7NEWS Young Achiever Awards - NSW/ACT

2021 Finalists

OSMEN Creative Design Award 

Mikaela Conners, 25 of Warwick Farm is a driven young fashion designer. Mikaela studied Fashion Design at the White House Institute of Design after receiving a scholarship. While studying, she was employed in the bridal boutique arena, dealing with customers and staff of all levels. Mikaela has designed, constructed and showcased her creations in photoshoots, expos and runway events. She was Youth Council President for Liverpool City Council for two years. She received the Australia Day Cultural & Arts Award in 2016. Mikaela recently designed a new headband for Liverpool Hospital nurses and medical staff, finding a solution to the problem of masks hurting the ears. 

Zachary Hanna, 26 of Camperdown is an upcoming furniture and lighting designer. Zachary graduated with a Bachelor of Design in Integrated Product Design from the University of Technology in Sydney. While in Uni, he worked as a personal design assistant for the Head of Industrial Design and for a leading Australian furniture designer. He has established his own practice, working with Nau Design and winning awards such as the Cult Design Journey, Alessi design Award, Mercedes Benz Design Award and Good Design Awards, among others. Zachary employs a variety of self-taught skills and is committed to learning both technical and manual sides of his craft. 

Rachel Pace, 25 of Flinders has a passion for interior design. Rachel works with Birdblack Design, starting as an intern while studying Interior Design (Residential) at Billy Blue College of Design on a scholarship. She later took a full-time position after graduating in 2019. At Birdblack Design, she takes part in the design and project management process, the administrative and financial process and working alongside clients. Despite being the youngest in her team, Rachel is solely responsible for Furniture Curation, overseeing staff and providing training. In 2020, Rachel was a finalist in the Illawarra Women in Business Women’s Awards Young Business Woman of the Year. 

Kate Robinson, 26 of Avalon boasts of a natural gift with plants and a creative eye. Kate is a landscape designer at Sticks & Stones Landscape Design, where she started in a junior position after graduating from Ryde Tafe with a Diploma in Landscape Design. Despite having no work experience, she quickly picked up and displayed a willingness to learn new software programs such as Sketchup, Podium and TwimMotion. She received a Silver Award for one of her projects in Plant Design at the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers. With her positive attitude, hard work and ethics, Kate has become one of her company’s biggest assets. 


Freemasons of NSW/ACT Community Service Award

Chantel Bakac, 23 of Bondi Beach advocates for youth mental health. Chantel is a local reference group member and National Youth Mental Health Ambassador for Headspace. She helps develop national peer support frameworks and revolutionise the mental health service user landscape, through online peer moderation and family support. In 2019, Chantel represented Australia at the International Association of Youth Mental Health’s International Conference on Youth Mental Health where she advocated for equal opportunity in the workplace and wellbeing of employees. In 2020, she presented a talk on increasing Culturally and Linguistically Diverse representation in the mental health system. 

Jahin Tanvir, 20 of Harrison is passionately action-oriented. Jahin was selected as one of ten “Young Leaders” in Australia and represented ACT at the Consumers Health Forum; which helped raise awareness of youth health issues and develop resources to help the youth better navigate the healthcare system. He volunteers for the Wellbeing Health and Youth Commission, where he co-designs and sets research agendas for teenagers. He is a founding member of the Health Literacy Advisory Council at Youth Action NSW and Young Advocates Collective. He is a Youth Ambassador for the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network and a volunteer for ACT at Oaktree and Canberra Blind Society. 

Jason Owen, 26 of Gosford is a youth empowerment advocate. Jason is an award-winning country music singer who founded Doin It For Rural Aussie Kids (DIFRAK), a charity that provides gifts, groceries and funds at Christmas to regional kids impacted by drought, bushfires and Covid-19. He set up a GoFundMe page to raise money and contributed funds from sales of his merchandise and secured sponsor donations. He embarked on a road trip, visited remote rural communities and schools and supplied hundreds of gifts to children and families. In 2020, he devised “How Ya Goin’ with Jason Owen”, an online series that raises awareness for mental health issues. 

Summer Hogan, 14 of Buxton hopes to inspire others never to give up. Summer founded The Buddy Bear Project - a charity that provides the opportunity for anyone to purchase or donate a Buddy Bear to victims of bullying, seriously ill children, children of domestic violence and victims of trauma. Summer has fundraised tirelessly for organisations such as the Westmead Children’s Hospital, The Luke Priddis Foundation, The Heart Foundation and Dolly’s Dream. A victim of bullying herself, Summer has written anti-bullying children’s books and is the anti-bullying ambassador for two social media campaigns. Summer received a Humanitarian Award for her work during the pandemic. 


