7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC

2019 Finalists


Melbourne Studio of Art Young Artist Award
Gene Holland, 26 of Ferntree Gully is a gifted composer, performer and conductor. He focuses on community music projects like the Lake Bolac Eel Festival, where he conducted a community orchestra and choir, and the Walking the Giants Festival, where he co-directed a performance by local students as part of the Artists in Schools Program. He also tours with “In Helvetica,” a dance performance group, and has produced original shows performed at the Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide Fringe Festivals. Gene is now on the organising committee of Lake Bolac Festival 2020. He has a Bachelor of Music degree, first class honours, from Monash University.

Tanisha Lovett, 20 of Horsham is a talented painter and Aboriginal youth leader. A proud Wotjobaluk-Gunditjmara woman, she works full-time at Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative where she is also the Project Facilitator for Celebrating Sistas, a program that empowers women to embrace their culture using painting to express their creativity. Tanisha uses her own time to create art inspired by her life experiences. She coordinates an Arts and Language day every Thursday to bring local Indigenous community together and explore cultural significance and history through a variety of art mediums and storytelling. Tanisha was also nominated by her siblings to the 2018 National NAIDOC awards.

Rose Duong, 27 of Richmond has a passion for sustainability and fashion. Rose supports fashion products with integrity, whether it is sustainable, ethical or local. She owns Clothes Loop, the first fashion platform where customers can shop products and swap them afterwards. Creating true sustainability and raising awareness, Clothes Loop has a retail store and an upcoming online app. Rose lectures about Sustainability and Design at RMIT. She has been working as a User Experience Designer and design consultant for five years. She does pro bono work as design consultant in YBF. In 2014, Rose was a runner up for the Green Innovators award.


Academy Graphics Regional Achiever Award

Claudia Cox, 17 of Berriwillock is dedicated to rural development. She was selected as Rural Youth Ambassador in 2017 where she discussed major issues with the Minister for Education. She was able to secure an $83,000 grant to fund the ‘Rural Inspire’ project, a website that provides information and support to struggling rural students. Claudia was appointed as 2018 Tyrrell College school captain. As secretary and active member of the Sea Lake Youth Group, she organised a community Colour Run to raise funds for the restoration of Green Lake. In 2018, she was awarded a VCE leader finalist for her contribution to her community.

Dr Zara La Roche, 26 of Wangaratta is passionate about social justice and creating equal healthcare opportunities for all. She is a doctor who specialises in rural health with focus on the Indigenous. She was awarded a John Flynn Placement Program Bursary, and has worked with doctors in remote Western Australia and travelled to Northern Territory to promote health and health careers amongst secondary school students. She also led the development of Ormond College Reconciliation Action Plan for 2018-2020. Zara earned her Bachelor in Biomedicine, Doctor of Medicine and Masters of Public Health from Melbourne University. Just recently, Zara completed the Alpine Walking track’s 670-kilometre hike.

Georgia Leutner, 17 of Mildura is determined to create support for young people with disability and help shape an inclusive and youth-literate community. As member of Hands Up Mallee’s Youth Leadership Table, she pitched for creating a Young Carer and Sibling Support Group which is designed to provide social and peer support. As member of Mildura Rural City Council’s Youth Committee, Georgia demonstrated a passion for organising events and activities for young disabled persons. She is also a member of the Irymple Secondary College’s Student Representative Council, Mildura’s Young Leo’s and Irymple Football Netball Club. She helps care for her sister who has an intellectual disability.


First National Real Estate Leadership Award

Arun Thomas, 29 of Horsham has a passion for leadership, governance and aged care. He is an experienced Registered Nurse who provides strategic leadership and clinical governance expertise as a board member at Stawell Regional Health. For championing resident care and safety, he was awarded Victorian state-wide Celebrating Aged Care Leadership Award and became a finalist in Excellence in Leadership by Victorian Healthcare Association. He was appointed Associate Nurse Unit Manager at Edenhope District Memorial Hospital. In 2018, Arun established a leadership scholarship as part of his giving-back to his Alma Mater to help unlock the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Yasmin Poole, 20 of Williamstown seeks to empower young women to enter politics. She is the Director of Global Business Development for 180 Degrees Consulting, a youth consultancy organisation. As 2018 Chair of the Victorian Government’s Youth Congress, she led the Congress in advising the government about improving youth policy and focus on mental health. Yasmin represented Australia at the 2018 APEC conference and ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. She was also named Plan International and the World Bank Ambassador. A survivor of severe scoliosis, Yasmin won the Zonta International Women in Business Award and was recognised as Victorian Government Joan Kirner Young and Emerging Woman Leader.

