100. Naomi Simmonds & Sean Porter

6 Dec

Naomi Simmonds and Sean Porter; are the dynamic pair that introduced Banyule to what you are reading now the: Banyule 100.

Banyule 100 is a collection of stories profiling inspiring people in the Banyule community, developed in collaboration with local writers and photographers.

The concept of Banyule 100 started when Sean Porter was 17, and in high school. Sean was inspired by a similar project was happening in Seattle in the early 2000’s which showcase people living and working the local community.  

This sparked an idea for Sean; he was inspired to showcase young people who were doing great activities across Banyule, and to tell their stories through photography and storytelling.

“I went to a sort of alternate education school, and there was this outreach program where I met some of the kids, and I saw this project that this photographer was doing overseas, and I thought we could put a different spin on it,” Sean said.

“I really admired what that photographer was doing, and I liked the project; it was highlighting people throughout Seattle.

“He was highlighting anyone who was a cultural icon, and he would bring them in and photograph them, and I kind of thought we could do something a little different.”

And that’s where the idea for Banyule 100 was first sparked.  

Sean pitched the idea to Naomi who was a Youth Engagement Officer at Banyule City Council at the time.

Naomi saw the idea as a concept that had amazing depth and could showcase the talents of young people, as well as all of the incredible community work that local people were doing throughout Banyule to support young people.

“I think the public perception of young people was of being not worthy of praise and attention, and Sean’s project of Banyule 100 managed to address that,” Naomi said.

“We really looked at people who were performing well in the arts or giving to their community; those stories really resonated with people… in showcasing the young people who were doing great things.

“We had a lot of interest over the years, and we always got a good response and I think for me too, the opportunities that have come out of Banyule 100 have been amazing.

“We initially thought of it as a photography project with an accompanying article, explaining how amazing the young people were, but then it in grew into other things because we could see other opportunities.” 

Sean was a budding young photographer who loved how black and white photograph could be so artistic; and how the Banyule 100 space was able to highlight inspiring people.

Sean saw that many young people were being stigmatised and marginalised at the time, and he wanted to change that.

“I saw that there were some bad things going on; some bad stigmas around young people, so I thought it would be cool to highlight people who were doing good things,” Sean said.

“Whether that was a young person or a person working with a young person, and I guess being 17 at the time, it was just blind ambition.

“I pitched Naomi the idea and she said: ‘I reckon that sounds like fun,’ and here we are 10 years later.”

Since 2011 when the project commenced, more and more talented and community focused people have been apart of the project, while providing opportunities and experience to budding young writers and photographers.

Over time, the torch has shifted hands from Sean to many other creatives, but Naomi has always been the mainstay.

Sean is now 30 years old with a young family and with many entrepreneurial businesses under his belt, but Banyule 100 is still something he holds close to his heart.

He said that Banyule 100 may have started with him and Naomi, but the people who have come along after him, have continued to shine that same light on young people and their supports, which was the main goal from the get-go. 

“I didn’t always want to be the one taking the photos – in particular – so I think there was a point where we needed to find some more photographers,” Sean said.

“I think it was a case of ‘how do we help everybody else,’ whether that be a writer or someone doing something cool, it was about getting it out there.

“It was all about giving back and giving someone a chance… so it was good to get some fresh talent in and give them others the opportunity to try out some of the stuff and give them the same experience that I got when I was younger.”

They are both proud of this monumental achievement, which has come together in a captivating piece of art, 100 photographs and written stories that pay tribute to inspiring people who are often overlooked.

For Naomi, she has seen Banyule 100 flourish and many talented writers and photographers across the years thrive in the process, providing a pathway for young people to follow their passions and dreams.

Banyule 100 was integral for kicking-off many new programs in the youth space, including Truth 4 Youth, which worked with budding young journalists to develop written articles and opinions that gave insight into the lives of young people.

Wanting to raise youth voices and inspired by the affect Banyule 100 was having on the community, Banyule Youth Services went on to start Banyule’s Youth Summit; a biennial event where 100 young people from local schools convene to discuss topics important to them, and whereby they make recommendations for realising changes for their community, which are implemented by Council throughout the following year.

Naomi says, “We prided ourselves on implementing all the recommendations from the [Banyule] Youth Summit, so I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of Truth 4 Youth, because that opened my eyes to a lot.” 

In terms of Naomi’s career highlights, she said: “it would be without a doubt, Banyule 100 for the program itself, and all the opportunities it gave young people. The [Banyule] Youth Summit also for the same; to see real action because I know that young people want to be heard.”

Additionally, Naomi has a passion close to her heart involving young carers, and advocating, and amplifying their voices.

“They are incredible young people, that are doing great things for their family and for the wider community.

“I feel carers in general – especially young carers – are a hidden population. That means they don’t get the special allowances, so I am very passionate,” Naomi said.

Sean is now operating and managing multiple businesses, one such project stems from his beginnings with Banyule 100 – ‘Photo Booths for Hire’!

Naomi is currently living her life on a different path at the Parliament of Victoria as the Youth and Community Partnerships Co-ordinator, connecting young people to parliament and still looking for opportunities to help young people shine.

Naomi and Sean are inspiring, talented, and captivating individuals who have created a beacon for local good will and forming Banyule 100 – a platform for local young people and their supports to shine.

As Naomi says, “it’s all about linking young people with opportunities and celebrating their stories.”

Words: Curtis Baines

Photography: Darcy Scales

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