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Building resilient young leaders with a “can do” attitude with Thea Kurniawan


In this week’s episode, Josh is talking to Thea Kurniawan who was a Finalist in the 2018 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, Western Australia.


Thea Kurniawan wears many hats. Professionally based in Perth, she has experience working in consulting, engineering, start-ups, health, and FMCG industries across Indonesia, U.S.A and Australia. Outside of work, Thea actively volunteers with organisations such as Millennium Kids Inc., a sustainability advocacy group that enables thousands of young people to have their say about the environment; and TEDxUWA, one of Australia’s only fully youth-run TEDx events that aims to showcase the ideas of the local community to change attitudes, lives and ultimately – the world.

Growing up in Asia and Australia, Thea strongly believes in the importance of bridging the gap between countries, cultures and people, and building the next generation of resilient young leaders with an “ I can do” approach to spark positive change in the community.

Thea just completed a Polymer Engineering Research Fellowship in the USA and is now settling back into work and life back home. More recently, she was recognised by DFAT as one of 20 young leaders to participate in the selective Australia ASEAN CoLab program, a digital leadership and entrepreneurship development program, addressing some of the most pressing challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In this episode:

  • We hear how Thea is still a sane human after suffering the culture shock of arriving from Jakarta as a child with very little English and being introduced to fairy bread and vegemite by her new Aussie friends!
  • Be delighted by Thea’s positive nature. One of her mantras is to “make someone smile every day” and she will make you smile as you listen to this episode.


Connect with Thea on LinkedIn

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Click on the links to find out more about Millennium Kids Inc or TEDxUWA or Green Lab

And you might like to listen to Thea’s podcast too. Kremés Podcast: linktr.ee/kremespodcast


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Annette (00:04):

Welcome to the inspirational Australians podcast, where we chat to people, making a difference in their communities and in the lives of others. And here is your host for today, Josh Griffin

Josh (00:20):

For this week’s dose of inspiration, we’re speaking with Thea Kurniawan. Now I’m excited to speak to Thea because she wears many hats. And that means that this conversation could go in many directions. She’s professionally based in Perth, and she has experience working consulting, engineering, startups, health, and FMCG, which I learned recently is fast moving consumer goods. She’s worked across Indonesia, USA and Australia. Outside of her work she’s actively volunteering with many organizations, which I’m sure we’ll talk about throughout this chat. And another great thing I’m looking forward to speaking to her about is how she grew up in Asia and Australia, and kind of connected to two cultures and talk about Thea and her belief that it’s so important to be bridging the gap between countries, cultures and people and building the next generation of resilient young leaders with an I can do approach. Thea has just completed a polymer engineering research fellowship in the US and is now getting back into work and life here, back home in Perth, Australia. So Thea, thanks for joining us today. It’s great to speak with you.

Thea (01:31):

Thank you, Josh. And thanks for having me. It’s great to be part of this amazing Inspirational Australians podcasts and the community.

Josh (01:38):

Yeah, no problems. So I wanted to start off by, you know, getting into, uh, I guess how we know you and become involved with you through the Young Achiever Awards. And one thing I think is really cool is that, uh, not only have you been a finalist for your own work, um, but actually as part of a wider group as well. So in 2017 and 2018, respectively, back to back years, you were a finalist in the Catholic Education UWA Young Leadership Award. And on top of that, you’re a semifinalist with your work with TEDx and UWA. So I’m wondering if you can tell us a bit more about that second one being a semifinalist with the group and, uh, and a bit about that TEDx project.

Thea (02:22):