TransGrid Indigenous Achievement Award

Matilda Harry, 22 of Kurrajong Heights is a proud Wiradjuri woman with a passion for sharing her culture and encouraging respect for diversity. Matilda is a high achieving Master of Education student at Western Sydney University and plans to undertake Doctoral research. She is co-chair of Greater Sydney Commission’s youth panel - bringing a young Aboriginal voice in metropolitan planning. Matilda has led community service projects in remote Aboriginal communities in NSW and Northern Territory, and has developed and delivered mentoring programs. She has won numerous awards, including Premier’s Young Volunteer of the Year. She has been nominated as a Queen’s Young Leader from across the Commonwealth. 

Jason Owen, 26 of Gosford is a youth empowerment advocate. Jason is an award-winning country music singer who founded Doin It For Rural Aussie Kids (DIFRAK), a charity that provides gifts, groceries and funds at Christmas to regional kids impacted by drought, bushfires and Covid-19. He set up a GoFundMe page to raise money and contributed funds from sales of his merchandise and secured sponsor donations. He embarked on a road trip, visited remote rural communities and schools and supplied hundreds of gifts to children and families. In 2020, he devised “How Ya Goin’ with Jason Owen”, an online series that raises awareness for mental health issues. 

Leticia Quince, 24 of Beresfield is committed to improving services for children and young people using her own experience in the child protection system. Leticia is a caseworker working as Youth Development Coach at Uniting Care. She mentors youth and provides a seamless transition to independent living. Leticia is a recipient of the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program scholarship for Dubbo Community Senior Campus 2013-2014. She was Chairperson of the Dubbo City Youth Council from January 2015 to December 2016. She has been a youth ambassador for AbSec since 2015 and was recognised as Young Person of the Year for NSW Aboriginal Child & Family Awards. 

Sam Russell, 21 of Dungog aims to be a positive role model for young Indigenous people. Sam is part of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy team at Youth Express. At Youth Express, they run two main programs called Culture Strong and Work Readiness. Culture Strong is about giving young Indigenous people a pathway to explore and identify their culture, while Work Readiness is designed to support students transitioning from school to work. Before Youth Express, Sam was an Aboriginal Education Officer at Dungog High School. During the pandemic, Sam teamed up with Dungog HS to run a Suicide Prevention Day and raised $534 in just 30 minutes. 


Qoin Small Business Achiever Award

D’Shontea Devow, 14 of Kambah hopes to share culture, stories and language across Indigenous Nations. D’Shontea, together with her friend, Belle Cooper, developed Tea and Belle in 2017, when they were 11 and 9 years old, respectively. Tea and Belle is an Australian online store that sells beautifully crafted products that include hats, caps, bags, candles and more, with an Indigenous twist. Committed to embracing Australian talent, all of their products are sourced and produced within Australia and designed by them. D’Shontea has been identified as one of the Top 10 Young Female Entrepreneurs in Australia and one of the Ambassadors of The Girls Academy. 

Mariam Mohammed, 27 of Parramatta believes in young women empowerment. Mariam co-founded MoneyGirl, a social enterprise that delivers financial education to young women. Since being founded in August 2019, they have educated over 200 women in Australia and New Zealand. Their workshops form part of an evidence-based financial literary program, developed in partnership with the community and industry experts. They offer corporate programs and use their profit to cross-subsidise community programs. Mariam was elected Women’s Officer and then President of the Sydney University Postgraduate Association. She is the first-ever Australian Dell Policy Hack winner. She is listed in the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians 2020. 

Suzi Jamil, 29 of Croydon Park is driven by a passion for making change and having an impact. Suzi is the founder and director of Think Inc., a touring company specialising in conceiving and staging thought-provoking, profitable and world class live public events that present and promote ideas. Think Inc. boasts of its methodical curation of speakers, ability to secure high profile guests and garner extensive media coverage. Suzi founded the company to bring creative intellectual thought to the forefront of the live experience. She is an advocate for presenting and promoting the discussion of big ideas in innovative ways to foster an engaged and informed society. 

Tara Jane Sargent, 26 of Earlwood launched TJ SWIM at the age of 21 from her parents’ laundry, using her savings and inspired by her love for minimalistic high fashion. The brand now has a global following and strong online presence - capturing the hearts of social media influencers and celebrities. In 2018 and 2019, Tara took TJ Swim to Miami Swim Week. To give back, TJ Swim has partnered with i=Change, allowing customers the opportunity to donate $1 from every sale to charity. The company also pledged to have 100% sustainability packaging by the end of 2021. In 2019, Tara was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30, Asia. 


