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Heywire: giving a voice to remote, rural and regional youth

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Six Indigenous and non-Indigenous young women in different coloured and styles of clothing stand arm in arm. In the background is a playing field.
2018 Heywire storytelling competition winners and mentors
9 Feb 2018

Eleven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people came to Canberra this week, winners of the 2018 Heywire storytelling competition.

They joined another 27 winners at the ABC Heywire Regional Youth Summit. This annual event brings together young people from all over Australia to discuss and tell stories about the issues facing their rural and regional communities.

Like many, Latresha Maka from Dauan Island in the Torres Strait had a sad story to tell. Her nephew died because of the poor availability of health services on her island. She is now studying nursing at Concordia College in Toowoomba.

‘At our health centre, we don’t have nurses and doctors who stay permanently. They just come and go,’ Latresha said.

‘I’m hoping to bring health to islands that are isolated from the main islands.’

During the week, the winners participated in workshops and with the aid of mentors, converted their stories and ideas into action plans. They had the opportunity to meet with government ministers and their respective members of parliament.

The Heywire week also included presentations from 15 Trailblazers. They included previous Heywire competition winners and other young people who are creating positive change in regional Australia. The summit enables them to ‘take their work to the next level’. During the week, the Trailblazers reported on their projects to an audience packed into the Great Hall at Parliament House.

The 2018 Heywires’ met in the Parliament House theatre where the storytelling competition winners presented their ideas.

Through role plays and other creative approaches, they proposed programs and events designed to confront issues as diverse as drug use, domestic violence and connecting youth to their culture.

They explained their plans to educate the community about rural health services, teach rural youth about mental health issues and how to introduce immigrants and refugees to life on a farm.

Ajay Williams, a young Bundjalung man from Casino in Northern NSW was part of the ‘Step Up’ group who advocated for an increase in the number of role models in our communities.

‘I met a heap of different friends all with different stories,’ Ajay said.

‘I hope to get more role models in our community able to empower other people to step up.’

The Heywire event wrapped up with a gala dinner at the National Museum of Australia, where each received a certificate. They closed out the evening and the week with a stunning rendition of the song, I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.

Instead of singing it, they signed it in Auslan and received a standing ovation.

Somehow, during their busy week, these future leaders of Australia found time to learn how to ‘sign’. One of the Heywire winners, Nia Harrison from Horsham in Victoria, taught them. Nia’s mother, grandmother and aunty are deaf and Nia might also become deaf one day because ‘it’s in my genes’.

The Heywire summit created friendships, it clarified ideas and plans, but most importantly, it motivated everyone involved to make a difference in their community.

Find out more

Improving the quality of life in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a high priority of the Australian Government.

The ABC works in partnership with the Australian Government and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to fund and present Heywire.

This year, Heywire celebrates 20 years of giving a voice to the youth of Australia living in rural, remote and regional areas.