7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC

2022 Finalists 

Spirit Super Connecting Communities Award

Conor Pall, 18 of Mildura is a member of the 2021 Victorian Youth Parliament. His team is formulating a bill to address the issue of ‘Coercive Control’ in intimate partner relationships. Conor organised Mildura’s School Strike for Climate and created safety plans, Covid safe plans and other policies. A proud domestic violence survivor, Conor is a 2022 Young Citizen of the Year - Mildura nominee.

Rida Aleem Khan, 28 of Mulgrave is an Aged Care nurse and a social worker. At age 16, Rida started her radio show ‘Colourful Australia’ to spread the message of multiculturalism and harmony. Rida is the Youth Chair for the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. During the pandemic, she helped Pakistani, South Asian and multicultural communities in Victoria through the Golden Wattle Advocacy Australia Pakistan Project.

The School Broadcasting Network, 8-29 of Boxhill is a Melbourne based youth charity, dedicated to giving young people a global voice. SBN has been connecting communities all over the world through numerous youth media projects, such as SwitchOn Global Telethon held on World Environment Day 2021, which connected communities across 25 countries to raise awareness and funds for 25 of some of the worlds most endangered species.

The YAB (Central Highlands Youth Advisory Board), 24 of Ballarat is a group working to amplify youth voices and provide diverse perspectives on issues. YAB’s initiatives include Spring in the Park (2019) and Spring in the Park: Autumn Edition (2022). These live music and market events aimed to increase social connection, showcase the capabilities of young people, and provide an inclusive space for all without barriers standing in the way.

Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award

Aakanksha Manjunathaswamy - It's Not A Compliment, 28 of Carlton is fighting against street harassment. Founded in 2019, INAC began as a storytelling campaign where people anonymously shared their experiences of street harassment. They have since spearheaded campaigns and led policy and research initiatives. In 2021, they launched ‘A Snapshot of Street Harassment Experiences in Victoria’. Their research and campaigns have been picked up by government and non-government organisations.

Madeleine Buchner OAM, 29 of Brighton founded Little Dreamers in 2009, delivering programs aiming to improve their quality of life. They support thousands of Young Carers through programs like Dream Experiences, The Dreamers Hub online peer support platform, and the Big Dreamers Personal Development program. In 2016, Maddy published her first book, ‘My Brother is Sick Again’, which explores the obstacles Young Carers must overcome.

Victor Lin, 26 of Hillside is a full-time doctor and researcher. He co-founded the Young Australians’ Cancer Initiative, a not-for-profit that seeks to empower young people to make a contribution to the fight against cancer. Victor also co-founded Teaching for Impact, a charity with a mission of using education to create meaningful social change. Their initiatives have helped hundreds of students realise their full potential.

Yarn Strong Sista Indigenous Achievement Award

Bonnie Dukakis, 25 of Sunbury is a proud Gunditjmara woman woman working as Deputy Executive Officer of the Koorie Youth Council. Bonnie has worked at the Department of Justice. She has worked as a case manager with Aboriginal and Torres Islander men on community-based court orders at a Cultural Learning Place. She is the youngest and only Aboriginal mediator for the Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria Gippsland panel.

Jessica Bennett, 23 of Murrumbeena is a proud Ngunnawal woman studying Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Human Rights and Indigenous Cultures and Histories. In 2018, she attended the United Nations University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2019, she was selected for the Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous Leadership Program. In 2020, Jessica received the Ricci Marks Award from Aboriginal Victoria.

Keeden Graham, 23 of Torquay is a proud Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wiradjuri man. He works as Manager and Deputy Executive Officer for Strong Brother Strong Sister, where he mentors six Aboriginal young people, creating tailored programs that focus on the young person’s passion. He is a member of the Victorian Youth Congress and was part of designing and facilitating the Victorian Youth Strategy.

Luminary Tech Visionary Award

Grace Brown, 21 of Brighton East
is leading a team of engineering students to develop Abi, a social companion humanoid robot. Abi is specifically designed as a companion for residents in aged care facilities. Abi can engage in meaningful and philosophical conversations with her users. It can also assist medical staff with their monotonous routine work such as disinfecting rooms, delivering items, collecting patient data and more.

