7NEWS Young Achiever Awards VIC

2020 Finalists


First National Real Estate Leadership Award

Catherine Allingham, 29 of Balmain is challenging barriers to create change. Catherine is a key member of Fertility Preservation Taskforce, which develops and implements fertility care programs for children with cancer (oncofertility programs). She has developed a novel, interactive fertility decision tool for parents of children with cancer at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Catherine’s work has contributed to over 20 conference presentations and publications, and she co-chaired the 2nd National Oncofertility Summit. She was invited to contribute to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Cancer Council Fertility Guidelines and continues to work developing The Australian and New Zealand Oncofertility Consortium – a coalition for paediatric oncofertility care. A graduate of Biomedical Science, Catherine is a final year medical student and is simultaneously completing a Masters Science at the University of Melbourne.

Elise Muller, 22 of Melton advocates for people with a disability. Elise founded Active Support, a social enterprise that empowers people with a disability and makes education and sport accessible and inclusive through public speaking, mentoring and personal training services. Seeking change in perception on autism, she co-created a Person-First Autism course to give insight into lived experienced of the Autism Spectrum and sustainable inclusion strategies. An Autistic Indigenous football and soccer athlete, Elise has competed at state, national and international level and is the first AFL Disability Ambassador Player. In 2019, Elise received the Victorian Disability Emerging Leader Award and the Australian National Disability Leadership Award, Social Impact category.

Dr Georgia Atkin-Smith, 27 of Melbourne is devoted to research and science. Georgia is a cell biologist who strives to create a supportive environment that motivates next generation scientists whilst educating the broader community. She runs her social media brand called Some Blonde Scientist, leads outreach events, and partakes in public speaking events. She was employed as Session Lecturer, Guest Lecturer and Head Demonstrator while completing her PhD in Biochemistry and Immunology. Georgia advocates for women in STEM and in 2019, was recognised as one of the Herald Suns, 25 under 25 Young People To Watch. To date, Georgia has published 15 scientific papers and received over 20 awards.

Wallace Jin, 23 of Parkville is passionate about empowering the disadvantaged. Wallace is the CEO at Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE), a youth-led organisation dedicated to engaging, educating and empowering disadvantaged Victorians aged 16 to 18 through health education and personal mentorship. As CEO and leader of the CHASE Management Team, he is responsible for the delivery and direction of the program. He has since introduced a new organisational structure to minimise communication bottlenecks and improve opportunities for volunteer’s professional development. Besides being a full-time medical student, Wallace also volunteers with 180 Degrees Consulting, International House Graduate Student Association, Parity Education and Teach for Australia… Congratulations Wallace.


Yarn Strong Sista Indigenous Achievement Award

Bromley See Kee, 21 of Melbourne hopes to inspire Indigenous students. Bromley is the president of the National Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students at RMIT. Through the RMIT Student Union where he is the Indigenous Officer, Bromley has campaigned for marriage equality and is a role model for LGBTQIA+ students. Bromley has volunteered for Blak & Bright: First Nations Literary Festival through the Wheeler Centre at the State Library of Victoria. Bromley has contributed to the local Victorian Indigenous community by supporting and engaging on cultural issues such as land rights and cultural practice reclamation by participating in the Djap Wurrung trees protests.

Sianna Catullo, 25 of Northcote seeks to educate and raise awareness of the Indigenous culture. A proud Narungga woman, Sianna co-founded Clothing the Gap, a clothing label meant to provide a space for people to come together, celebrate Aboriginal culture and design, and talk about Aboriginal history and social issues. Sianna took part in the Indigenous Marathon Project and trained for six months to finish the marathon in New York. She helped start a national campaign called ‘Free the Flag’ to raise awareness on licensing agreement issues with the Aboriginal flag. Sianna has also helped establish a junior’s side for the Fitzroy Stars, an Aboriginal football club.

