7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC

2023 Finalists 

Spirit Super Connecting Communities Award

Rhea Werner advocates for youth awareness of eating disorders. Rhea has aided the development of eating disorder legislation with the Harvard STRIPED Initiative. She was elected councillor on the Boroondara Youth Council and has represented the YMCA Youth Parliament, whose contributions led to the establishment of Headspace Hawthorn. Rhea founded the Body Confident Collective Youth Initiative, a nationwide youth body image organisation.

Lauren French is advocating for childhoods free from violence where children enjoy equitable and respectful relationships. Lauren is a proud Karajarri woman, sexologist, and Head of Education with Body Safety Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that has reached over 45,000 students. Lauren specialises in child sexual abuse prevention, LGBTQIA+ equity and inclusivity, consent, and respectful relationships education.

Nathan Lee is passionate about creating equal opportunities for underserved communities. He co-founded Stint, an online community and platform supporting international students in having a fair chance at a future working in Australia. Stint supports over 1,000 international students from over 50 countries and has educated over 260 through career workshops. He is the Director of an NFP, EnAccess Maps, which help users of mobility aids find accessible restaurants.

Bianca-Jaye Mazzuchelli is spreading awareness on autism spectrum disorder and neurodiversity. Bianca-Jaye is a proud Gunditjmara woman. She has developed the “auditory sensory prevention technology” (ASPT), designed to help children and adults with Autism or who are neurodiverse to combat the challenges they face in social settings and live an inclusive social life. In 2022, she won the Swinburne Venture Cup for her ASPT.


Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award

 Alex Dekker started Alex Makes Meals as a university student during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. Alex Makes Meals produces high-quality and nutritious meals and delivers them to partner organisations that distribute them to those in need. Since its inception, it has produced and delivered over 500,000 meals to homeless individuals, refugees, individuals facing domestic violence, and other vulnerable communities.

Anushka Phal founded Umeed Psychology, a private psychology practice and social enterprise that provides accessible, culturally informed mental healthcare through Psychological Services, Mental Health Literacy Project & Safe Space Programs. Anushka also co-founded The Mansik Project a not-for-profit removing financial barriers to mental health services. Anushka is passionate about youth mental health having published research & presented this on global platforms. Anushka has been involved with over 24 advisory boards and organisations.

Michael Lim is an award-winning social entrepreneur passionate about improving social and economic outcomes in his local community in Melbourne’s west. He is currently the Founder and Managing Director of Beyond Value, a consultancy designed to help organisations position and communicate themselves for social procurement success. Michael is also the Chair of the Western Metropolitan Partnership Jobs and Skills Working Group and a Member of the Tarneit and Melton Revitalisation Boards.

Victor Lin is a full-time doctor at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Victor co-founded the Youth Australians’ Cancer Initiative, which provides a platform for young people to assist others in understanding cancer better. He also co-founded Teaching for Impact, an organisation that assists high school and medical students in Victoria and New South Wales through free online tutorials and lectures and a state-wide mentoring program.

Yarn Strong Sista Indigenous Achievement Award

Darcy McGauley-Bartlett worked at the Department of Justice and Community Safety, where he has led the Aboriginal Portfolio for Justice Health, holding roles like Aboriginal Clinical Governance Officer and Senior Manager of Aboriginal Health. Darcy has been instrumental in working with prisoners to ensure their voice is heard. He previously worked with the Victoria Police, implementing the State’s first Aboriginal Youth Cautioning Program.

Jessica Bennett is a proud Ngunnawal woman who is passionate about social justice, sport, and education. Jessica recently completed a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Human Rights and is currently working at Victoria Legal Aid. She is working towards becoming admitted as a lawyer in September and hopes for a career where she can make people's experiences of the justice system less complex and stressful.

Krystal De Napoli advocates for Indigenous knowledge and equity in STEM. Krystal is a proud Gomeroi woman working as an Education & Outreach Officer with the ASTRO3D, an astrophysics research centre. She co-authored “Astronomy: Sky Country”, a book that explores the ingenuity of the astronomical traditions within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems. Krystal also co-produced a radio-documentary on Aboriginal astronomy with the BBC.

Lauren French is advocating for childhoods free from violence where children enjoy equitable and respectful relationships. As a proud Karajarri woman, Lauren uses every opportunity as Head of Education within Body Safety Australia, to work with community. Lauren works with First Nations educators in regional and rural Victoria and involves community in co-design. Lauren spoke at the 2022 Indigenous Wellbeing conference around First Nations’ strengths within child sexual abuse prevention.


