79. Jets Podcast Crew

10 Jun


They were looking for a place to share what they had to say, and they found one – their very own podcast series.

Meet Jamie, James, Holly, Lachlan and Matthew, five Jets participants who formed the Jets Podcast Crew.

Through common interests in media, radio, and music, the Podcast Crew began thinking of ideas, and sourcing content, that was relevant to young people.

The first podcasts they put together after forming in April 2017, were recordings of podcast members reading out Banyule100 articles.

“It feels weird that we started our podcasts by reading out Banyule100 articles, and now we’re being profiled on Banyule100,” James said.

They then began brainstorming topics that they thought would be interesting and educational to young people.

“We found that a lot of people didn’t know a lot about sexual health, we think it’s something that’s not fully covered in schools, particularly information that’s relevant to LGBTQI people,” Holly said.

“So we did a workshop with people that come to Jets, and asked them questions about what they thought was missing in sex education at school.”

They said following these discussions, they went out and did their own research, to try and help bridge these gaps.

“We then put a podcast together that answered some of these questions, it was in depth, but only seven minutes, so not too long that it got to the point where it was boring,” James said.

“We got a really good response from the LGBTQI community, they said they felt like they were being catered for and listened to.”

Since then, they have put together smaller, less time intensive podcasts, to increase content available on their SoundCloud account.

“We also tried to get other programs involved, including the African Women’s Action Group (AWAG), where the girls came in and answered some frequently asked questions,” Holly said.

“It’s important to hear from people in certain communities that won’t necessarily get heard otherwise.

“There’s not necessarily another platform out there where you’ll hear from a group of 16-18 year-old Somali girls, it’s a very specific thing.”

Another one of their podcasts is VibeCast, which is a news podcast with a spin on regular news.

“We were sick of seeing so many negative things in the news, so we did a bit of a reversal on that, just talking about positive stories,” Holly said.

“It might be stories about someone getting out of hospital, or 10 puppies that were born recently, whatever we think might make people happy.”

They said they aim to get one of these podcasts done every few weeks, but it can be difficult putting content together.

“If we run out of content, we’ll go and have discussions, or research what’s going on,” Jamie said.

They said they would love to get more people involved to broaden the topics discussed. The group are on a break for the moment but are planning to get together at the end of 2018 to produce more podcasts.

“We’ve been talking about doing a youth pride one, because when you hear the phrase ‘gang of youths’, you instantly think of negative things because of how young people are portrayed in the media, but we want to counteract that by celebrating young people’s achievements, and drawing attention to all the positive things young people are doing,” Holly said.

“We know plenty of people who are doing really cool things, and we think it will be a multi-episode podcast series, where we’ll pick a person per episode and talk about what they’ve done and how they’ve got to where they are.”

They would also like to do a podcast that draws attention to local musicians.

“We’d like to do some reviews of local artists, ones that people might not know existed, so we get their music heard,” James said.

They also sung the praises of Banyule Youth Services youth worker Kate James, who is one of their biggest inspirations.

“Kate’s the person who’s made it all happen, she’s here every week, she’s a really good motivator,” Holly said.

“She starts a lot of the discussions and helps us come up with some really good ideas.”

Having only met through Jets last year, they said they have all become really good friends.

“Now that we’ve met through Jets, we’ve all become friends outside of Jets, which is pretty cool,” James said.

“We’re really excited about what’s to come.”

Words: Joely Mitchell

Picture: Sean Porter

78. Hayden and Stephanie Rujak

7 Apr


After a trip to the United States in 2014, siblings Hayden and Stephanie were confronted by the homelessness they saw. They felt bad for all of the people they saw living on the streets, and wanted to do something about it. With the help of their parents, they created ‘Hayden’s Helping Hands’, an organisation that aims to assist people living on the streets by putting together care packages.

Hayden and Stephanie Rujak, the founders of Hayden’s Helping Hands are two primary school children who hand out food to homeless people in Melbourne’s CBD to try and help people in need and inspire generosity in the community.

To help those in need, they put together care packages and travel to the city and hand them out to anyone in need that they see. Hayden tells me that they have a spot in Enterprise Park that they frequently go to as there are usually a large number of homeless people in that area, however they do go to different parts of the city and try to hit as many spots as possible. This usually takes place every Sunday night and sometimes on Saturdays.

