Hailing from Alice Springs to Bendigo and Karratha to Port Lincoln, this year’s group of 15 ABC Trailblazers represents some of the brightest emerging leaders in regional Australia.
Their stories are fuelled by real-life failures and achievements — like tackling racism through training and mentoring programs for refugee and migrant students, or providing assistance and support for people who have lost a parent at a young age.
Their ideas for improving life in regional Australia stood-out in a nationwide search, and this week they will spend time developing their ideas at the Heywire Summit in Canberra before presenting them to members of parliament, senators and community leaders at Parliament House on Wednesday.
Joe Collins: Endangered species of the Mallee
By creating large-scale murals of local endangered species, Joe Collins hopes Woomelang will become a fixture in the Victorian Silo Art Trail, increasing local tourism and raising awareness of environmental issues.
Woomelang is a struggling small town and this project aims to stimulate the local economy through tourism.
“The project is eight murals celebrating endangered animals within the Mallee region,” Joe said.
“It’s a continuation of what Woomelang had done in 2016 — the carpet python mural on our shop wall. Despite controversy at the time it has led into this project.
“[It] would tie Woomelang in with the silo art trail and put us on the map, hopefully drawing more tourists,” he said.
Om Prakash Karki, Burtukan Melkamu and Bhim Dangi: Students against racism
Students Against Racism provides mentoring and training for students from refugee and migrant backgrounds to deliver anti-racism training across Tasmania to schools, local government and the police.
The project increases employment opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds.
Burtukan said it was her own experience of racism that was the catalyst for change.
“I’ve experienced racism and it really encouraged me to do something about it,” she said.
“I thought ‘how do I tackle racism?’
“Storytelling is really powerful in changing people’s perspectives. They can hear about things in the media, but when they hear personal stories it creates that empathy and engages them.
“It has had a really great impact on people and it has changed their perspective on the way they think about refugees and migrants.”
Sally Downie: Grassroots Blueprint
Grassroots Blueprint aims to improve the networks and wellbeing of farmers in rural NSW by linking them with local businesses and health services at informal events.
The project brings together disparate parts of the local economy to encourage collaboration through personal and professional connections, increasing mental wellbeing and promoting upskilling.
“It’s got a really strong focus on mental health so helping people understand mental health, break the stigma, and get the services to the areas that need it,” Sally said.
“It’s also about promoting agriculture so the general public can understand it, and sharing farmers’ stories so consumers can support them.”
Emma Moss: Life on a station
Life on a Station began as a way for Emma Moss to share her experience of living on a remote cattle station.
Her Instagram following now exceeds 17,000, and she is using this experience to start another page aimed at celebrating Australian agriculture, educating people through her pictures.
“There’s a very large gap between city and rural communities at the moment and I think there’s a lack of understanding on both sides,” Emma said.
“The gap is a hard cycle to break, but I think social media is a great platform that acts as a middle ground between us”.
Tash Barlow and Louise Blessington: Dead Parents Society
Founded and run by young people, the Dead Parents Society provides professional and peer support to young people in the ACT who have lost a parent but are not eligible for other support services.
Through informal meetings, the group aims to help participants navigate the unique grief of losing a parent as a young person.
“It came about because my dad died and I got some support, originally from CanTeen, but I soon … realised that if you were over the age of 25, or your parent died from any other cause but cancer, there was just no support,” Louise said.
“I know how much the peer support and the counselling aspect of CanTeen had helped me and so I decided to set up a small group.
“Now we meet once a month in a Canberra cafe and over coffee and cake we talk about it.
“We have a professional bereavement counsellor who comes to the first half and then they leave and we talk about life and death and everything in between.”
Tash said the support group was helping young people feel less isolated after the death of parents.
“It’s been a really positive thing to be able to connect with people who have a shared experience,” she said.
Ashley Eadon, Jesse Munzel and Sarah Barber: Dear Cris
Dear Cris connects primary school students with students from different cultural backgrounds through an eight-week pen pal program.
The program aims to build literacy skills, while also increasing students’ understanding of the world around them and building tolerance.
Young people write and deliver the curriculum, helping to build employment opportunities for young people in regional education.
Ashley said the idea was formed at a Heywire summit in 2017 and pitched to Parliament.
She said a pilot program was run last year between a school in Bendigo and in the Philippines thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.
“It was a huge success,” she said.
“There were over 120 students involved and they exchanged over 400 letters throughout the eight weeks, which was awesome.”
Daniel Farmer and Adrianna Irvine: KMAC Youth Council
Established by local young people, the Kuruma Marthudunera Aboriginal Corporation’s Youth Council aims to equip young people to be leaders in their community by delivering youth-focused cultural projects.
Through training and professional development the youth-led project aims to also increase employment opportunities for young Kuruma Marthudunera people.
“Our goal is to be a voice for youth and to report to the board about things that they want done,” Daniel said.
“For example language lessons, life skills such as helping them get driver’s licences.
“Also cultural stuff as well — so going out on country and learning more about foods and significant artefacts.”
Zelma Tolley: The Postnatal Project
Port Lincoln, SA
Through education, awareness and events, The Postnatal Project hopes to reduce the stigma surrounding postnatal depression and encourages help seeking among women in regional communities.
Zelma has turned the project into a thriving small business, offering consultations and resources within the local community.
“I had an experience with postnatal depression after the birth of my first daughter, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder,” Zelma said.
“I found accessing local services quite tricky. There weren’t that many relevant or appropriate services for me.
“The isolation I felt in a regional area prompted me to raise more awareness and reduce the stigma around perinatal mental health.”
Nathan Doyle: Which way, this way again
Rockhampton, North Qld
Nathan’s vison is to help young men in his community to get back on track through a program incorporating indigenous dance and culture.
Drawing on his own experiences, Nathan is helping young men find a path to the lives they want to live.
Nathan said the goal of his project is to help young men in his community get back on the right track.
“A lot of talent has gone to waste in our community due to misuse of alcohol and drugs,” he said.
“The reason I’m doing this is because I’ve been in a dark stage myself before and I don’t ever want to see anyone else go through that track that I went down.
“I’d like to see them succeed in life and come out with positive things.”
Nathan said the project would take young men off the street by teaching them about cultural activities like how to find food in the bush, as well as traditional dance and aboriginal painting.
Find out more about ABC’s Heywire on the program website.
Topics: youth, regional, regional-development, orange-2800, southbrook-4363, toowoomba-4350, canberra-2600, bendigo-3550, karratha-6714, rockhampton-4700, port-lincoln-5606, hobart-7000, woomelang-3485
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