Merinda Dryden, 22 of Carlton North is determined to spread the beauty of Indigenous culture. Merinda works in the Learning and Development Team at VACCA and delivers Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training to non-Aboriginal organisations within the child and welfare sector. A proud Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri Woman, Merinda advocates for Kids in Foster Care. Speaking of her experience of growing up in multiple foster care placements, she shares the importance of keeping young people connected to their cultural identity. Merinda was named Victorian Miss NAIDOC 2016 and designed an Aboriginal mosaic and seating area for students to sit and have a moment to reflect.

Samuel Muir, 23 of Ivanhoe has a passion for inspiring Indigenous youth. Samuel started at Crown Melbourne as Food & Beverage Attendant whilst completing his degree at RMIT. He took an opportunity in Crown Melbourne’s Indigenous Program to work within the Indigenous Employment Sector, providing support and mentoring to young Indigenous Australians looking for long-lasting careers. After completing his degree, he became Marketing Assistant and Marketing Executive before being promoted to Senior Internal Communications Advisor. Samuel has a degree in Professional Communications and Certificate IV in Leadership and Management. Samuel received the Ganbina’s Youth of the Year award and was nominated for The Rikki Marks Award.


Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award

Madeline Long, 22 of Moorabbin is creating positive impact through education. Madeline is the co-founder of STEMSparX, an EdTech start-up that focuses on delivering immersive STEM learning experience to students in regional Australia through a unique technology-backed approach. STEMSparX has so far assisted more than 500 students to discover the joy of learning and with five-day workshops for high school students. Madeline has been recognised as the 2019 Young Social Pioneer in Education by the Foundation for Young Australians and was a 2018 Melbourne Accelerator Program Velocity Program Innovation Prize awardee. She has a Certificate in New Ventures Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rona Glynn-McDonald, 23 of Brunswick is passionate about providing for the disadvantaged Indigenous youth. A proud Kaytetye woman, Rona is the founder and CEO of Common Ground, a social enterprise working to share Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to audiences across Australia. Common Ground has supported over 160,000 Australians to appreciate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s culture and people and have launched the First Nations Bedtime Stories Challenge for families, schools and organisations. Rona is also a Director at YLab, a consulting social enterprise catering to First Nations youth. In 2017 and 2018, Rona facilitated the Young Social Pioneers Program run by the Foundation for Young Australians.

Timothy Lo Surdo, 25 of Richmond is deeply passionate about people-powered change. Timothy founded Democracy in Colour, Australia’s first racial and economic justice organisation led by people of colour. He has worked as the Senior Organiser at United Voice where he helped young, low-paid workers start a digital union. Timothy was Head of Campaigns at Oaktree Australia, a youth-run organisation, where he ran campaigns tackling inequality and poverty. He was the National Communications Director at UN Youth Australia. Timothy volunteers with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and is on the Boards for Plan International Australia, Environment Victoria, Climate for Change, The Wilderness Society and Be Slavery Free.

Victor Lin, 24 of Hillside has a drive to create positive and meaningful social impact. Victor is a blood cancer researcher who co-founded Australian Cancer and Health Sciences Competition and Australian Students’ Society of Haematology. He is a Board member of Eternal Possibilities, a not-for-profit organisation with a mission to inspire medical students and doctors to explore possibilities outside the conventional pathway. Victor has held leadership positions within the Melbourne University Health Initiative, advocated for his medical colleagues and provided pro bono consulting to charities with 180 Degrees Consulting. He is part of the Student Welfare Outreach Team, VCE Summer School and Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme.


IKON Services Environmental Sustainability Award

Jamie-Lee Kay, 26 of Tootgarook is committed to addressing plastic pollution in the oceans. In 2018, Jamie-Lee co-founded “theotherstraw”, a social enterprise that promotes replacing single-use plastic straws with reusable, ethically-sourced bamboo straws. They donate 50% of their profits to ocean clean-ups and support economic opportunities and sustainable jobs in Northern Vietnam. Jamie-Lee has educated over 11,500 individuals and businesses on the impacts of single-use plastic straws. She has organised 45 local beach clean-ups and regularly participates in environmentally friendly community activities and collaborates with eco-conscious social enterprises. She has been part of the ING Dreamstarter Program and a participant in the Deakin SPARK Accelerator Program.