Hayden says that he is saddened by the fact that these people don’t really have anything. His advice for people wanting to help homeless people is ‘do what you can because every little bit helps.’ In the future, he hopes to see no more homeless people on the streets of Melbourne and aims to travel to other countries around the world to help out in as many places as he can. So far they have given out packages in Melbourne and Sydney, and Hayden will soon be travelling to the Phillipines and hopes to do some good there. In the future he wants to continue the organisation and keep helping different people as he is constantly kept motivated by seeing the way people live, and wanting to give them ‘a brighter day’.

In 2016, Hayden’s Helping Hands won the Pride of Australia award, a huge achievement that Hayden says he is ‘very proud’ of. Stephanie says she was ‘happy, excited, and proud’ to receive such a great award. School friends of both Hayden and Stephanie have expressed interest in the project and have, on a number of occasions, asked to join them in handing out the packages. They have given talks at school assemblies and their school even organised a collection to raise money for the organisation. This is a wonderful example of the community joining together to reach a common goal of helping people.

Once a month, they organise a barbecue under the bridge in the city and cook hot food for the homeless. Their goal is to make the organisation bigger and are currently in the process of taking on volunteers. Hayden says that when they were originally looking for charities to join, a lot of them had age restrictions, so they want to get as many kids involved as possible and don’t want to restrict who can be a volunteer.

If you would like to get involved with Hayden’s Helping Hands, you can register to be a volunteer at their website, or if you are unable to volunteer, they also accept donations. They also have a Facebook page that you can like and share to support these inspirational children on their journey to make the world a better place.

Words: Jennifer Walker

Photo: Sean Porter


77. Pinidu Chandrasekera

26 Feb


Pinidu Chandrasekera admits he’s probably not interested in the things 16 year-olds are typically interested in, but his interests have taken him on incredible journeys in recent times, including to the set of Q&A.

In July last year, Pinidu was one of four high school students selected to sit on the Q&A panel alongside federal politicians Josh Frydenberg and Catherine King, to discuss topical issues.

But the Parade College student admits being selected was purely “coincidental”.

“My friend tagged me in a post on Facebook about the event, I had to send a one minute video into the ABC, where I answered a set list of three questions, why you would be good for Q&A, what issues do you care about most, and how would you go head to head in a debate with politicians, so I sent one in, and I got accepted, it was a big surprise,” Pinidu said.

You can only imagine the calibre of students who applied for the show, but in listening to Pinidu talk about politics and current affairs, it’s no surprise he was selected.

The three topics he said he cared most about were education, economic policy, and foreign policy.

“As a kid, I was always interested in news and current affairs, and what’s going in the world, which led to a natural interest in politics, because that has so much influence on the world,” he said.

“I also like speaking in front of people, and debating, I’ve been doing debating and public speaking at school since I was in year 7.”

He said he gave himself three criteria for if he was selected to be on Q&A.

“I said I wanted to have an extensive knowledge of the issues that would be covered, be consistent with my point of view, and respect everyone’s arguments by always attacking the argument, not the person,” he said.

“We didn’t know what topics would be discussed on the show, so I made sure I was prepared with everything that was going on at the time.”

One of the topics that was discussed was youth involvement in politics, and whether the voting age should be lowered.

“I’m in favour of it being lowered, but before we do it, we would need to make sure we fix our national curriculum, so students get a strong look at the real world, legal studies, politics, and finance,” he said.

“If we can transform the national curriculum to suit this, then I think when kids get to 16 and 17, they’ll be more knowledgeable and suited to vote.”

Another topic discussed was housing affordability, something Pinidu is passionate about.

“I think there’s a general perception that the housing affordability crisis is a lot bigger than it is, which I think is driven by the perception of future prices,” he said.

“Rather than huge policy overhauls, I think we have to be smart, and incentivise things to make it easier for young people to buy their first home.”

He said being on Q&A was an amazing experience, albeit an incredibly nerve-wracking one.

“I hadn’t been on a television set before, let alone a panel, that whole day at school, everyone was telling me good luck, and that just made me more and more nervous, I had butterflies all day,” he said.

“Funnily enough, the nerves actually went away as soon as the show started, I got totally immersed in what was being said that the hour just flew by.”

Following the show, one of the politicians on the panel, Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, was so impressed, that he approached Pinidu to ask if he would like to do work experience at his office.

“During the school holidays, I did work experience at his electoral office, and it was a really interesting experience to see all of the behind the scenes work,” he said.

“I’d never been to a political office before, you see politicians talking on TV all the time, but you never realise all the work that goes on.”

