2021 Youth Showcase nominees smiling

Youth Showcase

The Youth Showcase is an exciting opportunity to celebrate the achievements of local young people aged 12-25 years.

A total of 60 nominations were received for the 2021 Youth Showcase. This year, the event has a special focus on recognising the resilience and personal growth shown by young people throughout the challenges of COVID-19.

We have heard some incredible stories about how young people have persevered with their personal goals, developed new skills, demonstrated flexibility or supported others despite the significant challenges of the past 18 months.


Nominee Gallery

In 2021, the Youth Showcase has moved online due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Find out more about each of the exceptional nominees below.


Youth and Family Services

39 Clow Street, Dandenong

2021 Nominee Gallery

View the nomination categories below to find out more about our exceptional Youth Showcase recipients.

Learning and Study

Nominees in this category are recognised for their ability to persevere and adapt to new ways of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic


Abdulfatah arrived in Australia only months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had begun to actively seek opportunities to build social connections and work on his language skills prior to lockdown. Despite the challenges of remote learning, Abdulfatah remained dedicated to his learning and maintained a positive attitude.

Anastasia, 16

Anastasia has been a part of the FReeZA Committee for the past three years. In 2020, she opted not to attend the group so that she could focus on her studies during the challenges of remote learning. Anastasia demonstrated initiative in finding ways to communicate with her teachers, and leadership in bringing her peers together to stay connected. Anastasia has re-joined the FReeZA Committee this year and continues to enjoy sewing which she learnt during lockdown.

Atong (Mary), 18

Mary has been in Australia for less than 5 years, and arrived as an unaccompanied minor. She is currently completing Year 11 VCAL at Noble Park Secondary College. She is determined to succeed in her school work, so that she can pursue her goal of becoming a nurse. Mary helps at her church, including teaching dancing and singing to the younger children.


For newly arrived young people, there were significant barriers to adjusting to online learning and keeping on top of their schoolwork during 2020. Bastela was determined not to fall behind, and displayed resilience and a high level of motivation with her learning. Bastela has flourished during the past year, and is on track with her future education, career and personal goals.

Corrie, 15

Corrie was able to maintain a strong connection to his education in 2020, despite the difficulties associated with home learning. Corrie provided support to his father during this time, helping around the house and caring for his younger brother who had only recently come to live at the family home. Corrie is resilient and determined, and has a positive influence on those around him.

Elma, 17

Throughout COVID-19 Elma has demonstrated her ability to persevere with her studies, and successfully put strategies in place to ensure that she stayed on top of her schoolwork whilst helping her family. Since joining the FReeZA committee, Elma has shown growth in her personal development and confidence.

Leah, 17

Last year Leah completed year 11 and continued to show dedication to her studies throughout online learning. Leah aspires to work in the medical field in the future, and is striving to achieve high academic results. Her hard work and success were recognised with a scholarship for year 12. Leah is also part of the FReeZA committee where she is an active team member.

Michael, 23

Michael stayed active and productive during COVID restrictions, finishing his Bachelor of Business and Arts at university, closely followed by commencing his Honours year in Commerce. Michael assumed caring responsibilities in the home during 2020, as well as concentrating on his music, including the release of his first album.

Michelle, 14

Michelle’s dedication to her studies over the past 12 months culminated with her passing the entrance exam for Nossal High School, a select entry school. As well as being diligent with her studies, Michelle is an active FReeZA committee member and Army Cadet.

Sasa, 15

Sasa was determined to improve his school work during COVID-19, demonstrating resilience and persistence throughout extended periods of online learning. Sasa used lockdown to learn new skills in video editing, which he was able to share with peers in the FReeZA committee. Sasa has shown that he is kind, thoughtful and caring, both with his family and his peers in the FReeZA group.

Tahlia, 25

During COVID-19 Tahlia has continued studying towards her Diploma in Mental Health, persevering through personal challenges, adapting to a new living situation and transitioning to online learning. Tahlia has taken on caring responsibilities in the home in the past year. Despite these challenges, Tahlia has maintained a steadfast determination to complete her studies and pursue a career in the mental health field.

Work and Employment

Nominees in this category have demonstrated achievement in pursuit of their work-related goals under challenging circumstances

Ibrahim, 20

Ibrahim runs two of his own businesses in the aged care and disability sector. Ibrahim has needed to adapt these businesses to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing essential hygiene products and personal protective equipment to participants and support workers. He has demonstrated a strong work ethic and ability to adapt to new situations, with the goal of going ‘above and beyond’ for clients.

Manaal, 20

Manaal has overcome significant personal challenges to be a leader and mentor amongst her peers in the FReeZA Committee during 2020. Manaal’s personal growth is highlighted by her role in facilitating a lyric writing workshop as part of the January holiday activities. Notably, Manaal’s other achievements in the past year include securing work at a medical clinic and being signed to a music record label.

