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FYA: Unleashing Change-makers

Nanci Nott shares her thoughts on how FYA are helping the youth of Australia create a better world for tomorrow.


Thanks to Peel Bright Minds, we know all about inspiring a curious community. But what about inspiring a curious country?

This week, I was introduced to the wonderful world of FYA – Foundation for Young Australians. This Melbourne-based organisation is run by Jan Owen AM, who is passionate about supporting young people in creating positive change in the world.

I recently attended the FYA Unleashed Awards with my daughter, Xanthe Turner. We had our minds blown by the scope and success of FYA's support of Australia’s young change-makers.

The Unleashed Awards night, held at Melbourne Town Hall, was a beautifully presented, immaculately organised, event of epic proportions, which began with a showcase of work created by young people. Their offerings ranged from pre-packaged poo, to dog bandanas. Every project placed considerable emphasis on helping others and creating social change.

Moo Poo at the Unleashed Showcase

Xanthe and I spoke to most of the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs involved in the Unleashed Showcase, and found that the one thing they all have in common (aside from FYA’s support) is a deeply-imbedded desire to contribute meaningfully to the world. This is a trait all humans are born with, but which can become lost when society devalues the roles and opinions of young people.

Children and teens can feel disempowered when their voices aren't heard, or taken seriously. Organisations like FYA are crucial in reframing our cultural expectations regarding the impact young people can – and should – have in their communities, our country, and the world.

Xanthe and I spoke to students from Chifley College, who created a board game called, ‘The End’ as part of FYA’s Innovation Nation program. The game focuses on climate change, and demonstrates how the choices humans make have an impact on the environment. The students’ prototype was impressively professional. I would love to play this game with my kids one day, so if anyone out there is looking to fund a worthwhile venture, please get in touch with Chifley College, Mount Druitt Campus.

Chifley College students with their climate change board game.

Speaking of worthwhile ventures, Humanism Global is an organisation created and run by young people, whose mission is to help marginalised people – and their communities – become financially independent. They sell tote bags, lanyards, and jewellery made by women in South India. Humanism Global recognises the importance of providing confidence and safety in employment opportunities for people seeking financial independence.

Xanthe purchased three beautiful necklaces from Humanism Global at the Unleashed Showcase, and we were happy to discover they also have an online store. If you have an event coming up, or need some merch for your business, please consider supporting Humanism Global.

Xanthe Turner with Humanism Global

Another group we spoke with, Humanitee, was created by two young Australians from migrant/refugee backgrounds, Akash Patel and Caleb Maru. They grew up in Alice Springs, and are passionate about working on projects that make real, positive impact within communities.

Akash and Caleb run storytelling and design workshops to create tee shirts about real issues. The tee shirts are sold with a copy of the artist's story, as well as a conversation guide on how to have productive, balanced dialogue on the issue you're wearing on your sleeve.

Humanitee's profits go towards the Australian Refugee Association’s youth art programs, and assist in providing more workshops. Humanitee are running a campaign to support their work, so if you have a few spare dollars, please consider supporting their mission.

Humanitee at the Unleashed Showcase

After the Unleashed Showcase, it was time for the Unleashed Awards ceremony. The MC brought a light-hearted and comical vibe to the event, and FYA CEO Jan Owen, alongside Shadow CEO, Sherry-Rose Bih Watts, moved us with their opening speeches. It was clear to me, even as a stranger from interstate, how deeply loved Jan is by those who work with her, and by those whose lives she has changed.

One aspect of the Unleashed Awards that really stood out, was the inclusive vibe.This is an impressive achievement for any large-scale event, let alone one for which the majority of attendees were from interstate.

Melbourne Town Hall vibrated with excitement, pride, and hope for the future, as category winners and highly commended recipients received their certificates. Georgie Stone (trans and gender diverse advocate), Eva Mackinley (founder of The Last Straw), and Dan Hirst (executive producer of ABC’s Heywire) were just some of the high calibre guests chosen to present the awards, and speak about the recipients’ projects. Between announcements, we were treated to musical performances by Kee’ahn and Nik Navy, and fed a delicious assortment of food.

Xanthe Turner at the FYA Unleashed Awards night

Award recipients included Chifley College, who won the Innovation Nation Award for their climate change board game. Shenton College Deaf Education Centre won the $20 Boss Enterprise of the Year Award for their ‘Dogs for Dogs’ project. Godefroid Mubali won the Storyteller Award for his powerful song, ‘No War’.

The Peel Region was well represented among the High Commendations, with two of our local teens receiving certificates.

Bella Burgemeister, author of environmentally-focused book, Bella’s Challenge, received a High Commendation in the Local Legend Award.

Mandurian Stories, a community anthology written for (and by) the people of Mandurah, won a High Commendation in the Jumpstart category.

Mandurian Stories 2019 was conceived, compiled, edited, and published by seventeen-year-old, Xanthe Turner, who is currently accepting submissions for the 2020 edition. If you have created any writing, artwork, or photography with a connection to Mandurah, and you want to get involved, contact Xanthe at Turner Books.

Xanthe Turner at FYA's Unleashed Awards

You can find a full list of Unleashed Awards winners on the FYA website, along with information about the recipients’ fantastic projects, ideas, and initiatives.

FYA really outdid themselves with the Unleashed Awards, which (I suspect) is not an unusual outcome for this brilliant organisation.

The FYA website says, “We’re working to create an Australia where young people are valued, supported and engaged.” After attending just one of their events, I can see the immensity of the impact FYA has, not only for the youth of Australia, but for the future of our country.

Xanthe and I are so grateful to have spent time in the company of so many inspirational change-makers.

Creating social change is not only possible, it is already happening, thanks to the forward-thinking people whose thoughts and actions are effectively un-picking and re-stitching the fabric of society, to create a better world for tomorrow.

Nanci Nott is a mother, educator, and author, who believes intrinsically motivated learning is the birthright of every human. Nanci loves persuading people to pursue their personal passions, and she adores alliteration.

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