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2022 Finalists

We’re excited to unveil the finalists for the 2022 WA Youth Awards.

This year’s finalists come from all walks of life and all parts of Western Australia – from every corner of Perth, and from regional communities across the state, including Albany, Marble Bar, Bunbury and Port Hedland.

Among the finalists this year you’ll find advocates and artists; activists and youth workers; innovators and change-makers; organisers and athletes; each of them united in their passion for peer leadership, community impact and better opportunities for the young people around them.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating their accomplishments at the WA Youth Awards gala dinner on Friday 14 October at the WA Museum.

Jamie Cameron

Aboriginal Health Council of WA Award

Jamie is a proud Yamatji woman who grew up in Geraldton before moving down to Perth. Growing up in the out-of-home care system, Jamie has worked hard to re-connect with her culture for herself and for her family. She has worked closely alongside a support network which included Passages, Wungening Moort and MercyCare. Jamie has overcome significant systemic barriers to secure a stable home for herself and her young children. An active participant in her new community, Jamie has assisted in running cultural groups for young mothers and is working towards her continuing education and an eventual career in community services.

Rebecca Evans

Aboriginal Health Council of WA Award

Rebecca is a 24-year-old disability advocate, psychology graduate and athlete devoted to empowering her peers. She is an accomplished powerchair football player, a lived experience consultant and a long-time member and Managing Director of the Youth Disability Advocacy Network, the peak body for young people with disability in Western Australia. She is an exemplary peer leader, a devoted mentor in the powerchair community and a fierce champion for young people living with disability.

Sophie Kotkis

Aboriginal Health Council of WA Award

Sophie is an ambitious, creative and caring 22-year-old who lives with a rare congenital disorder called Kabuki Syndrome. Her ambition is beyond measure: she’s abseiled down high-rise buildings to raise money for charity, competed in the City to Surf after recovering from hip surgery and is a passionate volunteer at Perth Children’s Hospital. Now in the final stages of a qualification in Early Childhood Education, Sophie is determined to never let her circumstances hold her back and is a vocal advocate for equal opportunity and accessibility.

Akira Vickers

Aboriginal Health Council of WA Award

Akira is an emerging youth worker at who uses her lived experience to support vulnerable young people to overcome the challenges they face in their lives. After growing up in an unstable household and the out-of-home care system, Akira found solace in her education, earning the ‘Most Promising Student Award’ from her high school upon graduation. Now a peer leader at Bunbury PCYC, she is devoted to changing the lives of young people in her community, working with clients to build their self-respect and guide them towards being their best selves.

Kohbi Barrow

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Participate Award

At just 12 years old, Kohbi demonstrates exceptional leadership, wisdom and inspirational power. He stands strong against bullying and is an advocate for mental health. Kohbi created and continues to manage the Coffee Lid Project, which has raised thousands of dollars for Dolly's Dream, a project committed to changing the culture of bullying by addressing the impact of bullying, anxiety, depression, and youth suicide. Earlier this year he as named Port Hedland’s Young Citizen of the Year at the town’s Australia Day Awards, and received a $1,500 Edstart grant to support the development of his anti-bullying podcast, Kindness and Thanks.

Greta Lynch

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Participate Award

Greta has a passion for service and social justice. Her advocacy centres on conservation, climate action and elevating the voices of young people, including volunteering for the Save the Bilby Fund, the Dolphin Project, the Charity Netball Cup, World Vision, and the Western Swamp Tortoise Release. In 2021, she ran 20km and swam 12km to raise over $1,000 for charity through the Starlight Super Charity Swim and HBF Run for a Reason. In the last two years, she has spent her free time running free voluntary tutoring programs for struggling students in Years 9 and 10 who may not be able to afford a tutor but need extra academic support. Her contribution to community continues this year in her role as Academic Captain of of Iona Presentation College Senior School for 2023.

Fatoumata Toure

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Participate Award

Fatoumata was born in 2007 in a Guinean refugee camp. Her family arrived in Australia in 2010, and whilst in primary school, she became an accomplished athlete. In 2015, she joined the Edmund Rice Lions, a football team that aims to bring culturally diverse young people into the sport. She quickly became a star player, winning numerous Fairest and Best awards, and became an accredited umpire at just 11. Beyond her personal sporting achievements, Fatoumata is committed to her local community, dedicating more than 1,500 volunteer hours to supporting her peers through organising community sporting events, mentoring upcoming umpires and serving as a role model to her peers through her media appearances, leadership the guidance she offers young people in her community.

