Young achievers shaping the future

THE winners of nine categories in the Tasmanian Young Achiever Awards were announced on Friday 31 May, with 23-year-old Sandy Bay resident Matthew Etherington being named the 2019 Premier’s Young Achiever of the Year.

Earlier in the evening, Mr Etherington was presented with the St. Lukes Health Healthier Communities Award.

Mr Etherington said he was grateful to receive the awards and be able to share stories and spread important messages.

Mr Etherington has primarily been involved in advocacy in disability support, social inclusion, youth engagement and mental health.

He coaches the Big Issue’s Community Street Soccer Program to use sports as a platform to empower and improve the lives of the disadvantaged, has organised a Mental Health First Aid initiative at UTAS to prepare more than 400 students to exercise self-care, promote mental health and encourage peer support, and is currently a national Youth Health forum member and Head of Welfare at UN Youth and Tasmanian Youth Local Government.

Mr Etherington has also been involved in a range of volunteer roles at Red Cross, including encouraging people to volunteer, engaging young people and schools with the future of humanitarian work, and helping organise the Social Connectedness Summit during Mental Health Week 2018.

“Working in inclusion, disability and mental health requires people like myself to embrace difficult conversations and be willing to lean into feelings of discomfort and distress in order to help others,” Mr Etherington said.

Mr Etherington said one in four university students experienced a mental health condition, while more than 50 per cent of Australians were affected by loneliness in any given year.

“Providing communities with the skills and environment to help others while helping themselves is a powerful model for community resilience,” he said.

“I want to break down stigma and fear about mental health, and provide people with the skills to overcome barriers to connectedness and social support for themselves and others.”

Mr Etherington said much of his inspiration in becoming involved in the community was due to his own experiences of living with a sometimes invisible condition called chronic fatigue syndrome, affecting about a quarter of a million Australians.

“Many of the plans I had made for the future became far more difficult, and so my life changed dramatically,” he said.

“After seeking help, I made the decision to refocus on what I was passionate about, which was people – volunteering and community work now brings me great joy and purpose.

“I feel a deep connection to the many people, young and old, who want to make our community stronger, inclusive and more sustainable – to put it simply, helping others helps you.”

Tasmanian Young Achievers Award event manager Stephanie Commons said the function was about celebrating great young Tasmanians in the community.

“It’s so important to recognise and acknowledge the work that our young people are doing, it motivates them to keep going and reach their goals,” she said.

“These young achievers shape our future.”

Other award winners on the night included:

  • Alex Morris Baguley – Colony 47 Transition to Work Award.
  • Campbell Remess – Heather & Christopher Chong Community Service & Volunteering Award.
  • Elias Solis – Spirit of Tasmania Tourism and Hospitality Award.
  • Karita Casimaty – TADPAC Print Service to the Disability Sector Award.
  • Zac Romagnoli-Townsend – Dental South Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Achievement Award.
  • Grace Birchall – University of Tasmania, Faculty of Education Teaching Excellence Award.
  • Samuel Watson – First National Real Estate Leadership Award.
  • Daniel Watkins – Motors Tasmania Sports Award.

For more information about the awards visit, https://awardsaustralia.com/young-achiever-awards/tas/

Caption: Tasmanian Young Achievers Awards winners.

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