35. Luci Zhao

11 Feb


Lucy Zhao is a natural communicator; she talks with you rather than at you, and manages to gently express her point of view without being self righteous or insincere. The nineteen year old Melbournian was one of the original members of the Banyule Youth Participation Network. After attending a Youth Forum to “voice the opinion of the youth in the Banyule area”, she discovered her passion for motivating others to engage in social justice issues.  From there, “it was merely a matter of finding the outlet…the council allowed me to do that.”

Since then, she’s been involved with the 2013 Roadtrip to End Poverty, the YMCA Murray Marathon, the Oaktree Foundation, Y-Lead Mentoring Network and motivational speaking in schools – all the while building the “foundations” for her career by studying Accounting at university and working as the Social Media Manager for Joy Cupcakes.

In March 2013 she spent time “travelling across Australia with thousands of young ambassadors on the Roadtrip to End Poverty, to give young people the opportunity to talk to the public when they don’t usually do so to such a [large scale] degree. Personal contact breaks down barriers…that constantly stop us from doing what we want.”

Can you describe your own involvement in the road trip?

I graduated year 12 with not the best ATAR… Before the end of school I applied to be an ambassador for the road trip and they reviewed and accepted my application and I was lucky enough to join that national team. So from then on I was working as their Ambassador Events Officer, so that was doing the logistics end, the creative side of things for our Sydney events. I’m in their national communications team so I managed their logistics and communications for their tenth anniversary.

How do you motivate others to get involved?

I think a lot of it is dependent on the people you’re around and what you expose yourself to. [When I am] Speaking in schools, I’d have that one-on-one experience with as many people as I possibly can because I think it’s so important to get behind something – even if it’s not values we agree on , I think it’s great to get a different side on things. [Young people] are going through that identity phase and that self-realisation phase and I think it’s merely a matter on exposing them to the right environment, not to dictate what they do should be doing in life or thinking about.

At the end of the day there is no right or wrong, it’s about influencing them onto the right path. I am a strong believer that nothing is caused by anything externally because it’s your life so you get to choose. I am pretty determined to talk to as many people as I can and getting their voice out there.

How can young people do that?

It starts off with finding what they want to do and then it’s as simple as asking a friend, a teacher or a mentor. The Council’s great with anything like that as that they’re so reliant on their youth to generate work so it’s so important for them to go to schools. Even something as simple as our social networking, there are so many opportunities these days … I think the only barriers are peers or themselves. For them to motivate themselves it’s as simple as doing research or asking a friend – being proactive!

What made you want to address social injustice?

I was exposed to a school environment where everything was so self-absorbed and I could recognise that. I was actually brought to the issue of child sex slavery by a teacher and instantly… it touched something in me and from then I was looking up videos and articles and gaining work experience in those kinds of organisations but they’re really hard to get on to.  I’ve also remained quite persistent…I was the Social Services Prefect in Year 12 and we organised a benefit concert and we raised $65,000 in four weeks for clean drinking resources in Kenya and other underdeveloped countries so it was a huge achievement. In terms of actual exposure, it’s more reading articles and watching videos, etc. to finite all my knowledge on it and tackle particular issues. It’s been quite self-driven, how I want to go about it all.

How do you balance so many commitments?

Balancing everything is definitely hard. I am fortunate enough to believe I have the capacity to do it. I’ve had ‘crash and burn’ moments [in the past]… it is difficult but I think it depends on drive and self-motivation, I listen to motivational talkers online I find they really do help, spark something in me that makes me wanting to do more.

I don’t like to pass down opportunities, there are opportunities I will take no matter what because I think it’s worth a shot at the end of the day, such as I was head hunted to be a beauty adviser for a luxury brand – I know nothing about beauty!- and I gave it a go for a solid four months and I found beauty and retail weren’t my thing. I look back now and I am glad I gave it a go, if I didn’t I wouldn’t know what it’d be like and I would have passed over an opportunity not everyone is given, and I am all for taking on opportunities. I feel why waste something that’s right in front of you?

What do your family think about you undertaking so much volunteer work? 

I am constantly bombarded by my loved ones saying ‘why are you doing this? You’re not even getting paid for it’. But I don’t mind, it’s the experience that I’ve gained – you can’t find opportunities like this, places so willing to give it to an eighteen year old whose just finished high school and doesn’t have a degree. It’s so rewarding.

What does that future hold?

I have my future planned out with ‘this is what I want to do, what I want to end up [with]’. My friend was saying that it’s quite natural in an Asian culture to go through everything really fast, to go through a life so fast but never have time to reflect on it.

I want time to reflect on where I can go from there. I want to build the foundations for a potential for-profit [organisation], and continuing my studies. I like to keep myself busy, I really do. Which can be bad because I need to not do something every now and then. And hopefully go into schools to do more motivational speaking.


 Words: Rachael Ward

Picture: Sean Porter


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