“I am achieving things I would never have dreamed of doing when I was younger ...if you keep at it, surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people, seek help when you need it and remember how capable and amazing you are (yeah you are!), you will get there.”–Brittany Witnish, YACVic Young Thinker in Residence 2017
Reaching your full potential is not a linear path. Every step forward takes guts and it takes even more guts to acknowledge the times you felt a little lost in your journey. Brittany Witnish doesn’t shy away from those times when she’s felt unsure. It’s what led her to reaching out for support and surrounding herself with people who share the same vision as her. A vision for every young person to “have the best chance at a great life”.
When we first met Brittany, her commitment to supporting young people leaving care left a huge impression on us. As a young care leaver herself, we saw Brittany’s passion and potential and that’s why we invited her to participate in our Young Thinkers in Residence program 2017. Young care leavers often face great hardship and disadvantage, both before and long after leaving out-of-home care. During Brittany’s residency she developed a piece of advocacy that took the form of an outstanding research report, Young Care Leavers: The Need for Peer Support.
It’s been a year since Brittany started thinking on her project and we caught up with her to find out what she’s been up to since then.
Life since the Young Thinker in Residence program
What have you been up to since your time as a Young Thinker?
Since working with YACVic as a Young thinker in Residence, I completed my Bachelor in Community Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs and have started my Master of Social Work. I have participated in a panel with Melbourne City Mission and I have become a young consultant with the CREATE Foundation. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to have an article written about my story and my achievements and have been able to speak at events such as the Home Stretch campaign launch. I am about to start some work with The Center for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, and I’m also a young consultant on a new program at Youth Law that supports young care leavers.
What drives you to do the work you do?
I just want young people to have the best chance at a great life. This is especially important to me when it comes to supporting and advocating on behalf of young care leavers. Young care leavers deserve the same start in life, as any other young person. My goal is to help remove some of the barriers that prevent young care leavers from living the life they want.
What have been the highs and lows of the projects you’re working on?
So far there have been mostly highs. I’ve been supported throughout all the work I do, and I’m lucky to have met many wonderful people from different organisations who have taught me a lot. I’ve had really great mentors and role models, such as the team from CREATE, the YACVic team, and many others who I've been connected with and who share the same goals as I do in regards to supporting young people in out-of-home care. The only low I can think of is my time management! There are so many awesome things I want to be able to do, but my studies are my number one priority at this time, and so I must make sure that I am only taking on things that can fit around class and assignments.
What advice would you give for young people wanting to embark on similar projects?
Think of an area that you are passionate about. Look at what problems there may be in that area and find a new perspective or new idea on how you might address that problem. Be creative! Draw from your own personal experience, look at what has worked and what hasn’t worked, think about ways you could take your ideas to make change or to raise awareness. When in doubt, or in need of ideas or support, find an organisation that works in that space and make a call to see if there are people you can speak to, or if mentors are available to you.
To the next Young Thinkers – you can always speak to anyone in the YACVic team, or the mentors they link you in with. They were so supportive and helped me in moments where I felt a little lost, and feeling lost is totally normal! At times I was unsure as to how to put all my ideas together, how to effectively gather all the information I needed, and how to write it in a way that made sense! But with time, effort and support I was able to make something that I could be proud of.
What’s coming up for you for the rest of the year?
Studying! So much studying for my master’s. I will also continue being a young consultant with the CREATE foundation, and continue being a young consultant with Youth Law. I’m looking forward to working with The Center for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and seeing what awesome projects we can do together! I am also keen to see what other opportunities may come my way.
Brittany’s top 3 insights
What I know now that I didn’t know then… Stick to your passion. I never thought I would be smart enough or capable enough to do what I'm doing now, but crazily enough I stuck at it! and I am achieving things I would never have dreamed of doing when I was younger. It’s hard especially when you’re young, but if you keep at it, surround yourself with like - minded supportive people, seek help when needed, and remember how capable and amazing you are (yeah you are!), you will get there.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced and overcome was… leaving care at 18, and now I have come out the other side and support other young care leavers!
Every young person can… reach their full potential.
Find out more about our participation opportunities for young people here or contact Sam Champion, Participation and Development Coordinator, via firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 92673702.
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