Rangitīkei College student Waiatatia Ratana-Karehana has been awarded second place at the Ngā Manu Kōrero National Secondary School Speech Contest finals.

The 14-year-old was one of 60 speakers at the event which took place at Palmerston North's Regent Theatre.

The speakers were split into four categories made up of senior Māori, senior English, junior Māori and junior English.

Ratana-Karehana competed in the junior English category with her speech "I tried to keep quiet, but my ancestors wouldn't let me".

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It's a speech with a strong message that the young speaker wanted to get out.

"I think a lot of people look at Māori and they just see the defeat of when land was taken, but I look at it as our ancestors tried so hard but they didn't end up winning because the Crown was too powerful," Ratana-Karehana said.

"Instead of 'winning', we need to acknowledge the past and start to move on."

Creating a speech about experiences Māori went through in colonisation and being a student herself, Ratana-Karehana said she loves the recent announcement that more New Zealand history will be taught in schools from 2022.

"We learn a lot about other people's history and that is things we should learn, but as Māori and as New Zealanders we should be learning more about New Zealand history."

Although she was speaking in front of a near capacity Regent Theatre in the final, Ratana-Karehana said she was more confident there than when she spoke at the regional final in June.

"My speech was 200 years in the making and it's the truth about my history and I believe that it was time.

"All my tupuna and ancestors were with me on the day."

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Her iwi are Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi, and she identifies her whānau is her biggest inspiration.

"My family has been supporting me since day one. I can't thank them enough for everything that they do and what they will continue to do for me," she said.

"My family is who I am and have sculpted me into the young wahine I am today."

Ratana-Karehana was welcomed to school with a pōwhiri on Monday morning to celebrate her achievement.