Rheannon Theologous-Owen, 24 of Delacombe is dedicated to youth development. As health promotion officer at Hepburn Health Service, she coordinated and delivered a youth mental wellbeing program called to The Cook, The Chef and Us to students at Daylesford Secondary College deemed at risk of disengaging from education. She designed the weekly program which involves removing the students from traditional classroom once a week during school hours to learn skills in the hospitality industry. As a result, 82% of students showed greater participation in learning inside the classroom and over 50% of students involved also found employment as a direct result of the program.

The Bridge Create Change Award
Andrew Millhouse, 27 of Melbourne is committed to designing innovative solutions to youth problems. He is the founder of Pivot, a non-profit organisation that delivers Victoria’s first and only by-youth-for-youth legal education. Pivot also offers discount and pro-bono consulting services to charities and non-profits, and has so far offered $200,000 worth of discounts and $50,000 worth of pro-bono consultations. Andrew is also founder and Managing Partner of Pivot Consulting, a firm that helps the public sector and NGOs modernise their work to make it more impactful and contemporary. Andrew is also a co-founder and president of COMET, which helps homeless young people understand criminal law.

James Maskey, 29 of Fitzroy North is passionate about raising mental health awareness. He is the National Engagement Manager for the Police and Emergency Services Program at Beyond Blue, a not-for-profit organisation that provides information and support to help Australians achieve their best mental health. James served as Queensland Police Officer from 2010-2015 where he responded to critical incidents. He was then diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 which led him to retire. Upon moving to Melbourne, he found strength in fitness. In 2018, he represented Australia in the ‘Fire and Ice’ 250KM ultra marathon in Iceland, raising mental health awareness and funds for Phoenix Australia.

Georgie Stone, 18 of Bentleigh is an advocate for trans and gender diverse youth. She achieved significant legal reforms since her initial hearing in the Family Court of Australia, resulting in timely access to treatments for trans adolescents. She was also involved in the Victorian Government’s media campaign to support Safe Schools Program. She was featured in numerous media stories and interviews with over a million viewers. Georgie was awarded the 2017 Young People’s Human Rights Medal and was recognised as 2018 Victorian Young Australian of the Year. She was also named Wear It Purple Ambassador and Human Rights Arts and Film Festival Ambassador.

The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award
Entrepreneurs Movement Club of Pakenham is a youth led organisation, established by seven South Sudanese Australian. EMC aims to connect South Sudanese young people to the community and link them to opportunities to support their further education and employment pathways. Some of their initiatives include the Multicultural Youth Employment Forum, Inaugural African Diaspora Summit, entrepreneurship workshops, soccer tournaments and a homework club. They have engaged over 2,000 young people since 2015. EMC seeks to provide a positive narrative of South Sudanese/African Australian young people amidst negative media portrayal. They encourage participation in education and employment by linking opportunities such as apprenticeships and personal development workshops.

Flourish Programs of Sandringham helps young people reach their full potential through empowerment and nurturing. Flourish is a community organisation run by a team of committed volunteer young adults, offering three mentoring programs for pre-teen and teenagers; resilience, high school preparation and anti-bullying. “Flourish” is a program designed for Year 7 girls while “RAP,” meaning resilience and preparation, is for Year 6 boys. Also offered is a Junior Leadership Development program for graduates of the program to teach and mentor younger students. The organisation provides a safe space to educate young people on topics like bullying, social media, self-esteem and peer pressure.

Mitchell Shire Youth Council want to make a positive impact in their community. The seven Youth Councillors are regularly engaged with their peers to gain broader insights into their issues such as LGBTQI+, performing arts, and transport solutions. The council meet with the Mayor each fortnight and use this time as a platform to raise issues, Outside of meetings, Youth Councillors are involved with media releases, events, and site visits. Their biggest achievement was securing nearly $1,000,000 of State Government funding for their community to address access to youth mental health services by developing a Wallan Youth Mental Health Hub and constructing outdoor fitness facilities.


