuing these conversations was getting high school pupils to write a speech about race relations in Aotearoa, Mrs Howey said.
“None of us are born with racism. Babies aren’t racist.” – Afsaneh Howey
The regional competition of the national Race Unity Speech Awards, open to pupils in years 11-13, will be held on April 10 at Te Aitarakihi Multicultural Centre in Timaru.
This year’s theme is “Speaking for justice, working for unity”.
Longtime Timaru diversity advocate Kate Elsen said the competition had been running since 2001 but had not had many South Canterbury entries over the past few years.
Now was a good opportunity to change that, she said.
“Of all the times . . . this is the time.”
Because of the recent events in Christchurch the deadline for entries had been extended.
Mrs Howey said those interested in entering were invited to contact her as soon as possible.
Schools were good places for ideas about diversity and tolerance to be taught, she said.
“In light of what has happened . . . you are mourning and are sad and asking ‘what we can do?’
“This is something you can do.”
While South Canterbury was not as diverse as main cities around New Zealand, the number of different ethnicities had grown since she arrived in Timaru almost 30 years ago.
It used to be as though such people “were from a different planet”, she said.
Now they “blend in”.
The Race Unity Speech Awards were initiated by the New Zealand Baha’i community in 2001 in support of Race Relations Day.
The awards are supported by the New Zealand Police, Human Rights Commission, Hedi Moani Charitable Trust, Office of Ethnic Communities, New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils and Speech New Zealand.
Speeches can be delivered in either English or Maori.