National Protective Services Safety and Wellbeing in the Workplace Award 

David Titeu is the founder of Linkmate, a social enterprise devoted to proactive emotional support. David and his team implement initiatives which foster a psychologically safe environment at work. These include displaying radical candour and vulnerability for deep collaboration; learning and development initiatives co-designed with leading experts to explore intersections of mental health; and an interconnected network of peer support, breeding empathy and companionship - or “Mateship”.

Mark Drodskie is committed to keeping their team safe mentally and physically. Mark chairs both the Global Safety Committee (Support Office) and APAC/US Retail Safety Committee at T2. Among his initiatives include developing a model and training on Customer Aggression; having mental health first aiders available across the business; and implementing a digital contractor register across the Global Business.

Rachel Theobald has worked as Health and Safety Representative at ALDI. She ensured that every employee was aware of procedures relating to security and in case of emergency or threat to the safety and wellbeing of staff and customers. Rachel has also worked at McDonald’s, where she facilitated regular safety meetings to identify potential hazards in the workplace and prevent them from reoccurring.

Stephanie Kennedy worked as Infection Prevention and Control site lead in the Victorian Government’s Quarantine Program. The role allowed Stephanie to help people be safe and feel safe. She developed and delivered educational Covid-19 training to all stakeholders. Her initiatives included performing an analysis on emerging risks within the quarantine program and providing strategic guidance on safe infection control procedures for OHS officers.

First National Real Estate Leadership Award

David Titeu is passionate about tackling loneliness and supporting suicide prevention. David founded Linkmate, a social network for emotional support, and created the Emotional Resilience Program, an immersive workshop experience that equips staff and students with proactive wellbeing tools to future-proof their mental health. Linkmate has now created five new jobs, trained over 200 peer supporters and helped over 2000 people access support for their mental wellbeing.

Emma Tibballs empowers others to achieve their goals. As a founding member and CFO of not-for-profit Ready Reader, she is helping close the literacy gap in Australian children by fostering a love of reading. She’s passionate about mentoring, especially young women. Emma’s commitment to making a difference translates across all areas of her life, including in her day to day work at EY where she involves herself in community impact initiatives.

Gabriel Gervasoni overcomes his vision impairment to make a positive difference advocating for young people with a disability. Gabriel is involved with Ballarat Youth Council, Ballarat Youth Ambassador Program and Central Highlands Youth Advisory Board. Gabriel has completed the inaugural YACVic Young Advocates Program and has presented to the Victorian Parliament’s TAFE Access Enquiry. He is a PTech Ambassador, encouraging young people, to become involved in STEM regardless of background.

Harry Mezger is a neurodiverse athlete and fierce advocate for people living with a disability. His commitment to inclusion and passionate belief in the benefits of sport to disabled Australians has resulted in his appointment to the State Committee and the National Athlete Input Council at Special Olympics Australia. Harry is a popular Athlete Leader and mentor to other intellectually disabled athletes. He has represented Australia in cycling and athletics.

HR Gurus Career Achievement Award

Anna Wrobel is passionate about improving mental health care systems. Anna is a Research Fellow at the clinical trials division of the Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT TRIALS), Deakin University. While completing her PhD with IMPACT TRIALS, Anna examined the role of trauma in the treatment of bipolar disorder and provided evidence linking trauma to less favourable treatment outcomes.

Charlie Carrington is a chef, fascinated with food from around the world. Aged 22, Charlie founded Atlas Dining in South Yarra. A restaurant that changes cuisine every three months, teaching and introducing customers to different food destinations, cuisines, and cooking techniques. In 2020, Charlie started Atlas Weekly, a cook-at-home food brand that explores a new country’s cuisine each week which continues to go from strength to strength.

Olivia Deeble has sheer determination and incredible vision. Olivia created, wrote and starred in her TV Show, More Than This, which showed an authentic representation of diverse Australian teenagers on screen. She started writing the series in 2020 whilst completing her Year 12. Olivia pitched the series to investors and led the filming and post-production in 2022. The show created nearly 100 jobs.

Victor Lin is driven to create a meaningful impact. Victor is a doctor and researcher at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He conducts research into novel drugs to treat blood cancer and has presented his works at multiple haematology conferences. Victor is the CEO of Teaching for Impact. He is currently pursuing a Master of Medicine (Critical Care Medicine).


