Tag Archives: Youth

17. Emma Brett

30 Jan

Setting her sights on serving our community as a police officer at a young age, before sparking an interest in wildlife from beloved family camping trips- Emma Brett; a 22 year old chocolate and Brussels sprout lover, has a profound passion for responsible food purchasing.

A recent graduate and honours student of Deakin University, Emma is keen on sparking awareness in the community as to how our everyday choices can have a lasting impact on the world- both positive and negative.

In her second year of University she went on an Environmental exchange to Canada. Upon her return  unshe started a questionnaire with the assistance of her University lecturer. She asked one thousand people from five different suburbs if they ever considered where the food that they put into their mouths each day came from. When the results came in and weren’t what she fancied, her desire for change emerged.

When asked how she lives an eco-friendly lifestyle, she responded by stating that she’s “trying to eat more in season food… and won’t buy food from overseas”. Whilst she agrees that these tasks may be difficult as she isn’t living alone and has to share a lifestyle with others, she is still an admirable role-model by making her own bread, planning her weekly meals ahead of time, growing her own food at home, and eating as a vegetarian. She even looked into fostering a local community garden in a vacant block of land and whilst she was unable to because the land was privately owned, it still remains an interest of hers.

Her goals for the future are high as she hopes to pursue her passions by continuing her research, returning to Canada for permanent work and “educating people by running a university subject or working with kids in a school”.

Her advice to people of all ages is that “You don’t have to be a hippie” to “do your own research” and “know what’s in season”. “You can look at any books from the library or websites which will tell you what’s in season and try to work around that”. Whilst you may not feel as though your actions are contributing, “even if it’s one person, you can make a difference”.

Words By:Annalisa Cercone

Photo by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


13. Lauchlan Denny

2 Nov

Not many 15 year old boys are able to raise over $11,000, complete a 9 day solo cycling trek from Melbourne to Sydney and all to benefit disadvantaged school children in Kathmandu, Nepal. Lauchlan Denny isn’t like any other 15 year old boy; he is already making a difference in this world, one pedal at a time.

Lauchlan has been cycling since last September, when he began training. This young man uses the words “freedom, independence and enjoyment” to describe his new found love: cycling. Unlike many 15 year olds who have a love for video games, Home and Away, or Facebook, Lauchlan’s passion has encouraged him to achieve greatness beyond imagination – all in the name of charity.

Lauchlan’s journey is something that words cannot describe – 9 days of hard work, pain and torture, which even he admits was the “hardest thing I’ve ever done”. It was an amazing feat of over 1,000 kilometres, something that a lot of us could never imagine completing.

Lauchlan attended an information evening held by World Challenge. World Challenge are an organisation that takes teams of high school students trekking in third world countries and encourages them to play an integral part in the planning, fundraising and participation of a chosen community project whist there.  He thought of the bike ride as something he could do akin to Shane Crawford’s inspiring walk from Adelaide to Melbourne to raise money for breast cancer. It was this which helped Lauchlan decide he wanted to sign up to raise money to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than himself.  Always one for adventure, Lauchlan loved the idea of travelling to Nepal with its extreme conditions, as well as the opportunity to experience a culture unique and so different from our own.

He soon learned how difficult it is to fundraise being a non celebrity or unknown!  The money was mainly raised through company sponsorships and individual donations.  Sadly, he was repeatedly knocked back by the big corporations who mostly send the standard email response ‘unfortunately we do not sponsor individuals.’  This is quite deflating for someone who is driven to a cause, however his never give up attitude was necessary to succeed.

Fortunately, a few local businesses got behind his efforts and believed in his ability to successfully carry out what most thought was impossible for his age having a lack of cycling experience.  For example, on his arrival at his first town, Mansfield Cycling Club kindly offered him the opportunity on arrival to set up at their registration sign on for a major weekend alpine ride, where fellow cyclists could donate money to Lauchlan’s cause. Opportunities such as these meant a lot, and was a great way to kick off fundraising for the World Challenge project at the conclusion of his long and painful ride on day 1. 