First National Real Estate Leadership Award

Maddison O’Gradey-Lee, 23 of Bateau Bay is passionate about improving mental health outcomes for youth. Maddison is the CEO and founder of High Tide, a volunteer organisation that runs workshops on mental health for high school students. She utilises her lived experience and shares her story of struggle, hope and recovery. Maddison is also a lead facilitator at Jasiri, a pay-it-forward self-defence class for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. She works with Orygen and the World Economic Forum as a youth representative. Maddison has represented Australia at the Global Young Leaders Conference. She is the first to win the Australian Dalai Lama Peace Fellowship. 

Cameron Allan, 24 of Canberra advocates on behalf of young people. Cameron is the CEO and co-founder of the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP), an organisation that brings together young Australians and Southeast Asians. He manages more than 100 volunteers across 11 countries to administer projects that give youth across the region the opportunity to connect, learn and create impact together. Cameron coordinated events such as the inaugural ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum, the AASYP Reset virtual innovation challenge and the Indo-Pacific Student Mobility Youth Dialogue. Cameron was one of three Australian youth representatives to the Y20 - the official youth engagement group of the G20. 

Harry Iles-Mann, 25 of Epping advocates for innovative and impactful change in healthcare. Harry is the chair at MyHealth Record Improve Group Board Advisory Committee, helping improve the value and quality of care that a national digital health framework provides. As a sitting member on the National Children’s Digital Health Collaborative Steering Committee, he helps standardise health checks in children and build a national paediatric electronic medical record. Harry advises the Australian Psychology Society, the National Commission of Safety and Quality in Health and the Australian Federal Government on positive reform of mental health items. He was selected to join a health innovation trade mission to Israel. 

Dr Helena Qian, 23 of Carlingford is passionate about effective altruism, global health and meaningful engagement. A graduate of Bachelor of Medicine with Distinction, Helena has served in over 30 leadership roles in eight years. She was the Australian Ambassador for Youth Opportunities, connecting Australian youths with opportunities, scholarships, and grants. She served as sole student representative on the University Council, People and Culture Committee and Student Misconduct Working Group. She served on the inaugural University of Newcastle Students’ Association Student Representative Council. Helena was selected as a UNITE2030 Youth Delegate. She will participate in the 76th United Nations General Assembly and the 73rd World Health Assembly. 


NSW Ministry of Health Public Health Pandemic Response Award

Bradley McEntee, 27 of Liechardt brings his positive attitude, dedication and kindness to work. Bradley is a Clinical Nurse Consultant in infection control for the Covid-19 Special Health Accommodation in NSW; caring for returned travellers or those unable to self-isolate at home. A critical member of the team, Bradley has helped set up and run all seven Health Hotels - dedicating his time to ensuring compliance with infection control standards and making sure all staff feel safe and reassured. He has helped keep the patient-to-nurse transmissions to zero and always has time to answer anyone’s questions. Bradley has a wealth of knowledge and understanding of infection control procedures. 

Recharge Wellness, 25 of Glenwood has been at the forefront of the mental health pandemic resulting from Covid-19. It was launched by Nicholas Evbuomwan and Femi Ogunsiji, psychiatric nurses at Nepean Hospital, after seeing a massive spike in mental health presentations during the pandemic. Recharge Wellness is an online mental health program that provides support to adults struggling with stress and anxiety. They connect people to qualified mental health professionals to teach valuable tools and skills to better manage their symptoms through engaging content. They have since supported over 70 adults. They have had over 4,000 applications, and their free sources have had over 100K views. 

Matthew Laffan, 27 of Penrith has helped people with disabilities impacted by the pandemic through music therapy sessions. Matthew is a music therapist at Noro, a not-for-profit organisation that provides music therapy to a range of people with disabilities. Due to the pandemic, Noro had to switch their entire client base to telehealth overnight. This helped ensure continuity of therapy with their existing clients and allowed their program to reach a wider community, particularly those in isolation. Noro expanded their telehealth programs to incorporate aged care, adult disability group homes, firefighters and veterans. They ensured that therapists deliver a service that meets clients’ needs and expectations. 

Josie Andrei, 26 of Moncrieff has helped many businesses stay open with confidence. Josie is the project manager of an NSW Covid-safe check-in program. She works closely with teams and key stakeholders to provide businesses and customers with free, safe and secure check-in solution, while enabling NSW Health to conduct vital contract tracing. The program has had 30 million check-ins across 60,000 registered businesses and three million downloads since September 2020. The app allows for secure storage of data crucial in tracking potential Covid hotspots. Additional features include the “Check-out tool” and “Dependent Check-In” to help identify exposure duration and include details of additional visitors. 