Dr Melissa Wartman, 29 of Burwood is passionate about ensuring positive impactful environmental outcomes. Melissa is an integral member of the Victorian Coastal Wetland Restoration Program, which is designed to provide the greatest positive change for coastal biodiversity at the least cost. As full-time Program Coordinator, she leads the charge to restore 600 hectares of coastal wetlands in Victoria and manages day to day activities that include developing a wetland conservation strategy, undertaking on-ground restoration and working alongside Traditional Owners. Melissa helps collect and analyse scientific data to inform future wetland restoration policy and collaborates with reputable partners. She has helped secure two grants totalling $80,000.

Serena Lee, 24 of Alphington chases opportunities that will make a difference. Serena co-founded Farmwall, an AgTech social enterprise on a mission to transform cities into food producing ecosystems. Farmwall creates small scale indoor vertical farms that grows microgreens with zero packaging waste or food miles, allowing fresh produce to be grown in under-utilised areas. Serena led the crowdfunding campaign that raised $30,000 to kickstart Farmwall. As Company Director, Chief Operating Officer and Manager of the Sydney team, Serena leads urban planning employees and oversees all operational activities. She handles corporate relationships and works closely with Mirvac’s internal innovation team on urban planning projects.

The Last Straw of Melbourne is determined to change mindsets and behaviours around disposable plastic use. The Last Straw is a campaign to reduce the use of plastic straws in venues around Australia. Eva MacKinley started The Last Straw, funding it from her own wallet before winning a pitch competition. Since 2015, they have engaged close to 1,000 venues, along with their sister campaign, The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef. They introduce policies on giving plastic straws out on request only or changing to reusable alternatives. From 2018 to 2019, they were responsible for stopping 26 million plastic straws from entering the waste system.


The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award

CHASE of Melbourne advocates for better health and wellbeing for young people. Adopting the “youths mentoring youths” model, Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE) is a not-for-profit run entirely by volunteers. They engage, educate and empower disadvantaged young people through health-related workshops and personal mentorship. The program reaches over 300 disadvantaged Year 11 Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning students annually. Founded in 2013, CHASE has over 110 volunteers from different ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and academic disciplines. They have collaborated with Headspace, Western Bulldogs Community Foundation and Smiling Seeds. CHASE received the 2018 Brimbank City Council’s We Are Brimbank Awards for Learning Excellence.

Blessing Bags of Skye is spreading awareness of current housing and homelessness crises. Blessing Bags is a youth-led organisation that provides bags of essentials to people experiencing homelessness. They make up to 500 bags every three months that are distributed all over Melbourne either through partner organisations such as crisis centres or directly to homeless people on the streets. Each bag contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary items, shampoo, body soap, tissues, and a hopeful note of encouragement. They have distributed over 9,000 bags since 2015. Blessing Bags also develops key policies which they present to supporters and the broader community through their website and newsletter.

Dyslexia Demystified of New Gisborne advocates for neurodiverse students. Dyslexia Demystified is a youth-run social enterprise that has supported, empowered and advocated for over 2,000 dyslexic students across Victoria and Queensland to realise and achieve their goals. The provide school-based presentations, workshops, events and conferences and produce dyslexic-friendly resources and offer student mentoring and parent consultations. They run YouTube videos that offer effective study strategies and help deal with emotional aspects of dyslexia such as feelings of isolation. In 2018, Dyslexia Demystified spoke at the Asia Pacific Dyslexia Conference in Japan. They received the Jumpstart Award at the 2018 Foundation for Young Australians Unleashed Awards.