At this point, Pinidu isn’t entirely sure where he sees himself going.

“I’m currently interested in politics, law, and economics, but I’m still deciding exactly what I want to do,” he said.

“They’re all connected in some way, so I’m sure I’ll find something that I’m passionate about doing.”

Words: Joely Mitchell

Picture: Sean Porter

76. Zac Ray

29 Jan


Zac Ray tells me that passion is contagious.

And listening to him talk about his long list of passions, proves this statement to be true.

The 16 year-old is an on-shore volunteer for Sea Shepherd, a non-profit organisation working to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.

He said he was blown away by the idea of the organisation after first being introduced to it.

“My god mother told me about it, and I looked it up and thought it looked really cool, so went to a presentation by one of the Sea Shepherd volunteers,” he said.

“After it, I went and spoke to the volunteer, and was amazed, so signed up straight away.”

He said one thing that impressed him a lot was how proactive the organisation is.

“They’re actually out there doing something, not just talking about it,” he said.

“Listening to the stories of the crew members pulling out nets from the ocean with dolphins and turtles in them, it was just so confronting.”
He said despite his initial eagerness, life got in the way and he was unable to get straight into it.

“I played footy for four teams at the time, so really didn’t have time for it, but at the start of this year I got cut from two of those teams, and that’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened,” he said.

As an on-shore volunteer, Zac helps raise money for the organisation by working at stalls selling merchandise.

He also helps run boat tours for the public, on as many Sundays as he can.

He is currently in year 10 at Parade College, but said he has no issue volunteering on weekends, because he “loves it”.

Zac said this passion was one he never knew he had, although he has always loved the environment, and being in the outdoors.


He also loves animals, and for this reason became a vegetarian.

“My sister is a vegetarian, and pretty much a vegan now, so that’s had a bit of an influence,” he said.

“I got my wisdom teeth taken out, and was on the couch for about a week, so just spent that time watching documentaries about animal welfare, and after it, I was like ‘holy crap, what are we doing?’

“Then one day I was at work eating a vegetarian focaccia, and my manager asked if I was a vegetarian, and I said that I wasn’t yet, and he said ‘well if you haven’t eaten meat today, why not start today?’, and so I did.”

And his activism work extends far beyond the ocean and dinner table, he is working to engage his fellow students about issues that are important to him.

“I started talking to my teachers about my passions, and started a campaign at school to help eliminate plastic waste in oceans by providing recycling bins for soft plastics,” he said.

“I also organised for Sea Shepherd to come in and do two presentations, and they were really popular, we had over 200 students voluntarily attend both.”

He also attended a Climate Justice Summit, run by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, with other high school students, which he said was a great opportunity to meet likeminded young people.

Zac said he has really changed his personal outlook this year.

“Before this year, I thought about things too much, I always wanted to do something, but didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.

“This year, I realised I had to stop trying to be like everyone else, and just be myself.

“It changed my whole perception of life, you’ve just got to put yourself out there and do things.”

He said he plans to continue his volunteer work with the organisation.

“I want to become a crew member on Sea Shepherd, but they get 5,000 applications a year for it, so it’s not easy to be accepted,” he said.

When asked how he would pitch himself so he stood out from the rest, he said he hoped his passion would get him over the line.

“I have volunteered for almost a year now, so I really hope my commitment and passion stand out,” he said.

While doing this, he also hopes to pursue a career as an outdoor education leader, which is his end goal.

“I did a trip with World Challenge recently, they’re a company who run trips with schools,” he said.

“Our group did a four week trek in four countries, Thailand, Laos, China and Vietnam, and worked on a cultural project.”

He said the leaders of these groups are who he wants to become.

“The leader on my year 9 camp was amazing too, after it I was like ‘I want to do that’,” he said.

Words: Joely Mitchell

Photo: Sean Porter

75. Lyn Fletcher

9 Jan


Lyn Fletcher has a wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom that has helped shape Banyule into the community it is today. Lyn currently manages two youth specific programs at Berry St, a Victorian organisation that since 1877 has focused on supporting children, youth and families and preventing family and child violence, ensuring “every child has access to a good childhood.”

The two programs include Post Care Support Information and Referral (PCSIR), which help young adults develop independence and community links after they have left government care, and Transitional Youth Support Services (TYSS) which help vulnerable young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with support to stabilise their situation and seek housing options.