Yeah. So it’s, it’s an interesting, I guess like, well end of a journey to even be recognized and nominated. Um, but the things that I do, I guess it’s, you know, I’ve always just enjoyed actively being part of the community and giving back in a way. Um, and I love working with young people. I, as you mentioned, you know, I was born in Jakarta Indonesia, and I came over here to Perth when I was seven years old. And at that time I didn’t know English very well and I didn’t have any friends. And I was definitely lacking that sense of belonging that all humans are striving to search for and achieve. When, you know, I was just swept into the deep end and right into YouTube. And I was just definitely a fish out of what experience when my peers would, all of a sudden, you know, be willing to say hello to me during recess and lunch even helped me sort of learn colloquial Australian English, uh, pick up, you know, some slang here and there. They introduced me to the Vegemite  and fairy bread. And I think, you know, looking back now, I owe those early sort of moments of community friendship and community activism towards me to, you know, make me become who I am today. So I think everything that I do, um, TEDx, UWA and others is essentially just to give back and, and, you know, to just repay, um, all those amazing people, friends, mentors, colleagues, who have helped me along the way, um, because it does really make a difference. You know, it may sound like such a little thing now, but from little things, big things do grow and they instill so many amazing positive values. Um, and, and just sort of feel good vibes. I think so what I do at TEDx UWA is I try to sort of keep the community connected and that sort of essentially, I guess what gets me out of bed every morning, trying to find new ways to, you know, make a committee a lot more friendly and a better place to live. I am an absolute lover of Ted talks. I must confess, I often procrastinate from my Uni studies when I was studying to just watch Ted talks. And I loved the beauty of them because you can watch a Ted talk about any topic from a astrophysics to the benefits of procrastinating, coincidentally. Um, yeah, so I think I, yeah, I was just watching Ted talks and I thought that that was the end of my, like, that’s the extent of my relationship with Ted. Um, it actually took me an exchange program to China out of all, places that I discovered that Ted gives out licenses for community members to organize their own TEDx events in their local community. So the X and TEDx stands for independently organized Ted style event. And I thought it was great. So I signed up to be part of that club during the six month exchange. I was pretty much part of that organization and because I do speak English, um, and it’s a Chinese University, they had a lot of international delegates coming to that conference. I actually just started being like a behind the scenes stage hand. Um, but they ended up me putting me everywhere as sort of like the translator in every single department. So I would just like float around and sort of do registration and do speaker training and yeah, like looking back now, it was great because I got a 360 degree view as to how a successful event should look like and could, could be like, I came back to Perth and I knew that TEDx Perth did exist already. And it’s fantastic. We love TEDx Perth. They attract thousands of people, Perth and Australia, and even internationally. However, I guess for a student ticket prices are not so friendly. Um, I would say, you know, for young people who I strongly believe are the future generation, they should have in a way more right to access these events live than the young at heart to put it that way. Um, it was quite, yeah, it was quite limiting for us young people to attend these events live because the prices were just sort of high and it’s just something that we can’t really prioritize in our already dwindling budget. Um, so I thought the best solution for that was given my new found knowledge from China is to start one run by youth and for youth and featuring young people’s ideas. So TEDx UWA was, uh, when we started, um, in 2016, it was just a very humble group of eight students, including myself who just absolutely loved watching Ted talks. They wanted to do something more about it. Um, I studied engineering at university and I have friends from other disciplines, and I’ve always just wondered, you know, what cool research or what cool, exciting things are happening around the other department, but we never really had an event at uni targeted for students to learn more about those multidisciplinary, uh, innovations. So that, that was another thing that we wanted to address with TEDx UWA to be able to become, I guess, a melting pot of ideas, where we synergize everyone and everything into one great big event. And I guess, yeah, the beauty of TEDx is you don’t have to be, you know, a PhD awarded awardee. You don’t have to have won a Nobel prize. You can literally be, you know, the guy next door, or, you know, a bus driver who has the passion and a great idea, and you can be on our stage. So it’s truly fantastic to be able to run, um, events. Now we are in our fifth year and we were busy planning for our conference, um, for the 5th of December, whilst most of our team are juggling exams, but it’s great to be acknowledged, I guess, through the Young Achievers Awards, because that’s essentially what I mean, obviously we’re not here for the awards. We are here to spread the awareness of youth powered innovation and youth led initiatives. And it’s fantastic because we have, we always aim every year to have a 50% young people in our audience and 50% young people in our speaker lineup, and even the caterers, our videographers, our photographers. All the partners that we collaborate with are usually youth run or youth founded organizations. So we’re trying to showcase that young people really have the drive and passion to lead us to a great future ahead. So it’s just amazing to be able to be recognized, um, in, in the Young Achievers Awards for that, yeah.



Josh (08:45):

It’s really cool Thea and I, you know, agree with you and I strongly believe that young people just need the opportunity sometimes to show that they can do something just as good as anyone else with more experience or who’s older. So that’s great that, you know, with your, um, with TEDx UWA, that you’re giving people that opportunity. And, um, I do want to circle quickly back to one thing you said, and just want a question very briefly that your friends, I hope that they didn’t introduce you to Vegemite and fairy bred at the same time.

Thea (09:15):

No, thankfully not different occasions. I’ve been to many, a party, many, a pool party where I got my dose of my own very unhealthy choice of fairy bread that I absolutely couldn’t  shake off. Got so got so hooked. Um, but in terms of Vegemite I was very thankful that I didn’t have what I call a baptism of fire to Vegemite. I was taught the proper way to enjoy Vegemite as a Vegemite connoisseur, to have it on toast with ample amounts of butter. And that’s how I got to appreciate Vegemite, because I think now when I have, you know, my, um, Indonesian friends who come over to Perth, Australia for university, they look at Vegemite and then they take a script directly out of the jar and I would just be cringing go. No. Yeah, exactly. So honestly, very, very grateful and look, who knows maybe the reason why that was like, the reason that I got properly taught how to eat Vegemite is why I am still a sane human beings today wanting to give back to the community and saying, thanks.

Josh (10:19):

Now, one thing I want to, um, let listeners know is that, you know, when we’ve been emailing each other before this chat, and you kind of had said, um, you know, we were talking about the, that you were a finalist in the Young Leadership Award and you had kind of said, I still can’t believe I was a finalist in that category. Yet here you are talking about how you led a group of students to bring a TEDx UWA and the reasons you did that was so incredible. And to me, that sums up a leader perfectly. So now, given that you had that kind of, um, not reluctance, but you were like, I was surprised what is leadership to you, Thea? What do you kind of see that is being?

