Senator MOORE (Queensland) (10:10 PM) -
In 1998, the ABC launched a brand new program called Heywire to give rural youth a voice. I remember travelling in a car between Cairns and Townsville listening to the radio, as I always do-the ABC-and hearing a presentation on what a great new program this was going to be and interviews with a couple of the young people who were the very first entrants in the Heywire contest. In their voices you could feel the passion and the excitement and the real commitment they had to Heywire.
We are now in 2010. I have been in this place several years, and it has taken me seven years to make this speech. I was always going to make a speech on Heywire and tonight, as a result of a promise I made to a few of the Queensland entrants in last year's Heywire contest, I am making it. I met with them at the annual dinner that is held in Canberra, most recently at Old Parliament House. I was sitting and listening to the stories and the commitment and passion from a group of extraordinarily talented young people who cherish their heritage, who enjoyed and were excited about growing up in rural Australia and who genuinely want to tell their stories to the rest of the country. As I listened to them and laughed with them and shared stories with them, I said: 'Okay; this year, in the adjournment debate, I'll be able to give my contribution to what I think is an extraordinarily exciting program.' When Mr Tony Rasmussen, Manager Regional Local Radio in the ABC network, was talking about this year's Heywire people he said:
Heywire celebrates the diversity, passion, humour and the heart-edged reality of young people in regional Australia using the full range of digital storytelling techniques.
What we had in 1998 was the same diversity. In those days we were focusing on people telling their stories, which would then be translated into a radio broadcast. One of the real excitements was when people were selected as regional winners. It varies across the country, but usually about 40 regional stations in Australia pick their local winner, who then gets the opportunity to come to Canberra for a wonderful leadership training program. I know that everyone who comes here really enjoys the leadership and the bonding, but I think what really matters are the networks they make amongst themselves.
You can feel the energy when these people are together. In 1998, most of these were radio transmissions, but now there is a full range of techniques, some of which I do not even understand. These talented young people are able to continue the history and the marvellous legacy of years of sharing their stories, talking about their own lives in regional Australia and very bravely coming forward and letting other people across the nation and internationally learn about the range of personal experiences, the pain and other aspects of growing up and yearning to make sure that their country and their regions are stronger and better.
The stated aim of the Heywire program is to give rural youth a voice in their communities and to give all of Australia some insight into issues, concerns and ideas that are important to youth in rural, regional and remote Australia. The program encourages rural and regionally based young people from across Australia to submit a short story about their experiences. It is mainly for young people between the ages of 16 and 22. Over these many years-over 10 years now-we have had more than 7,000 young people who have been part of this process, and we have built up a great history with the stories.
This year I was lucky enough to meet some of the 'Heywirers' when the young people come to Parliament House. I am not sure why, Mr President, but they are keen to meet with politicians-and I can assure you that politicians are very keen to meet with them. I think it is one of the highlights of our political calendar, the chance to meet with young people from our states-and then, when we are lucky, to attend dinner and to learn about the experiences they have had.
I want to talk about a couple of the young people with whom I met this year. You would not be surprised, Mr President, that one of the first young people I met with was the representative from Toowoomba. Elsley McDermid is a young Toowoomba woman who went to my school, St Saviour's college. She talked very seriously, and I think with great courage, about her own struggles with mental illness. She has a condition called dysthymia, which is a kind of depression that 'leaves the whole world bleak and grey and makes you feel apathetic and lethargic all the time'. It takes a great deal of courage, I believe, to come forward and talk about a story that is so personally painful. Elsley came, she gave her story and she truly threw herself into the activities with the Heywire team. She was then able to go back home and continue to make her choices about her future, after being able to share, with so many people, the pain that she had experienced with her mental illness.
Sitting near Elsley on the same night was Madison Stutynski, from Mackay, a very sharp young woman who talked about her experiences of being the victim of an attack. She was mugged by a group of girls in her home town of Mackay. She talked about how she felt, as a young woman who was doing all the right things-she was doing well at school, planning her future and was just on an evening out with her friends-and about the impact on her, her friends and her family. She talked about young people who were caught up in a terrible drunken rage. Madison was talking about her concerns with the impact of alcohol on young people-about how that impacts particularly in regional areas, where young people may not have other things to do with their time. So Madison, again, by sharing her own story on the radio, was able to give another insight into what it is like being a young person in regional Queensland.
I was then able to meet with Mereani Savuro and her mum, who were both in Canberra for the very first time, from Doomadgee in Western Queensland. Mereani is 17. Her story was all about her great commitment and desire to be a nurse in her local community. She has a particularly interesting background, because her family is a mix of Aboriginal and Fijian. She talked about how that has added to her own culture. She was able to express how she feels about her own community-which, as you know Mr President, is very remote-and how committed she is to making a real difference to that community by working as a nurse. She has been involved at her school, Spinifex College, in vocational training. She has just completed her certificate III in nursing. Her desire is to stay in her community and make a difference.
The other winners from Queensland, amongst the 38 people who came together to, again, share and to be acknowledged for their work and creativity, are as follows. Robert Graves now lives in Sydney but had a period of time in Aurukun. His engaging story was about that experience. Jane Ryder, from Townsville, chose to do a musical presentation. She performed a haunting song about loss and how she was working with her family in Townsville. She is an extraordinarily talented young woman. Gary Cahill, an 18-year-old from the Sunshine Coast, talked about his decision to work in science in his community. He is studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast. They are only some of the stories I have heard. Over the last few years in this place I have met many different young people from across the country-though I focus mainly on people in Queensland-who epitomise the diversity, passion, humour and hard-edged reality of young people in regional Australia.
There are a couple of ways to get involved in Heywire. You can enter the contest, which leads to people coming here. There is also an ongoing blog site, which is beyond my understanding but nonetheless draws many people every day to talk about a whole range of issues. The blog is open for anyone to share their experiences. Your Heywire experience, your 'Heywiredness', does not end after you go to Canberra; you become part of a community that is now over 10 years old and spans the whole of Australia. You are able to continue being involved.
Recently, on the Heywire website, there was a story from Sasha Mackay, who was a Queensland winner last year. She, in her own dynamic style, described a day in the life of a nurse in rural Queensland, once again capturing that spirit for all of us.
It may have taken me about eight years to make this speech, but in terms of how we can all be involved, I celebrate Heywire and look forward to meeting many more young people who are part of rural and regional Australia so that we can learn and grow by sharing experiences and being a part of the whole process.
Monday, 22 February 2010