Prime Minister invites insights from race unity speakers
A group of Gisborne students who earlier this year participated in the Race Unity Speech Awards (RUSA) had a special opportunity to personally share their insights with the Prime Minister in a meeting on 4 October.
All seven Gisborne RUSA contestants attended the meeting called by Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern. They were joined by 23 students representing other groups in Tairawhiti. The hour-long gathering was held at the Emerald Hotel where those present were treated to a hearty buffet breakfast, while they discussed issues of concern to youth.
Local speech awards coordinator John Giffin reported: “Our RUSA students were outstanding, making some very positive contributions to the issue of racism in New Zealand.”
Present along with the two groups of students and John Giffin were Glenis Philip-Barbara and Huti Watson, local RUSA helpers, and Member of Parliament Kiri Allan who lives in the region.
John Giffin said that at the start:
“The Prime Minister expressed concern over the current climate crisis and shared some concepts that the government is currently discussing, and asked the question of the youth present, what can be done to give them a sense of hope and wellbeing? One response from the students was that they thought that the government needed to acknowledge the issues facing the young people of today such as the climate crisis and race issues in New Zealand.”
Among the points made by the RUSA students were that their speeches were affected by the Christchurch tragedy, that they wanted to make a call to action, that racism affects diversity and unity, and our local councils need to bring more Māori into decision-making processes.
The students spoke very positively about their view on race relations in the Tairawhiti which prompted M.P. Kiri Allan to note, “we have work to do on these issues but we have cultural acumen here and the race unity speeches have been a great catalyst for conversations”.
The Prime Minister listened carefully to each student speaker encouraging them to freely speak their minds. In response to their comments, she said that there will be opposition to new initiatives regarding addressing racism but reminded the gathering about how the nation responded quite heatedly when the first Treaty settlement was negotiated, but now New Zealand has settled a number of Treaty claims and has moved forward a great deal since that time.
A number of important issues of the day came up in the meeting, but due to the time restrictions it focused mostly on climate and racial issues. It lasted from 9.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. As it was called at very short notice, it was very pleasing that all seven local RUSA contestants were able to attend.
Featured photo: The Prime Minister with this year’s Gisborne Race Unity Speech Awards participants together with John Giffin and Huti Watson of the Gisborne Bahá’í community.