NZ Police Acknowledge Race Unity Speech Awards Winner

The winner of the 2024 Race Unity Speech Awards is Jessica Tupai, year 12, from St Mary’s College, Wellington.

Jessica’s speech highlighted the value of social cohesion and community collaboration.

“We say we want to stand together, yet we still divide ourselves with discrimination,” Jessica said in the speech.

“We say we want to connect all peoples, yet we still break apart because of our bias.

“We know we need to unite, yet for some reason we are still wrenched apart by our racism,

“The same racism that 50 years ago had my Pasifika people hiding behind their door.”

The awards were held at the Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae, Manukau Institute of Technology Ōtara Campus this weekend and featured students from several schools across New Zealand.

This year’s theme, “Te Taura Tangata – The Rope of Unity,” underscores the importance of social cohesion and collaborative community efforts.The metaphor of the ‘Rope of Unity’ represents the idea that unity formed by people from diverse backgrounds creates a stronger, resilient bond capable of overcoming social divisions and fostering social cohesion.

Pieri Munro, (DC/DCE – Iwi & Community) and representative of the New Zealand Police, reflects on the theme and kaupapa, drawing inspiration from the whakatuaki, “Ka pū te rūhā te hao te rangatahi,” which translates to “When the old net is worn, the new net goes fishing.” Munro emphasises the Race Unity Speech Awards empower our youth to grow and become future leaders, helping them to be equipped to face global challenges with unity and strength.

This initiative aligns with the Police’s ‘Focused Prevention through Partnerships’ priority, reinforcing trust and confidence within our communities. The speeches encourage us all to reflect on how we can individually and collectively contribute to a society that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“It is an opportunity for people of different backgrounds and ethnicities to come together, connect, and share their stories and experiences, preparing them to face future challenges with a united front,” says Pieri Munro.

Munro also shares a poignant whakatuaki, “E kore au e ngaro he kākano I ruia mai I Rangiātea” (I shall never be lost for I am a seed scattered from Rangiātea). He emphasises our Tikanga as Māori and as indigenous people should be practiced and adapted to the modern world, not sheltered or fossilised.

One of the national co-ordinators of the Race Unity Speech Awards, Bev Watson, says the theme this year – Te Taura Tangata / The Rope of Unity – encourages students to consider the power of working in unity with others to help achieve social cohesion.

“New Zealand Police have been the chief sponsors of the Speech Awards for the past sixteen years,” Bev says.

“They support the initiative at both the regional and national levels, ensuring that as many Police as possible are exposed to the thoughts of the rangatahi on a social issue of critical importance.”

The Race Unity Speech Awards provide a platform to practice the sacred art of storytelling, allowing us to share our stories and experiences; so that we are all united as people to create a New Zealand that is bounded by empathy, inclusivity, and respect.

About the Awards

The Race Unity Speech Awards were established by the New Zealand Bahá’í Community in memory of race relations advocate and Bahá’í Faith member Hedi Moani.

Organised by the New Zealand Bahá’í Community, a religious community dedicated to promoting the oneness of humanity at various levels, the Speech Awards receive sponsorship from the New Zealand Police (principal sponsors), the Human Rights Commission, Foundation North, Manukau Institute of Technology, Ministry for Ethnic Communities, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Speech New Zealand, Hedi Moani Charitable Trust, and Studio Marque.

Video footage available here:


Issued by Police Media Centre

/NZ Police Public Release. View in full here.