DeeJae Stream

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Participate Award

DeeJae Stream is a strong Palyku woman living in the Pilbara town of Marble Bar. DeeJae inspires and educates her peers through art, education and sport, but it’s her participation in the school’s culturally responsive STEM program that sets her apart. Students created a digital Aboriginal Seasonal Calendar using virtual reality technology. DeeJae became one of the school’s most proficient users and is the voice for the project. She was heavily involved in the development of the VR gallery, where 2D Aboriginal canvases of Australian animals are transformed into 3D VR paintings. She recently ran a virtual walkthrough of the gallery to 663 virtual visitors including 80 schools.

Sofia Birighitti

ECU Community Leadership Award

Sofia is a 14-year-old is a young leader whose talents cut across sports, music, academic achievement and community impact. She is an accomplished talented violinist within Churchlands Senior High School’s Gifted & Talented Program, an elite lacrosse player and a fundamental part of her school’s Aboriginal Leadership Group. Sofia’s leadership has led to a major expansion in her school’s NAIDOC week celebrations as well as a peer-informed co-design process to better support her First Nations peers. She has also presented to the School Curriculum and Standards Authority on the importance of improving Aboriginal history and cultural education in schools across WA. She is civic-minded an exemplary leader and a community-minded advocate destined for great things.

Zac Cawdron

ECU Community Leadership Award

Zac is a writer, artist, event organiser and advocate devoted to uplifting the voice of young people, elevating his peers and working to effect systemic change. Zac has used his lived experience of mental health issues and the out-of-home care system to bring about major changes to support services in WA, taking a leading role on a summit that sought to re-design the mental health care system for young people, Chairing the Youth at Risk Network and now working within the Department of Communities as an Advocate. He is also a published writer, the first youth Board Member for WA Poets and is nearing completion on a trilogy of collaborative art and poetry books providing a platform for over 50 young creatives from across Australia.

Habiba Farrag

ECU Community Leadership Award

Born in Egypt in 1997 and moving Australia in 2003, Habiba’s potential was obvious as a star student at the Australian Islamic College. She excelled throughout high school, progressing to university where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Ancient History, Political Science and International Relations. Habiba has served on the Multicultural Week Committee since 2015, as the UWA Muslim Students’ Association Events Director, worked a member of the Youth Parliament, volunteered at the Multicultural Communities Council of WA and taught Arabic at the Hepburn Mosque every Saturday for four years. In 2021, she began coordinating the Al Ameen College Future Leaders Program, preparing her young peers for the transition between school and higher education. More recently, she began working with the Department of Home Affairs on a project to promote Australian values in multicultural communities.

Lucy Stronach

ECU Community Leadership Award

Lucy is a passionate advocate for social justice and a young leader who’s generated impact the world over. In 2020/21 she was the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, travelling across Australia to consult with some of the country’s most vulnerable and underrepresented young people, elevating their needs and voices to domestic and international policy-makers. Her UN role also saw her produce the podcast For the Future exploring the issues important to young Australians, as well as working alongside Natasha Stott Despoja AO within the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. At the local level, she has volunteered on education programs with young incarcerated people at Banksia Hill Detention Centre, worked as a student mentor at Murdoch University and now works as the Youth Programs Officer at Town of Victoria Park, where she established the Town’s inaugural Youth Leadership Teams.

Zahra Al Hilaly

Mission Australia Young Changemaker Award

Zahra is an inspiring young leader whose advocacy for gender equality, migrants and refugees and intersectional representation has made waves across the world. She is an Australian Representative for UN Women, Chair of the Minister for Youth’s Advisory Council and was recently named the 2022 Western Australian Young Multicultural Person of the Year. A seasoned speaker and youth representative, Zahra has addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York and served as a youth delegate for conferences in Italy, China and France. Zahra is also an accomplished poet and writer, her stories have been published in SBS Australia, The West Australian and Vogue Australia. Beyond her impressive resume, Zahra is committed to supporting her peers, uplifting the voices of the voiceless and striving for equality and justice at every turn.

Kay Barnard

Mission Australia Young Changemaker Award

Kay is a queer disability advocate and changemaker with a fierce passion for justice and equity. Through their work across the Youth Disability Advocacy Network, Children and Yong People with Disability Australia and Women with Disability Australia, Kay has worked to breakdown barriers, challenge prejudice and fight against overlapping systems of discrimination, all in the name of a more fair and equitable society for their peers. Kay’s advocacy extends across disciplines as a Committee Member for BirdLife WA, a presenter at SciTech and Advisory Group Member of Queerability.

