Young Changemakers Reach for the Stars
20 October 2017 at 12:55 pm
A NASA astronaut has been giving advice to the next generation of Australian changemakers at a celebration recognising young trailblazers who are leading and creating social change in communities, industry and public life, across this country and beyond.
A total of nine initiatives led by and impacting young Australians were celebrated at the Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) 2017 Unleashed Awards on Thursday night.
In her keynote Jessica Meir, who spoke about her previous career as a scientist and what led her to becoming a NASA astronaut, highlighted the importance of “passion, purpose, perseverance and people” in achieving dreams.
“I can only imagine the unbelievable contributions that you guys, and many more like you, will be making to the world. Seeing of these bright and creative and ambitious minds here today it is truly astounding,” Meir said.
“For all of you, you have already followed your passion, you have taken initiative, you have discovered your purpose, at least your first one for now, and luckily by seeking out foundations like the Foundation for Young Australians that have had enough foresight to realise the importance of backing you, you have acquired the means by which to take action.”
She said it was “truly an honour and an inspiration” to speak at the awards.
“[To be] learning about all of these incredible projects and programs you have taken from seedlings of an idea that you may have conjured up in a day dream, nurtured and watched grow and hopefully you have reaped the greatest reward in finding that true sense of purpose,” she said.
“Especially at a time like this on our planet when we are faced with what may seem like insurmountable challenges ranging from the fate of our environment to strained relationships among different world leaders, this optimism and this hope and this direct action that is aimed at bettering our people, all by people like you, at bettering our society, our planet, it is astoundingly moving for me to witness here.”
A mental health podcast, an app that makes it simple for people to report problems like potholes or graffiti to local governments and a program to break down stereotypes and reduce racism through storytelling were among the initiatives being recognised.
This year’s Gamechanger Award, which celebrates social enterprises and ventures led by young people aged 18 to 29 who are “changing the game” went to not for profit Little Dreamers, the only organisation in Australia that solely works with young carers who have a family member with a serious illness or disability.
Little Dreamers founder Madeleine Buchner said it was “fitting” to be receiving the award in Carers Week.
“There are 2.7 million carers in Australia and 490,000 are under the age of 25 and they are growing up as carers in their family for someone with a chronic illness, mental illness, disability, addiction,” Buchner said.
“I actually grew up as one of these carers myself for my brother and my mum and I founded Little Dreamers because there was a gap in the market that really shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
“I was a 2015 Young Social Pioneer, so it is pretty cool to be back this year to see everything and since then I am a fully employed person in my organisation. We have a team of four, we are changing the lives of 600 families per year and this recognition for carers is just beyond anything we could have hoped for.”
Well-known activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied was named this year’s Champion of Change in recognition of becoming “a household name for shining the spotlight on the divisive voices that can flood the mainstream media”.
Speaking on video stream from London, Abdel-Magied said she was “chuffed, honoured and really humbled” to receive the reward.
“The FYA family is like no other and I am really, really grateful to be a part of it,” Abdel-Magied said.
“Sometimes social change happens and you don’t quite try to be the person that catalyses it, it just happens all around you and this has kind of been this year.
“But if there is anything that I want you all to know, it is that you can have the full weight of the mainstream media, government, and a lot of public opinion against you and you can survive and it will be great and you can have a lifetime supply of awesome tweets afterwards.”
FYA CEO, Jan Owen said the Unleashed Awards were an opportunity to recognise initiatives that give back, enrich communities and make a positive contribution to society, as well as the young people who lead them.
“These inspiring individuals and the initiatives they’re leading demonstrate the untapped potential of young people across Australia who have the talent, creativity, and ideas to create a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous society,” Owen said.
“The challenges they are inheriting make it not only important but absolutely vital that we provide them with opportunities, back their ideas, and encourage enterprise to develop their innovation capacity.”
The 2017 Unleashed Award winners were:
- Rookie Entrepreneur of the Year, Years 7-9 (Celebrating an innovative business, venture, or social enterprise that was created by students from years 7 - 9 at school): BCD Services.
- Rookie Entrepreneur of the Year, Years 10-12 (Celebrating an innovative business, venture, or social enterprise that was created by students from years 10-12 at school): Mental Music.
- Jumpstart Award (Celebrating a venture, social enterprise or business just starting out with a social purpose led by a young person aged 12-18): Please Fix
- Local Legend Award (Celebrating a social enterprise or business led by young people aged 15-25 making a genuine impact in their local community and beyond): E-Raced (Prudence Melom).
- Vanguard Award (Celebrating a social enterprise or business led by young people aged 18-29 making a genuine impact in their local community and beyond, with a significant potential to grow): Catalysr.
- Gamechanger Award (Celebrating social enterprises and venture led by young people aged 18-29 changing the game which has a history of genuine impact and leading changemakers of their generation): Little Dreamers.
- New Work Order Award (Celebrating Australian businesses, organisations and educational institutions such as Universities and Schools that a commitment to preparing young people for the future of work and the world): The Global Consulting Group.
- Champion of Change Award (Celebrating a public figure leading the way in social change and using their influence to make a positive difference in the community): Yassmin Abdel-Magied.
- Inspired Citizen Award (Celebrating young people who recognise and act on their potential to lead positive change in their communities): Stomping Out Stereotypes, Frankston High School, VIC.