Introducing The 2018 Young Social Pioneers Participants

Introducing The 2018 Young Social Pioneers Participants

We are excited to announce a stellar group of 45 young thought leaders, innovators and changemakers, coming together from across Australia to take part in this year's Young Social Pioneers program.

Young Social Pioneers (YSP) backs young people changing systems. It’s our cornerstone initiative supporting young people who are leading responses to the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.

Young Social Pioneers is proudly supported by: Australian Unity, Charter Hall, Citi, The Dyson Bequest, Third Link, Wilson Foundation and Vasudhara.

Cities & Placemaking Stream


Claire Wiglesworth

Claire is a 26 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. Through her start-up, Plantful, she aims to increase the work opportunities available to vulnerable women by curating corporate plant arrangements that are mindful and creative. By employing women vulnerable to chronic unemployment and homelessness, she wants to provide a work environment that supports social and emotional health. Her background in emergency healthcare has motivated a particular focus on preventative intervention.


Hedayat Osyan

Hedayat is a 26 year old former refugee from Afghanistan who came to Australia in 2010. Currently, He is a youth worker with Settlement Service International and Unisson Disability, which supports refugees and asylum seekers re-establish their lives. He is also the managing director of social enterprise, Nick Tiling Services, which employs and supports 15 refugees and on a mission to empower refugees all over the world.


Matthew Craig

Matthew is a 27 year old youth worker and musician from Melbourne. With a background in law and a passion for urban culture, Matthew co-founded creative collective & independent record label R.E.A.L Music in 2012. His YSP project launched in 2016 as AUD’$ (pronounced A.U Dollars) – Australia’s Hip-Hop Connect – an independent hip-hop media ecosystem comprising radio, tv, web & events all dedicated to highlighting the next generation of culturally diverse, global urban talent.


Ryan Tilley

Ryan is a 22 year old designer and engineer from Melbourne.  In 2016 Ryan briefly experienced what it was like to have limited mobility, since this experience he has focused on developing products and hardware for those with limited mobility – the elderly and people with a disability.  He is currently working on ‘Gecko Traxx’ a product that enables manual wheelchair users to access the beach and other off-road, natural terrain in a way that is portable and affordable. After developing and testing countless prototypes, he is working towards getting the product to market.


Zoe Edema

Zoe Edema is a 28 year old social entrepreneur and creative producer from Sydney with a colourful background in arts-based community development, creative project management and underground artivism campaigns. In 2017 she co-founded Muralisto; a co-design public arts organisation. In 1.5 years Muralisto has won numerous awards, successfully worked with over 500 young people in Western Sydney, created 20+ murals, launched ‘Art Crew’ a 3-month mentorship in Fairfield and will roll out their second edition of ‘Welcome Walls’ in Western Sydney this year.


Education Stream


Ashleigh Streeter

Ashleigh is a 24 year old activist from Canberra. In 2017, she co-founded the Girls Takeover Parliament program which saw young people develop motions to defend the rights of 4.3 million young people and promote female leadership. The program, supported by Plan International Australia, reached 10 million Australians and made history by working with every major political party. It also advised on policy reform, secured over 32 local and federal commitments and assisted the Australian Labor Party to put gender at the centre of their strategy. Ashleigh is also the COO and Co-Founder of Jasiri Australia.


Ayesha Tauseef

Ayesha is a 21 year old changemaker from Brisbane. In 2016 she founded the UQ Muslimah Society which is a university based club that seeks to empower young Muslim woman spiritually and intellectually. It aims to challenge misleading stereotypes about Muslim women within and outside the Islamic community. In 2017 UQ Muslimah Society was awarded the ‘Best Religious Club’ of the Year Award by the UQ Union. Muslimah now has over 400+ members from all over Brisbane that consist of people from all walks of life- backgrounds, faiths and cultures.