Real Youth Music Studios of Collingwood is a music program for young people aged between 8 to 13 with diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds from the Fitzroy and Collingwood Public Housing Estates. The Studios were founded in response to the closure of a local youth centre in Fitzroy. Real Youth Music Studios aims to empower young people to write, record and perform their own songs alongside mentors with music and industry experience and connect them to community events such as the St Kilda and Brunswick Music Festivals. The studios raised over $2,000 and volunteered 100 hours to support Girl Zone and DJ Style & Grace perform at Dark Mofo.


Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award

Jake Carter, 28 of Campbellfield strives for excellence. After switching from finance to electrical, Jake came to Holmesglen’s Futuretech campus where he enrolled in Certificate III Electrotechnology Apprenticeship to apply for his Energy Safe Victoria’s Electrician Licence. He passed on first attempt. Whilst building a family, renovating his home and training for a new career, Jake established Cardiac Electrical, where he leads an eight-person team. He holds a forklift license and Diplomas in Business and Management. He is completing his Diploma of Electrical Project Management. In 2019, Jake was named Victorian Apprentice of the Year and Australian Apprentice of the Year finalist.

Maddison Price, 24 of Swan Hill hopes to become an example for apprentices. Despite being accepted to multiple universities, Maddison was led back to her Deniliquin home where she started a job in earthmoving and operating. She is pursuing a career in the Heavy Diesel industry and is now completing her Certificate 3 in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology at the Cummins South Pacific branch. Maddison attended Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and has undergone Engine Fundamental, Basic Electrical, Heavy Duty Electrical and E5 Engine Identification Training. She volunteers at Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen workshops and has achieved a Merit Award for Excellence in Diversity for Women in Trades.

Mitch Harper, 28 of Wodonga demonstrates hard work, grit and determination. Mitch joined Cummins South Pacific as a Heavy Diesel Technician apprentice. He completed his TAFE course in just under two years, taking more units and significant amount of homework than needed. A former professional motorcycle rider who has represented Australia in international competitions, Mitch overcame a chronic back injury to become a qualified Heavy Diesel Technician (Certificate III). Mitch was awarded Apprentice of the Year by GoTAFE and Regional Apprentice of the Year and National Apprentice of the Year by the Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia. He hopes to develop his skills in Power Generation.

Heidi Rasmussen, 18 of Point Cook has a passion to improve the lives of animals. After completing a Year 10 work experience at a local veterinary clinic, it became clear for Heidi that she wanted to be a veterinarian. After overcoming declining mental health, she completed a Certificate III in Companion Animal Services through G-Force and The Gordon whilst undertaking Year 11 VCE Studies. She completed practical placement at Direct Vet Services where she now works as a veterinary nurse. Heidi has been named Victorian School-Based Trainee of the Year and runner-up Australian School-Based Trainee of the Year. She is currently studying Veterinary Nursing at La Trobe University.


Luminary Tech Visionary Award

Catherine Allingham, 29 of Balmain is utilising technology to create change. Catherine designed a Fertility Preservation Decision Aid website to support parents with cancer, together with their clinicians, in making decisions about fertility care immediately after a childhood cancer diagnosis. A first of its kind, the website was developed and assessed according to the international criteria for patient decision aids. Partitioned into both male and female sections, it houses quality health information on the effects of cancer treatment on fertility and links to written resources that contain a QR code. A cancer researcher and current final year medical student, Catherine is an Australian Veteran’s Children’s Assistance Trust Long Tan bursary recipient and carer of a young person with serious mental illness.

Morgan Coleman 29 of Mornington is CEO of Vets on Call, a custom built mobile App that makes it possible for pet owners to acquire premium care for their pets, in the comfort of their own home for the same price as going to a clinic. The app has created a gig economy within the veterinary services providing a convenient and stress-free service for pet owners and their pets. From a self-funded start-up, Vets on Call now has over 3,000 users, 65 veterinarians and treated over 1,000 pets. They’ve also partnered with Australia’s largest retirement living company to provide services to their pet owning residents.

