2023 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 2023 Youth Award finalists:

Madison Heady

Madison Heady is a 21-year-old disability advocate and para-athlete who has overcome several challenges in order to achieve her goals. She has ataxic cerebral palsy and did not walk unassisted until the age of six. Despite this early setback, Madison went on to win a National Athletics silver medallist for the 1500m and in 2020 received an Australian record for her classification for the 5km race.

After being involved in a serious car accident in 2020, doctors advised Madison that she may never walk again and that her dreams of becoming a Paralympic runner could be over. But with determination, dedication and a ‘never give up’ attitude, this inspiring young woman managed her way back on the training track and is now running up to 40 to 50 km a week.

Madison is also public speaker who educates young people about the issues of equality and inclusion. Her passion for film has driven her to help create “The Periscope Crew,” a unique film company focusing on young creative filmmakers with disabilities.

Madison’s ultimate aim is to secure a future where people with disabilities are accepted with open arms and hearts – a world in which everyone affected by disability can feel confident in sharing their talents without judgment. She is an inspiring young woman who has demonstrated her resilience and consistently positive attitude at every turn, despite facing several daunting challenges. Madison’s story is also the subject of a British Academy Film and Television Arts nominated documentary – Walk, Run, Strive.

Zahra Al Hilaly

Zahra Al Hilaly is a youth activist, speaker, and author who advocates for marginalised communities at home and abroad. Her tireless efforts have resulted in several prestigious awards including the Western Australia Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership in 2023, WA Young Person of the Year in 2022, and Western Australian Young Multicultural Person of the Year in 2022. Zahra is also the CEO of Oaktree Australia, a board member for several organisations, and a Duke University Fellow.

Zahra focuses on prompting societal change, and she collaborates closely with underrepresented young people to help them become effective leaders in their communities. Her work has taken her all the way to the United Nations General Assembly, where she has advocated for youth inclusion and participation. She was also an Australian representative on the Generation Equality Taskforce, which pledged over $40 billion for gender equality.

As Co-Chair for the WA Government Youth Council, Zahra also advises the Minister for Youth on matters related to young people, offering a direct voice to government on issues such as youth unemployment, mental health, leadership, and support for minorities. She co-founded the Christmas Island Youth Summit in 2020, which brought together young refugees and asylum seekers.

Zahra is also a board member and writer for ‘Missing Perspectives,’ an online newsroom that challenges the underrepresentation of women in news worldwide.

Dr. Adam Edwards

Dr. Adam Edwards is an innovative and impressive researcher who is striving to change the world. Born 12 weeks premature himself, he is now dedicated to reducing the burden of brain injury suffered by other preterm infants. His research includes the development of brain-imaging techniques to diagnose brain injury and a drug therapy to prevent brain injuries from developing. His drug therapy has shown a 46% success rate in reducing brain injury and has been licensed to advance to the next stage of trials. If successful, this treatment has the potential to protect brain cells from dying and improve the potential for preterm infants to have normal lives without motor and speech issues.

Adam has established a multidisciplinary team at the Perron Institute that includes local and international collaborators, securing $6.6 million in competitive academic and industry funds. He has also worked with MRI specialists to develop new techniques that assist in his research and has made significant progress using creative methods to rapidly and accurately scan infant brains to determine the extent of an injury.

Collaborating and working with families directly affected by infant brain injury is an important aspect of Adam’s research. In 2022, he established a community engagement team to incorporate the voices of individuals with lived experience in this area into his research. He also gives community talks to raise awareness of his field.

Adam’s contributions to the field of infant brain injury research have been recognised through various appointments and awards, including his recent appointment as Neonatal Scientific and Regulatory Advisor for Argenica Therapeutics and his recognition as a Young Investigator by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies.

Major Supporters

Celebrate WA wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we meet on for all WA Day festivities. We wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this State. Paying our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

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