Telling us of the journey to Sydney, Lauchlan explains that the first and second days were the hardest. After Day 1, he couldn’t walk properly after getting off his bike, which is not surprising considering the first day started at the Melbourne CBD and ended in Mansfield, a 200 kilometre effort! But he says it became “progressively easier… I felt like I got stronger.” From there, he then travelled through areas like Beechworth, Junee, Young, Cowra and Bathurst and finally reached the Sydney CBD, where by then he was understandably relieved to have completed what he set out to, although body tired and exhausted.

Although his sports performance coaches warned there would likely be a slump in attitude around day two or three of such an endurance event, for Lauchlan, this depressive state did not come. His mother, who was with him throughout the journey, says he simply became “more and more determined”. He did have with him a “support crew” of his mum, his grandad and his friend Jake to help and encourage him along the way, and most importantly ensure his safety.

Lauchlan could not hide the smile on his face when modestly acknowledging the idea of being named the next Cadel Evans. Living in an area not far from where Cadel grew up, he is someone whose heights Lauchlan aspires to, particularly with his extraordinary achievements in the Tour de France. Some have labelled Lauchlan as the next Cadel, and this is a prospect he is certainly most eager to fulfil, being thrilled at such a comparison to his hero.

It’s easy to imagine the shock he received when he gained an invite to an exclusive ceremony hosted by Premier Ted Bailieu in Cadel’s honour with special guest Cadel himself! Lauchlan told us with a grin “it was pretty cool” to meet Cadel  and he was very excited at the opportunity. When his mum first came home with the news of his invitation to the event, apparently Lauchy could not believe his ears. His talk with Cadel is now all a bit of a blur, due to the excitement of meeting someone who he very much looks up to. An amazing night was topped off with the Premier mentioning Lauchlan’s solo ride fundraising efforts in his opening speech. Lauchlan was able to chat to Mr Ballieu who was well informed of all that Lauchy had been through, and showed genuine interest in his achievements.

Lauchlan assured us, most eagerly, that cycling is definitely something he is considering as a career. After returning from a long journey that required a lot of endurance, Lauchy explained he has now started looking towards racing as something to take up and has joined a local cycling club. Getting this glimpse of how motivated Lauchlan is in continuing the sport he’s come to love is very inspiring, and it’s easy to see his passion shine through despite his young age.  Lauchlan feels to be able to give back to others through something you happen to be good at no matter your age is very rewarding and satisfying in itself.

Endurance sport takes a lot out of a young growing body. After many months, Lauchlan feels he is almost fully recovered after his long journey, but there is no way that he has stopped riding! He continues to cycle in his spare time and says he also gets pleasure just from riding for fun. Recently he was awarded an ESS Athlete Development Scholarship, where he hopes to build on and develop his skills and abilities in cycling for future success.
Next year at school Lauchlan will be doing a broad range of subjects and apart from cycling he is considering sports science as a future pathway. “Fitting in training and school can sometimes be hard” says Lauchlan, yet it appears he is balancing his commitments very well.

An extraordinarily talented cyclist with a great amount to look forward to in his future, Lauchlan Denny is sure to be a success. He has already proven what fantastic heights he can reach simply by setting his mind to it, and shown that it’s important to give anything a go. Watch this space, as we have no doubt that one day we’ll be celebrating Lauchlan’s win in the Tour de France.

Words By: Annabelle Pendlebury and Joely Mitchell

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


12. Ahmed Tohow

27 Oct

Ahmed Tohow has the extraordinary ability to bridge the chasm between two cultures encouraging understanding and mutual respect.  Having come to Australia ten years ago as a Somali refugee Ahmed has a spectrum of experience to draw upon.  He recounts his own childhood and the freedom with which he moved from place to place.  To a degree he despairs at the difficulty of raising his own children inMelbourne’s suburbs. Like many parents Ahmed is forced to recognise that his children are growing up in a vastly different world to that which he did.  Working to build an integrated community Ahmed is affecting change from within.

This journalist will happily admit to having a bit of a chuckle listening back to our interview and hearing Ahmed’s offhand comment that parents in Somalia had far less to worry about- “only wild animals” different to Australia where “you have to have a parent or guardian with your children at all times”.  For Ahmed and his wife, this new world presented challenges at first as the rest of his family remained overseas.

