Original article published here
A Mount Lawley student, who had his first experience of volunteering at just 10 years old, is among 16 inspiring finalists in this year’s WA Youth Awards.
Youth Minister Paul Miles today congratulated the finalists for their outstanding contributions to the State’s cultural, social and economic life.
“The dedication, commitment and skills reflected in the applications received demonstrates the significant and valuable contributions young people make to our community,” Mr Miles said.
“These young people represent the future of Western Australia and the Liberal National Government is proud to be able to recognise and celebrate their achievements and the positive difference they are making in their communities.”
Now in its 18th year, the WA Youth Awards showcase the hard work, dedication and talent of young people, youth workers, youth-led groups and journalists reporting on youth issues.
Among the finalists this year is 16-year-old Oscar Kaspi-Crutchett, who had his first experience of volunteering at just 10 years old and continues to volunteer his time to support causes, including mental health and racism in school.
One individual category winner will be chosen as the WA Young Person of the Year and will have the opportunity to travel throughout the State to participate in youth-related events and activities as WA’s Youth Ambassador.
“The WA Youth Awards is an important platform that gives these deserving young finalists the chance to shine,” the Minister said.
WA YOUTH AWARDS 2016 – FINALISTS BIOGRAPHIES
1. Positive Achievement Award
Fatema Shalemie, Darch
Fatema was born to Afghan parents and raised in Perth. Now 20, she is studying French, political science and international relations. She has a strong interest in advocacy and highlighting injustices faced by under-represented communities.
Fatema is the mentoring program manager at Afghan Professionals Australia, helping connect employed professionals with tertiary students to share their knowledge. She participated in YACWA’s Catalyst Youth Summit for refugee and migrant young people and supports and educates young people on sexual health, relationships and blood-borne virus issues for Youth Educating Peers
Andre May-Dessmann, Leederville
Andre is dedicated to improving life for children and young people experiencing hardship. At age 14 he found himself in the care of the State. Over four years, he moved between foster carers and residential care facilities, then experienced homelessness before residing at Foyer Oxford.
To help others in a similar situation, Andre became a young consultant with CREATE Foundation. He has provided advice and insights to improve a number of key policy areas for children and young people in care. This includes their right to access case files and information about their lives, and to know their family history and culture.
Ali Raza Yusafzai, Bayswater
At 19, Ali has experienced and overcome significant adversity. Born in Quetta, Pakistan, he spent his childhood witnessing bomb blasts and terrorist attacks until his family sent him away to find a safer home. He arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied minor and spent time in immigration detention.
Since his release into the Australian community, Ali has used his experiences, culture and identity to help connect communities and promote unity and diversity. He has volunteered for the annual Walk Together Perth event co-ordinated by Welcome to Australia, the First Home Project, and Students for Refugees which supports people who have recently settled in Perth.
Vanessa Vlajkovic, Dianella
Vanessa was born blind, learnt Braille by age four and was mainstream schooled. By 16, her hearing had deteriorated and her only communication method was ‘tactile’ Auslan – the signs are formed on Vanessa’s hands.
Vanessa has never let her sensory loss prevent her from ‘getting involved’. She has competed in gymnastics and cheer-leading, won the City of Stirling’s ‘Tough Nut’ and been named Deaf Youth of Australia in 2015. She is a significant advocate within the Deafblind community who helped establish Deafblind West Australians; an entity providing support, social interaction and advocacy for deafblind individuals.
Vanessa is the first deafblind person in WA to enter university. She is an aspiring journalism student, using these skills to advocate for hearing and vision deficit people to reach for their goals.
2. Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award
Anneka Bodt, Melville
At only 15, Anneka is an advocate and stand-in coach for the Melville Wheelchair Basketball Program which caters for young people with and without disability. She organised and coached a Wheelchair Basketball Day at Melville Senior High School in 2015, and is involved in fundraising for Wheelchair Sports Association WA.
Anneka represents WA in the sport, playing with the WA Junior Black Ducks for two years before winning gold with the WA Women’s Western Stars. She is also a cadet, a talented musician and a school council leader.
Brianne Yarran, Bennett Springs
Brianne is a Year 12 Aboriginal student at Hampton Senior High School participating in the Follow The Dream: Partnerships for Success program. She is an outstanding role model for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, smashing negative stereotypes surrounding Aboriginal young people.