Margherita Dall'Occo-Vaccaro

Mission Australia Young Changemaker Award

Margherita is an inspiring young advocate devoted to representation and activism for those within the disability community. She graduated from Fremantle College in 2020, where she was a leader in advocacy and inclusion for her queer peers and students with disability. In 2020, Margherita became the first representative from Western Australia on the Women with Disabilities Australia Youth Network, advocating for issues faced by young women with disability. She also represented this group at the UN Generation Equality Forum Mexico and Paris. She currently consults on disability related matters for UN Agencies including the World Intellectual Property Organisation and is part of the Children and Young People with Disabilities Youth Council. Currently studying Law and Human Rights, she hopes to continue working to improve the lives of those with disability.

Finlaey Hewlett

Mission Australia Young Changemaker Award

Finlaey is a 20-year-old queer and neurodiverse mental health advocate as well as a writer, podcast presenter and youth sector professional. She is currently studying Journalism and Creative Writing, whilst working as a peer educator at YACWA, running workshops on sexual health, consent and healthy relationships for young people. She also hosts a mental health and wellbeing podcast, She's Mental, and has become a prominent youth advocate in the mental healthcare system. Her own lived experience with mental ill health began when she was eight, and she has been working to advocate for systemic reform since she was 14. In 2019, Finlaey became a Consumer and Carer Advisor at the WA Country Health Service and helped coordinate the City of Busselton's Youth Centre as a volunteer.

Joella Flanagan

Propel Youth Arts WA Creative Contribution Award

Joella Flanagan is a talented young artist from Ngoonooru Wajarri. Joella was named Young Indigenous Artist of the Year in the 2018 Young Australian Art Awards, and in 2019, her painting submission ‘Snakes Meeting’ was selected for the 2019 Young Originals Exhibition. The painting was inspired by her cultural and ancestral history which inspired her to submit a drawing of snakes meeting on country. After completing high school, Joella returned home to Meekatharra and is employed at Shooting Stars in Meekatharra District High School. Joella also contributes to community outside of her work life, supporting Youth Focus with various projects, including a new initiative for NAIDOC Week: The Sneaker Project 2022. Joella is a mentor for the project that aims to create an opportunity for young creatives to draw on their cultural heritage through art and capture good news stories about Meekatharra.

Sophie Minissale

Propel Youth Arts WA Creative Contribution Award

Sophie is a queer artist, editor, radio presenter, performer and educator. She boasts an exceptional multi-disciplinary portfolio that includes photography, videography and writing for stage. Sophie's artistic drive focuses on filling community needs and creating opportunities for others to participate in creative pursuits. Her writing work attempts to tell big stories in small ways and recently had her work Alex and Evie and the Forever Falling Rain debuted at the State Theatre Centre of WA to critical acclaim. Sophie is also a workshop facilitator in both writing and photography, a presenter at community radio station RTRFM, a tutor at The University of Western Australia and an in-demand event photographer and editor of Pulch Mag, an independent literary publication devoted to promoting young emerging writers’ work in print.

Grace Newton-Wordsworth

Propel Youth Arts WA Creative Contribution Award

Grace is a multi-disciplinary creative, educator and mentor passionate about inclusivity and community. She fronts the indie pop band Joan and the Giants who have become a staple in Western Australian music, earning multiple award nominations, industry renown and embarking on multiple tours to the far northern and southern corners of the state. Outside of her own musical practice, Grace teaches music at Music Rocks, working closely with emerging musicians and people with disability to find their voice as songwriters and performers. Beyond music, Grace facilitates screen acting workshops at Perth Film School for young people and aspiring film performers. In her spare time, Grace volunteers her photography and film making skills to documenting Perth’s vibrant music culture as a live music photographer and videographer.

Josephine Staude

Propel Youth Arts WA Creative Contribution Award

Josie is a keen musician and applies her talent to multiple disciplines - voice, violin, and contemporary music, and loves collaborating with others to create beautiful sounds. She’s made significant contributions to the to Albany’s artistic community, including being involved in the local theatre company, attending the Albany Academy of Dance for the last 11 years as playing violin for Albany Youth Orchestra. She was also selected as a member of Australia's premier treble choir, Gondwana Voices, and is a key part of the Staude Sisters singing ensemble, and also works with young gymnasts as a teacher and mentor for her local gymnastics troupe.