Alexandra Irwin Liu, 25 of Macleod advocates for social inclusion. Alexandra is the founder of, an online social network for people with a disability, helping them find and share accessible bars, restaurants and cafes tailored to their individual needs. Users of the platform can discover, filter, rate and review local places and take part in community life through social engagement and connection. After finding out that the Federal Government had similar initiatives, Alexandra pivoted Accessibly into a location discovery app to help users discover new social spaces. She hopes to transform the hospitality sector so that people with a disability can have thriving social lives.

Zoe Condliffe, 29 of Brunswick advocates for gender equality. Zoe founded She’s A Crowd, a tech start-up that uses technology, artificial intelligence and data analytics to provide safer cities for women. The safe and anonymous crowdsourcing platform allows anyone to share their stories which are geotagged, timestamped and aggregated for important insights that feed into decision-making processes in government, universities and NGO’s. Zoe previously worked for Plan International, where she pioneered Free To Be to help address gender-based violence in public spaces. She is an alumna of Google for Start-ups Blackbox Connect Scholarship, SheStarts Program and the Foundation for Young Australians Young Social Pioneers Program.


Generation Us Small Business Achiever Award

Chalerm Tuantab, 26 of Kew demonstrates hard work, passion and commitment. Chalerm started his first podiatry business at age 22. He now has nine staff members, two physiotherapy and podiatry clinics and a specialist footwear store. He just started his fourth business, selling an Allied Health-endorsed massage gun. He is the president of Footscape, a not-for-profit that provides services for the disadvantaged communities across the greater Melbourne region. Chalerm is Head of Medical for numerous National Premier League teams. In 2019, he was a finalist for leadership in management in Allied Health, Allied Health Podiatrist of the Year finalist and an Australasian Most Outstanding Podiatry Services winner.

Jackson Meyer, 23 of Cheltenham strives to reinvent and revolutionise. Jackson established Verus Global to bridge the gap between global giants and local small enterprises in Australian logistics. As Group CEO and Director of Verus, Jackson is tasked to manage the teams from its 14 offices in Australia, China, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. He has worked tirelessly to train their 45 and growing global staff. Verus Global recorded 2020 first quarter sales totalling A$8M and forecasts annual revenues of A$34M. Jackson is a Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award – Melbourne Finalist. He received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award for Business from the Old Haileyburians Association.

Kai Seymon, 13 of Tarneit advocates for people with special needs. Kai is the founder of KAIKO Fidgets. Having both dyslexia and high-functioning autism, Kai grew tired of being teased at school for liking fidgets, which he needs for concentration and calming. He then started making fidgets out of keyring and bike chain parts. Kai sells his products directly, online, at markets and expos and in Melbourne stores and has sold over 1,000 tactile fidgets. Kai is an ambassador for My Special Child Organisation. In 2018, he received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award as part of a 12-month National Kids in Business Mentoring program.

Morgan Hipworth, 18 of Windsor is committed to making a positive impact on young Victorians. At age 13, Morgan established Bistro Morgan, an artisan bakehouse specialising in doughnuts. With the right equipment and support of his parents, Morgan baked doughnuts from their home, supplying to more than 15 cafés every weekend. In 2016, he opened a pop-up store and sold 10,000 doughnuts in eight days. This inspired Morgan to open his flagship store. Bistro Morgan now employs 15 staff and offers coffee, meals and other treats. Morgan has been featured in media outlets such as Shark Tank, Today Show, ABC Radio Melbourne and The Project.


Budget Car and Truck Rentals Online Achievement Award

Alexander Horton, 25 of Fitzroy North is dedicated to creating lifelong learning mindset within learners. Alexander is the founder of ‘econome’, a for-profit, for-purpose online education platform that creates innovative curriculum through aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with short-form, project based courses. He has integrated different educational technologies and utilises data analytics to track progress of learners moving through the courses. Alexander is also the Director of Business Development for an Australian and Indonesian NGO, Via Sport, where he leads the development of their online presence. Alexander previously worked for EduGrowth, where he created an online learning module designed to upskill education technology experts.