Lyn’s journey to managing these two comprehensive programs began with inspiration from her mother “…who had a huge social conscious and was a part of a workers’ union.” Growing up in Rosanna and West Heidelberg during the time when public housing projects was on the rise, Lyn’s mother helped show Lyn that “there are kids from low socio-economic backgrounds, who are less fortunate than us”.

Her skill set shines through her involvement with “intercountry adoption and foster care which we were a part of for many years. We cared for several sibling groups and a little girl who we now consider our own.”  Through caring for these vulnerable children over the years, Lyn identified “the gaps in the system” and decided to tackle these issues head on. These experiences compelled Lyn to undertake a Diploma of Welfare Studies, and her first placement at Berry St Eltham. She dealt with “helping youth with housing and life skills” from the beginning of her work in the system.

Some of the greater challenges that Berry St and Banyule at large faces in Lyn’s eye include “…raising funds and resources for crisis accommodation”, as “both Banyule and Nillumbik are high socio-economic areas,” and thus not in obvious need of funds.  Homelessness is generally associated with lower income areas, which is why “large campaigns such as Wearing Out Your Welcome, which aimed to raise awareness about youth homelessness in our suburbs was so important.” However, this campaign was not prioritised under a change in government, and although funding of a scaled down version of the recommendations was provided by Banyule Council, Banyule and Nillumbik still face a lack of crisis or affordable housing. “We need to raise awareness about what homelessness actually is- couch surfing, living in tents, all of that, not just being out on the streets.” Lyn asserts that because the idea of what being homeless is so narrow and stereotyped, “many young people wouldn’t consider themselves homeless and therefore do not seek support.”

Lyn hopes that Berry St and other youth services in the Banyule/Nillumbik area will continue to address these gaps and meet the needs of young people by “being strong advocates for them and providing a youth hub…a centralised place where youth-specific services can be accessed.”  This expansion, in her mind, will ensure “the youth voice is heard, and that (we can) maintain high quality service.”

With the remainder of her career, Lyn aspires to help “grow the accommodation (facilities) within the North-East…so that there is more than one model… where young people could live in crisis, medium or long-term accommodation with support on site, similar to the Youth Foyers that already exist in in areas such as Glen Waverley and Broadmeadows. “the time is right for the North East to have one too” says Lyn.    She also hopes that the formal age for Leaving Care will be raised from age 18 to 21 and access to support available up to age 25, as “many young people, who have experienced trauma and have a care history may have disrupted education and lack of opportunities and require support beyond age 18.  “We fail them if we don’t acknowledge and cater for this.”

It’s clear that Lyn is driven by “…seeking social justice for young people,” and “identifying issues and addressing them together” so much so that “it’s a passion, never work for me!” She encourages others to find a similar path. She believes her long, enriching “work and life experience…before entering the welfare sector, has contributed to her commitment “to get the job done”. Lyn continues to advocate for young people’s right to safe and secure accommodation linked to their community in particular the young people of Banyule and Nillumbik.

Words:  Taylor Carre-Riddell

Photo: Sean Porter

74. Michael Sibillin

27 Dec


Michael is a bright, charismatic 20-year-old costume extraordinaire.  He is “on the autism spectrum”, which means he understands and processes the world around him a bit differently, but as Michael assures me, “I’m not shy or anything at all!” He and his bubbly mother Nadia live in the city of Darebin, but he attended the Concord School, Bundoora and is helping spread his passion with school communities.

Michael first began creating costumes 6 years ago, where “he started making little things such as figurines and boots.”  He wanted to “learn patience… learn how to research, and pay attention to little details.” Nadia leans forward and explains how people with autism tend to “grip onto”  one topic and study it obsessively. When Michael started making costumes he made Power Rangers outfits, a colourful team of superheros who have a long time TV show.

Passion helped Michael figure out how to “use cardboard, glad wrap, glue, duct tape, stick on diamonds, and sequins” to create costumes that are both “functionable and wearable.” Michael tells me that he achieved his first wearable costume a few years ago when “I made a Bowser mask that had a moveable mouth.” Bowser is a Mario-Kart video game character that is close to Michael’s heart. He was enthralled with making “functional and wearable costumes”  and Bowser’s snout was the perfect place to start embarking on this endeavour.

However, nothing comes close to his latest passion and costume inspiration; the legendary rock band KISS. Michael is fixated with the Creatures of The Night and Dynasty eras and album, most well-known for giving lead singer Gene Simmons his demonic face look. He made a Gene Simmons costume with spikes and boots that is incredibly lifelike. His costuming prowess has landed him a potential exhibition project at Jets Studio, a creative youth focussed studio in Bundoora.

