Rural Youth Award banner calling for nominations with last year's winner Lizzie

2020 YACVic Rural Youth Awards

Young people and youth workers in rural and regional Victoria stepped up in the face of isolation, unreliable internet connections, increased stress and other challenges brought upon by COVID-19.

The 2020 YACVic Rural Youth Awards promoted the positive stories and outstanding achievements during these unprecedented times. The Awards showcased the exceptional examples of place-based youth engagement, youth participation, innovation and co-design in rural and regional Victoria.

For 2020, the categories for nomination were:

  • Young person leading change in rural or regional Victoria
  • Youth Worker making a difference in rural or regional Victoria
  • Outstanding youth projects or programs in rural or regional Victoria
  • Rural Hall of Fame

There was an additional Young People’s Choice Award which was voted on by a panel of YACVic young members. Winners received a $1000 donation or gift.

Meet the winners from 2020

 On Wednesday November 18, 2020 Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) held its inaugural Rural Youth Awards. The celebration brought together young people and those working in the sector to celebrate our amazing youth workers and innovative youth projects from across country Victoria.

Designed and hosted by our YACVic Activators and Rural team, with guests from across the state, we recognised the achievements of young people and our rural youth sector.

Young person leading change in rural or regional Victoria


Winner: Janelle Graham from Shepparton 

Janelle is a young, rural youth advocate who is passionate about transforming the education system to become more accessible to young people from backgrounds of socioeconomic disadvantage, and young people being meaningfully partnered with to influence service system reform. Janelle works tirelessly to ensure that the voices of and issues affecting young, disengaged and disenfranchised young people living in rural Victoria are represented and centered at the highest levels of organisational and Government policy development and service and program design, delivery and evaluation. She has overcome much adversity over the years, including youth homelessness, mental ill-health and health challenges and significant intergenerational trauma and uses her own lived experience to support and educate others.


Youth worker making a difference in rural or regional Victoria

Winner: Ken Innes from Mildura

Ken is the program co-ordinator at the Kokoda Youth Mentoring Program at Mallee Support Accommodation Program. Ken is known for supporting young people involved in the program beyond the 12-month commitment, engaging in activities to better know these young people, hearing their stories and understanding what supports they require. Ken takes the time to genuinely get to know these young people, being an incredible role model for each young person that are involved. Ken encourages these young people to make positive change and outcomes in all areas of their life including education, employment and connection to family and community. Even through COVID-19, Kenn continues to strive towards making the program bigger and better, ensuring young people are provided with additional support and programs now more than ever.

Outstanding Youth Project in rural or regional Victoria

Winner: The Keeping In Touch Project (KIT) Project from Bendigo

 The Keep In Touch (KIT) project is a youth lead initiative that runs across the Loddon Campaspe region. The project assists in making access to Youth Mental Health services is regional and rural Victoria easier online and offline. The project focuses on identifying gaps & designing solutions to local problems showing a real commitment to their regional community (in all their diverse experiences). The current focus of the project is to support and empower young people to achieve and maintain good Mental Health during and following COVID-19. Much of the focus is on building young people’s ability to identify their own Superpower and their internal resilience. This opportunity has provided young people with a range of opportunities to undertake public speaking, attend events and develop leadership skills.

Young People’s Choice Award

Winner: The Youth Advisory Board (YAB), Central Highlands LLEN!

The YAB are advocates and leaders in the Central Highlands community. They speak up about issues in an honest way and use their connections to their community to advocate for change and raise awareness of issues that are critical for young people such as LGBTIQA+ equality and safety, environmental awareness/climate strikes, lived experiences of disability, poor mental and physical health, isolation, family Violence, youth justice and community connection. They have worked hard to remain independent and focused on issues that they know other young people care about in their community.

YACVic Rural Hall of Fame

Winner: Pauline Neil

Pauline has been a youth worker since 1985 and is also the co-founder at Live4Life, an innovative, evidence based and local community driven response to youth mental illness and suicide prevention.  She has extensive experience in the youth sector, primarily in local government. Pauline’s roles have always been to seek to develop the community’s capacity to better understand and support young people in regional Victoria, which require a different focus to that of metro Melbourne. Pauline helps rural communities confront difficult issues in their own community. An advocate of place-based responses supports her ethos that these community driven actions are an essential ingredient to making a difference. Pauline always creates opportunity for meaningful inclusion and involvement of the young people she works with, many of whom have gone on to great thing things in their lives.

