Student’s korero wins speech competition for second year in a row

Karamu High School student Lena Ormsby has won the Ngā Manu Kōrero Te Matau a Māui Speech Competition for the second year in a row.

A Karamu High School student’s powerful korero on racism has seen her win the Ngā Manu Kōrero Te Matau a Māui Speech Competition for the second year in a row.

Lena Ormsby’s speech delivered at EIT in July comes off the back of last year’s performance where she became the first Karamu High School student to win the competition since 1989.

The 16-year-old, who is in Year 12, says she was humbled to have taken out the Senior English category for both her prepared and impromptu speech.

Ngā Manu Kōrero is a Māori speech competition for secondary school Māori pupils that first began in 1965 and encourages fluency in Te Reo Māori and English.

While she is no stranger to speech competitions, having won the Hawke’s Bay heat of the 2021 Race Unity Speech Awards last year and come second this year, Lena says the Ngā Manu Kōrero Te Matau a Māui Speech Competition is “powerful”.

Her prepared speech, Matimati nō te ringa Kotahi (Fingers of one hand), again focused on the issue of racism, this time about the need to celebrate each other’s differences, and not shy away from asking questions to gain a better understanding.

“I felt that it was really important,” Lena says. “Last year’s speech, I talked about racism and how you outwardly see it but this time I addressed how racism is also silence.

“It’s when you’re too afraid to stand up for yourself or someone else and stop racial slurs. It’s also when you’re quiet and conform to societies standards or hide part of your culture to fit in.

“It’s just bringing awareness to everyone that racism is also silence and how we can help fix that and help others find their confidence and find their culture to move forward.”

While less people were allowed to watch due to COVID-19 restrictions, Lena says having her mum, Heidi Ormsby, teachers, and peers in the audience meant the world to her.

Her favourite part of the day – and something that is unique to Ngā Manu Kōrero – is having some of her peers tautoko her prior to speaking.

“I think that’s really special as other speech competitions don’t do that. I was honoured, deeply humbled, and encouraged, that they were willing to support me and passionate about my success.

“It wasn’t my success, it was their success as well – my school, my family’s, everyone’s – I was just sharing that with them.”

For the impromptu speech, Lena had to choose one of five topics provided and had five minutes to prepare.

Her topic was “New World, New Values” and she took inspiration from the Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi song which they had sung at the beginning of the day.

Principal Dionne Thomas congratulated Lena on her success.

“To win the Ngā Manu Kōrero Te Matau a Māui Senior English Speech Competition two years running is exceptional.”

She says Lena is an example of what it means to be “proudly Karamu” and is a real inspiration to her peers.