To the credit of Ahmed’s own upbringing his mother’s encouragement to give and to help has stirred in him a spirit of volunteerism.  The establishment of Dugsi is just one demonstration of his work to build a stronger community.  Dugsi is the product of lengthy observation of the challenges that were facing Somali youth attending Olympic Village Primary School. Dugsi is the Somali language word for school and is a volunteer run homework club for kids in the area.  Without the immense support of Olympic Village Primary School these programs would not likely operate and it is crucial that their contribution be acknowledged.

Language barriers and lacking confidence were two difficulties that Ahmed noticed were impeding his own son and some of the other children from participating at school.  Alongside studying Ahmed chose to spend time at the school helping out. Ahmed was then invited to step up to the role of Multicultural Liason Officer- working to bridge the gap between teachers and the parental community.

The origins of Dugsi brings to mind that old saying that ‘from little things big things grow’. Humble beginnings have since grown to attract up to150 students from prep to year 12.  Initially 2-3 volunteers ran Iqra ,a Saturday class to encourage reading and help Somali students to learn and practice Arabic.

The greatest breakthrough for the program has been the fostering of trust in the parent community. As Ahmed puts it much cultural misunderstanding between the school and parents can be broken down if the “hearts and minds” of the Somali community are won.  This must be done, he suggests, through fostering “trust and respect”.

Trust is one of the core elements of any community and a tool for bridging the gap between the Somali community- that Ahmed calls an “invisible community”- and the greater Banyule community.  The issues at hand are complex. Resettlement and the negotiation of two very different cultures present great challenges for migrant groups of East Africa.

Problems at home are not far from Ahmed’s thoughts either- provoked by an SBS news report the night prior to our interview he speaks of how “disheartening” it is to hear of the ravages of drought and famine over East Africa. He speaks too of his efforts to rally interest from local media to fundraise for this cause.

Ask Ahmed about the future of the young people that come through Dugsi and Iqra and you will be met with a mixed response. On the one hand he has high hopes for young Somalis, “a lot of the young women” he says “are educated and doing really well”. On the other hand Ahmed is pragmatic and speaks of the mentoring support that is needed to raise the potential of the young men and women to take full advantage of educational opportunities. 

In Ahmed’s exceptional hands a simple idea has grown to be a model for success.  Dugsi has succeeded in engaging and empowering not just young Somalis but also parents and community leaders.  Similarly, Ahmed’s message is a simple one.  If we can collectively take steps to uncover the hidden groups in our community and extend a welcoming hand then positive partnerships will form.  If Council and Banyule residents- young and old- work collaboratively then ultimately the future looks bright.

Words By: Anna Carrig

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011


11. Ashlea Michau

20 Oct

According to Ashlea Michau, there’s nothing like the thrill of going to see your favourite band and she should know-she’s been seeing live bands play for years. And now Ashlea has made helping youth through the music industry her job.

Ashlea was a high school student at Greensborough College. As a teenager she loved going to concerts to see her favourite bands play. She said “Nothing beats the atmosphere at a live concert.” I asked Ashlea,’ Did you always see yourself working in event management?’ She replied, “No. I once wanted to be a graphic designer.”

Ashlea started volunteering on Banyule’s FReeZA committee, known as FIAB,  in 2006. FReeZA is a Victorian Government program which supports young Victorians to get involved in community life by planning and running drug, smoke and alcohol-free music and cultural events for other young people. The program works with new and upcoming DJ’s and musicians, getting them publicity and opportunities to perform in their local area. FIAB is a group of 8-12 young people who organise events for youth in Banyule , including YouthFest which has been held at Macleod Park for the last two years as part of National Youth Week. Ashlea is the now the leader of FIAB after coming up through the ranks as a volunteer.  At the meetings with the FIAB she really gives her all and tries to get really involved in helping others.

Ashlea works with youth in Banyule on many other levels. As well as working with the FReeZA program, Ashlea works at the YMCA where she has been nominated for YMCA Leadership Awards.  One of her roles at the YMCA is a new project called ‘Moving Together’.

It is a peer support and leadership program for the schools involved with the regeneration in West Heidelberg. Ashlea says that  “Moving Together has been great to be involved with. It has had its challenges along the way but also has been very rewarding and fun as well.” She explained that it is good to listen and support the students. Ashlea has been helping the children go through the process of planning for a series of activities to celebrate the project and the move to the new school campus.

