A Kerikeri High School student has been crowned the joint national winner of the Race Unity Speech Awards.
Joe Howells was named a winner alongside Sheryl Chand, of Solway College in Masterton, of the long-running annual speech competition.
The theme of this year's awards, organised by the Baha'i community, was Ngā matimati nō te ringa kotahi (the fingers of one hand).
The community's spokeswoman, Huti Watson, says the theme highlights how false and harmful racism is.
Howell and Chand's joint success marked the first time in 22 years two people have been named the national champion at one time.
Howells' speech called for all New Zealanders to eradicate racism by working together - like the fingers of one hand.
"When fingers are broken, too busy oppressing the other, how can we weave our united future? How can we live in harmony or expect to grab a hold of greatness? We can't," he said.
"To be able to move forward in our society we need to respect all cultures, embrace diversity and learn from one another.
"All aspects of our hand working in unison with respect and aroha. Aotearoa is known for being a nation of pioneers ... Why don't we become the first to eradicate racism?"
Chand's winning speech centred on powerful and practical suggestions for dismantling racism, which included abolishing academic streaming in schools.
The pair and five other high school students spoke in the national final at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technology's Ōtara campus on Sunday.
Among the other speakers was Huanui student Takaimaania Ngata-Henare, who won the Tohu Whetumatarau Trophy, which is the Ministry for Ethnic Communities Award for Vision.
Chief judge, police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, said choosing a single national champion was impossible because both "powerful speeches" deserved recognition.
"It is important that we hear the voices of our young people and their concerns as the future of this country," he said.
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities and Minister for Youth Priyanca Radhakrishna was among the audience listening and learning from the talented young speakers.
She sees the awards as a great example of the kind of diversity and inclusion needed across all sectors of society.
"We need to take tangible steps to make our spaces more inclusive so that people of different backgrounds feel safe to share their perspectives and experiences," Radhakrishna said.
"That's the beauty of these awards – they show us the true value of diversity."