Kahungunu student wins national competition with speech on NZ’s divided past, united future

By Te Ao - Māori News

Jess Jenkins of Ngāti Kahungunu and Pākehā descent has won a nationwide competition using her own identity as a metaphor for the past and future of race relations in New Zealand.

“Racism exists here,” said Jess Jenkins, a year 13 student at Tawa College, who won the Raukura ā-Motu award, the champion award at the Race Unity Speech Awards.

“As a Māori with white skin, I don't experience it but it pains me that so many people who are close to me do. Just as my white ancestors fought my Māori ones, racism exists here. We must first face the blatant separation occurring within society today to secure our ideal racism-free future.”

Jenkins’ speech also won her the NZ Baha’i Community Award for Insight, which this year recognised a speaker who helps us understand the oneness of humanity.

“Jess distinguishes between our naive self-image as a unified society and the true unity we should be striving for,” says Huti Watson, the Baha’i representative on the judging panel.

“She helps us understand the necessity of justice for achieving true unity, reinforcing our hope that we can realise the oneness of humanity here in Aotearoa.”

Jenkins’ speech set out her vision for the future of race relations.

“In 20 years from now, we must reach a place where we are all equal, a mutual agreement where every citizen is treated for their contributions, their achievements. … This is the future we need to envision.”