2019 Western Australian of the Year Awards

Youth Award Finalists

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The Youth Award is presented in celebration of excellence in leadership, mentoring or artistic pursuits at a state, national or international level amongst 18 to 30 year olds, positively impacting the lives of Western Australians.

Meet our 2019 Youth Award finalists:

Brooke Blurton

Regarded as one of Western Australia’s most prominent young Aboriginal people, at 24 years of age Brooke Blurton is already making a real difference in the lives of people experiencing mental health issues. She works with vulnerable youth exposed to severe abuse, including those who have been in and out of foster homes, expelled from school or have become homeless.

A strong, resilient Yamatji-Noongar woman, Brooke’s own childhood was marred by tragedy. Losing her mother to suicide, and with drug and alcohol abuse occurring in her family, Brooke grew up determined to help young people who might be dealing with similar issues. As a youth worker, Brooke has developed her passion for working with the community and implementing strategies to educate young people about essential life skills, reflecting on her own journey through life.

Brooke is also a facilitator of ‘Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid’ – a course designed to help people obtain a nationally-accredited certificate in recognising the symptoms of mental illness and offering support as a ‘First Aider.’ She also supports a Government initiative called ‘Alternative Learning Setting’ – helping young people to develop coping skills and manage their behaviour through sport, art and a range of other pursuits.

Thanks to her recent appearance on The Bachelor Australia (2018), Brooke has been able to reach more young people through her legion of social media followers (more than 144,000 on Instagram alone). With her newfound fame, she has been able to highlight that while you can go through the worst in life, you can overcome it and become a better person.

Harrison Garland

In 2015, Harrison Garland founded the ‘Swim for Proudie,’ a fundraiser to support his friend and former Claremont Football Club player, Warrick Proudlove.

In 2011 at the age of just 22, Warrick – an aspiring footballer and talented all-round athlete – was involved in a horrific car accident that left him with head injuries and serious neurological
damage. Compounding the tragedy, insurance laws in place at the time means Warrick’s family doesn’t receive any compensation or funding for the ongoing care he needs.

Through ‘Swim for Proudie’, Harry has been able to raise funds and much-needed support for Warrick and his family. He dedicated his first solo Rottnest Channel Swim to the cause – successfully raising over $20,000.

Since then Harry’s team has grown to over 80 members comprising 40 swimmers and 40 support boat crew, raising a grand total just shy of $160,000.

Thanks to Harry and his team, Warrick’s family can continue to pay for his rehabilitation equipment and 24-hour care needs. As Warrick’s medical treatment is ongoing, Harry aims to continue to support him every year, planning another solo-crossing to support Warrick and his family in 2020.

He consistently goes beyond the call of duty, committing a huge amount of time and effort on behalf of his good friend.

Or, put humbly by Harry himself: “We’d all hope that if we were in a similar situation, your mates would be there to help.”

Ian Michael

An accomplished actor, playwright and theatre maker, Ian Michael is committed to using his considerable talents to share Aboriginal stories and important cultural narratives.

A proud Noongar man, and graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, much of Ian’s artistic inspiration comes from his own personal discoveries. After learning, at the age of 25, that his father and relatives were part of the Stolen Generation, Ian used his theatre skills to produce HART – a 50-minute, one-person verbatim theatre show that draws on the testimonials and silenced stories from Aboriginal people who were forcibly removed from their families. This powerful production has toured nationally to critical acclaim, often performing to sell-out crowds. Ian has also been recognised with several awards, including Best Emerging Indigenous Artist at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2015, where HART sold out every night of its three-week run.

Ian is building a reputation as one of Western Australia’s finest Aboriginal theatre-makers. He is in his second year as a resident artist with the Black Swan State Theatre Company where he has served as Assistant Director on the premiere of the Australian work, Skylab. The production joyfully celebrates the knowledge, power and love of Aboriginal people and culture, and afforded Ian an opportunity to mentor and support the young Aboriginal actors he worked with.

He regularly participates in creative developments with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company and is co-writing The York Project – investigating the history of the Western Australian town and prompting important conversations about the past.

Kendall Whyte

In November 2018, Kendall Whyte, a 25-year-old woman from the remote country town of Mukinbudin, received the worst news anyone could hear. Her brother, Jayden, had tragically taken his own life while in Sydney.

Inspired by the image of a tree Jayden had once painted on the family farm, Kendall, along with her sister, Erryn, and her brother’s best friend, Simon, created the Blue Tree Project – a platform which would bring together people who have experienced mental health challenges or loss through suicide.

Mainly focusing on young men and rural families, The Blue Tree Project serves as an important visual conversation starter, undermining the stigma attached to mental wellbeing. It also aims to draw attention to the need for change in the medical system, so people like Jayden are taken better care of in times of crisis.

In less than three months, Kendall and Simon’s campaign had gone viral, reaching people all over Australia and even as far as the UK. The message has been shared through social media, local and state newspapers, and on Channel 7’s Today Tonight program.

The project has grabbed the attention of Beyond Blue, and even farming communities have partnered with the project to paint trees blue both here and overseas.

In a time when most people would grieve the loss of a loved one, Kendall put the needs of others before herself. Her selflessness and compassion have inspired people to speak openly and honestly about mental health issues, promoting the important message that, “It’s OK to not be OK”.

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