Michael enjoys playing and teaching himself guitar in the Jets band, Kings of Lightning and is “excited for my first gig” which is soon approaching. He says playing guitar is a big part of his life, and he has met many music and rock loving friends this way. Michael also gave a talk at West Reservoir Primary School, helping the kids “make foil people, using things you’d never think of using normally.”

Michael hopes he can continue his costume building and figurine making well into the future, inspiring and helping the community all the while.

His advice for any young or beginner costume designer and makers is make a costume of something you like, as this is what keeps the extra hard work in the early days more fun!

Words: Taylor Carre-Riddell

Photo: Sean Porter

73. Ally King

7 Dec

Ally 2

Ally King is a passionate young woman who is well on her way to changing many lives. The first year Monash University student was recently nominated in the Youth Category of Banyule’s Volunteer of the Year Award, and for a good reason.

She has been volunteering with the organisation Open House for about four years now, on top of studying Science at Monash University, working part-time at McDonalds and playing in an orchestra at university.

“I’m one of those people who has to be busy,” she says with a laugh. “So I have to be careful I don’t bite off more than I can chew.”

Located in Macleod, Open House is an organisation committed to providing safe places and programs for a variety of people who are marginalised in society. Their focus is on disadvantaged youth.

“Originally I was with their Fun For Girls program, which provides good female role models for kids that are mostly primary school aged who might not have that in their lives. We do a range of things. We might do cooking one week or dance another week.”

During the four years Ally has been with them, Open House has been able to expand their programs.

“I moved with them into their Fun For Teens program, which we run on a Friday night. It gave that same kind of structured program but was aimed at teenagers, in a mixed gender sense. We’ve now expanded and instead of that we run a drop in centre on a Friday night. So I help in the drop in centre, and it’s a safe place where kids can come in their teenage years, and hang out with their friends and get a cheap meal.”

“I’ve also helped develop and run their new playgroup, which has been running for about six months now. So that’s a place where mums from all walks of life can come, bring their kids, and the kids can play while the mums have a talk, have a coffee. It’s a nice place for them to be able to relax while their kids get that important social interaction with other kids.”

This interaction and the possibility of helping vulnerable young people is what Ally finds so satisfying.

“I think it’s so rewarding to see how I can positively influence young people’s lives. See their smiles when they come in every week. I’ve made some amazing friends and connections with some of the teenagers and I’m able to be that positive influence in their life that they might not otherwise have, which is really great.”

“Before that I was already doing volunteering. I’d done an Anglicare asthma appeal through school … I’d been doing the newspaper rounds at the [Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital] for a couple of years.  I’d sung Christmas carols at old people’s homes. I already had a strong history of volunteering by that point.”

Ally heard about Open House through her high school Ivanhoe Girls Grammar. When she was completing her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award, she was approached by the volunteer coordinator at school.

“She asked if it was something I would be interested in doing…and I’ve been there ever since.”

When I ask about the future plans with Open House, Ally answers straight away. “We’re looking to expand the playgroup a little bit. Get some more toys and stuff so we can make it the best program possible.”

Her own future plans are just as certain. “I want to work with kids in medicine.”

Given all she has already achieved, I’d say she is well on her way to making this happen.

Words: Charlotte Long

Picture: Sean Porter




72. Joanne Rockwell

20 Nov


Joanne Rockwell is a go-getter. In 2006 the Co-Founding board member started Boots For All, a sports equipment recycling charity and store, when she realised nothing existed to help disadvantaged people with limited access to sport. Since then the charity has grown and gone from strength to strength.

“Boots For All started after a close person passed away and it was during a period of acute grief,” Rockwell tells me as we sit in a room at the Banyule City Council offices. “At the same time I met some women visiting Melbourne from Maningrida, which is a remote community in Northern Australia.”

They were in Melbourne to buy football boots for their sons and grandsons who were about to play in a grand final in Darwin.

“The women were embarrassed their sons weren’t playing in football boots. I thought, oh wow, we’ve got several pairs at home. I was also the registration director of the local St Mary’s Junior Football Club at the time and we had more than 650 juniors. So I thought, we could collect some footy boots and drop them off to a charity or recycling sports equipment store.”

Rockwell found nothing when she looked for a charity that already did this. “So I got a team together and we made a start.”

Initially, Boots For All just started with footy boots. As they grew, though, they expanded to include “all codes of sport and all items including footwear, clothing and equipment.”

