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Determination to succeed in the face of adversity leads to National NAIDOC Youth Award for Latia

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A young Aboriginal woman in evening wear holding a large blue plate.
Latia Schefe has been named the 2017 National NAIDOC Youth of the Year for her inspirational determination to survive multiple medical setbacks.
19 Jul 2017

If a film producer wants a feel good true story about someone overcoming adversity they have the perfect story in Latia Schefe.

Latia, the 2017 National NAIDOC Awards Youth of the Year, had her first setback at age six when she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer and underwent multiple operations and chemotherapy. Latia’s diagnosis changed from Neuroblastoma cancer to a Wilms Tumour and led to the loss of a kidney.

As a result, Latia spent her childhood in and out of hospital but continued her education at Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital School, which she initially found confronting.

“At first attending hospital school was weird because it’s not an ordinary classroom. You’ve got kids connected to machines and struggling to breathe,” Latia said.

“After a while though you get used to it and concentrate on the lesson.”

Despite her hardships, Latia successfully completed her high school education and also participated in leadership and teamwork activities preparing her for life after school. Her determination to succeed saw Latia honoured with many awards, including the Australian Defence Force Long Tan Leadership and Teamwork Award and the Jane Prentice Award for Indigenous Student of the Year.

So, when the National NAIDOC Committee met to choose an inspiring young person for the Youth of the Year, the decision was simple. Yet it still took Latia by surprise.

“I came to the Awards with no thought of winning anything, so it was such an amazing, unexpected moment when I heard my name called out,” Latia said.

“I never thought about being a role model but now I’m honoured to think that others will look up to me. It’s a big responsibility.”

Now Latia is determined to make her future as bright as possible.

“I’m going to be studying a Certificate III in Allied Health and working with Deadly Choices yarning to kids about issues like prevention of chronic disease, smoking, drug and alcohol use and plenty more.”

Find out more

Visit the National NAIDOC website or Facebook page for more details about the event and award winners.