Ana Gavia, 27 of Hillside hopes to inspire and engage young people. A self-taught e-commerce entrepreneur, Ana launched Pinkcolada after struggling to find swimwear that was stylish, high quality and affordable. Starting from a small-scale hobby she ran from home, she now sells bikinis worldwide. With flexibility, creativity and self-awareness, she utilised free tools to learn, improve and grow her business from $200 to $1M in one year. Ana has received 12 months of mentoring with Inspiring Rare Birds as part of American Express’s Idea Exchange Program and private mentoring from Shark Tank’s Andrew Banks. She was awarded the Business News Melbourne Young Entrepreneur Award.

Angelo Giuffrida, 28 of Narre Warren is committed to enhancing efficiency. Angelo runs three web hosting and online services, namely, VentraIP Australia, Zuver and Synergy Wholesale. Angelo helped build VentraIP in 2008 and became its CEO in 2013. The company has grown from four to 60 staff in ten years and in 2019, they won Employer of Choice in the Australian Business Awards. Angelo has been elected as a Director on the .au Domain Administrator Ltd. board, giving him hands-on involvement with the policies and guidelines that govern the domain name industry whilst utilising his over 10 years of experience in the online services industry.

Jack Ward, 16 of Ararat is passionate about journalism. In 2017, Jack founded Ararat College’s student-run news service, AC News, after gathering a group of students who were interested in media and producing content. From producing video segments and posting them on Instagram, they have created and launched a website, They reach thousands every month and cover local tragedies, accomplishments and breaking stories to ensure the local community stays informed. They created a Facebook page to increase the rise of viewership and presence. Jack is a committed young journalist who displays creativity, innovation and agility. He has completed internships at 9News, ABC and Tennis Australia.


The Bridge Create Change Award

Afra Cader, 25 of Hawthorn is dedicated to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. She is a management consultant in performance improvement at PricewaterhouseCoopers and was recognised as one of their top 10 Australian leaders in Diversity and Inclusion. Afra founded the first international Graduate Mental Health seminar, is an international published author and advocate of gender equality, having articles published in the Financial Times and Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka and LinkedIn. She runs, organises and speaks at PwC events on gender equality, cultural awareness and authentic leadership. A social entrepreneur and Commerce graduate, Afra was named 2019 Young Social Pioneer – Foundation for Young Australians.

Harriet O'Shea Carré, 15 of Castlemaine is a fervent human rights advocate. Seeing as her moral duty, Harriet co-initiated the #schoolsstrike4climate movement in Australia to demand real climate action from political, corporate and social leaders. Harriet, with co-founders Milou and Callum, led students at Castlemaine in September 2018 to strike outside the local politician’s offices and demand fast and big systematic policy change to create a better future. Harriet is a co-winner of the Bob Brown Foundation 2019 Young Environment of the Year Award and the Mount Alexander Shire Youth Leadership Award in Environment. She represented Australia at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York.

Hayden's Helping Hands of Eltham North are enabling youth to make a difference. Hayden and Stephanie Rujak founded Hayden’s Helping Hands, a not-for-profit organisation to enable young people under the age of 16 to volunteer and provide for the relief and alleviation of poverty, distress, misfortune and disadvantage suffered by people experiencing homelessness. From 2014, Hayden and Stephanie now lead a Board of five Directors and over 40 volunteers. Hayden’s Helping Hands has helped hundreds of homeless people, with over $45,000 worth of clothes, toiletries and food items, in the last 12 months alone. Hayden’s Helping Hands raises awareness by speaking at kindergartens and schools.

Mia Rovere, 23 of Swan Hill advocates for sexual and reproductive health education. Mia started the Sexy and Safe: Let’s Talk About It, a youth consultation initiative that has given young people in the Mallee Region a real voice on the critical issue of youth sexual health through key actions and recommendations. Mia was a panellist and presenter at the 2019 Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health Conference and 2020 Buloke Youth Health Expo. She is a member of the Mallee Region Sexual Health Network, SHOUT Out & About Network and SAGA Network and a research member at the Swan Hill Rural City Council Youth Strategy.