Thea (11:02):

Yeah, I think growing up, um, I’ve always just, you know, I, I knew the concept of role models and why everyone has their own role models and they have different role models, but, you know, what are the mutual characteristics that are shared within these role model figures and why do people admire them so much and, and inspire to be like them? I always sort of go about life, not wanting to be a role model myself, but, you know, just making sure that the work that I do, my actions, my words, and I guess my values, um, you know, when I go out into the community, uh, good essentially, um, you know, in, in times like these, you know, I, I was never one to really do these things to seek acknowledgement or to seek favoritism or to seek friends, I guess. I’ve just gone about life, you know, like, like my little year to moment learning how different people can just give out random acts of kindness and being on the receiving out of that, how great of an impact and how great of a feel, good feeling that can give to even just one person. Um, so that’s what I try to just sort of reflect back in my actions. And in my words, I learned so much from many different people and from many walks of life. And I guess I learned from them to translate that to what I do. And I think my mantra is just, you know, try as much as possible to make at least one person smile or, you know, just to, just to have a positive impact on one person, even if it’s just, you know, flashing a smile at a stranger, you know, who knows it could make their day, you know, they could have been, you know, down in the dumps for, for whatever reason. But, um, knowing that there is some, you know, a kind stranger out there who is willing to sort of, you know, be, be there. And it’s like, you know, saying that, you know, the world, yes, the world can be a try. A life can be trying times, but not everyone is a bad person. Um, and there’s always people there helping you, helping you out. So I guess I’ve never sort of sought myself to be, I guess, you know, I’m going to pop the leadership in my CV as a skillset. I think leadership is something that continuously is evolving and there is no one sort of like golden rule on how to be a good leader. It always evolves and it’s always different according to different settings. Um, so my mantra is just, you know, how can you make sure that we are staying inclusive, making sure that everyone is headed and going back to my very first point, making sure people feel belonged or have that sense of belonging, because everyone wants to be part of that, whether you’re part of your gym group, your social sports or club, even work or school or uni, um, everyone’s here collectively. And we have to make sure that we all play a part in acknowledging other people in our space, in our own voice and making sure that we are all in it together. So, um, that’s what I try to do in, in every, in everything that I do. Um, although sometimes, you know, I have definitely had shortcomings and I’ve had, you know, my own sort of, you know, um, examples of where I probably lacked in leadership or I could have done better, but that’s the beauty, I guess, of, you know, getting feedback and reflecting on oneself and improving consistently to become better and better, um, going forward.

Josh (14:27):

Yeah. Yeah. Those are the signs of a really good leader, Thea because in my opinion, a strong leader doesn’t label themselves or shout out that, Hey, look, I am a leader. The best leaders are labeled as leaders by others. So I think that’s an important distinction and one that you seem to embody, um, from what I’ve heard. Another thing I want to ask you about is, you know, you mentioned, um, kind of your mantra and another one of your, um, approaches is that you wanted to build a generation of resilient young leaders within, you know, and I’m doing quotation marks. “I can do” approach and spark positive change in the communities. So I guess, why is that important to you?

Thea (15:14):