Tess Guthrie, 27 of Fitzroy North founded WhyHive, after noticing that not-for-profits often struggle to access and leverage data science due to lack of funding or internal knowledge. WhyHive offers pro bono and low bono consulting to social impact organisations. In July 2020, Tess developed a data science product design to automate common data analytics for not-for-profits and help them quickly understand the impact of their programs/services.

Elise Sutherland, 27 of Richmond is the founder and CEO of Stelect which is the smallest high-resolution ultrasound medical imaging sensor in the world. The Stelect technology allows for imaging to occur in places in the human body where this has never been possible before. This aids clinicians in making more informed decisions in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Stelect was born out of The University of Melbourne’s BioDesign Innovation Course.

National Protective Services Safety and Wellbeing in the Workplace Award

Mark Drodskie, 27 of Brunswick East chairs the Global Safety Committee and the APAC/US Retail Safety Committee of T2. His initiatives include reviewing their Visual Merchandising processes to reduce manual handling incidents/injuries, having mental health first aiders, and leading on customer aggression in the workplace. Mark uses a weekly TeaZette (an update to weekly tasks), to communicate any safety-related changes, reminders or updates.

Lucy Trembearth, 27 of Hawthorn
is the Workplace Health and Safety Co-ordinator at Zoos Victoria. Lucy develops key policies and procedures of the OHS framework. Her initiatives include establishing a Safe Operation Procedure in the Veterinarians’ Department for ‘The Safe Transport and Use of O2 Cylinders in Animal Transport Vehicles’ and applying the principles of Safety in Design and Ergonomics to reduce risks to workers getting injured.

Stephanie Kennedy, 28 of Melbourne works for Covid Quarantining Victoria. As an Infection Prevention and Control site lead, Stephanie develops and delivers educational Covid-19 training to all stakeholders. Stephanie also performs analysis on emerging risks. She helps provide strategic guidance on safe infection control procedures to CVQ, hotel management, Victoria Police, Australian Defence Force and third-party contractors like specialist cleaners. Stephanie is also a registered paramedic.

First National Real Estate Leadership Award

Elise Muller, 24 of Melton is an international speaker and consultant for creating inclusion, awareness and accessibility. She founded Active Support, a social enterprise that empowers at-risk people with disability by making education and sport accessible and inclusive. Elise is a dual-elite level Autistic Indigenous athlete. In 2019, she received the Victorian Disability Emerging Leader Award and the Australian National Disability Leadership Award for Social Impact.

Emily Unity, 24 of Parkville is a mental health professional whose work consists of providing consultations and running co-design workshops, and training from a lived and living experience perspective. Emily promotes the importance of inclusive mental health for diverse identities. She was named Mental Health Youth of the Year by the Mental Health Foundation Australia. Emily is a software engineer who mentors young women in programming.

Mannie Kaur Verma, 28 of Glen Waverley founded Regal Lawyers, which provides a voice to individuals belonging to marginalised communities. Regal Lawyers has intersectionality at its core, meaning they recognise that each individual has unique, layered experiences that the judicial system must address. Mannie has contributed more than 750 hours in pro bono legal services. She was a Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 – Pro Bono Finalist 2021.

Hydration Movement Healthy Living Award

ASHA Lectures, 24 of Glenroy is a not-for-profit education organization founded by Doctor of Medicine students, Arun Sharma and Krisha Changrani, after realizing the power healthcare students had in influencing the younger generation’s health literacy. They created two programs: Bodyworks and Reimagining Health. They partnered with schools in Metro and Rural Victoria and have facilitated workshops for hundreds of primary school students. ASHA Lectures has 33 volunteers.

Body Buddies, 21 of Essendon was founded in 2020 by medical student Aayushi Khillan, after seeing the gap in the current approach towards health education. With a strong education and philanthropic mission, Body Buddies is an initiative that sells soft toys in the shapes of body organs. They launched six initial organs – tooth, lungs, brain, eye, kidney and heart – designed by a team of graphic designers.

Stephanie Silver, 29 of Toorak created the ‘I Am Mindful Mental Health Toolkit’, curated and researched by clinicians. The toolkit includes sensory items to teach evidence-based mental health strategies. Stephanie has impacted thousands of school students, parents and teachers to learn life-changing emotion regulation and distress tolerance therapies. Stephanie has facilitated workshops for young people under 25 admitted to the Young Adult Emotion Management Program.

