Each year, the Foundation for Young Australians recognises the impact young people are making across the country through the annual Unleashed Awards. From students giving social enterprise a go, to those addressing the biggest social and economic challenges of our time, this event is all about celebrating their work.
You can read about each award category here.
Hazen from John Forrest Secondary College had moved far from his Country in rural WA to attend school in Perth, which led to feelings of homesickness. That’s why he started up his business, Beanie Hats, which aimed to fill a gap in the market by providing sports-related beanies. But Beanie Hats also allowed customers to connect and feel pride in their culture through the product, no matter how far from Country they are. The beanies are handmade using polar fleece and jersey cotton and feature animal track designs in the Aboriginal flag colours—red, yellow and black. Beanie Hats plans to continue growing next year and use profits to create extra beanies to send back to Hazen’s community, keeping them warm during the cold desert winter.
Blue DC founder, Jorjino from John Forrest Secondary College in WA, runs drawing lessons for peers who want to improve their animation and cartoon creation skills using pencil and ink on paper. Blue DC aims to combat boredom during break-times by giving customers a place to go and learn a new skill. Customers are able to take home their own handmade, recycled, drawing book at the end of their class. Jorjino hopes that in the future people will continue to enjoy his Blue DC lessons and continue to practice what they’ve learnt from him. He hopes that this business will help people understand that we’re capable of more than we might think.
Eat, Play, Chat is a social enterprise that offers high tea, board games, and a chat with a difference. The business is run by Year 6 students Braydon, Ruby, Avneet and Ethan from Oran Park Anglican College in NSW. Eat, Play, Chat aims to bring happiness into the lives of elderly people and create the opportunity to build relationships between younger and older generations in the local community. The team prepared high tea goods like sandwiches, delicious baked items, and beverages to serve the residents and then sat with them to chat and play games together. Half the profits raised went to Compassion Australia. In the future they hope to open the Eat, Play, Chat experience up to more of their school peers, especially now that connections with the retirement village have been made.
Dogs for Dogs, started by Kelly, Hannah, and Tash from Shenton College Deaf Education Centre aims to raise awareness for the number of dogs searching for a home in local shelters. The students felt that if they could inform others about the individual stories of the dogs for adoption, it might inspire people to talk about giving a dog a furever home. The group ran several projects simultaneously in order to make profits: they created and sold tailored dog bandanas; contacted businesses for donations of dog products for a raffle; made and sold biscuits at school, and made and sold dog treats. To further raise awareness they distributed flyers from the dog shelter, sharing the stories of the dogs for adoption. Dogs for Dogs hopes that in the future when the customer’s dogs are seen wearing their bandannas, it sparks community conversation and continues to raise awareness about animal adoption.
Melba Secondary College started the Pay It Forward Project where students were able to choose an organisation and then plan how they would pay it forward to them. Members of Pay It Forward Project chose to donate their profits to the Hope Project, an organisation that advocates for refugees and internally displaced people on the Thai-Burma border. Through this organisation, the students contributed to refugee students’ educational outcomes locally, but also to refugees and internally displaced people globally. Students ran an event selling handmade food products to their community, raising an impressive $1,700 for the Hope Project. Students were able to give back to the Karen people of the Thai-Burma border region in Southeast Asia, where many of the students originated from. Now that’s what we call paying it forward!
Molong is a suburb in the drought affected Central West region of New South Wales. Drought can affect water and resource management, soil quality, farming and agriculture. The local hardware store in town closed permanently earlier this year, restricting the availability of manure for residents. Moo Poo, founded by students Katelan, Henrietta and Mercades from Molong Central School New South Wales, had the vision to ensure no one in Molong is left without their green thumb by selling cow and horse manure locally. Moo Poo is 100% natural and sourced from a local farm and is packaged using recycled materials, with delivery available for orders within town limits. Half of all profits were donated to Buy a Bale charity to aid rural communities and Australian farmers also affected by drought.
Founded by Bagavathy and Hannah, Yakka is a match-making platform that connects high school students with organisations providing quality work experience opportunities. To combat under-resourced career educators, Yakka has implemented a structure of work experience which provides value to both students and industry, incentivising businesses to take on more work experience students. Through the project-based learning model, students have a week to immerse themselves in a project, culminating in presenting their ideas back to the business. This process allows students to get proper and realistic work experience and through that they boost their confidence and learn key skills in a real business environment. Yakka aims to scale up and provide more work experience hours to students, specifically those looking to undertake Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. Yakka is changing the work experience system, and empowering students to explore life beyond school.
