A Northland teen mixed his passion for elocution and his stand against racism to win the prestigious New Zealand Race Unity Speech Awards.
It is Joe Howells' dream to make Aotearoa New Zealand the first country in the world to eradicate racism and he is relying on rangatahi to work in that direction.
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).
Howells' interpretation of the theme - a hand represents a society – moved the judges and crowned him the joint national winner at the speech competition.
"In my speech, I talked about the veins - how they connect the hand to the palm - just like our ancestors where we come from, the palm represents humans and humanity, and fingers represent our communities – all different yet connected to the palm.
"Not much a finger, like one community, can do alone, but when we have fingers working together collectively, we can really grab the racial unity."
The 16-year-old said he was fortunate to have travelled to a lot of different countries and met people from different communities and cultures. It helped him see people as just people, and look at similarities before the differences.
However, he soon understood there were many others who did not share his viewpoint.
"When I got older, I realised that other people saw the differences before they saw the similarities.
"That really affected me. I saw racism and racial injustices happening every day.
"I realised I don't want to be just 'not racist', I wanted to be anti-racist and use my voice.
"When the racial unity speech came up, it was a perfect opportunity."
Howells said racism could be anything between casual jokes and not pronouncing someone's name right.
"It is not necessarily complicit racism, but it is sort of unconscious bias, and it is embedded in our society, and people don't realise how prevalent it is.
"It is so much better today because we can have these conservations, but we can go so much further and it is still nowhere near perfect.
"The way we can achieve is working with rangatahi, rangatahi leading the way with leaders, it is all fingers and hands working together to fight the institutional racism."
Coming back from the competition weekend, Howells is hopeful the rangatahi are in the right direction.
"There is hope, inspiration, and amazing people who will be our future leaders, and I want us to be the first country to eradicate racism.
"My advice for the young rangatahi would be to find their passion. Once you find your passion, you can become happy, and then you can start fighting the system and using your voice better."
A part of Howells' speech, "No finger no hand is formed with hate, that is what they learn or not learn," was important to the teen and he said it was up to individuals to acknowledge their own biases.
"In order to achieve institutional change, we need to first look at ourselves and own actions.
"For example, putting efforts into pronouncing someone's name right, realising your own biases and every time you have a biased thought, thinking if it is right and how can I change and do better.
"It is up to us, as members of Aotearoa, to work towards racial unity."