They have sent out close to 70,000 items to children and teens across Australia, and have spent five years advocating to the federal government to have barriers to sport included in the definition of poverty. Rockwell’s advocacy paid off. The tax act has been changed to include barriers to sport within the definition to poverty.

“Fundamentally our organisation is based on respect. So everything we do is founded on respectful relationships and treating people in our business with respect and treating our recipients with respect.”

Boots For All’s focus on respect extends to the condition of the sports equipment, all of which are hand-washed. “We have a philosophy. If we wouldn’t like to receive it we don’t send it.”

Through this, Boots For All have gained a reputation of being extremely trustworthy and have gained well-known partners and supporters. Essendon FC is the founding partner of Boots For All and Rockwell has been able to connect with Australia Post, Commonwealth Bank and Netball Victoria to name a few.

Alongside the aim to break down barriers to sport, Rockwell is committed to helping break downs barriers to social isolation, such as being unable to find paid employment, by employing young people and providing volunteer positions for work in the store.

“People coming through our volunteer program actually were getting really high quality training and on the job experience, but weren’t getting publicly recognised or being able to put that on their resumes. So that motivated us to formalise our on the job work experience and training program.”

Ultimately, this has resulted in a partnership with Box Hill Institute and the establishment of an accredited training and employment program. This program was started to help provide support to deliver accredited pre-employment training to 90 young people in the community who face barriers to employment.

“We found some of the feedback and reflections on the project was that some people could benefit from pre-employment training and accredited on the job work experience and  vocational training before they commit to particular area of either warehousing or retail for their apprenticeship.”

“We partnered first with the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation to provide apprenticeships in retail and we’ve had a really great initial cohort of 9 people. We’ve re-employed 5 of those graduates within our social enterprise sports store.”

“There are lots of young people in our community that have a lot of great skills and a lot of experience to bring to a business and to bring to an organisation. Having flexible employment environments to people to learn on the job and get that foot in the door to be able to develop their skills and increase their capacity for work is really important.

“By not providing those flexible environments, our society and our community are really missing out on benefiting from what our young people in our community have got to contribute.”

Rockwell is looking forward to the future of Boots For All, and hopefully continue it’s growth.

“We’d love to have a Boots For All store in every state and territory. We’d love to be across more regions, to connect with more people in our community that could benefit from quality accredited training and on the job work experience and paid employment.”

With such a passion and drive, it is clear Rockwell and her team will achieve this.

The Boots For All store is located in Briar Hill. People who want to get involved can volunteer in a variety of roles or can donate sporting equipment. For more information visit their website https://www.bootsforall.org.au.

Words: Charlotte Long

Picture: Luca Johns


71. Dave Pizarcoff

20 Oct


Dave Pizarcoff is friendly, fun and full of energy. It’s not hard to imagine him up on stage doing what he loves best – cheerleading.

Dave, who has Down syndrome, has been cheerleading for around five years now and was the first Special Abilities Cheerleader in Australia. He is known within the cheerleading community as Dynamite Dave.

His father, Peter, has been involved in cheerleading since it commenced in Australia. A friend of Peter’s, who is a cheer coach, helped Dave to become involved. The coach spotted Dave, saw how strong he looked and immediately wanted to give Dave a go at the sport.

Peter proudly tells me, “Straight away, on his first day, he was picking up all the girls over his head!”

Dave started out at Cheer Factor, before moving to Atomic Cheerleading. Then, about two and a half years ago, Dave was invited to go over the United States to compete with the Oklahoma Twisters in the National Cheer Association championships, the biggest cheer competition in the world.

Peter says, “There’s about seventeen to eighteen thousand cheerleaders competing in it – it’s huge! Dave was the only non-US Special Abilities Cheerleader to compete in the NCA.”

According to Dave, the experience was “really good”. He also loved having the chance to perform a cheerleading demonstration in Palm Springs.

Now, Dave is busy competing in competitions around Australia.

“I love Championships and Nationals,” says Dave. “I love going in the State Championships in Knox and MSAC.”

Dave has been focusing on stunting, which is “like a one and a half minute showcase of all the cheerleading skills,” says Peter.

Dave competes with his cheerleading partner, Blazing Brittany, in the Special Abilities division.

Dave loves the physical challenges of the sport too. “I lift some of the girls up over my head and I’m happy to be one of the big, strong boys,” says Dave.

“I’ve got a personal trainer and I go to the gym to do weights every Saturday,” he adds.