Caitlin Figueiredo

Caitlin is a 23 year old social entrepreneur and gender equality activist from Canberra. In 2017 she co-founded ‘Jasiri Australia’ which seeks to alleviate violence and inequality through influencing local and federal policy, self defence and leadership programs for young women. To date, Jasiri has trained more than 900 people in self defence. Caitlin also represents 4.3 million young people as an AYAC Board Member and a Committee Member of the Pacific Commonwealth Youth Committee.


Daniel Chong

Daniel is 23 years old who grew up in the suburbs of Sydney. In 2018, he and his friend Maria created Directedu, a platform which allows school teachers to organise excursions and incursions. With the prospect of building bridges between schools and communities, Directedu hopes to be a catalyst for education-centric organisations to impact and inspire students. Daniel is a Sydney University graduate, an alumnus of AIESEC, and is also working in clinical research.


Helen Babb

Helen is a 29 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. She is the founder of, Yes Get It, an organisation that aims to empower and equip women with the networks and tools to be bold and powerful leaders. Helen’s experience spans Australia and the U.S., and includes women’s leadership and development facilitation, and advocacy for reproductive rights, racial justice and LGBTI+ equality. She also works in corporate responsibility at NAB, and focuses on supporting strong communities in the areas of domestic and family violence, and accessibility.


Henry Wu

Henry is a 19 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. He is the founder and President of the Australian Students Space Organisation (ASSO), a youth-led not-for-profit organisation which seeks to provide secondary school students in Australia with knowledge on space exploration. Through enriching activities and events, Henry hopes that the ASSO will continue to inspire the next generation of space explorers in Australia. Since 2017, approximately 325 students have participated in ASSO activities and events.


Josephine de Costa

Josephine is a 26 year old medical student from Sydney. In 2015, she founded the not-for-profit, Level Medicine, which seeks to advocate for gender equality in medicine. Level Medicine have written Australia-first research, made submissions to government inquiries, and run workshops to empower people to become their own advocates. Josephine has previously worked with the NSW End12 campaign to decriminalise abortion and is currently working on research with MSF and the WHO.


Priscilla Evans

Priscilla is a 21 year old Veterinary Bioscience student from Sydney. Growing up in the city and spending her holidays working on her grandparents’ cattle property, provided her with an appreciation of the underlying issues driving Australia’s rural-urban disconnect.  This inspired her to start Crossroads: Country Futures, which seeks to bridge this gap, providing an on-farm experience for senior high-school students. The program contains a variety of activities that link subjects, particularly STEM, with tertiary courses, that can progress to careers in agriculture, primary production and the food industry.


Sonia Arakkal

Sonia is a 26 year old consultant and advocate from Melbourne. She is co-founder of Think Forward, a lobby group for young Australians who want politicians to implement intergenerationally fair policy. Through its mini podcast series and appearances in the Age, SMH and ABC RN, Think Forward educates young people on issues of intergenerational fairness such as the housing affordability crisis and how Australia’s tax and transfer system disadvantages young Australians. Sonia also works as a management consultant in the Public Policy Practice at Nous Group.


Talitha ‘Taz’ Devadass

Taz is a 29 year old passionate facilitator from Launceston. Since 2013, Taz has been working on projects that support people to find their future pathways. She has worked with over 8000 people across Australia to build confidence in areas such as work-readiness, entrepreneurship, leadership and social justice. Futures Isle is the first in a series of initiatives that she is working to launch to build further opportunities for people to find their next step. Taz is also the Entrepreneurship Facilitators Program Manager for The Van Diemen Project, an initiative by the Australian Government.


Environment Stream


Aleesha Rodriguez

Aleesha is a 27 year old social scientist from Brisbane. She started her PhD this year, which uses digital media tools and participatory workshop methods to map public debate about the giant Tesla battery in South Australia. Her research will produce original insight into the issues and impacts of energy storage uptake. Aleesha advocates for better society-nature relations and volunteers with a youth organisation to facilitate climate justice workshops with high school students.