IKON Services Environmental Sustainability Award

Chaitanya Arora has spent the last four years researching sustainable solutions to growing water scarcity and pollution problems. Through several projects, she has explored the use of ‘Circular Water Management’ for water conservation and the efficacy of natural purification systems (wetlands and biowaste). Chaitanya has shared her research with industry professionals and the public through a published paper, a national short film, several YouTube videos and a national conference presentation.

Felix Hughes, 11 years old, founded Salt of the Earth Food Co, a social enterprise dedicated to helping combat climate change by planting trees. He produces a delicious gourmet smokey salt which is sold at local markets, online and at schools, and uses the profits to fund tree planting projects around the world. With a goal of one million trees, Felix’s vision is to involve schools around Australia and internationally.

Joel Chambers has spent the last six years advocating for agricultural and viticultural sustainability. Upon joining the family business in 2017, he introduced sustainable practices to the vineyard. His initiative led to Lake Moodemere Estate becoming the first and only Certified Sustainable Vineyard in NE Victoria. In 2021 and 2022 he was named among Australia's Top 50 Growers. In 2022 Joel addressed the National Wine Industry Conference on sustainable viticulture.

Phoebe Gardner aims to reshape the global food system. Phoebe co-founded Bardee, an industrial insect breeding company that works with Black Soldier Fly Larvae to provide a circular solution for food waste. Her team collects and receives food waste then transforms it into carbon-positive insect protein and certified organic fertiliser. To date, they have offset more than six million tonnes of CO2e emissions.


Josh's Rainbow Eggs Ethical Business Award

Alex Smale is the Business Improvements and Sustainability Manager at The Knight, a strata management company. She established a sustainability committee to drive improvements which led to The Knight becoming Australia’s first Climate Active certified carbon-neutral strata management company in 2021. She also is a founding member of The Knight's internal wellbeing committee and is currently working on implementing a Reconciliation Action Plan.

Ellie Wynhoven - Swim by Elly hand makes swimwear that is intentionally and responsibly created from regenerated ocean waste that was littering the ocean floor. Swim by Elly is a slow fashion brand, with every swimsuit being custom made in Geelong by Ellie and her team. Ellie is paving the way for a more inclusive, sustainable, and ethical swimwear industry by putting caring for people and the planet first in ever choice she makes.

Madebytaylahrose - Taylah Foster Started her business in 2014 when she was 15 years old. She sells handmade hair accessories and is best known worldwide for her wide elastic scrunchies. Taylah has implemented practices that reduce her fabric wastage to almost zero. She has also cut back on almost all plastic in her business and made the change to paper and cardboard packaging. Taylah strives to continue making a conscious effort for the environment.


Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award

Brooke Thompson is an Education Support Worker (Aide) who works with students with disabilities and those who find schooling difficult. Brooke initially wanted to get a job in hospitality but experienced workplace bullying. She decided to get a Certificate IV in Disability at Chisholm Institute to deepen her knowledge and completed it in 2022. Brooke lives with Developmental Dyspraxia and Auditory Processing Disorder.

Courtney Hindle completed her Certificate IV in Mental Health in 2022. She had her field placement hours at Gateway Therapeutic Community, where she is an Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) worker who assists clients with their goals and recovery journey. Courtney had to deal with domestic violence and homelessness and had to teach herself to find a pathway and provide for her family.

Franchesca Morrell is currently working at Bendigo Health while studying her Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (OHP). Franchesca has been juggling work and study since moving from the Philippines; completing her Certificate III in Dental Assisting in 2021. She moved to the public sector at the onset of the pandemic. She is a part of the Victorian Government’s Smile Squad and Bendigo Health’s Outreach team promoting dental health to children.

Shee Lay Bell Po completed her certificate III in Pathology Collection and is currently a phlebotomist at Melbourne pathology, a position she achieved after only one week of work experience placement. Shee Lay Bell Po was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and moved to Australia, along with her family, at the age of 11 to pursue bigger and better opportunities. She had to spend a year learning to speak and write in English.


Sofitel Melbourne On Collins Arts Award

Brodie Murray is a proud Wamba Wamba playwright and performer, writing stories of Victorian Aboriginal survival. He has written three produced plays - Soul of Possum, Billy’s Choice and The Whisper. He has received two Melbourne Fringe Awards and an Australia Council First Nations Arts Award. A graduate in Aboriginal Performance at WAAPA and current VCA theatre student, Brodie is a regular contributor to the MTC First Peoples Young Artists Program.