Ausome Hoops, founded by Phoebe, is a basketball program specifically designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The program offers a safe, inclusive space for kids who generally struggle in mainstream programs to learn a new sport and build their basketball skills. With support from coaches and teachers Ausome Hoops focuses on the basics of basketball as well as offering a quiet room with multiple sensory items, as basketball stadiums can be noisy places. The program was inspired by the experiences of Phoebe’s younger brother, who lives with autism and has tried many sports but never stuck to one, a result of few people understanding his specific needs. In the future, Ausome Hoops is looking to expand to more areas, more often, and become its very own league.
Developed by Xanthe, Mandurian Stories is a yearly anthology about the town and community of Mandurah in Western Australia. The first book was published in August with great success. Every stage of the book creation and publishing process is community-driven, with contributions ranging from local children to award-winning authors. Mandurian stories aims to bring the community together while raising money for community projects, and all profits are donated to a community organisation. The project gives Mandurah residents a voice, with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. Mandurian Stories intends to grow each year, creating an annual time capsule that will become part of the fabric of local arts, literature, and culture.
Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good (DIYDG) is a volunteer group based in Cairns. Made by and for young people aged between 15-25, the group’s mission is to inspire, equip and empower young people to take action and change the world. DIYDG bridges the gap between school, and life after school when young people need the most support from their peers. The young people of DIYDG host and attend leadership and wellbeing camps; community events and marches; host and participate in facilitator training; run in-school leadership programs, and meet regularly to hold yarning circles and events. All of this equips the local young people with the skills, knowledge, community, culture, and family that they need to be strong, smart and deadly. DIYDG staff are currently working on providing leadership opportunities for the group’s youth base as well as expanding to other local communities in QLD who need a program like this.
United Not Divided Youth Services (UNDYS) is a youth support service on the Central Coast of New South Wales for 12-25 year-olds, addressing issues such as mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse, none of which discriminate. Founder and director Corey Lees was inspired to create this service based on his own mental health journey. UNDYS is focused on delivery advocacy for young people, by young people.
Bella Burgemeister is 13-years-old with a passion for social change in sustainability and climate change. She is the author and presenter of her book, Bella’s Challenge, which takes on the 17 United Nations global goals for sustainable development. Bella then takes them into schools to explain them to the students, helping them set simple challenges to start helping their local community, and the planet. Bella has spoken with over 7,000 students and 5,000 adults about the goals and the ways they can help. Bella’s Challenge is all about youth-driven change for the future of our world.
The END is a board game created by students from Chifley College Mt Druitt Campus as part of FYA’s Innovation Nation program. The board game focuses on a major environmental issue the world is facing—climate change. The choices that humans make have a significant impact on the environment. Knowing this, the aim of the game is to create awareness among young people to be knowledgeable about environmental dos and don’ts that can either help or destroy our planet. This educational board game will help students to make more informed choices in the hope of avoiding THE END of our beautiful planet.
BLAC is a group of nine youth leaders from around the Darwin region of the Northern Territory. This group of young people are breaking the cycle of disadvantage by being the voice of Balunu—driving the decisions, planning and outcomes of Balunu’s programs and events. BLAC aims to guide young people to become strong speakers and the future emerging leaders of their own communities, leading many presentations and meetings, and voicing their opinions and ideas. In the future BLAC hopes to grow their committee, run youth leadership development camps, and offer employment pathways for Indigenous youth of Darwin.
The Robe River Kuruma Youth Council (RRKYC) aims to represent the aspirations, views and needs of Robe River Kuruma young people through participating in programs, services and events. Council members act as a consultative body on matters affecting young people arising within the Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Council and community. The mission is to build a solid foundation from three focus areas: social and emotional wellbeing, education and training, and culture. The RRKYC aims to unite the community while engaging and preserving culture now and for future generations. In the future, RRKYC wish to take their model to other communities to empower them to do the same with their language and culture.
Takesa is an Ulladulla High School (UHS) student who has worked tirelessly on environmental initiatives in her school and the wider community. As a small coastal community, single-use plastics is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing Ulladulla. Takesa’s first mission was the withdrawal of bottled water from the school canteen, and promotion of reusable water bottles and water stations throughout the school. UHS Student Environment Council has had a real impact on the community by encouraging students to bring a reusable water bottle each day and make use of water refill stations. Takesa is a recent recipient of The Bournda Environmental Award and generously donated the scholarship to UHS for the provision of another water refill station.