Yeah, I think it was also a mixture of, um, growing up, you know, growing up in Australia from a different culture, I guess, coming from a completely different country where, I mean, obviously this is, you know, this is in the past. Things have gotten so much better now, but I guess my upbringing in Asia was predominantly, Oh, you’re the kid. You just sit down, put your head down, work hard, listen to the adults. I mean, obviously we respect the adults and our elders completely a hundred percent agree with that, but I did feel that growing up when I was much younger, the Asian mindset was very much, the kids don’t have the right to speak up. You just listen to the adults because they are a lot wiser, then you will learn why they say those things. And when you become an adult, then you can speak, you know, you can have your little soap box moment and then growing up in Australia where everything is a lot more, I guess, a bit more liberal, a bit more free. Um, yeah, like just sort of understanding that dynamic. I think when I was seven years old coming here, not only did I have a language barrier issue, it was a bit of a culture shock moment against the first time. Um, there’s so many beautiful things about Perth and about Australia. I absolutely love living here, but I think also there was a lot of struggle, um, to me. And, uh, aside from that, you know, just fitting in, um, obviously, you know, the harsh reality is I don’t look like a typical Australian and I did face a lot of, you know, I guess what I call as microaggressions, racial microaggressions that, you know, at the time, because I was so young, I mean, I didn’t really think about it much, but I mean, looking back now, it can sort of snowball into a lot of sort of weird, confused feelings. Um, and yeah, and I think growing up here and growing up there and then I actually finished high school back in Jakarta, and then I came back here for uni. It sounds really exhausting. I think at the time, even just the concept of moving around was very exhausting too. Um, but it did teach me a lot of great values, the value of resilience, you know, the value of adaptability. And, and I guess what we were discussing previously pivoting and how to be agile and flexible, and these skills are definitely a lot more valued now, as we transition into to a COVID and a post COVID world, we ended to be more agile and more pivoting than ever. Um, where, you know, we could be talking and working with colleagues, you know, halfway around the world, we need to understand the cultural values and the cultural dynamics and what is, what isn’t, um, in different societies. And I think those skills are very much skills that we still need to continue to educate our young people. Then it’s something that you can’t just read from a textbook. It’s something that it’s not so much a hard skill. It’s very much a soft skill aspect. That is one of those invisible things that you never know, right. That you could suddenly offend someone just a little bit, but in a as first impressions count, it could still stay in someone’s mind as a little, a little sort of like, you know, gritty rock or even a pebble. I like to say that, you know, if you’re walking or you’re cycling down a path of you see a huge boulder, obviously you can go around it. But if you see that you might not be able to see a tiny grit, a piece of sand or a pebble, and that tiny thing could be the thing that caused you to trip over or cause you to fall. So, you know, based on my experiences of microaggressions, those little things can amount into something much bigger in the long term or it’s those little things that could actually cause a negative impression of certain people when you first meet them. So I think it’s really important to continue to educate young people in the power of resilience, cultural awareness as well. Um, you know, the concept of IQ and EQ. There’s a third one that I like to coast like CQ. A lot of people will say, it’s either a curiosity quotient, or I like to call it a cultural quotient or a cultural intelligence aspect that we need to sort of, you know, continue to develop in ourselves so that we are more aware when we meet people and work with people of different sort of cultures. But I guess the I can do attitude is also sort of, you know, we don’t want to suppress young people, kids have the drive and the ideas and the passion, and they have the audacity to make significant positive change. Unfortunately, and this is linking to my favorite Ted talk by sir, Ken Anderson, unfortunately he passed away recently. He made a Ted talk called how schools kill creativity. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love schools. However, I do agree with him on the point that the school curriculum can be quite restrictive for people who are very creatively inclined. And as they go through education for 12 years or even more, you know, as they get older and as they get more and more, you know, trying to fit into a system or a curriculum, it might dampen, or it might limit what they, you know, what their limitless imagination and creativity previously was. So w I, you know, in, in everything I do with TEDx UWA, with another group, I work with called Millennium Kids. We try to highlight the kids saying your voice needs to be here. Your voice is important, and we will do all we can as the bigger kids to provide you with platforms, to be truly head by people that can make the change and people who are, you know, who can influence decision making, be it ministers, academics, parliament members, you know, mayors or so on and so forth. And we want to start, you know, we like to sort of make sure that we drive that message to kids as early as possible so that they know that, you know, they can be heard, they shouldn’t be shy about going against the system. You know, maybe they have a good point, but at least to speak it out, at least to start the conversation, that’s when the true innovation can happen.

Josh (21:20):

And we need to hear from people at that age because the future is what they will inherit.







They need to have a say in those issues because it’s, their reality will be when they’re older, whereas for the people making the decisions. Now they’re not going to be around to see the, uh, the seeds that have sowed.

Thea (21:37):

Yeah, indeed. We don’t want to continue putting people in boxes. You know, we don’t want to continue putting kids into like a mold for the next set of politicians, because we’re just going to get the same, you know, people in parliament as we have now and what that might be great, but that might not also be great, you know? And I think going forward, I would like to see, you know, our leaders to be more, you know, controversial in a good way, more, more disruptive, more change-making. Um, so yeah, we need a bit more originality. We need more new ideas and we shouldn’t continuously, you know, instill and nurture our children to fit in the mold that we like to fit in our mold basically. They need to have their own mold and they have their own life and their own path to, to go venture.

Josh (22:26):

For sure. It’s actually one of the reasons we, um, I was gonna say abolish, it seems like such a harsh word. We got rid of the minimum age criteria for the young achiever awards. So what a while ago it was, I think it was 15 or 16. This is like going back a long time and then we reduced to 13 and then we just kept reducing it until we decided let’s just remove the, the minimum age. If someone young is doing something cool, then you know, they can be entered who, who cares. So, you know, I’ve seen some beautiful stories of young people, 11 years old, 10 years old, um, various things. And it’s just, they’re the stories we need to be lifting up with alongside anyone else regardless of their age.

Thea (23:06):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. That’s good. Well done.

Josh (23:12):

Tell me a little bit more about Millennium Kids. Uh, you know, I guess A – how’d you get involved, um, B -what kind of age groups are you working with and, you know, from the kids’ perspective, how can they get involved as well?