Ashley Avci

Ashley is a 29 year old social entrepreneur from Sydney. In 2012 she co-founded not-for-profit, Shark Conservation Australia (SCA) which seeks to promote, raise awareness and advocate for the conservation of sharks through education, the law and advocacy. To date, SCA has helped produce a documentary on The Feed called ‘The Cruelty of Shark Fin Soup’ and had a bill to outlaw shark fins introduced in NSW Parliament.


Atak Ngor

Atak Ngor is a 20 year old filmmaker and entrepreneur from Tasmania. In 2017, he foundered The Marial Company, a small start-up investment company that focused on risk arbitrage and asset management. Early this year, Atak closed down Marial to focused on his dream of starting KGR Energy, an electricity retailer in Tasmania.


Jessica Phillips

Jess is a 28 year old Canberran who has worked for years to address the environmental impacts of chemical use. In early 2018 she launched The Good Ones – an idea borne from her friends and family asking if their bathrooms products were “good ones” or not. The initiative aims to provide consumers with information on the environmental impact of their personal care products so that they can make mindful purchasing decisions.


Luke Coffey

Luke is a 25 year old social entrepreneur from Sydney. In late 2017 he founded Never Farm which is an automated vertical farming company that focuses on growing exotic mushrooms. Never Farm aims to create automated farming systems that are better for the environment and will help ensure food security for the world’s growing population.


Madeline Green

Madeline is a 27 year old  part time shark scientist, part time social entrepreneur working out of Hobart. Madeline is the CEO and co-founder of Otlet; a biological sample sharing database helping research scientists find, share and source samples for their research. By enabling better use of scientific samples, Otlet accelerates how we learn about the natural world. Launched in June 2018, Otlet is growing fast with more than 10,000 samples available connecting hundreds of scientists around the world.


Mana Ohori

Mana is a 23 year old material scientist and jewellery designer from Sydney. In 2018, she founded “Diamonds from the Sky” which is Australia’s first lab grown diamond startup. Her goal is to grow diamonds above the ground using greenhouse gas as a raw material. She’s been creating engagement rings and wedding bands using the most ethical and sustainable form of diamonds available on the planet. Mana is passionate in environmental sustainability and cutting edge technologies.


Nicholas (Ze Xian) Low

Nicholas is a 29 year old researcher and entrepreneur from Melbourne. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Monash University in 2015 and completed his postdoctoral research at the University of Bath, U. K. in 2017. In the same year, Nicholas and his Ph.D. supervisor founded 2D Water Pty Ltd in Melbourne which aims to develop and commercialize next generation desalination membrane. Nicholas has published over 40 articles and has been granted 2 patents in the field of membrane technology.


Rhianna Knight

Rhianna is a 27 year old social entrepreneur and designer from Melbourne. She founded Mister Timbuktu in 2017 and successfully crowdfunded the launch of the brand that recycles plastic bottles and fishing nets into outdoors apparel and donates a portion of profits to people and planet based charities. She’s passionate about creating a new standard of sustainability within the fashion industry and wants to encourage women to spend more time outdoors adventuring.


Stephanie Stubbe

Stephanie is a 29 year old veterinarian and sustainable agriculture advocate from Melbourne. Steph founded AniPal, an organisation that is empowering animal industries to enhance their sustainability and decrease their environmental footprint. Through development of recycled products, AniPal helps to work towards rebuilding a healthy environment for the animal kingdom, whilst providing sustainable product alternatives for the animal and pet industries.


Indigenous Focus


Hayley McQuire

Hayley is a 27 year old Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman from Rockhampton, Central Queensland. She is the founder and national coordinator of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, which advocates for education reform and Indigenous self-determination.  She previously held roles as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group, UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador, UNESCO MGEIP Youth Ambassador and Global Partnership for Education Youth Champion.