IKON Services Environmental Sustainability Award
Daniel Wilson, 24 of Maldon is passionate about sustainable development. He played an integral part in designing the EcoPrinting Project, a self-sufficient technology that uses zero to near zero carbon footprint and allows for the conversion of waste plastics found in the environment into usable products using 3D printing technology. They applied this as a transformative tool for humanitarian aid delivery and improving access to water for remote communities in developing nations such as the Solomon Islands. Daniel worked with a team from Deakin University in conjunction with a team from Plan International. This system also promises to yield unique commercial opportunities for regional Victoria.

Kris Wozniak, 29 of Kensington has a passion for sustainable solutions and innovative ideas. As Head of Procurement at Moonee Valley City Council, he provided leadership and led a small team to review Council’s practices involving bee extermination. By leading his team to explore different practices, resulted in a policy change that involved re-homing bees sustainably by an apiarist onto council rooftops. This evolved into a business and community program named MVBees and members of the community now enjoy the tastes of Moonee Valley through the rooftop honey program. This initiative is an Australian and Victorian Local Government first, tackling the global bee decline.

Rhianna Knight, 27 of Thornbury is dedicated to creating innovative and sustainable products. She founded Mister Timbuktu, an outdoor apparel brand that saves plastics from oceans and landfill, recycling them into more sustainably made apparel. The brand, which believes there is no need for a compromise between style and sustainability, was launched after Rhianna successfully raised over $19.5K via crowdfunding. The first collection consists of tech jackets, leggings and tops made from recycled plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets. It aims to recycle approximately 15,000 single-use plastic bottles in its first year. In 2018, Rhianna was part of the Foundation for Young Australian’s program.

Josh Murray, 18 of Kerrie is enthusiastic about sustainable farming. He started his own free range egg business, Josh’s Rainbow Eggs, at the age of 9 with just 40 hens. Ten years later, Josh has 10,000 hens and has developed the most environmentally sustainable model of egg farming in Australia. He uses state-of-the-art wind and solar-powered mobile sheds and pasture rotation. He regularly gives talks to school children about his egg business and plans to launch a farm education centre. Josh is currently working with researchers and educators to design curriculum materials on sustainable agriculture. He is also writing a children’s book about his story.


Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria Regional and Rural Health Achievers Award
Dr Skye Kinder, 27 of Bendigo is dedicated to improving the health of rural and marginalised patients. Currently a doctor at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, Skye started her career at Bendigo Health, and was recognised as Bendigo’s Young Citizen of the Year. She went on to represent Australia’s medical students nationally as Rural Health Officer of Australian Medical Students’ Association. She later co-founded a national Rural Health Committee of the Medical Students Association and was Committee Chair for two years. One of her initiatives was the establishment of the AMSA Rural Health Summit. She sits as Director of Board of Rural Doctors Association of Victoria. In 2017, Skye was named Victoria’s Junior Doctor of the Year.

Arun Thomas, 29 of Horsham is an experienced Registered nurse who has a strong focus and passion for leadership, governance and aged care. In 2018, Arun was awarded Victorian state-wide Celebrating Aged Care Leadership Award and became a finalist - Excellence in Leadership by Victorian Healthcare Association for championing resident care and safety. He has established a leadership scholarship as a part of 'giving back' to his Alma Mater to unlock the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Arun is a Board Director at Stawell Regional Health and an Associate Nurse Unit Manager at Edenhope District Memorial Hospital.

Dr Zara La Roche, 26 of Wangaratta advocates for equal healthcare opportunities for all Australians. She aspires to serve the most in need of healthcare and specialises in rural health with focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Zara has worked with doctors in remote Western Australia, travelled to Northern Territory to promote health careers to high school students, and completed medical placements in remote communities and homeless shelters. Her 2018 research, The First 1,000 Days Australia Project, aims to provide a comprehensive strategy to strengthen Aboriginal families so they can address children’s needs. Zara also coordinated panels and discussions about Aboriginal health in Shepparton and Melbourne.


