A frank speech calling out tokenism has earned a young Hawke's Bay wāhine the Tohu Eke Panuku – the Human Rights Commission Award for Impact.
One of the highlights of Kamaia Moore's speech was her description of what she called 'cultural side projects' – tokenistic efforts to embrace cultural diversity that fail to make a lasting impact.
"Within the confines of a cultural side project, it dictates that cultural diversity will only be embraced within when it is convenient or for the sake of appearing well and diverse. Cultural side projects devalue culture and use it as a means of gaining recognition..."
Kamaia, a student at Iona College, also recounted her own first efforts at institutional change, working to change her school's policy to allow students to wear tāonga as part of school uniform.
"I went through the 'proper' protocols - I wrote a written proposal, I submitted it to the board of trustees. I waited to have it approved the board of trustees, and I waited even longer to have it approved by staff.
"This process took so long because they attempted to approach it as if it was just another piece of jewellery to put alongside the uniform, as opposed to a piece of tāonga, a tāonga tuku iho that holds its own mauri and whakapapa.
''This demonstrated to me that there was a lack of pātuitanga (partnership) with Māori tikanga on an institutional level."
She concluded her serious story with a note of humour, quipping "I still got in the newsletter though."
Human Rights Commission lead advisor Rachel O'Connor was there to make the award on behalf of Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, and had high praise for Kamaia.
"She is a mana wāhine who embodies this award.
"Her speech demonstrating the impact she has already had in advancing race relations and leaving us in no doubt of the impact she will be making in the future.
"Her call for te reo in schools, for addressing ignorance through education and addressing outdated school uniform policies are all calls that Meng Foon is currently calling for as well and so we look forward to working with this amazing student going forward on these topics."
I come here to learn
Kamaia spoke alongside six other high school students in the national final at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technology's Ōtara campus on June 25.
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities and Minister for Youth Priyanca Radhakrishnan was there to hear the talented young speakers.
"I come here to learn" says the minister, "I learn so much from the words of our rangatahi."
The New Zealand Baha'i community has organised the Race Unity Speech Awards for 22 years. Bahá'í community spokeswoman Huti Watson says this year's theme – Ngā matimati nō te ringa kotahi – The fingers of one hand – highlights how false and harmful racism can be.
"What use is a hand without a thumb, or a bird with only one wing? This is how racial prejudice and injustice can cripple a whole society."
"If we truly understand the oneness of humanity, then it's clear that everyone has to play their role in dismantling racism. It's not a Māori problem, or an immigrant problem – this is everyone's problem to solve together."
Korero with Kamaia
Why is it important, that we speak te reo or observe tikanga Māori beyond special occasions like Māori Language Week.
I believe that it is important to value tikanga and te reo beyond special occasions because doing so would normalise it. It is still great and necessary that we have celebrations to bring attention to these things such as te wiki o te reo Māori, but I believe we must go beyond that. Because language is a gift passed down from ancestors and should be protected since it is also apart of our history within Aotearoa.
Share some tikanga with us, that all New Zealanders could implement in their daily lives
There are many tikanga to choose from, but the ones in particular that I would love to see others outside of te ao Māori embrace is whakawhanaungatanga (the process of establishing relationships, relating well to others) and aiming towards embracing more collectivist type of values.
Throughout the last couple of years we have seen this with the push for mask wearing and vaccinations to protect others from Covid-19.
Especially now, due to the virus cancelling a lot of plans and separating friends and families a lot of people find themselves being quite lonely. So I believe that by embracing this tikanga it can help to alleviate the mamae that many people feel.
As a young wahine, what does the future look like, when it comes to New Zealanders embracing and understanding Te Ao Maori ?
I'm hoping that in the future it won't be a large thing for tikanga Maori or other cultural celebrations to be within mainstream settings. Because I hope that it will be so normalised that it will just be apart of everyday life.
What are your plans when you leave school regarding study or career aspirations?
Although I'm still keeping my options open, I am leaning towards pursuing law since I can see great opportunities within that field. But I haven't quite decided what type of law I want to specialise in, but I do have my eyes turned towards civil rights or indigenous law. Plus I feel like I can find a way to give back to my community within that type of field.
Is there a whakataukī you would like to share with us?
The only whakatauakī that comes to mind at the moment is one that I used in my speech "ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero, ko tā te ware he muhukai."
The food of the chief is discussion, the food of the fool is ignorance.
I believe in this whakatuakī wholeheartedly because ignorance is a primary issue that stops substantial change being possible.
And by moving past ignorance and having a desire to learn about new and different things I believe it brings people close together.
The Race Unity Speech Awards are organised by the New Zealand Bahá'í Community, a religious community concerned with promoting the oneness of humanity at the local, national and international levels.
The Speech Awards are sponsored by the NZ Police (principal sponsors), the Human Rights Commission, Foundation North, Manukau Institute of Technology, the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Speech New Zealand and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust and Studio Marque.