Victorian Young Achiever Awards

2016 Finalists

CFA Young Volunteer Excellence Award

Khurram Khan, 21 of Werribee volunteers for the Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning program as the co-ordinator. He tutors and mentors Sudanese and African refugee and migrant students. He is an active member of the Hoppers Crossing Rotary Club and founded the ‘Rotary Youth Leadership and Philanthropy Award’. Khurram was awarded the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Volunteer of the Year and the 2015 Wyndham Volunteer of the Year. He was appointed by the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Trust as the Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society

Sarah Kenworthy, 18 of Geelong is an active volunteer in the Christ Church meal program, providing breakfast for the homeless and disadvantaged. She has raised money for East Timor, and organised ‘Make a Difference’ at Sacred Heart College, increasing awareness of and fundraising for local causes. Sarah spent six weeks volunteering in a health centre in a remote village in Mannya, Uganda, assisting the HIV clinic. She created the ‘Light up Mannya Campaign’, raising over $14,000 for 1,400 solar lights for the Ugandan village

Ryan Wheeler, 24 of Maffra joined the Maffra Fire Brigade in 2009 becoming the youngest ever 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant last year. Ryan organised the 100 year centenary celebrations and the inaugural fun run and open day. He runs fundraising events for the brigade such as trivia nights and the Fireman's Ball. He provides community education and fire safety lessons and is an active member of the Maffra Municipal Band. Ryan was awarded the 2015 Australia Day Young Quiet Achiever Award


Bart 'N' Print Health and Wellbeing Award

Jeremy Samson, 28 of Vermont developed ‘Time 2 Train’, a program to assist autistic people of all ages, through exercise and personal training. Time 2 Train has travelled internationally to showcase the program and create awareness of the importance of exercise. Jeremy is an Australian Ambassador for the Autism Network Community Awards, and was awarded third place for ‘Performing Arts’ at the Naturally Autistic People Awards in Canada. Jeremy will also star in the first international feature film based on people living with Autism

Michelle Connell, 27 of Sunbury is a dedicated secondary school teacher. She completed a Certificate of Policy and Governance researching youth drug taking behaviour and youth drug policies. Michelle was awarded an Education Policy Fellowship, where she researched and designed a new drug education policy which will be implemented across Years 11 and 12 throughout Victoria. Michelle also created and implemented a youth and families health and wellbeing expo and volunteers with The Youth Resource Centre, Rotary Groups and R U OK Day

Jamin Heppell, 25 of Brunswick East founded three sustainable organisations. Game Changers Australia has helped over 250 young Victorian sporting leaders and donated 20,000 sporting items to disadvantaged communities across Australia and Papua New Guinea. Healthy Communities Australia engages parents of primary school students to partake in regular physical activity at their local primary school and has fundraised over $5,000 for their schools. The Man Cave, provides facilitated workshops with year 9 and 10 boys to develop their mental health and emotional intelligence

The Victorian Government Small Business Achievement Award

Shannan Gove - Event Workforce, 26 of Richmond started Event Workforce in 2010 to create opportunities in the events industry for Australian students and graduates. Event Workforce has developed a social group of industry professionals to meet and network once a month, through the “Pursuit of Happiness” which is now part of the University curriculum. Event Workforce has placed over 10,000 individuals into work with many of Australia’s biggest events and clients, and has grown from just 4 clients, to over 300 Australia wide

Aimee Marks - TOM Organic, 29 of St Kilda created TOM Organic, a range of feminine hygiene products using Australian Certified Organic cotton. The products are now available in all major supermarkets. Aimee has created an ethical business committed to being both environmentally and socially responsible. TOM Organic donates products to charities and is aligned with a number of not for profits focused on women’s health and wellbeing. Aimee was awarded the 2014 Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year and the Australian Certified Organic Young Leader Award

Kristy Sellars - PhysiPole Studios, 29 of Ballarat started PhysiPole Studios in 2009, teaching pole dancing fitness lessons to men and women, offering a fun way to workout. PhysiPole has started a ‘Sponsored Athlete Program’, providing students with guidance, classes and clothing for competitions. PhysiPole ran competitions and raised $5,000 for a local flood relief appeal, and provided raffle prizes of free classes for the Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness luncheon. With 9 locations, PhysiPole is Australia’s largest and the world’s fastest growing pole dance fitness studio