The Bridge Create Change Award

Kevin Kapeke, 24 of Craigieburn is the Director of Africa’s Got Talent showcase, a program run by Africa Day Australia Inc. for African Australians aged 12 to 25. Kevin has created and nurtured a program-turned-social enterprise where young people can pursue their creative passions while building pathways to professionalism. He has spoken at the launch of the Global Poverty project’s 1.4 Billion Reasons for Youth campaign.

Matt O'Neill, 26 of Northcote is the appointed chairperson of Down Syndrome Australia’s Down Syndrome Advisory Network Victoria. Matt speaks openly and proudly of his lived experience. He has presented at the Down Syndrome Victoria’s Annual General Meeting and the World Down Syndrome Congress. Since 2020, the Network has contributed to eight major projects, created seven videos, was featured in three podcasts and co-hosted 10 events.

Jasmine Le Tisser, 22 of Maryborough has been an intern for the Children’s Tumour Foundation. She used her lived experience of Neurofibromatosis (NF) to organise and coordinate ‘Make NF Shine’, an initiative that brings NF out of the shadows and into the community. In 2021, through Jasmine’s direct efforts and in an Australian first, over 70 landmarks lit up blue and green on World NF Awareness Day.

The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award

Oaktree, 24 of Melbourne is a youth-run organisation that has been operating for 18 years. Oaktree is run by four part-time staff and over 50 volunteers across Australia. From 2020 to 2021, they upskilled over 100 young people in Australia in advocacy, fundraising, financial management and other aspects of effective social change. During the pandemic, they fundraised over $300,000 for young people in their Asia-Pacific Programs.

Minus18, 26 of St Kilda is a charity that aims to improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth. Founded in 1998, Minus18 provides life-affirming youth events, free resources for LGBTQIA+ young people and their families, leadership programs and education for the whole community. In the past twelve months, 2,041 LGBTQIA+ youth have attended their private, interactive events, and 16,000 more tuned in to their digital event livestreams

UN Youth Australia, 24 of Melbourne is a youth-run not-for-profit focused on educating young Australians about key questions facing the international community. Their Youth Representative Program has helped elevate young people’s voices. They run three national activities: the National Finals of Evatt and Voice and National residential conference. During the pandemic, they successfully designed an online format for their Model United Nations competitions without support or guidance.

Generation Us Career Achievement Award

Dr Claudine Banal, 28 of Marshall is a surgical doctor. She established the Generic General Sciences Examination study group for junior doctors interested in a career in surgery. She has volunteered as a mentor at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She mentored through Diversitat, where she supported high school refugee students from Myanmar. Dr Banal was a recipient of the 2021 Barwon Best Care Awards in Education Leadership.

Kira Camilleri, 29 of Eltham is a registered draftsperson and building designer who runs her own drafting business. Kira’s family home burnt down in a bushfire, inspiring her later to seek a career as a building designer. She completed an Advanced Diploma of Building Design and graduated with a drafting position at ABN Group. Kira then took a position at Mont-Elham Drafting before becoming registered.

Melanie Davey, 29 of Fitzroy North has facilitated long-distance trekking and expeditions for hundreds of young people. Melanie undertook a qualification in Outdoor Recreation. She kicked off her career as a Group Leader for young teen youth with Outward Bound Australia. During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Melanie created ‘Urban Bush Experiences’, a program that brought the fun and activities of school camp to school grounds.

Sam Humphrey, 27 is an actor and RARE advocate. In 2016, Samuel filmed a documentary about life as a RARE (Disabled) person chasing a dream to be an actor. He was cast alongside Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. Samuel has been an ambassador for “Global Genes”, which advocates for millions of people with rare genetic diseases. During Covid, he developed “TheLittleGuy”, a self-empowerment brand.

IKON Services Environmental Sustainability Award

Hansikaa Sharma, 13 of South Morang created two petitions for “Balloons No More”, with the end goal of banning helium balloons from both Hume and Whittlesea council events. Hansikaa received a total of 470 signatures from residents for his petition. This resulted in the Hume Council not allowing helium balloons in events they host, and the Whittlesea Council not allowing helium balloons on council grounds at all.

Manon Beauchamp-Tardieu, 28 of Richmond founded Little Green Panda, on the belief that single-use products should not be made to last. Manon decided to tackle plastic straws and start from there. They developed drinking straws that are designed to disappear in any waste bin in less than 90 days. Manon is currently working with a team to market an innovative and 100% home compostable packaging material.

