The organiser of the Northland heat of the Race Unity Speech Awards says the theme of this year's competition couldn't be more relevant following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

"Speaking for justice, working for unity" is the topic Northland students entering the national competition must base their seven- to eight-minute speeches on.

Regional co-ordinator Nancy Rishworth said, after the Christchurch Mosque Attacks last Friday, the topic was particularly pertinent.

"It couldn't be more relevant. I think it's in all New Zealanders' minds at the moment. The scale of the tragedy is enormous relative to the population of New Zealand," she said.


"Every crisis presents an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and dive deep into an issue and create the kind of change we want to see. So, as tragic as it is, we can honour the lives that have been lost by really grasping that we are one human family and that our diversity actually adds to our richness."

Rishworth said the national speech competition, initiated by the New Zealand Baha'i community in support of Race Relations Day, was in its 19th year.

She said the winner of the Northland regional heat - held at the Whangārei Baha'i Centre on Thursday, April 11 - would advance to the semifinals in Auckland.

During the weekend of the finals there is also a hui on race relations where workshops are held around the topic.

"It really can be a life-changing experience and a really positive thing for the students."

Rishworth said nine Northland students from six different schools - Huanui College, Whangārei Boys' High School, Whangārei Girls' High School, Christian Renewal School, Kerikeri High School, and Bay of Islands College - had entered and registrations were still open.

She said the competition targeted youth as champions in promoting racial harmony and tolerance towards all people regardless of their creed or ethnicity, and challenged them to think of crucial issues facing not just young people, but society in general.

She expected the Christchurch mosque attacks to be a part of students' speeches this year.


"I think that this year I would imagine that what's happened here in New Zealand would feature quite prominently in the speeches and the students perceptions, their feelings, their experiences around that may well come to the fore."

The judging panel for the Northland heat includes a representative of the New Zealand Police, Paula Wilson, of Te Puna o Te Ao Marama Trust, and Jessie Manney, of Multicultural Whangārei.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the regional competition heats. Admission is free.

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