Victoria University Research Impact Award

Georgia Atkin-Smith, 23 of Quantong is studying a PhD in Biochemistry researching the field of apoptotic cell disassembly and its applications. Her team is leading major scientific breakthroughs, demonstrating that dying white blood cells undergo a series of complex and regulated steps, which may have strong implications in understanding disease processes. Georgia has published a first author research paper in a top tier scientific journal, and was awarded Best Poster Prize at the 2015 Japan and Australian Meeting on Cell Death

April Philpott, 28 of Armdale is completing her Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Neuropsychology, focusing on understanding the early brain changes in Huntington’s disease. She has presented research at several international forums, including the European HD Network Plenary Meeting and the International Neuropsychological Society Conference. Her work has been featured in numerous media publications and published a first-authored paper in Behavioural Brain Research. April was named as a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society of Victoria’s Young Scientist Research Prize

Briony Murphy, 27 of Southbank began her PhD in 2014, researching “intentional cause” deaths among nursing home residents. This research is the first of its kind in Australia and is leading the way in this field. Briony has presented her research at local, national and international conferences, and was invited to speak at the Copenhagen Mental Health Centre in Denmark. She has co-authored four journal articles and is passionate about improving the lives of older people living in nursing homes

Francois Petitjean, 28 of Carnige joined the Monash Centre for Data Science and has developed new algorithms that can apply to enormous datasets without sacrificing accuracy. His work has unlocked the potential to develop more powerful and heat-resistant anti-inflammatory drugs and to discover new symptoms of rare diseases. His work will also be able to monitor oil spills and fight insect-borne diseases. He was awarded the 2015 Best Paper Award at the International Conference for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine and has published more than 20 articles in world-leading journals

The Coffee Club Arts and Fashion Award

Joshua Muir, 24 of Napoleons is a proud Yorta Yorta/ Gunditjmara man and a talented visual artist. He was commissioned to create the major projection project for The National Gallery of Victoria’s White Night and selected for the Lorne Sculpture Biennale. Joshua’s first exhibition sold 90% of his works at the opening. He won the Youth and People’s Choice Awards at the 2015 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards and mentors young people with AIME, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience

Lilikoi Kaos, 27 of Collingwood is a second year member of Circus Oz, performing Hula hoops, Flying Trapeze, Chinese Pole and Group Acrobatics. She has extensive stage and screen experience working with La Clique, Finucane & Smith, and BBC Cabaret. Lilikoi has toured Australia and internationally and has taught and performed for remote Indigenous communities with Circus Oz. She created ‘Live With Lilikoi’, an ongoing series of interviews with performers, that she launched during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival

Fablice Manirakiza, 26 of Noble Park has established himself as a creator of influence in the Australian arts scene, working as a rapper, MC, Dancer, Festival Producer and curator. He was awarded the first ever Refugee Scholarship Award from Multicultural Arts Victoria and was selected to be an advisor on the Melbourne Festival Youth Board. He is an icon amongst local indigenous youth and has performed workshops for remote Aboriginal communities. Fablice recently released a single featuring iconic Australian songwriter Paul Kelly

Tristan Lucas, 26 of Belmont is a recognised special effects and prosthetics makeup artist. He is also a talented musician and has written several scores for short films. He provided prosthetics makeup services for movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Shannara Chronicles. Tristan is passionate about the film industry, and has conducted workshops and spoken at high schools to inspire young entrepreneurs. Tristan has also created his own line of organic bearding products called We Are The Bearded

The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award

Unite Alliance Program - City of Greater Dandenong Youth Services, of Dandenong is a same sex attracted and gender diverse alliance overseen by the City of Greater Dandenong Youth Services. It creates a platform for young people of all gender identities to advocate for human rights and equality whilst providing support for those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer. The Unite Alliance Program has developed awareness campaigns to tackle homophobia and discrimination, including the Day of Action and It Starts With Us Project

Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC), of Melbourne is the peak body representing Victorian school-aged students aiming to empower student voice to be valued in every aspect of education. VicSRC was invited to present at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and has presented at the Youth Research Centre Seminar Series. They launched the Teach the Teacher website, a student-led professional development program for teachers, providing resources, training and support to 20 new schools