Budget Car and Truck Rentals Online Achievement Award
Sam Brown, 29 of Richmond has a fervour for travelling and for helping people. Sam put his university business studies on hold and delved into the banking industry to fix a real world problem faced by millions of young Australians. He founded Pelikin, a mobile-only multi-currency payments App and prepaid card. He aims to empower young Australians to travel and help manage, send and spend their money while abroad. He secured support from globally recognised institutions Visa, Heritage Bank and Omnio Group to raise capital of $250,000 from over 200 investors. Sam heads a team of eight passionate individuals working towards a common goal.

Seb Poole, 27 of Collingwood is dedicated to devising digital innovation solutions for the consumer and the marketplace. He is a co-founder and CTO of Olasso, an omni-commerce technology company that focuses on global logistics and post purchase experiences. He heads the product, innovation, and vision side of the business. Olasso was established in Hong Kong but Sebastian decided to move the office to Melbourne to take advantage of the local Victorian IT talent. He is regularly invited to speak at events regarding innovation, futurism and ecommerce, and enjoys contributing to various publications focused on technology and start-ups across Australasia.

Uppma Virdi, 29 of Templestowe has a passion for promoting Indian culture. She founded Chai Walli, meaning ‘a female tea maker,’ on a mission to educate people about the Indian culture through the art of chai. Chai Walli imports organic teas directly from small batch farmers in India, and offers handcrafted blends online. They also offer boutique chai workshops and provide catering for public or private events. A lawyer turned tea lady, Uppma was awarded Business Woman of the Year by the Indian Australian Business Community Awards in 2016. She was included in CNN’s 40 under 40 and Forbes’ 30 under 30 lists in 2017.

William Strange, 29 of Abbotsford has a passion for technology. He is the founder and CEO of SPT, a start-up that builds multiple websites such as, a cloud-based software solution for team sports, currently used by over 25,000 users and 1,000 teams across 100 countries. A GameTraka app is also available for iOS and Android users. SPT was awarded the Top 50 Most Innovative Start up's in the world by the Hype Foundation and was shortlisted by the World of Sport as best Tech product for High Performance. They have successfully closed three capital rounds for Australia's most influential business people and sporting icons.


CFA Volunteer Excellence Award
Teghan Henderson, 22 of Warrenheip is a strong advocate for positive change and inclusion. Teghan plays a pivotal role in the community by supporting families of children with a disability. She is a volunteer at Pinarc Disability Support in Ballarat and encourages other volunteers to join her. The “Interchange Program” at Pinarc, matches a child or young person who has a disability with a host volunteer. The volunteer provides care for the child on a regular basis plus opportunities for friendship and positive experiences. Teghan was the 2018 winner of the City of Ballarat Youth Volunteer Award and the overall City of Ballarat Youth Award.

Cameron Sibeijn, 27 of Diamond Creek aims to ensure that all young people receive equality, respect and opportunity. He joined the CFA’s Junior Volunteer Development Program when he was 16 and is now Captain of the Yarrambat Fire Brigade. In 2010, he received a scholarship from Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria to complete a Volunteer Leadership Program. He is District President of the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria Multi-Agency Youth Network Cameron is a board member of the Volunteer Leadership Network and is committed to improving the leadership qualities of all volunteer members across the Emergency Services Sector. He volunteers at local churches and fundraises for various charities.

Tom Dunn, 23 of Horsham is a young Australian adventurer and advocate. He is a record setting ultra-endurance athlete who has raised over $100,000 for charities. As a teenager in 2014, he kayaked 2,200km down the Murray River to raise $15,000 for the Aurora School. In 2017, he went on a 113-day 3,800km stand-up paddle board journey down Australia’s longest continuous waterway and raised $80,000 for Deaf Children Australia. In 2018, he trekked to the basecamp of Mount Everest to raise money and awareness of human trafficking. His most recent adventure was Australia’s Longest Triathlon, raising $3,500 for Melbourne Indigenous Transition School.


Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award
Dellareece Matson, 21 of Kilmore is dedicated to helping others. Family illness saw Dellareece repeat her final high school year twice whilst juggling work to assist with the household bills. She is now currently completing both her Certificate IV in Community Services and Certificate IV in Disability. A volunteer for her community in Mitchell Shire since she was 8, she has a never give up attitude. She has volunteered with the Mitchell Shire Youth Council and the Volume/FreeZa committee. Dellareece volunteered at the National Day of People with Disability, the Colour Dash for the Homeless and the Melbourne Period Project.

Roland Touzel, 22 of Wodonga is determined to overcome challenges. He has a learning disability, speech dyspraxia, and continuous auditory processing disorder. He is a supported employee for Albury Wodonga Community College Aware Programs, which provides employment for people with a disability. Roland works in the woodwork area manufacturing pallet furniture and assisting with the general operations of the Recycle Shop. Since completing the TAFE course Introduction to Cabinet Making Roland can draw up and successfully create samples based on new customer requests and has completed a number of prototypes which will be used this year. He is undertaking an additional TAFE course in DIY Carpentry.

Lwe Pree, 25 of Long Gully is determined to forge a better life for herself. After fleeing Myanmar and spending most of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand, she arrived in Australia with no English or work skills. With determination, Lwe set out clear study and employment goals and successfully achieved qualifications in English language, health support services, IT, general education for adult, community services and interpretation and translation. She volunteers at the Karen Cultural Social Support Foundation and Bendigo Community Health Service. Lwe is looking forward to earning her Diploma of Community Service and become a qualified community service worker.

Sinead McKenna-Reid, 21 of Greensborough has overcome the hardship of drug addiction. She is currently completing her VCAL at the Hester Hornbook Academy. Sinead completed the Hospitality, Employment & Training Program and obtained a Certificate II in Hospitality including a Barista, Food Handlers and R.S.A. course. Last year, Sinead spoke at the Academy’s end of year celebration to over 100 people on how education assisted with changing her life. Sinead is career focused and would like to be an inspiration to young people going through hardship. She is exploring enrolling in a Certificate III in Animal Studies, Specialising in Veterinary Nurse Skills.


Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award
Madeleine Buchner, 26 of South Melbourne dedicates her life to helping young carers. She is the CEO of Little Dreamers Australia, an organisation that supports young people caring for a parent or sibling with chronic illness, mental or physical disability, or drug or alcohol addiction. Madeleine saw the gap in the family support system when she was caring for her younger brother with learning disabilities and her mother with a range of health conditions. She started writing a business plan for her charity at age 15 and founded Little Dreamers a year after. Madeleine was keynote speaker at the 2017 International Young Carers Conference in Sweden.

Noah Yang, 23 of Melbourne has a passion for helping the homeless. He founded Mobilise, an organisation that united the youth of Victoria, and now NSW, to develop solutions for those experiencing homelessness whilst providing a platform for those who want to be involved with change. Mobilise runs monthly outreach programs in Melbourne and NSW. Volunteers spend time with those on the streets and provide love and functional care through tailored care packages. Aiming to be the voice for the voiceless, Noah and Mobilise utilise the power of videos and social media marketing to raise awareness and work with a diverse range of organisations.

Yong Deng, 27 of Dandenong has genuine passion for making a difference in the lives of young people. He was a refugee in Kenya before settling in Australia with his mother and siblings and he lost his father in a civil war. Yong co-founded South Sudanese Australia Youth United, a not-for-profit organisation offering support, tuition and pro-social activities to Sudanese-Australian youth. He also initiated the Bounce Back program in partnership with Victoria Police. He is completing his Masters of Clinical Pharmacy at Monash University and works full-time for Monash Health. Yong received the 2017 City of Greater Dandenong – Young Leader of the Year Award.

Lorraine Ngwenya, 29 of Burnside Heights is committed to addressing youth unemployment. She is the founder of Useful Link, an organisation that seeks to empower young people in areas of employment, personal development and leadership. Having experienced the issue herself after finishing university, Lorraine dedicates her time by running employment workshops in schools, universities and youth organisations. She also speaks to government and businesses to educate and bring about change. She worked with the Minister of Multiculturalism on the Recruit Smarter Initiative, which seeks to fight unconscious bias in hiring processes. Lorraine has worked with over 2,000 young people in the last 2 and a half years.