Thea (23:24):

Yeah, so, um, Millennium Kids is a youth run environmental advocacy group, um, primarily based in Perth, but we’ve got a great reach across Australia. And now in Indonesia as well, I first got involved with Millennium Kids. Um, in year five, they came to my school for, I guess, a two day workshop, uh, where essentially they were making us a lot more aware about carbon footprint, how big our carbon footprint is, um, ways that we can be a lot more environmentally savvy and essentially, you know, work with us, um, to potentially create our own sustainability innovations and to potentially pitch it to each other. So it was like a part, public speaking hackathon, ideation, workshop, and part sort of environmental sustainability awareness session as well. And it was great. Um, I, at that time, I think I just recently moved to a new school. I was shifting around different schools and when I was in Perth, but, um, yeah, still, I was still very much a shy kid. So we were still having like this big session where, um, the CEO, Katrina was facilitating and she was like, no, I’m not going to lead the session. I want you kids to lead the session. So you go let you tell me what agenda you want. You tell me what key themes we need to think about in our environment, in our community, and which ones are big politicians should address. And we want you to talk to those politicians, be it through a letter, an open, an open email, um, even pitching to head of school and that kind of thing. So I thought that that was like, what is this? This is so out there I’ve been so used to just listening to teachers during assemblies that this is just so out of my element. And I got a bit like shocked and slightly offended at first because…

Josh (25:08):

Yeah, it sounds scary to me

Thea (25:11):

Yeah, exactly. I was just like, Um, I was literally jumping out of my skin because I was not a public speaker at all at that time. And, uh, you know, my English is just like barely forming as well. Um, so we were, yeah, we’ve had a big brainstorm session and then all the, we were all in groups with like, thinking about, Oh, like, we want to save the trees, you want to save the turtles from being choked to death by plastic floating in the ocean. Um, and as for me, I am a big sort of like waste management kind of hippie. Um, uh, so like this, like our school at the end of every week, the school would send out paper newsletters. Like we would, we would take the paper newsletters to give to our parents at the end of the day. And, um, it’s just basically a recap of what has happened in the week. It usually just gets thrown away by Sunday, like by Saturday or Sunday morning. Um, and normally if you have siblings in the same school, you would get like duplicate and even like so many, like multiple copies of it. So I thought that was like a really interesting, um, where sort of like address because, um, I simply did sort of like a two week, uh, paper litter survey where I go to each school, like each class in our junior school to just like, can you, if you have paper throw away, can you put it in this box? And then I would just sort of like collect it and see how much we get in a week. And it was just a ridiculous number. So my idea was just like, well, and that was the dawn when like email became suddenly very cool. So I just thought, you know, why don’t you just change it into an e-newsletter that way it could tackle the duplicate as well as say paper, but then in our main being very sly thought, like that’s like, that’s just like a tiny idea. It’s like, it doesn’t sound cool or grand or like amazing. You know, like we had a friend who was, um, my classmate literally was going to go to the beaches of Perth to record the sound of the ocean and turn it into like an art gallery soundscape exhibit to make people more aware of the beauty of our oceans and how calming and nurturing it is to the human soul. And I was like, that is just so deep, it’s like my… I’m just like emails.

Josh (27:19):

I got to interject. I got to interject here. Is that your friend, that’s like an arts person approach. It’s beautiful. It’s lovely. We need that in the world to inspire and to, you know, emote bring emotive responses, but you’re, we’re coming as a year five engineer, future engineer, no, we need immediate action. This is the action plan. This is how we can get instant results. So they’re both so lovely.

Thea (27:42):