Godefroid arrived in Australia in 2017 as a refugee from Malawi. He found that people in his community of Wodonga didn’t know much about the struggles that people of war are facing around the world. Godefroid draws upon his personal experiences of war, and he expresses this through song to educate his peers, family and community about the effects and realities of war and conflict. Godefroid believes that music is the best way to bring these issues to light because it allows his audience to empathise with the story. He aims to educate the community of Wodonga that it’s innocent, everyday people that are most affected by conflict, and that they deserve freedom.
Ella Avni, 16, grew up in a community that she felt displayed a lot of ignorance towards multiculturalism, and noticed a lack of representation of diversity in her community on the Central Coast of New South Wales. She wrote One to illustrate diversity while showing that we are intrinsically connected through our voice and humanity. Ella used poetry to share the stories of culturally diverse young people in her community in order to facilitate a more accepting future. The poetry shows people the beauty in multiculturalism and the importance of being proud of your roots and where you came from. Each story is connected by a red string, symbolic of empowerment and passion, something which connects us all, no matter our story. We are all connected by our humanity.
Indigenous people make up 5% of the world’s population and yet they protect 80% of its biodiversity. Indigenous people have the wisdom and knowledge to tackle the climate crisis, but their voices are not always heard in the mainstream. As young Pasifika people living in Brisbane, away from their ancestral homelands, Brisbane Pacific Climate Warriors know that climate change threatens their right to return home and reconnect. Matagi shifts the narrative. Indigenous people are not mere victims of climate change, they are warriors, surviving and thriving despite climate change. By highlighting the faces and voices of local Pacific warriors, Brisbane Pacific Climate Warriors are reclaiming their narrative and elevating the stories of those on the front-line of the climate crisis.
Elise is a relentless advocate for increasing young voices in Australian foreign policy. During her time at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), she learned youth inclusion in international affairs created better outcomes across the board, but was baffled by the lack of youth voices in Australian government. Elise advocated for over five years to have a DFAT Youth Advisory Council, resulting in receiving a grant to run a youth speaker series that became part of Australia’s official international diplomacy program. It was the first time Australia had ever focused on young people in its international policy. Elise has run events with over 1,500 young people, working with Australian embassies and partners across Asia. Elise was recognised by Young Australians in International Affairs as one of the 2019 Young Women to Watch in International Affairs, and was one of Out for Australia’s 30 Under 30 LGBTIQ Role Models.
Maya Ghassali advocates for the voices of refugees in the community, challenging the stereotypes and misconceptions about the refugee experience. Maya, together with her twin sister Sarah, created the podcast Refugees on Air for SYN back in 2017 as Year 10 students. The podcast sought to promote a wider understanding of the challenges and uncertainties faced by refugees coming to Victoria, as well as celebrating their success stories. Maya has pursued her advocacy work by partnering with community organisations to speak about her own family’s experience as Syrian migrants, and by promoting refugee rights, pathways and access to services. In 2018, the sisters worked with Road to Refuge to host the Meet Fadak event as part of Refugee Week with refugee advocate and lawyer Fadak Alfayadh. Maya and Sarah have received myriad awards and accolades for their podcast, and continue to work in leadership and social change.
At 12 years old, Yuma is among the world’s youngest computer programmers. He believes that technology can make the world a better place, and inspires other young people to develop future skills by advocating for more access to coding education. Having won the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference Scholarship three years in a row, the exposure has enabled him to share his coding passion with others. Yuma frequently speaks at international events sharing his experiences and he’s even developed a YouTube coding channel Anyone Can Code, running online workshops teaching people how to make apps. Yuma’s impact continues to be felt globally, inspiring children and adults alike to learn to code.
Democracy in Colour is Australia’s first racial and economic justice organisation led by people of colour. Its vision is a society that honours the dignity and humanity of all people. Democracy in Colour was originally set up to address three gaps in the anti-racism space. The organisation runs programs and campaigns tackling structural racism, empowering people of colour to shape policy discussions and build the leadership capacity of communities. Democracy in Colour empowers people of colour to develop the skills needed to change hearts, minds, public policy and corporate behaviour. In the future, Democracy in Colour aims to future-proof the organisation, achieve financial sustainability, and exponentially grow impact.