Thanks to his cheerleading success, Dave has become quite the Australian legend and has even been interviewed by The Project.

“Now all my fans love to take photos!” Dave says with a mischievous grin.

 Dave has around 3,600 followers on Facebook and has done presentations at schools around the state.

 “A lot of kids write to Dave, saying he has been an inspiration and has got them into sport – not necessarily just cheerleading,” says Peter.

“Dave’s hash tag is ‘Be Your Best’. I get a big buzz when kids write to Dave and say they’re getting involved because of what he’s doing.”

Apart from his passion for cheerleading, Dave is also pursuing his other interests. Dave is particularly interested in music and with the help of the Jets organisation, has become an enthusiastic DJ.

When I ask Dave about this, he is quick to show me his customised t-shirt with his DJ name, ‘DJ Dave’, emblazoned upon it.

“I’ve got another DJ name, which is ‘DJ Funk-D’,” Dave says. “My older brother is also a DJ and used to be called ‘DJ Funk-C’, so I’m called Funk-D.”

Banyule Youth Fest, Banyule Arty-Farty Festival, Watermarc Greensborough and the YMCA are just some of the places where Dave has performed. “I enjoy being a DJ at Watermarc,” he says. “When there’s people swimming in the pools, I think they enjoy the music. I had one of them dancing and singing in the pool. It’s good fun.”

Eventually, Dave hopes to play even bigger gigs. “I’d like to do weddings, parties, things like that. I’d like to play in the United States. You’ve got to start somewhere!”

With Dave’s ambition, I have no doubt he will be a hit wherever he plays.

As for his favourite musicians, for Dave there is no question. Dave loves the Australian band, Sheppard.

“I’m going to see them on Saturday!” Dave says excitedly.

The last time Dave saw the band live with his cousins, he was spotted by the band and pulled up on stage. “They got me a t-shirt, that was all signed, and they drew a Dynamite on it,” says Dave.

The band members are fans of Dave’s too, allowing him to use their hit song ‘Geronimo’ in an edited video showcasing Dave and his cheerleading skills.

Peter pulls out his phone to play the video for me and as Geronimo plays, Dave dances along to the catchy song. It is easy to see why the band loves Dave too – he is a straight up, hard-core fan and is not afraid to show it.

At Jets, Dave is also spending time making comedic parodies of his favourite songs.

Dave says, “I got the idea of making parodies from Fitzy and Wippa on Nova. My parodies are based on theirs.”

“That’s how I got my idea. I’ll listen to them and then come up with my own words.”

“In the past I have done Ariana Grande’s song ‘Break Free’. Then I did ‘You should be So Lucky’. I’ve done heaps!” says Dave

Dave is going to continue working on his parodies at Jets. “We’re going to film it on a green screen and edit it on a video editing software.”

Once he finishes recording them, Dave is keen to create a Facebook page dedicated to his videos. When his videos are finalised, Dave and his father plan to upload them to Facebook. Keep your eyes peeled for Dave’s upcoming parodies.

With so many incredible accomplishments under his belt, it is no wonder Dave has now become a mentor for younger kids at Jets. “I get something out of it too,” he says.

If you would like to see what’s up next for this local favourite and internationally recognised cheerleader, then check out his Facebook page here.

Words: Annabelle Pendlebury

Photo: Luca Johns



70. Nancye Harrison

25 Sep


Nancye is positively full of energy as she talks about her work for and with young people. The more I hear, the more I find myself sharing Nancye’s enthusiasm about the importance of helping them stay engaged in education and employment pathways, and making services for young people more supportive and accessible. Her passion for the young people in our community is heartening and it’s inspiring to witness.

For Nancye, it all began in the classroom. Despite her father’s hopes of an accounting career for Nancye, she headed into teaching because she “couldn’t picture herself sitting in an office everyday crunching numbers”.

“I just thought, I love teaching, so maybe I could make it interesting for other young people!” she says.

It seems an open-minded outlook comes naturally to Nancye, as she talks to me about readily adapting her teaching style to the needs of the kids she taught.

“In my first year out of university, I went to a school in the Northern suburbs. I was going to teach like I was taught, in an academic environment – only, English wasn’t [the students’] first language. It was a big shock to me. Not everybody learned by opening the textbook and doing the questions,” Nancye says.

“I really liked the kids, so I totally rejigged the way I taught and made it more engaging,” she says.