Indigenous Group, of Whittlesea is a group of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander young people who have come together to reunite with their heritage and culture through artworks and events. Projects include visits to museums and galleries, attending National Sorry Day events and Reconciliation events. The group has been commissioned to create two community murals reflecting their personal journey and culture. Their purpose is to be inclusive of non-indigenous people and share their heritage with the wider community

Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award

Dean Cohen, 24 of Elsternwick founded Camp Sababa which provides disability care training to 18-25 year olds, and runs respite camps for children and young adults with disabilities. He founded The Best Bunch, an online flower business that is creating employment opportunities for people with a disability. Dean also established NextStep, a professional development and leadership training for 18-21 year olds. He was awarded the Ron Castan Young Humanitarian Award and is a graduate of the Young Social Pioneers program

Thomas Banks, 25 of Geelong West created Centre for Access, a specialised training service to businesses who employ people with a disability. Centre for Access also facilitates disability awareness workshops in schools and community groups. Thomas is on the board for People with Disability Australia, and a member of the Disability Reference Group at the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Thomas has published a book and will tour regional Victoria with his one man show, ‘Someone like Thomas Banks’

Robert Gillies, 25 of Canterbury volunteers 60 hours a week to assist those experiencing homelessness, through his organisations Homeless of Melbourne and HoMie. HoMie, a non-profit street wear fashion label has raised over $200,000 for Homeless of Melbourne in the last 6 months through its retail and online stores and currently employees 3 homeless people. Robert has volunteered as an English teacher in Asia, a youth worker in remote Indigenous communities and at homeless shelters and soup kitchens across Melbourne

The University of Melbourne Science and Technology Award

Dr. Khanh Vi Truong, 29 of Sunshine completed his PhD in Nanobiotechnology in 2012. Employed as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, he is developing and characterising biopolymers for use in moisture management in sustainable agriculture. They have successfully developed the new product helping farmers improve the soil moisture and fertility of soils. Dr Khanh was awarded the 2nd Best Dissertation Thesis by the International Titanium Association. He has seen the publication of one patent, five book chapters and over thirty peer-reviewed articles

Julia Marchingo, 27 of Surrey Hills completed her PhD on T-cells and specific immune responses against invading microbes and cancer cells. Julia has presented her work both nationally and internationally and has been published in several prestigious journals. She received The Picchi Award for Excellence in Cancer Research, the Discovery Award for excellence in Scientific Discovery and the Australian Society for Immunology New Investigator Award. Julia has been offered a European Molecular Biology Organisation Long-Term Fellowship to pursue postdoctoral training overseas

Christopher Baker, 26 of North Melbourne is a PhD student, researching and developing complex mathematical problems to improve the management of ecosystems and improve invasive species control. He has been recognised by the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. He has presented at national and international conferences and published five academic papers. Christopher has made important contributions to environmental and conservation management, working with Booderee National Park, Ashmore Reef Commonwealth Marine Reserve and Tasmanian Devil Management

Kyra Schwarz, 28 of Brunswick is a PhD student undertaking solar cell research, contributing to the understanding of nanoscience and ultrafast light-harvesting in novel printable solar cells. She will present at the 2016 Global Youth Science Summit and has been invited to co-chair the Gordon Research Seminar in Italy this year. Kyra was awarded the 2015 Global Environmental Sustainability Award. She mentors high school students and is secretary of the University of Melbourne International Society for Optics and Photonics student chapter

AustralianSuper Career Kick Start Award

Julia Truong, 22 of St Albans established her own events and production business JT Production Management, delivering a variety of events and conferences. Julia’s second successful company, JT Weddings has scored 5 star reviews on Australia’s biggest wedding directory. Julia has completed a Bachelor of Production, and worked with various theatre and art productions, including working as stage manager at White Night Melbourne. Julia speaks to high school students about the importance of education and volunteers with a number of not-for-profit organisations

Sarah Leung, 28 of Brighton founded the Healthy Energy Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Centre, providing education and individualised holistic health care services. The Healthy Energy team received a 2015 Anthill 100 Smart Company Award and has expanded to three dieticians at eight Melbourne locations. Sarah has completed a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics and is studying to become an Accredited Sports Dietician and Health Coach. She volunteers for the Breast Cancer Network, Monash Children’s Hospital, RSPCA and teaches nutrition at the National Theatre Ballet School

