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The 16-year-old St Hilda's Collegiate School pupil won the RSA Cyril Bassett VC Otago and Southland speech competition in Mosgiel yesterday and is now in the running to win the trip by representing the southern region at the national final at Government House, in Wellington, in April.
The annual competition for years 12 and 13 pupils aims to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who served New Zealand in armed conflicts overseas.
Ihlara's heartfelt and moving speech yesterday encouraged secondary pupils to honour the sacrifice made by New Zealand soldiers by living according to their morals - courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.
In winning the regional final, she showed humility by paying tribute to the excellent speech by runner-up Jacobi Kahu-Morris, of Logan Park High School.
''I really didn't think I would get through,'' she said.
''It will be quite an honour to represent Otago and Southland in Wellington.''
Ihlara said she had been to Gallipoli once before when she was 12 years old, and was eager to return.
It had been a thought-provoking experience and much of her winning speech was inspired by the trip.
''If I were to go back now, five years later, it would be an even greater eye-opening experience.
''It would be amazing.''