Nancye was also eager to “give something else a go” and spent some time in the hospitality industry, then worked for a recruitment agency. However, Nancye soon decided to go back to teaching. At her next job in Coburg, she found herself teaching students from an array of diverse backgrounds.

“It was pretty amazing, pretty interesting,” Nancye says.

“Again, I had to work out how to change my teaching so everyone there had an opportunity to learn because there were big extremes in ability, disadvantage, all sorts of things. So it really became my mission to make sure everyone had an opportunity to do well.

“And to do that, I think, is actually much more rewarding. You inspire those who are academic to do better in those pursuits and for those who are applied learners, you give them an opportunity to learn as well,” says Nancye.

Eventually, this school was closed so Nancye moved to Montmorency Secondary College, becoming the VCAL Coordinator.

“It was awesome!” she tells me.

“I am just amazed at what those young people achieved and still continue to achieve.”

“I’m still in contact with a lot of those students,” Nancye says “Through social media, I’m able to check up on them! Even though they are not my kids, I feel good because I had a bit to do with that, for some of them.”

Nancye’s eagerness to expand the opportunities of young people has led to her becoming Executive Officer of the Banyule Nillumbik Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), where she has helped “set up their Workplace Learning Program, so that our kids get experience in industry while they’re still at school”.

“These days, I don’t actually work with young people and I miss it a bit! But I have to be satisfied that what I do makes a difference to young people,” says Nancye.

“I bring people together to make a difference. By bringing people together, through collaboration, the output should be greater. Working with 25 kids in a VCAL class was awesome! It was very satisfying, but here I can bring community agencies and schools together and – hopefully – we’re having an impact on hundreds of kids.”

“Schools are great at being schools, parents are the experts in their own kids, we have industry experts who know what’s going on in their industries, we have the government having a guess about what’s going on! So we’re partnership brokers. If we’re able to bring them together and then share that expertise with schools, with parents and with community, then hopefully we can get some programs up and running that support kids to transition to their next step.”

According to Nancye, industry-based learning is important because “research shows that those who are engaged in education and training will have better long-term outcomes in terms of employment, ongoing employment and earning capacity”.

“We need to look at how we help young people who are experiencing some disadvantage to transition. School can be very supportive. What do you do when you leave school? We need to look at how businesses and schools can come together to support everybody,” says Nancye

Last year, a major event the LLEN helped facilitate was the ‘R.O.K’ (‘Reengage Our Kids’) Forum. Community agencies, youth workers and representatives from schools were amongst those who gathered to discuss challenges preventing students from engaging in education and to devise practical methods for improvement.

“That was really well received. This year, we’re filtering through that information and looking at what we can put in place to help those young people. Some of the information is being funnelled into the Banyule Nillumbik Youth Services Network and they will work on some projects,” says Nancye.

Nancye also chairs the Banyule Nillumbik Youth Services Network, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“It’s so important because, like the LLEN, it’s all about that collaborative effort and it’s about supporting those who, at the grassroots, are working one-on-one with young people who could be really doing it tough and need support,” says Nancye.

The Network has been responsible for some important initiatives, such as research into youth homelessness.

“Because we don’t see kids on the street here, people aren’t often aware that homelessness is an issue. We have huge numbers of kids couch-surfing, kids in their cars, or kids sleeping in other people’s garages. But you can’t stay on someone’s couch for a month.

“We are advocating to State Government to bring resources to Banyule and Nillumbik, to help us with this homelessness issue. We would like to see increased access to crisis accommodation, separate for both boys and girls so they are safe. That resource is very limited… If they have to move into the city, they may have to be in shelters with adults, where other types of harm might become an issue,” says Nancye.

Nancye and the networks she is a part of are working towards some truly wonderful changes in youth services. In particular, Nancye emphasises the importance of wrap-around services that can cater to the diverse needs of young people.

“We can have better communication and links between services – the government can help with that,” Nancye says.

“If someone goes to a service like headspace and goes there to talk about a mental health issue, well if they also at that time specify they’re having trouble with housing, then they should only have to tell their story once. All the services should be networked together so they can work together to solve those sorts of problems.”

Nancye leaves me some final words that convey a strong message of support for young people.

She says, “I think the other thing that has to happen – and youth services can help with this – is celebrating young people. The way we talk about young people has to be positive. Our policies need to be more positive about young people because I have seen – just from teaching young kids – that if you give them some self-esteem, some belief and some support, great things happen.”

Words: Annabelle Pendlebury

Photo: Luca Johns