Kristy Sellars, 29 of Ballarat is a professional dancer and the creator of PhysiPole Studios. PhysiPole began as a small studio and now with nine locations, six franchises and over 1,000 students, is the largest pole studio in Australia, and the fastest growing in the world. Kristy was awarded Miss Pole Dancer Victoria 2011, and competed in the 2015 International Pole Championships. She has developed a book and DVD as well as a mobile application for iOS and Android phones plus a line of clothing

Bartercard Online Achievement Award

William Strange, 26 of Malvern is the CEO of Sports Performance Tracking. In 2015 they launched GameTraka, a web-based sports performance tracking platform designed for sub-elite and amateur competitors, allowing the athlete to track and monitor their physical performance. GameTraka won Best Start Up in 2015 and Best Tech and Best Start Up at the London Wearable Tech Show. Sports Performance Tracking has since launched an e-commerce site for their global sales and their software application is available in multiple languages and sports

Mirai Kirsanovs, 25 of Brunswick East co-founded Asia Options in 2013. Asia Options is an online guide and community for young Australians interested in education and professional and leadership experiences in Asia. Mirai was selected as a Foundation for Young Australians Young Social Pioneer and received $10,000 in seed funding. She has featured in numerous publications including The Collective Magazine and Indonesian and Mandarin segments of SBS Radio. Mirai has worked internationally with not-for-profits and was awarded an SBS Asia Connect Award in 2015

Natalie Kyriacou, 27 of Melbourne created My Green World, an education-oriented organisation dedicated to wildlife and environmental conservation. Natalie has developed a mobile game application, ‘World of the Wild’ where users participate in virtual wildlife conservation scenarios, and have the ability to donate to 18 partnering charities. Natalie has been published in various magazines and publications, and was awarded Australia’s “Social Pioneer” for the Foundation for Young Australians. She was a Finalist for Griffith University’s 2015 Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award

Ashley Davies, 22 of Wheelers Hill is the founder and CEO at Tablo, an online publishing platform where authors can write stories and connect with readers. Authors from over 150 countries have published books on Tablo and millions of stories have been read. Ashley is also the founder of, an educational photography blog which reaches 3 million photographers. He published an eBook which became the number one photography best seller on Amazon and iTunes. Ashley has patented his online publishing processes

First National Real Estate Leadership Award

Sheree Rubinstein, 28 of St Kilda East is the co-founder of ‘Think Big’, a not-for-profit women’s networking group with the mission to inspire Gen Y women. Sheree is also the co-founder and CEO of social enterprise ‘One Roof’. ‘One Roof’ has created co-working spaces targeted towards women in Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles offering business coaching, mentorship, advice and networking opportunities. They have hosted hundreds of events and workshops, granted scholarships to six social enterprises, and connected many women to legal advice and business connections

Jacqueline Teh, 20 of Glen Waverley advocates and campaigns for climate change. She fundraised $1,200 for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Climate Leaders Program for environmental education. She is involved with the Junior Observers Program, planning youth awareness activities on gambling, alcohol and drugs. Jacqueline volunteers for council events, and is often invited to leadership events and conferences as guest speaker to talk about her journey from adversity to triumph. She was awarded the 2015 Sir John Monash Leadership Award

Jamin Heppell, 25 of Brunswick East is the co-founder and general manager of the youth sports leadership organisation Game Changers Australia. He is a founding director of Healthy Communities Australia and the initial developer of the YMCA LaunchPad, a social enterprise development initiative. He is a founding director and lead facilitator of the boys and young men’s mental health initiative The Man Cave. Jamin is an alumni of Social Traders – The CRUNCH program, and a Young Social Pioneer of the Foundation for Young Australians

Madeleine Buchner, 23 of Caulfield South has established a not-for-profit, registered charity called ‘Little Dreamers’ to raise awareness about young carers. ‘Little Dreamers’ has directly supported over 60 young carers and many others through media attention and events such as the Young Carers Festival. Madeleine has attended national and international leadership conferences and taken on the role of facilitator at a number of them. She received a Bayside Council Youth Services Award and was awarded the 2015 Premier’s Volunteer Youth Award