Kai Clancy

Kai is a 22 year old artist and advocate from Townsville. Boss Avenue is a creative arts initiative that aims to promote resilience and mental health awareness amongst youth living in low socio economic areas around Australia. Boss Ave strives to provide youth the tools to be able to express themselves through art and media in a place where they haven’t been able to. Using music, art and fashion Boss Ave allows youth to tell their stories, their way. Boss Ave also hopes a zine will be produced at the end of the program so it can be distributed throughout the community and through services.


Kataya Barrett

Kataya Barrett is a 25 year old Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung woman from Sydney. She is a marine scientist focusing on increasing Indigenous youth participation in marine conservation. She was the first Indigenous cadet to partake in the Taronga Zoo Cadetship program. In 2016, she was the Australian Delegate for the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife in South Africa. She is a founding member that helped establish the Youth for Wildlife Conservation network. Currently, she is studying for a Master of Marine Science and Management at Macquarie University.


Sheldon Thorne

Sheldon is a 27 year old Yamatji Changemaker, living in Newman, Western Australia. Sheldon’s Initiative “WE SEE YOU FOUNDATION” looks at addressing pressing issues that negatively impact the lives of Australia’s first nations people and our LGBTIQ youth.  He is a Board member for the Newman Neighbourhood Centre and has worked in the Australian Public Service majority of his working life. His passion lies in creating awareness and addressing social issues.


Taz Clay

Taz is 20 year old advocate for LGBTIQAP+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy suicide prevention from Brisbane. Taz has in depth experience working professionally in government and non-government advocacy roles and has worked across various community sectors from sexual health to AOD.



Open Stream


Amy Whitten

Amy is a 25 year old occupational therapist from Echuca in Regional Victoria. In 2016  she co-founded BEAM All Abilities Movement to Music. BEAM’s programs are designed by Amy using evidence based occupational therapy techniques as well as integrating movements and structures seen in dance classes. Amy is passionate about creating social change and inclusion within rural communities.


Anisa Nandaula

Anisa is a 20 year old published poet, activist and community organiser from Brisbane. In 2016 she co-founded a collective called Voices of Color which seeks to elevate the voices of people of color and increase the political participation of young people. Voices of Color runs open mic nights with a support base of approximately 100 people. It has run theater productions and exhibitions to facilitate political discussions of young people of colour through art. Anisa is the creative director and a part of the core management team which delivers community initiatives.


Nikhil Autar

Nikhil Autar is a 25 year old ex cancer-patient, medical student, cancer researcher and entrepreneur from Sydney. He is founder of “Get To Sleep Easy”, a medical device social enterprise aiming to increase patient safety, in an affordable, automatic manner. Nikhil used his winnings from his poker career to found Get To Sleep Easy, and they’ve already developed a device which converts any bed into a hospital bed for less than a tenth of the price. Their aim is to use profits to create a smarter, safer health system, internationally.


Sakshi Thakur

Sakshi is a 24 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. She founded ‘Humanism’, which aims to alleviate relative poverty through education and dignified employment opportunities. They currently provide 15 women from rural Pondicherry, with textiles education and dignified employment. The women make and screen print personalised tote and string bags from recycled material and organic cotton. Sakshi is also involved in local gender equity initiatives and recently won the ‘2018 Sir John Monash Award for Outstanding Leadership’ for her consistent work.


Samantha Varghese

Samantha is a 21 year old human rights advocate from Melbourne. Having worked in social enterprise, youth development and policy research, she’s particularly interested in finding creative ways to tackle social issues. After noticing a relaying dilemma her generation faces when deciding what to wear, she founded Stitch Up. It’s a tailoring service that rekindles old school habits of mending what you have instead of mindless churning through clothes in a quest for the perfect outfit.


Youth Mental Health Stream


Avalon Bourne

Avalon is a 23 year old changemaker from South Coast NSW. In 2017 she founded Sonder Youth, a social enterprise dedicated to training a generation of young people to create positive change in their lives and in the world. Sonder Youth develops resilience, self-confidence and community engagement in young people through international cultural connection programs to Vietnam and Tonga, and community based training programs for rural young Australians. In its first year Sonder Youth programs reached over 250 young people in rural Australia.