In 2016, Brianne delivered the keynote speech at Perth’s National Apology Anniversary Event, presented to 2,000 people at Perth’s National Sorry Day Event, received a scholarship to attend WA United Nations Youth Summit 2016, and was selected to attend Murrup Barak Experience and Leadership Camp at the University of Melbourne.
Joanna-Louise Alexandre, Butler
Joanna is a dedicated poet, debater, performer, mentor and volunteer. In this, her final high school year, she is a student council member working with younger student groups to address issues within the school, such as equality for LGBTI students.
Outside of school, Joanna plays, umpires, coaches and volunteers at her netball club. She has taken part in charity events supporting children’s cancer research and participates in the Perth Poetry Club. Joanna strives for a balance between achievement and giving something back, with a firm focus on improving her community
Dodi Tuando, South Hedland
At 13, Dodi is committed to building an inclusive Port Hedland community by supporting children and young people with a disability to participate in Taekwondo.
He volunteers up to six hours per week to support and facilitate training at the Hedland Taekwondo Club. He enthusiastically teaches up to 100 members of all ages and provides vital support for members with a disability, including one-on-one training.
In 2016, Dodi qualified as a black belt and participated in the Western Australia State Championships, winning a gold medal for poomsae (technical skills) and a silver medal for sparring.
3. ECU Community Leadership Award
Wesley Salisbury, Canning Vale
Wesley is an elite Decathlete aiming to represent Australia in the Commonwealth Games and a PhD student researching sports performance. He became involved in the Carey Right Track Foundation as a young athlete; a group focussed on empowering Aboriginal and remote young people to become leaders in their communities.
For three years, he has co-ordinated the Remote Schools Athletics Program and conducted coaching clinics to enable community representatives to become qualified athletics coaches. He is committed to expanding the Right Track program across WA.
Courtney Fare, Seville Grove
Courtney is a youth engagement team leader employed by Save the Children. At 25, she leads the ‘One Step Closer’ program in Armadale, providing a safe space for Aboriginal children and young people on Friday nights.
She also co-ordinates ‘Back to Country’ camps which enable young people to have fun, learn about Noongar culture, build confidence and independence, and spend time with Noongar elders.
Courtney has volunteered as a dance teacher, mentored high school girls, created spaces for young people to learn life skills, and fundraised extensively to support disadvantaged youth in the South East Corridor.
Bronwyn Milkins, Nedlands
Bronwyn is a committed mental health and psychological science advocate. In her first year at university, she developed severe anxiety and depression leading to a life-threatening eating disorder and hospitalisation.
After recovery, she volunteered as a tutor with the School Volunteer Program, a sleep disorder interviewer at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, a stroke patient visitor at Hollywood hospital, and a reading tutor with the Smith Family.
She found her true passion as a volunteer with the Black Dog Institute. She makes presentations to school and community groups to remove mental illness stigma, provide hope and inspire help-seeking behaviours. She has delivered more than 80 speeches across WA, and shared her story in the media, including on The Project.
She is in the final months of her PhD in Psychology.
Tiana Culbong, Osborne Park
Tiana Culbong is a young Noongar woman studying Heritage Studies at the University of Western Australia. She also works as a researcher for the Telethon Kids Institute.
In 2014, Tiana worked with Centrecare and case-managed eight Aboriginal young people in State care. As a young person, she was able to develop an exceptional rapport with her clients, a skill that helped her communicate critical information about their care and educate them about their Aboriginal culture.
She has strong leadership and mentoring skills, and is a passionate advocate for sharing and promoting her culture.
4. Cultural Endeavours Award
Shaquille Walker, Wellard
Shaquille is a talented young Aboriginal man with a passion for dancing. He is enrolled at Gilmore College as a year 10 student.
Shaquille is involved in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) and was nominated for AIME’S Got Game national competition. From more than 6,000 competitors nationwide, he was placed ‘top six’ in the ‘Showstopper’ category. He has been invited to represent WA in dance choreography workshops with the Bangarra Dance Theatre, culminating in a performance at the Sydney Opera House.
He is a volunteer dance facilitator and mentor with the City of Kwinana K-Style youth dance program, developing self-confidence in participants and building up their fitness and strength.
