Past Young Human Rights Medal Finalists Continue to Shine
By Isaiah Dawe
Every year, from all parts of Australia, hundreds of nominations are submitted for the Australian Human Rights Awards. The Awards gives us the opportunity to celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Their stories remind us that not all heroes wear capes.
The Young People’s Human Rights Medal acknowledges those remarkable individuals who are just at the beginning of their journey, yet have already established themselves as leaders and inspiring young human rights advocates.
I recently contacted a few of last year’s Young People’s Human Rights Medal finalists to see what pathways they are on today and to find out how the Awards has impacted their work.
The finalists viewed the Awards not just as a piece of paper but as a stepping stone to reaching their dreams and a vibrant celebration of their achievements.
Past finalist Adam Schwartz is passionate about changing how people view mental health issues such as depression. “Mental health is something that is significant and affects everyone. My own experience made me realise that many people suffering from depression don’t have a voice” Adam said.
Adam uses his own personal story to educate others, speaking openly about the obstacles he has faced in his own experience of depression and the stigma he has suffered, particularly as a young man.
The Awards have given Adam acknowledgement and encouragement for his work in destigmatising depression and providing counsel to young people and their families.
“Being a finalist was a big surprise to me, but for me it wasn’t about the awards; it was about helping people behind the scenes. To then to be validated was extraordinary” said Adam.
Adam has big goals for the future. He wants to increase the quality of life for everyone, create systematic change in mental health education and develop a subject about mental health to be included in the HSC curriculum. Adam currently works with the Black Dog Foundation and he often does talks at schools around Sydney to educate young people that mental illness does not define their future.
Another Young People’s Human Rights Medal finalist from 2015 is Prudence Melom. Prudence has made a significant contribution to battling racism and building social cohesion. Her personal story is powerful. Coming from Chad to Australia as a refugee, she spent seven years in a refugee camp. Prudence is now a young leader in her community.
The recognition of her contribution to human rights protection in Australia has had a significant impact on her life.
“It’s not just an award from school, it’s an award that is from the Commission. Not only that, I had the opportunity to meet Gillian Triggs. Being associated with and a part of such an organisation was just incredible” Prudence said.
Prudence currently runs a program called E-Raced, which aims to end racism one story at a time. She aspires to become a lawyer and stand up for people who don’t have a voice. Her ambition is to grow her program E-Raced into a globally recognised program to educate as many people as they can.
Recognition of her work at the Human Rights Awards has helped Prudence further her goals, “it actually helped drive the programs by having this award”.
Prudence is an inspirational individual who is attempting to create a better world for future generations. The advice Prudence would give to those interested in advocating for and promoting human rights is “follow your dreams, do what you are passionate about, believe in yourself. Seven years ago, I was in a refugee camp with no voice and now coming here, I have a voice that’s changing lives”.
Join us at the 2016 Human Rights Awards to celebrate the achievements of this year’s Medal and Awards finalists.
Friday 9 December 2016
12 to 3pm
The Westin Sydney
Ticket sales close on Sunday 4 December.