55. Kate James

8 Jun

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Kate James is a strong, vibrant, open-minded 25-year-old, and a self-proclaimed lover of cheeseburgers. Kate loves to travel, listen to music, and enjoys the brighter side of life – finding any opportunity for a good story and a laugh.

Kate is a Youth Programs Officer at the Banyule Youth Services. She’s been in the industry for around four years, and says she’s so far loved every minute of it. She says she never wakes up in the morning dreading coming to work; she’s always excited to see what new challenges she may have to face that day.

“Every single day I get up in the morning and look forward to going to work. I love everything about youth culture and the spirit young people have,” she says.

“Getting to support a young person along their journey means a lot to me each time I work with someone.”

Part of Kate’s role involves going around to local schools to speak to students about body image and gender equality. In these discussion sessions, she explores how society can pressure women to look a particular way, or to act a particular way. She admits that this can make being a woman difficult; however she’s confident that these challenges can be overcome.

“There is a massive buzz at the moment amongst young women I work with from early secondary school onwards around changing the way society views them,” she says.

“I feel that girls are becoming more empowered to discuss what affects their perceptions of themselves and to say ‘actually, that stuff really does not work for me and I don’t want to feel bad about myself just because of what the media or the internet tells me’.”

Kate initially wanted to be a primary school teacher, however after finishing year 12 she instead did a one-year course in disability studies. After starting to work in the disability field, she became more interested in advocacy so she completed a Diploma course in community services; this is what inspired her to work with young people.

Kate says she has no plans of leaving her current position any time soon. She loves working with her team at Banyule Youth Services; she describes the group as extremely creative, talented, inspirational, and always putting young people first.

She says a highlight of her job is being able to talk with young people directly. She loves being able to hear their stories, and to help guide them through any challenges they may be facing.

“[I enjoy] the little things, like having a really awesome conversation with young people in a school, or when a young person achieves a goal they have been working towards. Seeing a young person become empowered to do what’s best for them – it’s such a privilege to be a part of,” she says.

By speaking to young girls at schools, Kate hopes she can encourage them to feel comfortable in their own skin. She wants these girls to walk away from her presentations feeling strong and empowered, and not intimidated by the opposite sex. She wants them to love themselves for who they are.

“The everyBODY Banyule workshops aim to challenge the stereotypes, get young people thinking about how social media affects them, and most importantly, just allow them to chat about what they feel causes negative body image.”

Kate grew up in the local area, and went to school at Montmorency College. She has a large tight-knit extended family, and is particularly close with her parents and brother. Her family has supported her with everything she’s pursued. She says her mum constantly reminds her that “she has a gift of being able to communicate with other people”.

Kate says she loves being around people, and in particular fellow women. She’s a world-class listener, and is always up for a chat.

Kate is currently studying at university one afternoon a week to get a degree in youth work.

“I studied at TAFE originally to get into the field, which set me up with some great skills at first. Now a few years into my career, I am at Uni to get a higher qualification,” she says.

“I really love learning and enjoy studying, but also think it’s important to have work and life experience along the way to add to study.”

Kate was nominated for the ‘Victorian Young Achiever’ award for her talks in communication, inside and outside social media boundaries. Kate says that she is “extremely grateful and thankful for the nomination”.

She’s incredibly modest, and when anyone in the workplace brings up her nomination, she squirms in the corner and tells them to keep it hush.

However, her nomination is a big deal, and a reflection of her achievements to date. These achievements are definitely something to be proud of.

Words: Ruby Colley & Joely Mitchell

Photo: Sean Porter

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