Oscar Kaspi-Crutchett, Mount Lawley
Oscar is an advocate, activist and mentor who started volunteering at age 10. Now 16, Oscar’s community participation includes involvement in the YMCA Youth Parliament of WA and volunteering during the ‘Save Safe Schools’ campaign. He was the youth representative for the latter.
Oscar also volunteers to support causes to improve mental health and combat racism in schools. He writes articles for LGBTI publications, debates and acts. He is a long-time member of Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
Lauren Wroth, Bunbury
Lauren is an 18-year-old with a performing arts passion who successfully auditioned for Bunbury Young Voices at age 10. A year later, she was cast as a lead in her school play, The Rocky Monster Show.
While boarding in Perth, she became lead munchkin in her school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. More recently she won the lead in Bunbury Musical Comedy Group’s production of Anne of Green Gables.
Lauren volunteers at her local theatre as backstage crew and is determined to pursue a career on the stage when she finishes her high school studies.
Tore Bule-Turner, Port Hedland
Tore has inspired, motivated and been a role model for young people in his local community through dance and martial arts. He was recognised in the WA Youth Awards four years ago, winning the CCYP Participate Award for teaching break dance as a diversionary program.
In 2016, Tore won the Australian National Taekwondo Poomsae Championship in the Freestyle category, which combines martial arts with tumbling gymnastics to music. He represented Australia at the World Championships in Peru, was the only Australian junior to make a final and placed seventh in the world. He has competed in and taught breakdance, run workshops and other events with the Youth Involvement Council in Port Hedland.
5. Minister for Youths’ Outstanding Youth Worker Award
Mark Bird, Currambine
Mark has worked in the youth sector for six years, delivering exceptional outcomes. He started as a volunteer mentor with Youth Futures WA, followed by a practicum in the COMET alternative education program. He now manages an alternative education program for Youth Futures WA called Anchor Point.
In the past two years, he has facilitated a partnership between Anchor Point, Curtin University and Dismantle to create an on-campus experience for high school students who fix bicycles for charity. The program is for 15 to 19-year-olds and has enabled more than 40 young people to attain their Year 9 and Year 10 equivalencies.
Matthew Bill, Swan View
Matthew Bill is 21 years old, works in outreach with the Child and Parent Centre in the Midland area and is involved in several programs that target youth.
This includes Kaat Koort n Hoops, a peer-led program that mentors Aboriginal students from Governor Stirling Senior High School. The program which teaches life skills, encourages good choices and advises on dealings with cyber bullies. Matthew also works at KAOS, a youth program run by the Shire of Mundaring to reduce crime.
He runs a music-based social and wellbeing program addressing school attendance and building confidence. He co-ordinates the only Aboriginal men’s group in the metropolitan area, and won the Youth of the Year at the Midland NAIDOC Awards in 2015.
Neryssa Brown, South Hedland
Neryssa has been a youth worker with the Youth Involvement Council in Port Hedland for more than two years, working across a range of programs including the youth centre, ‘Mingle Mob’ mobile outreach program and the Youth Accommodation Program.
She works with homeless young people, many having come from dysfunctional home environments where overcrowding, drinking, drug taking, abuse and unemployment are rife.
At 23 years, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving conditions for young people in her community. Neryssa plans to facilitate the re-establishment of the Hedland Youth Leadership Committee in 2017.
Paul Mackie, Derby
Paul has been working with young Aboriginal people in Derby for four years. He chairs the Derby Youth Interagency and has worked with the Shire of Derby-West Kimberley to hold agencies to account in delivering services.
He develops and delivers life skill programs for young people that focus on healthy eating, suicide prevention, bereavement support and Aboriginal culture. Paul encourages disengaged young people to attend school or alternative education programs. He has established partnerships with the local sober up shelter, North Regional TAFE to deliver automotive training, and developed a music program with a local radio station and Music Australia.
6. Organisational Achievement Award – Large Organisation
Youth Involvement Council Inc, South Hedland
The Youth Involvement Council (YIC) is the primary and most successful organisation for the provision of holistic support for young people in Hedland. Its client base is 95 per cent Aboriginal, with the majority considered at-risk.