Chelsea Sharp is the vocalist of Ramona Sky, a four-piece funk rock band she created over the internet during the pandemic. Chelsea interviewed for band positions and did rehearsals and song creation over the internet and Zoom. Chelsea is a full-time Early Childhood Educator. She has completed her Diploma and was recognised as Educator of the Year 2021 at the Guardian Childcare Centre.

Erin Visagie is a journalist who focuses on representing diverse voices. Erin empowers and validates others in their need to be seen and heard. In 2022, her multimedia piece “Everybody to the front” celebrated and acknowledged culturally diverse creatives, their heritages, works, achievements, insights and experiences. She received the 2022 Journalism Ossie Award, media diversity category, and the 2022 RMIT Journalism Inclusion Award.

Zodie Bolic is a third-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) student at the University of Melbourne. As a representative to the Student Union’s board, Zodie advocated for stronger support for students of the Arts. As a member of the Intercollegiate Arts Council, she supported over 2,000 students by running a variety of Arts-focused events, including dance and music competitions and variety nights.


Strategic Alliance Network Small Business Award

Aussie Slime Co - Tanvi Kaur Dang started a slime business at age 11. In just one year, Tanvi has achieved $500,000 in revenue and created over 100 new custom slimes. The slimes help people with anxiety, disability and people suffering from stress. They provide amazing AMSR experience and help improve motor skills in young kids. Tanvi is responsible for all new slime ideas and content creation.

Kiana Mei started her business in 2021, selling Japanese origami artworks across Melbourne. Kiana has built her business to a $70,000 plus income stream whilst studying full-time in Year 11. She is an entrepreneur at heart but she also gives back to the community through education and financial support to socially responsible organisations that she believes in. Her destiny is to list a company on the NYSE. Watch this space!

Lindsey Dang founded Lindsey's VCE Tutoring, a boutique tutoring company aimed at unlocking students’ academic potential in English and Humanities. Lindsey bootstrapped the business from $0 in capital to a multiple-six-figure annual revenue within a year while completing her Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Arts at Monash. Many of their high-achieving students and scholarship recipients, inspired by their tutors, become mentors themselves to help the next generation of talents.

Madebytaylahrose - Taylah Rose Foster prioritises community over competition. Madebytaylahrose is a handmade hair accessories business created by Taylah in 2014 when she was just 15 years old. Taylah makes 1000s of scrunchies each month and is known worldwide for her signature wide elastic Scrunchie. She juggles her business with her YouTube Channel, where she provides content to motivate, teach and inspire other small businesses and creators to follow their passion and dreams.


The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award

Youth Live4Life is reducing the stigma around mental health for young people across rural and regional communities. As a mental health promotion charity Youth Live4Life roll out a peer-led mental health education and suicide prevention model for rural and regional communities across secondary schools and creates local partnerships to drive the implementation of the model. The Live4Life Crew promotes young leaders as Mental Health Ambassadors in their communities.

Flourish Girl is helping build self-confidence, self-awareness and social connectedness. Flourish Girl is a preventative mental health and emotional intelligence charity. They deliver rites of passage programs to teenage girls and gender-diverse teens aged 13 to 18 years old. Since 2018, Flourish Girl has worked with over 12,500 teens across 84 schools. They delivered close to 150 workshops in 2022 alone.

YDAS Young Leaders Program is a leadership program run by Youth Disability Advocacy Service. The Program has trained 137 disabled young leaders since 2018. They provided multi-day workshops on topics of self-discovery, teamwork, communication, access and inclusion, advocacy and planning for future goals. Their graduates receive peer mentorship, ongoing opportunities, and annual Facilitation Training to gain new skills. Their graduates have had over 350 success stories.

Kiilalaana Tidda's Program is providing a space for young women to connect with their Warrior Heart. Kiilalaana is a girls’ / young women’s trauma-informed and co-created cultural, self-development, wellbeing and empowerment program that seeks to support the dreams and aspirations of the girls and women of the current generation. They hold weekly sessions over the course of the school term, gatherings, projects and mentoring sessions.

Strive Student Health Initiative empowers communities through health education. Strive is a youth-led, not-for-profit working towards improving health literacy in vulnerable populations across Victoria. Strive works to empower people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, through interactive workshops and events. Workshop topics include exercise, nutrition, mental health, first aid/CPR, fall prevention, and basic healthcare checks with the ultimate goal of improving health accessibility in disadvantaged communities.