Congratulations to the winners, all the finalists and thanks to Hon. Ros Spence MP, Minister of Youth, Kane Sparks, Ardu Cubillo, Tessa Jenkins, and Katherine Ellis  for presenting the awards.

Nominations

Nominations for 2020 are now closed. Keep an eye out for the 2022 Rural Youth Awards and make sure you read our FAQs when preparing your nomination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question? Check our Rural Youth Awards FAQs for more information about the nomination process.

Contact us

If you're still unsure about a question, you can contact one of our friendly YACVic Rural staff members via their details below.

Derm Ryan, YACVic Rural Manager 
0408 674 738 or email dryan@yacvic.org.au

Karen Walsh, Rural Development Coordinator – Great South Coast
0472 514 870 or email rural.gsc@yacvic.org.au

Rhiannon Jennings, Rural Development Coordinator – Southern Mallee
0474 506 000 or email rural.sm@yacvic.org.au

Meet the winners from 2018

On Wednesday 26 September 2018 Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) held its inaugural Rural Youth Awards. The celebration brought together young people and those working in the sector to celebrate our amazing youth workers and innovative youth projects from across country Victoria. 

Designed and hosted by our YACVic Activators and Rural team, with guests from across the state, we recognised the achievements of young people and our rural youth sector.

Young people leading change in rural or regional Victoria

Rural Young Person winner Lizzie Harms from Leongatha

Winner – Lizzie Harms from Leongatha

Lizzie wanted to develop a conversation about gender equality and respect in her community. She set up a workshop for hundreds of young women from across a number of secondary schools in Gippsland to work with Clementine Ford and gave young women the language and confidence to articulate their feelings about the world they live in. While this was occurring, young men gathered to discuss the importance of equity and respect for women — truly kick-starting a community wide conversation.  Lizzie continues show up for young people, at every opportunity she is given, or can find for herself.

Youth workers making a difference in rural or regional Victoria 

Lee Ann Rural Youth Worker from Portland winner

Winner – Lee Anne Nelson from Portland

Lee Anne is the Youth Resource Officer in Portland, is the Chair of the Glenelg Youth Network and is a key member and contributor to the youth and community sector in the region. Lee Anne embodies a strong sense of collaboration and partnership, working tirelessly to improve opportunities for young people. Whatever the issue, the community can count on Lee Anne to be there to provide support whether in a strategic role such as chairing the Local Learning and Employment Network to working on a Friday night at the Blue Light Disco. With her no nonsense attitude and dedication she is one of the unsung heroes of the community.

Innovative Youth projects or programs in rural or regional Victoria

Rural Youth Projects winners Youth Live4Life Inc

Winner – Youth Live4Life Inc

Youth Live4Life Inc. was founded in the Macedon Ranges Shire and has expanded to Benalla Rural City and Glenelg Shire. It is an innovative, evidence based and local community driven response to youth mental illness and suicide prevention. The program focuses on a whole of community approach to mental health education and suicide prevention in order to build resilient young people and communities.  Over 8,100 secondary school aged young people have undertaken mental health education and over 1000 teachers, parents and community members have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. 

YACVic Rural Hall of Fame

Rural Hall of Fame winner Kane Sparks from Swan Hill

Inductee – Kane Sparks from Swan Hill

Kane is the Senior Youth Support Officer at Swan Hill Rural City Council. Kane’s knowledge and expertise in youth engagement and participation has established his reputation as a leader in this field. Kane’s ability to successfully engage with young people and facilitate youth participation in a co-design model has resulted in opportunities and support needed for young people to feel connected to their community. Kane always put young people first and is prepared to do whatever he can in his power to ensure that young people in Swan Hill are given as many opportunities as possible.

Congratulations to the winners, all the finalists and thanks to the Hon Minister for Youth Affairs Jenny Mikakos MP for presenting the awards.