The YIC has a range of programs to support and divert young people toward a better future. These include: a drop in centre, the ‘Birds and Bees’ program which helps 10-15-year-olds cope with teenage issues and the evening street patrol ‘Mingle Mob’ which reduces antisocial behaviour.
headspace Armadale, Armadale
One in four young Australians experience a mental health problem and only a quarter receive help. headspace Armadale addresses this by providing free, youth friendly, confidential support for 12 to 25-year-olds.
Since opening in June 2015, the organisation has received more than 1,000 referrals and provided more than 75 free education sessions in schools, TAFE’s and community groups. The sessions help young people identify help-seeking strategies and provide practical ways to look after their mental health.
headspace Armadale operates with a Youth Reference Group who have experienced mental health problems or are caring for someone who has. Group participants come from diverse backgrounds including LGBTI, disability and cultural diversity.
Armadale Youth Intervention Partnership, Armadale
The City of Armadale has extremely high domestic violence and crime rates, and a high rate of disengaged and offending youth. In response, a number of Armadale youth services decided to work better together to support these young people at-risk and the Armadale Youth Intervention Partnership (AYIP) was established in 2015.
It comprises non-government and government services including the City of Armadale Youth Services, Save the Children, YMCA, Hope Community Services, Mission Australia, Armadale Family Support Network and local youth crime intervention officers from WA Police.
The AYIP partners programs attract about 130 young people weekly. They engage in programs such as YMCA YTime, Drug Aware Ignite Basketball, Save the Children’s One Step Closer, and HOPE Community Services outreach.
Passages Resource Centre, Northbridge and Mandurah
Passages Resource Centre provides marginalised and street present young people with a ‘passage’ to help them get off the streets and adopt safer and healthier lifestyles.
Passages has referral centres in Northbridge and Mandurah. It offers street present youth practical services such as phone, computer and internet access and mail collection.
Passages facilitates a transitional accommodation program with six shared houses and a dedicated accommodation support worker.
Young people can stay in the program for up to a year working through life skills programs. They are supported to gain employment, training and longer-term accommodation.
7. Organisational Achievement Award – Small Organisation
Camp Kulin, Kulin
Wheatbelt-based Camp Kulin was established in 2013 and has become a leading program for children and young people in Australia. The camp’s counsellors work with youth impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, alcohol or drug addiction, torture situations in refugee camps, and those with autism or Asperger’s who can’t access services elsewhere.
In the past year, Camp Kulin has helped young people from more than 150 towns across WA, including refugees from 18 different countries. Young people attending learn life skills, leadership, respect, self-esteem, self-confidence, perseverance, communication, anger management, emotional regulation, trust and ambition.
Hedland Taekwondo Club, Hedland
The Hedland Taekwondo Club is a small non-profit volunteer organisation which has become a strong contributor to youth development in Port Hedland. The club uses this Korean martial art to engage, equip and empower young people to become leaders in the club and community.
With a strong focus on inclusion, young people with autism, cerebral palsy, low muscle tone and severe anxiety are welcome and given the chance to share the challenge of overcoming physical, psychological and emotional barriers through Taekwondo.
As a result, the club has increased active membership by nearly 200 per cent to more than 100 students in a year. Its student leadership group volunteer up to eight hours per week to teach classes.
CREATE Foundation, Perth
More than 4,500 children and young people in WA are in out-of-home care. CREATE Foundation is the peak body representing them in Australia. Its WA team of 32 staff members, volunteers and young people work to improve the lives of young people in care, and those who have left care who are transitioning into adulthood.
CREATE also engages young people to guide its work. The youth advisory group gives 12 to 25-year-olds the opportunity to come together to discuss issues affecting children and young people in care.
WA Youth Cancer Advisory Committee, Nedlands
About 110 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer annually in WA. The WA Youth Cancer Advisory Committee was established in 2011 to empower these young people undergoing cancer treatment.
Cancer care in WA is largely delivered in the metropolitan region. Treatment can require regional and remote young people to move away from home, leading to isolation and distress. Young cancer survivors also enter adulthood with a high rate of mental health issues (including post-traumatic stress disorder) and a high risk of lifelong chronic health conditions.
The committee addresses this by delivering end of treatment workshops, Government consultation and advocacy for Medicare funding for fertility preservation, and the recruitment of regional and rural committee members.