Thank you! No, and I appreciate that because I think when I got around to finally doing my little spiel to Katrina, I was just like, can we change the newsletter into emails? Um, she ended up picking you up and said, no, you’re going to pitch to the head of school like tomorrow. And I was just like, no, it’s like, what is this? So that was my baptism of fire for both public speaking and pitching and everything in between. But lo and behold head of school picked it and the school was still using e-newsletters up to today. So I think for a kid, that’s a pretty cool feeling, knowing that my little tiny idea that I thought was just like meaningless is having a long lasting effect. So now, um, now that I’m a big kid, I sort of dismantle, um, the same sort of group of students for our workshops. So Millennium Kids goes around to libraries, schools, um, and sort of just organizes World Without Waste Workshops. So whole group of young people, we cater to all kinds of ages and groups and, um, sort of, you know, demographics. And we have, I guess, um, a youth board and like a young at heart board. So all ages are welcome. And we also in, um, sort of, you know, definitely have what I, one of my favorites kids out in country excursions, where we go out to the Bush, we get kids off their screens and to reconnect with nature as well as our traditional owners. So we have an amazing partnership with a couple of, um, you know, small groups and we do a lot of smoking ceremonies and we understand the value of traditional sustainability practices too. And linking that to, you know, dream time stories and ethics and how we should work as, as humanitarians. Um, but more recently, we also have a lot of partnerships with groups in Indonesia, and I think I’m really, you know, really, really happy that that’s become my pet project and to be able to still reconnect with my roots, my cultural roots. So we’ve got, um, we’ve partnerships in Jakarta and a couple of areas called Sumbawa and Dompu, which are just kind of little regencies in islands, scattered around Indonesia, where we partner with fellow environmental groups, schools. Um, and we get, we do like when, you know, before COVID we have travel exchange programs where groups from Australia come to Indonesia and vice versa, we learn from each other, we share tips and we understand how different countries are tackling, um, waste management differently. But more recently we have managed to secure funding to start to support, um, an eco-school being set up in Dompu. And two weeks ago they officially connected their water and they managed to sort of, um, successfully start their water pump going, and they’re breaking ground this on a construction. So it’s very, very exciting times, unfortunately, with COVID we just had to celebrate through Zoom being very awkward. We just like going in a, in a sort of little home offices, but we really wish we could have been there to give them a physical hug and to be that sort of scenario to be supportive. Um, but it’s so sensational our reach and only very recently, um, did we receive, so Millennium Kids received the honor of being one of the top 20 Australian Asian Social Enterprises. So, um, I will be representing, Millennium Kids in the Australian Adrienne CoLab program. And it’s just, um, it’s part of, sort of, it’s funded by DEFAT and the Australian arts and council. So actually it’s, we’re going on right now. This is our second week of a six week program where we really went, how to become, you know, how to still instill great leadership and how to continue running our eco and social enterprises during COVID. Cause obviously the pandemic brings along a whole new set of challenges and how we can overcome them and still continue to build a team that’s culturally diverse and, and sustaining. So, yeah, I think that’s pretty much a recap of Millennium Kids and anyone is welcome to, um, be part of the Millennium Kids. We welcome the young and the young at heart. Our motto is have fun, eat chocolate, fair trade, cause we have values and care for the environment. So just Google Millennium Kids Inc, um, online, uh, it’s actually perfect timing because we recently also just launched a new initiative called green labs. So greenlab.org.au where we really drive, um, the kids to start their own social initiatives and to get people talking more about sort of our nature and our environment. So, um, yeah, feel free to also connect with me if you want to learn more information about any of the organizations.

Josh (32:20):

Yeah. But we’ll put that in the show notes and uh, you know, I wanted to ask, so do you get to put any other kids through their own baptism of fire now that you’re in there? The other side of things?

Thea (32:31):

Yeah, we actually, so Millennium Kids is, uh, celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. And, um, on Monday, last Monday, so only sort of three days ago, we had our big 25th anniversary celebration where we collaborated with a lot of our partners. We Zoom them into one big session and we also had kids going up on stage and pitching and sharing the projects that they’ve been working on for the past years and months. Um, and for most of them, that was their first time speaking, public speaking, um, and even pitching and our, and our audience members included ministers. Um, uh, you know, we had the chief, an ex-chief scientist of UWA as a patron attending. We had, you know, a whole bunch of amazing academics experts and obviously kids and their families too. So it was a pretty illustrious crowd, um, pretty up there. And for most of them, you know, we’ve got kids ranging between years, three to about year 12, um, who were pitching that night and yeah, they were sensational. They were just talking. And I think the beauty of it is they’re just so passionate about these issues and these ideas and their projects that even though they had a script, and even though they were nervous because they all tell me, cause I was, you know, in, in the side of the stage – they were like, Oh, I’m so nervous, I shaking but after they finished I could not detect their nervousness at all because they just spoke from their heart. And it’s just truly beautiful to see that translate and channel that in their messaging because I guess sound like pros honestly so much so that one of the ministers said, like we should just replace all members of parliament with new kids. Um, so yeah, no, it’s really great to be part of that. And um, and just to see the kids grow, I guess it makes me feel really old though.

Josh (34:25):

So Thea, I’m struggling to understand how you have a career separate to all this stuff, because it sounds like everything you’re talking about. Sounds like it must be very time-consuming and not just time, but like your passion and your energy. So yeah. How do you fit in a work experience? Work career? I should say.

Thea (34:43):

No, it’s, it’s definitely something that even I question myself every day, especially this past few weeks I’ve been working remotely with, um, like in, in my website I do consulting my client is based in Darwin. And like I said before with you having a conversation offline, my clients in Darwin, the rest of my colleagues are in Brisbane and I’m the only one from Perth. So I’m juggling time zones and I’m just like thinking to myself, how do I manage all of this? But look, I like to stay busy, I must say, and I must confess you’re I do get bored really easily. So, um, whether that be, you know, leading me to active procrastination or other things, um, but I really like keeping my hands full and, and having one thing. And then sort of like, you know, I try, I like to brag and say that I’m great at multitasking, but let’s be real, no, to manage it one at a time, but I like to keep busy. I like to keep my brain moving. Um, I don’t know why, but I try to justify that it makes me feel young because I’m working with like 10 to 12 year old’s who are already pitching to environmental ministers and here I am going. Wow. Um, yeah, I like to keep busy. I like to try not to be so glued to my screen. So a lot of my work involves being on the screen and sitting on my desk, you know, it’s like, well sitting at a desk for a long period of time. So the work that I do with TEDx and Millennium Kids is a lot more, um, sort of yeah. Get up and go. So that’s really why I like doing it as well. I get it purposely gives me a break from all the desk work that I do. And it also gives me time to really reconnect with people. So we’re very lucky obviously in UWA to be quite free and quite back to business as usual in terms of the pandemic. Although we asked, you know, keeping social distance and keeping awareness, but with Millennium Kids and TEDx UWA, it’s the people that drives the organization. So I do on a daily basis meet with lots of different groups. Um, you know, I coach speakers, I emcee conferences and, you know, I pat, you know, indigenous sort of like, um, Indians, engineers, animals. So like, you know, the other day I was patting Quakers and I was nurturing a baby kangaroo. Um, and I was learning how to incorporate kacadoo plumb into my recipes. And it’s just like a lot of like, you know, like tactile and hands-on things, which is why, and that’s how I learn best as well. Um, so yeah, I just love to be able to give myself breaks in between because also I can’t stay too long in a desk, um, doing the work. I tend to get sot sort of flirting and drifting away and I feel unfocused. So I do think I need a lot of different things to be able to stay focused if that makes sense, cause that sounds counter intuitive,