Natassia Nicolao, 27 of Carlton founded Conserving Beauty, the first water-responsible brand in Australia. Natassia has created a range of beauty products that were completely free from water, inspired by her belief that waterless formula could offer more for the people and the Earth. Natassia completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biochemistry. She has been awarded as CEO Magazine’s Start-Up Executive of the Year finalist.

Wurthington Coffield, 16 of Sebastopol has collected scrap metal since he was 8 years old. Initially, Wurth only intended to raise some pocket money, but interactions with others gave him the opportunity to grow his client base and collection. His involvement has evolved into a project where he educates younger children in his spare time through self-written and illustrated children’s books on the importance of recycling

Divine Gifts Online Achievement Award

Ethan Donati, 27 of Aberfeldie founded Million Dollar Funnels, a digital marketing boutique firm that assists businesses to grow online. He also owns Sold Out Seminars, which helps turn people into speakers online. Ethan has helped over 1,000 students and clients and has directly impacted 100,000 people through his online events. In 2021, he won TWO 2 Comma Club Awards.

Michelle Akhidenor, 27 of Eaglemont is the Founder & CEO of The Peers Project a leading Australian Podcast Agency and 2021 Australian Podcast Awards Finalists. The Peers Project makes podcasts for visionary brands that include, Shopify, Forever New and Modibodi. Before launching The Peers Project in 2018, Michelle started Peers2Peers, a global podcast that hosted conversations with inspiring millennial entrepreneurs and Shopify signed on as the podcast’s major sponsor.

Tristian Cole - Sempo, 23 of Armadale is a start-up that uses blockchain to build more inclusive payment systems for emerging markets. Founded by Tristan Cole, Sempo helps reduce the time required to deliver cash assistance for non-profits. They work in 7 countries, facilitating one million payments a year. They empower over 120,000 people in places like Kenya, Iraqi Kurdistan and refugee camps on the Syrian Border.

Qoin Small Business Achiever Award

Tess Guthrie – WhyHive, 27 of Fitzroy North is a social enterprise founded in 2018 for the purpose of democratising data. WhyHive supports organisations to analyse their data and make evidence-based strategic decisions. Their innovative business model allows them to offer pro bono and low bono services to not-for-profits, from program evaluation to using Artificial Intelligence. In 2020, WhyHive was part of the City of Melbourne’s Global Innovation Program.

Phillip Kuoch – Goldelucks, 28 of Croydon was established in 2018 by Phillip Kuoch and has since then become the most exciting new doughnut brand in Melbourne. A self-taught baker, Phillip decided to ride on the Nutella craze during the pandemic and took the business online which resulted in deliveries being made every 51 seconds on average. Goldelucks went on to expand and open three retail stores across Melbourne.

Rhea Gotsis - The Traxi, 24 of Balwyn is a premium same-day delivery service that operates across Victoria. They operate for personal and business-to-business use, with 90% of the clients being females who run small businesses from home. A self-taught entrepreneur, Rhea launched The Traxi to ensure Melbournians who felt isolated by lockdown could send gifts to one another.

Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award

Kwe Kaw 20 of East Bendigo completed a Certificate II in Electrotechnology (pre-vocational) program at Bendigo TAFE. Kwe Kaw grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to Australia in 2011. After completing secondary school, he approached the Skills and Jobs Centre and enrolled in the Preparation Study Course to build literacy and numeracy skills. He has also volunteered as an assistant in English Language classes.

Jessica Stone, 26 of Huntly completed a Foundation Class and a Certificate II in Community Services from Bendigo TAFE before moving into Certificate III in Animal Studies. Jessica lives with Autism and has a learning disability and speech impediment. She has completed a work placement at Bendigo Animal Rescue Centre, where she provided help with walking the dogs, feeding the cats and maintaining a clean environment.

Prue Dodemaide, 25 of Mildura will be completing her Diploma of Nursing at Sunraysia Institute of TAFE in March 2022. Prue became a single mother in 2015 and chose to leave school early and gain employment. She connected with Zoe Support Australia and applied for financial assistance to study. Prue has applied to continue into her Bachelor of Nursing to make her a Registered Nurse.