I asked Ashlea what she liked about working with young people. She replied, “I love working with youth. It’s heaps of fun and very rewarding. At times it can be challenging but this is what makes it exciting.”

Words By: Tyson Jardine

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011

3. Zara Milner

25 May

One two step, tutu step.

Flashback, a little girl in Perth, dressed in a tutu ignites her lifelong passion for dance. Eyes sparkling, set on nothing else, she dreams of becoming a dancer and spreading her joys to the world. Flash forward, the same girl, now a brilliant young woman in Melbourne, stands in front of a class of girls vividly reminiscent of herself, and shares her skills and excitement to their tutu wearing, smile bearing selves.

Zara is a vivacious, welcoming and vibrant person. Through meeting her I was able to take a glimpse at her journey and witness how her supportive glow ripples to others. She taught me that dance is about expression of self, creating confidence and searching for a middle ground of support that enables you to find your feet, create raw moves and showcase that particular part of yourself through choreography.

Studying at ‘The Space Dance and Arts Centre’, a prestigious dance company on Chapel St, Zara discovered her versatility and talent, learnt she could plant her own emotions into her dance, especially through powerful, lyrical contemporary pieces, and most importantly, consolidated her own self belief.

Her ability to run, jump and leap across the room however, was halted by a serious knee injury in 2010, forcing her to temporarily hang up her dancing shoes and focus on rehabilitation. The following stagnancy and lack of creative outlet sent her to a rut where she could “barely walk and was at a loss of what to do”. Through sheer determination, embracing the change and an active pursuit of exciting prospects, Zara found a new way to be involved in the dance community. And this she has done with a true grace, as she now works in a diverse and worthwhile range of programs.  Through teaching hip hop to children of low income families, ballet to young girls at Methodist Ladies College, movement and musicality as an after school care facilitator coach and providing fun creative learning to children living with disabilities, she continues to share her positivity. Continue reading

2. Anna Carrig

7 May

From what I remember, Anna Carrig was wearing a telescope the first time I met her. This is the part where I might put in something about how I’d equate this to her wide-eyed enthusiasm, her incredible vision, or maybe even how it simply matched her golden hair, which had been flailing into my face as I conducted a portion of this interview with her on an amusement ride at the Banyule Youth Fest. She doesn’t need that to describe her though, she’s probably heard it all before.

Anna works with UNYA Victoria, the United Nations Youth Association of Victoria, a branch of the national organisation affiliated with the United Nations itself. Her role in UNYA is as schools convener, put plainly, “I organise the education program.”

Less plainly put is how she describes what she found when she was first involved with the very same education programs that she now organises. “It was really refreshing to be meeting people that were very interesting, passionate, inspiring, and inspired. So it meant that to pursue meeting those kinds of people, I was going back over and over again.” Moreover, the idea that she could meet these people “alongside learning about international issues and the UN [was] really quite eye-opening.” Continue reading

1. Sophie Serese

22 Mar

At 24 Sophie Serese, a Banyule local, lives and breathes music. Sophie has completed twelve full scale operas, founded the Australian Youth Opera, and even studied Musical Composition at the University of Tasmania. Drawing her inspiration from everything including fairy tales and TV shows, Sophie wrote her first full scale opera, The White Cat, at fourteen, and didn’t stop there.

Walk us through the process of writing and performing an opera.

The process started off when I wrote my first opera, The White Cat. First I read the fairy tale and I really liked the story so I thought why don’t I put it to music? The next thing I did was write the first piece for it. After reading the story, working out the text, and setting it all to music I then applied for arts grants which I was successful at getting, and that helped me to put the show on at the Victorian Arts Centre. All in all, operas can take me anywhere from three months to two years to write.

Why opera? Not every 14 year old chooses to write an opera!

I think I was just a very over ambitious child! I’ve always been a classical musician so when I was fourteen I got into watching a lot of operas, and I thought maybe I should try to write one! In hindsight it was a bigger project than I actually perceived. I may not have attempted it now, if I knew what I know now.

Do you have any musical role models? Continue reading