Josh (37:38):

Not at all, but, um, no, that does make sense. And you know, for us non WA residents, who’ve heard of this utopia you have, um, over there, we are very jealous, but so, um, what, when you said social distancing, I am interested to know actually, like, what does that entail? What are your kind of current guidelines over there?

Thea (37:56):

So technically we supposed to keep a respective  1.5 meters, um, from, I guess, uh, you know, a law abiding citizens point of view, especially me, when we make a lot of events because we’ve currently planning for a TEDx 2020, um, the venue capacity has to be limited to 60% of the capacity. So we make, we have to ensure that there’s, you know, a significant amount of gap and space between audience members cause it’s quite enclosed, which makes sense. But on a day to day basis, as like, for example, me catching up with friends is very much normal and, and businesses and shops and restaurants are open as per usual. We just see a whole lot more of hand sanitizers, I guess, everywhere. Yeah. Um, it is just really funny. Let me tell you, when you know, you work in a client facing role and you kind of rock up and meet the client for the first time when first impressions really do count and use that really split-second awkward moment where you go, Oh, do I stick my hand out, shake his hand? Will we be offended if I shake, if I try to shake his hand, we’ll be offended if I don’t give my handout. If I drew the elbow thing, we’ll be him. Yeah. Anyway, it’s very confusing. And I’m, to be honest, quite a socially awkward person to begin with it is probably really funny if you play it, if someone were to record me and play it back, they would just be like this like split second moment where you can probably see my brain. Like that meme where like all the equations starts sort of like appearing in my, like in front of my face and she’d be like, Oh, what am I doing? Like, do I do the hand? Do I do the elbow? But a lot of people resort to hugging. So when I usually just wait, like no matter how awkward it gets, I have just learned that the best is wait until the other person initiates the action. sThen I respond, even though it’s going to look really weird, it’s going to be like, hi, and I’ll just be standing there. It’s just probably a lot better than causing a fence again, you know, the whole issue with causing a fence and those little sort of, you know, grits and sands that can snowball into something worse in the long run. I don’t want to offend people as much as possible. And you know, I let them do what they do. I mean, if I get, you know, if it’s, I don’t, I’m not very sort of particular about, I guess these kinds of things are probably should be. Um, but yeah, no. Other than that, we’re pretty chill here in Perth,.

Josh (40:20):

I mean, you’ve given us an idea for a new YouTube channel is just someone following you around filming on your interactions.

Thea (40:26):

No, honestly, like it’s just very embarrassing sometimes cause I’m the kind of person that if I order food, they, and then they hand it to me is enjoy your meal. I would say you too just automatically. It’s like you too. And then I would walk away and only then will I realize, Oh, I sound so stupid.

Josh (40:45):

Especially, you know what I do this as my public confession is when we’re talking for the first time and you will say, Oh, how are you doing? I’m like, good. How are you? And then ask again, like I already asked that

Thea (40:57):

It’s just an endless loop of how are you, you know, to be honest in line with R U OK day, I would say, yes, it is probably a vicious cycle, but at least with checking in on each other. Yeah. I guess that’s the positive that I can get out of that. Um, which is I guess, or, you know, the best way to, to get interpret any situation.

Josh (41:17):

Yeah. Well, speaking of socially awkward, this is my awkward way of segwaying. What you just said, speaking of, uh, connecting, how can people connect with you? You mentioned that earlier, how can they get in touch with you? You mentioned, uh, the Millennium Kids, but you personally where is the best place to do that?