Alexis McDonald

Youth Futures Innovation for a Sustainable Future Award

Alexis is an app developer who uses her technological prowess for good. After struggling with bullying in her later high school years, Alexis sought to create a safe space online to encourage and support young women going through the same challenges she was facing. After teaching herself through how-to videos, Alexis created HerHelp, a transformative and all-encompassing platform that has been downloaded over 10,000 times. Alexis has big visions for a relaunched version of HerHelp, including psychological support, lifestyle and wellness sections, career coaching, relationship support and more to come.

Samuel Thomas

Youth Futures Innovation for a Sustainable Future Award

Sam is an avid tinkerer who began working with computers when he was four years old. He combined his passion for technology with his passion for helping others through Sam’s Spares: a self-funded not-for-profit to facilitate Sam’s love of refurbishing e-waste for free to donate to members of his local community in need. Through Sam’s Spares, Sam has taken thousands of devices from that would’ve otherwise turned up and landfill and helped them get into the hands of people seeking to further their education, establish small businesses or keep in touch with loved ones across closed borders. With his enterprising spirit and his love of helping others, Sam hopes to open a sensory-friendly computer museum that’s catered to his peers and neurodivergent community members.

Olivia Colja

Minister for Youth’s Most Outstanding Youth Worker Award

Olivia has over 15 years of experience working with at-risk young people. In her current role as a youth worker at Ishar at a recently launched youth service, she provides specialised, holistic one-on-one to support to young women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, many of whom are fleeing domestic violence and trauma. Olivia brings an unmatched sense of care and empathy to her dozens of client relationships, supporting young women at crisis point to find safety, build resilience and gain a sense of independence and autonomy, often for the very first time. Her program design and youth work practice have led to speak on panels, deliver workshops and influence service delivery for vulnerable young people.

Sarah Jane McCormack

Minister for Youth’s Most Outstanding Youth Worker Award

Sarah is a youth work visionary, using her frontline experience and big-picture perspective to make a better future for young people. As the Youth Development Planner at the City of Wanneroo, Sarah is tasked with designing strategies and creating opportunities for young people in one of the largest local governments in Western Australia. With a background in frontline youth work at organisations like Anglicare WA and Youth Futures, Sarah has been a vital support for young people at risk, developing individualise case management plans, re-engaging young people in their education and providing life-changing support to her at-risk clients. She’s an exemplary youth worker and a role model her fellow youth workers and young people alike.

Ralph Sohns

Minister for Youth’s Most Outstanding Youth Worker Award

If you’re a young person living in Busselton, you’ll most likely know Ralph. Renowned for his infectious laugh and wicked sense of humour, Ralph can build a rapport with anyone thanks to his calming presence and poise. As an integral part of Busselton Youth Centre since its opening in 2018, Ralph has helped over 300 young people transition to adulthood, equipping them with fundamental life skills and empowering them to become independent and self-sufficient. He’s a jack of all trades, running workshops on hospitality skills, vehicle maintenance, arts and road safety. As a mentor to emerging youth workers in the latter stages of their studies, Ralph is a fountain of wisdom and knowledge for anyone who’s willing to listen.

Nathan Swayne

Minister for Youth’s Most Outstanding Youth Worker Award

Nathan Swayne has worked with the Youth Involvement Council (YIC) for more than six years, leaving a career in the lucrative mining industry to follow his passion – supporting vulnerable young people. Despite many offers to work in higher paid roles elsewhere, Nathan remains loyal to his team at YIC dedicated to the young people he works with. He excels in building strong relationships with young people and their families, building rapport where others struggle to make a connection. Nathan is trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills, Trauma and a Trauma-Informed Approach, and Protective Behaviours. He is a respected and exemplary youth worker, with a talent for connecting with the most vulnerable young people.

Dr YES

The Y WA Collective Action Award

Dr YES (Youth Education Sessions) is a school-based harm minimisation health initiative of the AMA WA Foundation, the charity arm of the AMA WA. Dr YES sends trained volunteer medical and medical-assured students into metropolitan and rural high schools to have frank, open discussions on topics concerning youth health such as drugs and alcohol, sexual health and mental health. The program is led by seven medical students, with approximately one hundred students from University of Western Australia, University of Notre Dame Australia and Curtin University volunteering each year. Dr Yes works to ensure that young people make healthy choices, to break down the barriers that prevent young people from accessing healthcare, and to support the learning and development of future medical professionals.