NSW Department of Education Early Childhood Educator Award

Jacqueline Koutsoubos, 18 of Chiswick enables educators and families to work seamlessly together. After noticing that many families were unaware, ill-equipped and reluctant when informed of concerns about their child, Jacqueline developed “The Bridging Program” - the go-to resource when educators raise concerns about the development of a child. The Program was designed to bridge the service and the family environment to work in collaboration for the best outcome for the child. In recognition of her work, she won the 2019 Inner West Small Business Outstanding Youth Award. She was also a finalist in the 2020 NSW Training Awards for School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year. 

Paris Kassis, 19 of Kenthurst sees the limitless potential each child has. After completing her Diploma in Early Childhood Education, she continued to study at Charles Sturt University where she completed her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. While at Uni and until graduation, Paris worked as a room leader and then as an educational leader at a service where she gained more experience. Over the last four years, Paris has contributed to the learning and development of numerous children. She is in the process of opening her own centre to be called Little Blossom Discovery Early Learning Centre, which she hopes to cater for 71 children a day. 

Keely Hancock, 24 of Glenfield has created inclusive and engaging environments for early years learning. Keely opened Little Wonders Early Educational Centre while working three occupations, completing her Bachelor of Early Education and doing house renovations. The centre runs at full capacity, with handpicked educators who compliment Keely’s philosophy that children are always put first. They have expansive play areas, vegetable gardens and class pets to encourage children to enjoy a natural approach to play and discovery. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Keely continued to open her doors and ensure that children could continue their learning journey in a safe, supportive, stimulating, natural and flexible environment. 

Larissa Moore, 28 of Penrith advocates for children to feel a greater sense of autonomy and power within themselves. Larissa has been an Early Childhood teacher with Penrith City Council since 2015. She has been a lead educator, actively implementing services curriculum standards and supporting and mentoring those around her. The curriculum is interest-based, child-led and heavily revolves around the emotional and social development of children - which particularly supports vulnerable children. Larissa plans and designs e-learning modules for educators. For her ongoing commitment to the education and care of children aged 0-12, she received the 2020 Educator of the Year award within Penrith City Council. 


Western Sydney University Academic Achievement Award

Alison Cook, 17 of Pymble is creating a positive impact through her academic pursuits. At 16 years old, she published her debut novel “From the Ashes”, now sold in over 12 countries. At age 15, she received an Early Entry offer to study at the Western Sydney University School of Law. In 2019, Alison was a grand finalist at the Western Sydney University Kirby Mooting Cup. She was awarded a place at the Summer Law Programme at Cambridge University, England. Ranking top three overall in four subjects, she received an Academic Distinction. An aspiring lawyer, Alison achieved excellent results in the Future Young Lawyers Program 2020.

Fatima Hussaini, 20 of South Granville is committed to improving the lives of others. Fatima is a self-taught refugee and women’s right advocate who never attended school, but gained entry into university through hard work. She is currently a Medical Science student at Western Sydney University, where she consistently achieves High Distinction scores and has a G.P.A. of 7.0 - despite studying in English, her third language. She came from Afghanistan and spent most of her life in Pakistan due to war. Unable to enrol in school in Pakistan, she read books at the local library then volunteered to teach others English and women’s and children’s rights. 

Dr. Kenneth Cho, 27 Strathfield is passionate about medical education and clinical research. Dr Kenneth graduated medical school with first class honours and the University Medal, and is currently a cardiology registrar at Campbelltown Hospital. In addition to his clinical work, for which he was a finalist for the 2017 NSW Junior Medical Officer of the Year Award, he has taught as an Associate Lecturer with the University of New South Wales, Western Sydney University, and previously at the University of Sydney where he has created teaching programs recognized by the Australian Medical Students’ Association with a National Teaching Award. 

Sandy Craze, 26 of Katoomba believes there is no limit to what you can achieve if you put the hard work in. Sandy completed a Bachelor in Chemistry as Dean’s/University medallist and Masters of Research at Western Sydney University, both with high distinction. He has published 14 peer-reviewed papers in academic journals. He has earned a DPhil (PhD) position at the University of Oxford in England, securing a prestigious 2020 James Fairfax-Australia Oxford Scholarship to tackle the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Despite losing his father to cancer during his Masters, Sandy achieved a perfect GPA and a 95% thesis mark. 