Thea (41:35):

Yeah. So, um, I am found on LinkedIn, so Thea Kurniawan my, name’s a little bit interesting to spell. So it’s probably going to be in the description somewhere. Um, yes, Thea Kurniawan is my LinkedIn, um, I’m also on Facebook and Instagram. It’s just Thea. Um, so Facebook is the, uh, Kur – K U R. Um, I didn’t want to ramble along with my surname. Um, and my Instagram is Theaaargh so it’s T H E A A A R G H. So like the Argh exclamation. So that’s my personal handles, um, for TEDx UWA, it’s just Tedx UWA or @tedxuwa TEDxUWA.com, um, and Millennium Kids was discussed earlier. So yeah, I mean, uh, in a, you know, a bunch of platforms and, you know, I’m, I’m more than happy to connect with anyone, um, wherever anyone is.

Josh (42:30):

No, that’s great. Yeah. Thanks for sparing. The time to chat with us today, it’s been excellent. Before I let you go. I want to put you on the spot and ask you if there’s any message that you’d like to share with our listeners that mean to, to leave them with a little bit, you know, something to think about.

Thea (42:44):

Yeah. Um, you know, I talk a lot about mantras and mottos. I mean, I’m not the kind of person that always has the one motto. Um, I tend to sort of like ebb and flow and change, same thing with favorites. I don’t have a favorite color or a favorite, you know, celebrity crush or something. But one quote that resonated with me really recently is start with your heart and then just start. And I think it’s sensational because that should be the core foundation and everything we do in anything we do, we should have a heart to do it. We should have the passion and the drive to do something, or even just the good intention to do something. If we don’t, if it, if it comes from a place of ill intent or negativity or, you know, something else, excluding chores obviously, but everything else, it really shows. I notice, um, I have worked with a whole bunch of different people and you know, of, of different cultures. And I guess the one mutual feeling is the heart in it, because it really shows in, in what you do in, in how you say things and how you act, and in the quality of work you produce how much passion you get into it. So, you know, if you, if you’re stuck in what you want to major in a uni, or if you’re really not sure about what you want to do in your career, everyone has had that time of confusion. Like I have been during that time of confusion. I am still in that transition phase right now. Um, but you know, no matter how much influence or external, you know, sort of, you know, um, persuasion, you may have received to select a certain path or to go into a certain career journey, it’s all up to you because it is your life live life to the fullest. And I think the only way do that is to know that you have made decisions true to yourself and decisions that will make you, you know, not regret anything. And I think that is feels key to a long and a happy life probably. Um, yeah, look like, you know, I just want any wish that when I’m in my golden years to be able to look back and acknowledge that most of the decisions I’ve made are decisions that are true to myself and not decisions that have been influenced by other people or other, you know, um, rules or other regulations in a way, you know, I want to be able to be true to myself because it is my life. And I hope that others out there are also treating themselves because every person is unique and beautiful in their own way. Um, and that’s what makes the world go round, I guess, to be able to acknowledge that diversity, but also include everyone into the conversation. Yeah.

Josh (45:24):

They have it, there’s golden key to a happy life. I loved it. Thea. Thanks for your time again. And uh, yeah.

Thea (45:30):

Hey Josh, thanks for the conversation as well. I love the questions. And, um, yeah. I look forward to hearing more of these episodes as well and learning from other people. Cause it’s been truly amazing listening to the previous episodes and hope that, you know, post COVID, we can all somehow meet and stay connected in person as well.

Josh (45:47):

You know what, that’s the one thing I’ve missed the most is not being able to travel to have that face-to-face connection, not through a screen so we can be socially awkward, not, not, not be sure how to greet each other, but still enjoy that time anyway.

Thea (46:01):

Yes, a whole new level of awkward, but a whole new level of memories as well.

Josh (46:06):

I can’t wait to meet you in person because then I’m just not going to do anything. I’m going to wait for you, you,

Thea (46:12):

And then it’ll just be like a staring contest. And then hopefully someone has a webcam to record all of that awkwardness and posted online. There we go.



All right, well, thank you.



Thank you.



I hope you enjoyed that interview. If you liked it or any of our other episodes, it would be great. If you can rate and review the inspiration of Australians podcasts, it really helps us out. If someone, you know, needs a little dose of inspiration, why not let them know about this podcast? And if you haven’t already make sure you subscribed so that you won’t miss an episode, join us each week. As we talk with ordinary Australians, achieving extraordinary things, you can always head to our website at awards australia.com/podcast, for more information and details on each guest. Now, before we go, I’d like to thank Annette, our producer. Here’s a fun fact, Annette is my mum and our other hosts. Geoff is my dad. This podcast is brought to you by Awards Australia, a family owned business that proudly uncovers the stories of people who make a difference for others. We can only do this with the support of our corporate and not for profit partners as they make our awards programs possible. So do you know someone making a difference? If you’d like to recommend someone to be guests on the podcast, get in touch through our Instagram page, Inspirational.Australians, or maybe your business might like to sponsor the podcast or get involved with the awards we run. Head to our website, awardsaustralia.com for more details until next week, stay safe and remember, together we make a difference.

Annette (47:50):

Thanks for joining us today on the inspirational Australians podcast, we hope you enjoyed listening and have been inspired by ordinary Australians, achieving extraordinary things. So it’s goodbye for another week. Remember, together we make a difference.