MAN UP

The Y WA Collective Action Award

The MAN UP team are working to redefine what it means to be a man. Through providing small, workshop style sessions with groups of young men, the MAN UP hope to change the attitudes and language around modern masculinity and encourage young men to embrace positive ideals over toxic ones. MAN UP is run by a passionate group of 50 volunteers aged 18-23, with six members on the executive team, each with their own unique experience wrestling with masculine identities and expectations. MAN UP began delivering sessions to schools in August 2020, and since then, have reached over 2,000 students across Perth, Peel, Bunbury, Geraldton and Exmouth. The peer-to-peer approach allows the MAN UP team to relate to their audiences, allowing for productive dialogue and planting the seed for meaningful, positive change.

Employment Buddy Program (Essential Personnel & Rise)

Youth Focus Sector Collaboration Award

Statistics show that young people who are not engaged in any education, employment or training can experience social and economic disadvantage. These barriers are even more significant for those who live with disability. Two organisations, Essential Personnel and Rise, recently partnered to secure a grant to deliver case management service to support young people with disability to develop their job readiness skills. The 12-month program has sourced 34 work experiences for young people with disability and engaged 45 employers in awareness and education training. More than 140 young people with disability have expressed their interest to be involved in the next program, and a request for a two-year extension is currently under consideration.

Ishar Multicultural Women's Health Services Inc.

Youth Focus Sector Collaboration Award

Designed in consultation with the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, the Multicultural Services Centre, the Ethnic Communities Council WA, the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre and countless stakeholders, schools and dedicated service providers, Ishar’s youth service is truly responsive and client-informed. The service and its youth workers focus on supporting young women experiencing family domestic violence and complex trauma, providing holistic, individualised support that fosters independence, empowers young women. Through the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Happy Hearts program, Ishar’s youth workers have delivered education programs focused on healthy relationship, financial management and education pathways to well over a hundred young women.

Our Way Home

Youth Focus Sector Collaboration Award

Our Way Home is about co-designing and delivering a new model of out-of-home care for children and young people with an emphasis on developing, retaining and strengthening connections for young people in care with their families, communities, and culture. The new model enables a radically personalised shared care experience for young people including a dedicated family link worker who works to enable deep connection of children with family, whilst mitigating risk. The collaborative process led by Parkerville Children and Youth Care has seen input from Family Inclusion Network WA, CREATE Foundation, State Government and countless young people who’ve engaged with the out-of-home care system and is already producing major impact for some of WA’s most vulnerable young people.

Youth Futures & Motivation Foundation

Youth Focus Sector Collaboration Award

The partnership between Youth Futures and the Motivation Foundation was born out of a shared understanding that there are other paths to success is beyond mainstream schooling. Youth Futures Community Schools provide alternative educational pathways for young people aged 13 to 19, and now thanks to a collaboration with Motivation Foundation – a charity which evolved from the Ertech Construction Academy – there are even more industry-recognised pathways available for young people. The two organisations partnered to establish a new campus in West Swan through which students can attain Certificates in General Education and Civil Construction, providing functional pathways to careers with ready-made industry placements and a near 100% employment rate for the dozens of young people who’ve undertaken the courses.

Charmaine Dragun Memorial Award

Briana Fiore

Briana Fiore a multi-platform journalist with bylines for the Harvey-Waroona Reporter, South Western Times and Bunbury Herald. In 2021, she won a Walkley Award for her investigation into Bunbury Hospital. She now works as a multi-platform reporter for the ABC in Albany.

Her story focused on a child abuse survivor’s efforts to hold her abuser to account and advocate for systemic reform to better support fellow survivors.

Charmaine Dragun Memorial Award

Sam Jones

Sam is a young journalist and editor for The West Australian Regional Newspapers, covering some of the most remote parts of Western Australia. He spent the first few years of his career working in South Hedland, where – as the only reporter in town – he covered a range of topics of interest to both the local community and the State as a whole.

In 2021, Sam moved north to Broome, where he continued to ply his journalism chops for a year before taking over as the Northern Papers Editor, overseeing four newspapers across WAs North West.

His story focused on Broome youth worker Patu Edwards and his efforts to do 1,000 free hair cuts a year as a means of connecting with young people in the community.

Charmaine Dragun Memorial Award

Amber Lilley

Amber Lilley was born in WAs North West and grew up in the South West before moving to Perth to study Journalism and Public Relations at Curtin University. Upon graduation in 2020, she joined the Kalgoorlie Mine, working as a journalist before taking on the role of Deputy Editor in mid-2022.

Her story focused on the lingering casual sexism and misogyny in WAs mining industry through a first-hand account of the Diggers & Dealers mining conference.