Aboriginal Education Council Aboriginal Education Award

Brenton Hawken, 25 of Temora is particularly passionate about public education. In 2017, Brenton participated in the National Indigenous Youth Parliament as NSW representative - meeting parliamentary members, conducting media interviews and debating social justice issues in relation to Indigenous Australians. Brenton is a food technology teacher at Temora High School. In 2019, he received a Temporary Engagement Contract at Temora HS before being awarded a permanent position with the Department of Education. He is currently a Student Representative Council co-ordinator, Aboriginal Education Co-ordinator and member of various committees. He has worked with the Deputy Principal to make Aboriginal Education a high priority area in the school. 

Jasper Garay, 25 of Forest Lodge is developing reforms on Indigenous Peoples’ social and emotional wellbeing. Jasper is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney School of Public Health. He has helped graduate over 124 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and led the creation of the inaugural Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion; where 50 Aboriginal students receive fully-funded scholarships. For his Master of Philosophy thesis, he researched the social and wellbeing service experiences of Aboriginal Youth in NSW. Jasper is currently taking his Masters of Interaction Design and Electronic Arts. He hopes to continue promoting better health and culture through design and innovations. 

Sharnie Bartle, 28 of Harrington Park is creating an everlasting cultural significance. Sharnie studied to become a School Learning Support Officer, which helped her land a temporary then permanent position as Aboriginal Education Officer at Campbellfield Primary School. She works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and has developed home/school relationships through trust and open channels of communication. She has helped develop their Personal Learning Pathways called Stepping Stones. It has promoted the students’ academic achievement in Literacy and Numeracy and has developed a bridge in closing the gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal students. In 2020, she introduced the First Nations Bedtime Story Challenge. 

Allirra Moore, 18 of Bensville is passionate about art and Aboriginal culture. In the last 12 months, Allirra has worked with YMCA to paint an Indigenous design in dot art on t-shirts and posters for the “Stay Safe, Tell Someone” Program. A proud Wodi Wodi woman from the Yuin nation, Allira has been painting since she was 10 years old. She has always been passionate about using art to connect Aboriginal culture, caring for Country and ensuring youth follow in the footsteps of ancestors to learn culture and pass it on to future generations. In 2020, Allirra completed a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management. 


Danmark Health and Wellbeing Award

Elli Reinhard, 22 of Caringbah is passionate about educating and raising awareness on issues affecting Youth. As Peer Educator for Keep It Safe (KIS), Elli engages with people aged 12 to 24 around alcohol and other drugs minimisation strategies and raising awareness on their effects on mental health. She is also a Peer Educator at ReThink! Youth Anti Violence Project, helping address the lack of knowledge and understanding of the nature and causes of domestic and family violence. She facilitates workshops at schools and conducts outreach activities. Elli is also the Youth Ambassador for Sir David Martin Foundation, major philanthropic partner of Triple Care Farm, a rehabilitation program for alcohol and drug addiction

Alison Jones, 29 of Auburn is supporting vulnerable community members through education and employment. As an Emergency Relief Worker, Alison provides support to people suffering homelessness, domestic violence victims, refugees and international students who were negatively affected by the shutdowns and job loss. As a Youth Worker, she has worked for refugees since 2018 and has supported around 300 individuals with their resettlement journey. She initiated the Culthurally and Linguistically Diverse Academy’s Refugee Learn to Swim and Employment Program, to provide wholistic support to improve the well-being of refugee youth, while giving training and employment opportunities. Alison also runs meditation, health and well-being sessions and a digital literacy class. 

Harry Iles-Mann, 25 of Epping advocates for innovative and impactful change in healthcare. Harry is the chair at MyHealth Record Improve Group Board Advisory Committee, helping improve the value and quality of care that a national digital health framework provides. As a sitting member on the National Children’s Digital Health Collaborative Steering Committee, he helps standardise health checks in children and build a national paediatric electronic medical record. Harry advises the Australian Psychology Society, the National Commission of Safety and Quality in Health and the Australian Federal Government on positive reform of mental health items. He was selected to join a health innovation trade mission to Israel. 

Eli Davern, 17 of Albury is passionate about young people having a voice, benefiting their wellbeing and mental health. As Youth Mayor in the Albury community, Eli has been involved in many campaigns and sits in various communities such as Crime Prevention Committee, Climate Action Change and Youth Council. Eli helped fundraise for the Winter Solstice survivors of suicide, Carevan Foundation for the homeless, Youth Mental Health Forum and Youth Connect Card. Eli worked closely with Murrumbidgee Health on a Stop Smoking campaign to be rolled out in all Albury schools. Eli was involved in the Laneway Project, a series of artwork done by local LGBTIQ+.