Victorian Young Australian of the Year 2016 final four
Margot Fink, 21 - LGBTI activist (South Yarra)
Part of the four per cent of Australians who are transgender or gender diverse, Margot Fink has become an outstanding role model for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Growing up, Margot felt isolated and alone, and has set about to ensure other young people don’t have to feel the same way. Through her role at Minus18, the national organisation for LGBTI youth, Margot has bravely shared her experiences. The driving force behind the Gender Is Not Uniform campaign, Margot encouraged schools to create safer environments for gender diverse students. She was instrumental in developing All of Us, the first nationally-approved teaching resource on LGBTI topics for Australian high schools, and has spearheaded the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia campaigns. Each year, she helps to organise the Same Sex Gender Diverse Formal, bringing together hundreds of LGBTI young people from across Australia. A powerful force behind Minus18, Margot is determined to reduce the discrimination and stigma faced by LGBTI Australians.
Robert Gillies, 25 - Social enterprise founder (Canterbury)
Undertaking three university degrees simultaneously, leading an orchestra and playing for a number of sporting clubs would leave most people exhausted. But not Robert Gillies. He’s also found the time to devote himself to social enterprises that make a difference to some of our most vulnerable citizens. When he’s not studying for his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, his Masters’ in Public Health or Diploma in Philosophy, Robert can be found helping those experiencing homelessness. A Co-Founder of Homeless of Melbourne, Robert is determined to change negative attitudes towards homelessness through his charity clothing store ‘HoMie’. As Executive-Director of Yarra Swim Co, Robert is reviving the historic ‘Race to Princes Bridge’ and leading the push for a swimmable Yarra River. He’s worked as an HIV researcher and served as a director for charities preventing poverty overseas and in remote Indigenous communities. Enthusiastic and determined, Robert is a role model for young Australians wanting to make the world a better place.
Jessica Marshall, 23 - Mentor (Haddon)
After being told she'd never walk again, Jessica Marshall was determined to prove doctors wrong. Aged 13, Jessica became seriously ill with Marfanoid Syndrome, an incurable life threatening genetic condition that affects the cardiovascular, digestive and musculoskeletal systems and which causes chronic pain, fatigue and frequent joint dislocations. Unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair, she became an inpatient of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for several months and finishing high school looked unlikely. After some setbacks, and with astonishing perseverance, Jess is now studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science while supporting other young people struggling through adversity. Since 2010, she has been a mentor with a variety of chronic illness peer support programs, including the Slow Cure? No Problem initiative for secondary school students in Ballarat. As a co-founder and mentor, Jess shows younger girls how to remain engaged and focused on their studies, how to build resilience during times of adversity, and how to pursue their dreams.
Lucy Richards, 27 - Mental health advocate (Armadale)
A simple desire to help young people flourish has been the motivating factor for Lucy Richards. As the inaugural General Manager of Smiling Mind – Australia's largest health-tech start up – Lucy has grown an online mental wellbeing movement that is saving lives. Since launching the Smiling Mind app in 2012, Lucy has built one of the most highly-regarded, action-based and empowering mental health tools available. In just three years, Smiling Mind has been downloaded by more than one million people, and is being used by psychologists, general practitioners, youth workers, teachers and mental health professionals. Lucy has harnessed the power of corporate partnerships with IBM, Red Cross and Cricket Australia to spread the word that mindfulness meditation can help young people proactively manage their stress and look after their mental health and wellbeing. Lucy also sits on the Junior Advisory Board for the Melbourne Festival, and is a director of YWCA Victoria. Smiling Mind's next challenge? To see mindfulness meditation integrated into the Australian Curriculum.