Bryce Pace

Bryce is a 20 year old advocate for acceptance and inclusion from Melbourne. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of nine and has experienced firsthand the tribulations of being labelled a disability student within the primary school system. As a young advocate, he has been invited to write and speak on behalf of autistic students on numerous occasions. Bryce received the Emerging Leader Award at the 2017 Victorian Disability Awards and was elected as one of fifteen Executive Board members for the Victorian Student Representative Council in 2016 – 2017.


Emma Byrne

Emma Byrne is a 27 year old criminal justice professional from Canberra. As Head of Sentence Management with ACT Corrective Services, Emma leads teams responsible for the case management of offenders in custody and on parole. Her initiative ‘gender-responsive, trauma-informed sentence management’ seeks to better recognise and respond to complex trauma exposure and differing offending pathways for men and women in the provision of offender services and programs.


George Marshall

George is a 27 year old social entrepreneur from Perth. A couple of years ago, George came up with the concept for ‘Salvage’ – a program which seeks to help teens and young adults with mental illness through a hands on approach combining woodwork, bushcraft and the outdoors. Now 2 years later in 2018 and living in Melbourne, George is bringing this concept to life.


Joshua Balia

Joshua is a 23 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. In 2016 he Co-Founded the ‘Weights for Mates Project’, which utilises exercise as a conduit to not only train the body but also train the mind. In start-up, ‘Weights for Mates’ has worked with over 80 young men, addressing anxiety, depression and suicide intervention. Joshua is also completing a double degree in Exercise Science and Psychology, with an interest in Powerlifting having competed for Australia in 2014.


Mandy Kota

Mandy Kota is a 26 year old social entrepreneur from Melbourne. In 2016 she founded Flourish Girl, which focuses on empowering on teenage girls to become unstoppable women. She does this through transformative school and mother-daughter programs. Mandy has worked with over 400 teenage girls across Australia, and over 85% of girls have reported that they’d recommend Flourish Girl programs to other girls.  She is also a social-media consultant, Model, and a facilitator for The-Rites-of-Passage-Institute.


Mehak Sheikh

Mehak is a 22 year old social entrepreneur and third-culture-kid from Melbourne. In 2017, she developed U-Learn, a facilitation organisation that delivers learning spaces for young people and newly-arrived migrants on life skills and civic participation. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to an enhancement of community wellbeing, which is driven by her experience as a psychology student-researcher/graduate. She is also a project/leadership officer in consulting, the multicultural youth sector, small business, and local government.


Olivia Soha

Olivia is a 25 year old eating disorder coach and advocate from Melbourne. After surviving her own lived experience in 2014, it became clear to her that Australia does not have adequate resources for effective treatment. Olivia has since devoted her career to finding better ways of achieving sustainable treatment outcomes. In 2017, her passion to create change led her to the United States where she researched different treatment centres. Olivia is now embarking on her journey to deliver compassionate, comprehensive and holistic care in Australia.


Frank Hooper

Frank is an 18 year old youth worker from Katherine. In 2017 Frank founded ‘Keep Talking’ a non-profit organisation focused on the rights and wellbeing of young LGBTQIA+ people in rural areas of the NT. Keep Talking has recently run its second Rural Pride Festival and second workshop program to introduce people in Katherine to LGBTQIA+ education. Frank also runs the Katherine Regional Youth Group, works as a youth worker with Katherine Regional Aboriginal Health and Related Services and is completing year 12 at Katherine High School.


Yvonne Xu

Yvonne is a 25 year old mental health advocate from Melbourne. Her project LiveToThrive aims to expand the definition of mental healthcare, as not just outsourced to psychologists but something the whole community can all take a part in, helping those around us live with mental health illnesses. LiveToThrive focuses on diet and lifestyle impacts and creates a program that teaches individuals core self-care skills and gives their families and friends a roadmap to support in accessible ways.