Meet The Young Australians Who Are Changing the World

4 May 2018 Magazine

Meet The Young Australians Who Are Changing the World

At the average age of 16 these young Australians are inventors, refugee advocates, environmental activists and trans rights campaigners.

They are featured in the latest Big Issue magazine as part of the new generation of teenagers who are setting the world on fire.

These inspirational young people show us that there's no age limit to challenging the status quo, speaking up to power, and demanding change – like the teenagers fighting for gun control in the US who have captured the world's attention.

But as Deputy Editor Katherine Smyrk discovers, there are plenty of inspiring young'uns in our own backyard. She speaks with five remarkable young Australians who are working hard to make the world a better place. (Read their full stories in the current Big Issue.)

Macinley Butson, 17, inventor

Macinley won the 2017 INTEL International Science and Engineering Award, the first Australian to do so, for her invention of Smart Armour – a shield to protect the non-treated breast of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment. She is 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year and a national youth ambassador with environmental group Green Cross Australia.

"I came up with the idea for Smart Armour after a conversation over the dinner table. Dad works in medical physics and he mentioned that the other breast that isn't being treated receives excess radiation and this can cause side effects, like skin burning. I was in Year 10 and I couldn't understand why there wasn't already something to shield the breast from all this radiation – you know, it's a bit of a no-brainer. So, I decided to do something about it."

Bassam Maaliki, 15, refugee advocate

When Bassam was 13 he started a campaign called #uBelong. He sold key-shaped badges, raising $10,000 for refugee support groups. Bassam is the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament member for Strathfield and won the 2018 NSW Youth Community Medal.

"Being a Muslim and having a Lebanese background means I've lived through a lot of intolerance. I've been called a terrorist and told to go back to my own country. But going through a lot of discrimination motivated me to make a positive change. That's how I came up with #uBelong. It's a simple message of embracing diversity."

For more on #uBelong visit Facebook and Twitter.

Molly Steer, 10, environmental campaigner

When Molly was nine she started Straw No More - and in one year has convinced more than 90 schools in Australia and overseas to do away with plastic straws, and has persuaded Cairns Regional Council to get rid of single-use plastics.

"My mum said, 'When you start something, it's always best to start small.' Straws seemed pretty small. So, I said I was going to stop using them. And then I asked my friends to do the same thing, and my whole school took it on. Then other schools in town heard about it. When I started the Straw No More project, it was just meant to be at Cairns schools. But really quickly, schools from all over Australia and even overseas started getting in touch. I spoke to a lot of schools, and then I was asked to do a TEDx talk. Then more schools signed up, businesses too."

Find out more about Molly's campaign.

Amelia Telford, 24, climate change activist

Amelia was the first ever Indigenous Coordinator at the Australian Youth Climate Coaliton (AYCC). The Bundjalung woman is now the national director and founder of Seed, Australia's only Indigenous youth climate network. Amelia was awarded National NAIDOC Youth of the Year in 2014, Bob Brown's Young Environmentalist for the Year 2015 and Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year 2015.

"I signed my first petition when I was at high school in Lismore, but really my activism started much earlier. Being an Aboriginal woman, you are born into politics, and I was really lucky to be brought up in a family that had such strong values around looking after our land and looking after each other. My friends and family supported me to not only feel that responsibility, but to do something about it."

Read more about Seed.


Georgie Stone, 17, trans rights campaigner

At the age of 10, Georgie was the youngest Australian ever to be granted permission to take stage one puberty blockers by the Family Court. Her case became the basis of a 2013 decision to allow access to stage one treatment for transgender children without court involvement, which in 2017 was extended to stage two access to hormone replacement therapy. Georgie is the 2018 Victorian Young Australian of the Year.

"Removing the court requirements for trans kids to access stage two was massive, because that affected so many people. I think that was my proudest achievement. I can't take full responsibility, there were so many people involved. I also have so many people around me. My family, medical professionals, other young trans people, so I felt comfortable to tell my story because I knew I had support."

Find out more about Georgie Stone. Photo courtesy Australian of the Year.


Read the full stories of these inspiring young Australians in the latest Big Issue magazine, Generation Hope. Buy it from your local vendor or subscribe online.


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