Speech Awards

Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity

Speak your mind on race relations in Aotearoa

Regional heats will take place between 6 – 11 April, outside of school hours.
National semi-finals and the final will be in Auckland on 10 – 11 May 2019
Who can enter
Students in Years 11, 12 and 13
Registrations close on Wednesday 27 March


Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity


More and more New Zealanders are recognising that if we want a harmonious and unified Aotearoa, we all must speak out and work to address racial prejudice and injustice. But in a world that is becoming increasingly polarised, how do we make sure our efforts create real unity?  


Questions for speakers

The topic for 2019 is “Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity”. Students must address at least two of the following questions in their speech:

  1. How can we give nothing to racism while also giving people a chance to overcome their own prejudice?

  2. What sort of words and actions help bring people of different ethnicities and worldviews together? 

  3. Are there any responsibilities that come with the right to free speech? 

  4. What do our institutions (such as government, local councils and schools) need to do to bring about justice and fairness for people of all races?

  5. What do we need to do as a community to become more unified and inclusive?

Quotes and whakataukī

You also need to incorporate at least one of the following quotations / whakataukī into your speech:

  • The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.

-           Baha’u’llah


  • He aha te kai a te rangatira? He kōrero / What is the food of a chief? It is speech.

    He aha te tohu a te rangatira? He manaaki. / What is the sign of a chief? It is generosity.

    He aha te mahi a te rangatira? He whakatira te iwi / What is the work of a chief? To unite the people.


  • A relevant quotation or proverb from your own faith or cultural tradition

Speech requirements

  • Speeches can be delivered in English or Māori. 

  • Speeches must be between 7 and 8 minutes in length. Speeches less than 6½ minutes or more than 8½ minutes will result in the contestant either losing points or being disqualified. 

  • Lecterns and microphones are not used at the regional level but speeches will be amplified at the national final. 

  • By entering, students agree that their image and speech may be used to further promote the Speech Awards.However, if any student objects to this, they are asked to advise the organisers, who will respect their decision.

Prizes for the National Final

1st Prize: $2,000 to be shared: $1,000 each for the school and the winning student

Runner-Up: $1,500 to be shared: $750 each for the school and the runner-up

All other finalists: $200

Useful links and resources for speakers

www.youtube.com/c/RaceUnity – this is the YouTube channel for the Race Unity Speech Awards. Have a look through the finalists’ speeches from previous years to get inspiration for your own speech. How can you build on what has already been said?

www.thatsus.co.nz – a page where New Zealanders share their experiences of racism, and what it means to be a New Zealander. This website is a powerful example of how telling personal stories can have an impact – is there a story that you could share in your speech?

www.givenothing.co.nz – the Give Nothing to Racism campaign page, launched by the Human Rights Commission in 2017. If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to watch Taika Waititi’s video asking us to give (nothing) to racism.


The judges, the criteria


Marks are allocated as follows:

  • Content (50%), delivery (30%) and language (20%)

However, in marking the speeches, judges are asked to note if any:

  • are presented in a particularly creative or original manner

  • are especially inspirational or motivational

  • contain realistic and practical suggestions for improving race relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Judges are encouraged to confer together to determine the final outcome, especially if the marks between the top two or three students are very close. In that case, other considerations (such as those mentioned above) could possibly tip the balance in a particular student’s favour!

At the regional level and for the national semi-finals there will normally be three judges, often including a member of the NZ Police, the Human Rights Commission and, where possible, the Office of Ethnic Communities. For the national final there are usually five judges, representing the NZ Police, the Human Rights Commission, the Office of Ethnic Communities, the Speech Communications Association, and Māori.


Students have participated in the Speech Awards since 2001


People have listened to these speeches in person


Views of these speeches online


Police officers, academics, government officials and other people of influence have served as judges of the Speech Awards

Information for teachers


We’ve developed a pack of resources to help teachers support students interested in the Race Unity Speech Awards and Hui. These resources can also be used for any class or group of students interested in exploring contemporary race relations issues.

The Speech Awards provide an opportunity for students to develop the key competencies outlined in the curriculum:

  • Thinking skills – learning to use creative, critical, and meta-cognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences and ideas.

  • Managing self – self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners.

  • Relating to others – the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas.

  • Participating and contributing – developing the capacity to contribute appropriately as a group member, to make connections with others in the group.  

The Race Unity Hui is also a great opportunity for students to learn about race relations issues. In past years a number of teachers have brought whole classes of students to the Hui, with great benefits for the students and the others attending the Hui.

Participation in the Speech Awards and Hui can be used as the basis for assessments and classroom activities in a range of subject areas, such as English, te reo Māori and Social Studies.

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