Mark, 23

When Mark was unable to attend his workplace during 2020, he kept himself busy by completing online training and classes, and meeting regularly with his employment group. Mark also participated in maths programs with Wallara and continued his emotional regulation training online. Mark is very happy to now be back at work two days per week with The Bridge.

Mary, 21

Mary was due to commence her community services traineeship in March 2020, only to have her placement put on hold indefinitely twice due to the COVID pandemic. Mary embraced the challenges of online learning, and became a support to other trainees. She attended every webinar and completed all assignments, despite securing alternative employment that saw her working 12am – 7am (five days a week). A third employer offered Mary a traineeship ‘on the spot’ and have now extended an offer of full-time ongoing employment recognising her as an integral part of the team.

Shruti, 22

Shruti’s achievements in the past year include completing her architecture degree, securing work with a cleaning company and playing a critical role in both the Young Leaders and FReeZA programs. Shruti’s development in public speaking has been admirable. Having completed her degree, Shruti is now undertaking an internship with a construction company.

Leadership and Volunteering

Nominees in this category have made a notable effort to support their peers or their community throughout the challenges of COVID-19

Aben, 19

Aben is a driven young man who is passionate about supporting other Sudanese young people through his role on the Community Support Group’s youth reference group. Aben volunteered with the virtual homework support club during 2020, as well as contributing social media content where he shared tips for keeping safe and staying busy during lockdown.

Alexia, 16

Alexia is a dedicated member of the FReeZA committee, and remained engaged in the program while it was delivered online in 2020. Alexia strives to include others, and her enthusiasm encourages other young people to participate in group activities. In 2020, Alexia was accepted into the prestigious John Monash College.

Arsana, 18

Arsana has maintained a positive mindset despite the frustration of his engineering course being postponed for 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Arsana decided to use his time to help others, including as a volunteer for the Community Union Defence League, assisting to provide meals for disadvantaged community members in Dandenong. Arsana also actively contributed to projects during 2020 as part of the Young Leaders program and FReeZA committee.

Crystal, 14

Crystal has recently joined the FReeZA program, with the goal of stepping out of her comfort zone. She has already demonstrated a high level of commitment to the group, taking on extra responsibility outside of meetings and volunteering to lead activities at the Youth Fest event. Crystal is friendly and empathetic towards her peers in the group.

Dan, 15

Despite being new to the FReeZA committee, Dan readily adapted to engaging in the program online. Dan demonstrated initiative in coming up with activities (including an icebreaker quiz) to engage the group online. Dan has shown development in his leadership and public speaking skills, and his sense of humour, honesty and friendliness continue to make a positive impact on the group.

Duc-Tri, 18

Duc-Tri was a part of the Young Leaders program in 2020. Despite being one of the quieter group members, he built his confidence throughout the program, culminating in an MC role at the Youth Leadership Forum. Duc-Tri is a very hard-working student, who successfully managed his VCE studies alongside his commitments to the Young Leaders program.

Ella, 17

Ella is actively involved in the justice and democracy group at Killester College and is always thinking of ways to support other students and the school community. During COVID, she worked with other students to create podcasts that were shared with staff and students as a form of entertainment and support. COVID has been an opportunity for Ella to refine her leadership skills and to more clearly see her future career pathway with justice.

Faridah, 19

Faridah decided to defer her first year of university studies at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She used her time to volunteer with the Young Leaders program, where she played an integral role in delivering two community projects. She overcame her fear of public speaking to facilitate an activity during the Youth Leadership Forum. Faridah began working towards establishing her own art business during lockdown, and in early 2021 she secured three part-time jobs and recommenced her university studies.

Hawa, 20

Throughout 2020, Hawa worked extremely hard at her studies, attending the SMRC STAR Club (homework support) program daily and becoming a mentor and leader in the online space, assisting other students. Hawa volunteers her time with youth leadership groups, helping to advocate and create change in the community. Hawa is achieving outstanding VCE results and in 2021, is the school’s leading SRC captain.

Natalie, 22

Natalie is an international student studying a Bachelor of Engineering Technology. Natalie is Vice-President of the Student Committee, has organised events for students and advocated for the needs of international students during the COVID pandemic. Natalie has maintained exceptional academic results whilst working two jobs in healthcare to support herself and assist her family.

Rawi, 14

Rawi joined the Holiday Activities Committee in term 1, 2021. Although she was initially quite reserved and softly spoken, her confidence has grown week-on-week. Rawi has gone on to establish herself as one of the key leaders in the program. She attended the April school holiday activities as a Peer Leader where she challenged herself and built her leadership skills.

Sumaya, 20

Sumaya has demonstrated a commitment to serving the community through her far-reaching roles as part of the South East Community Links leadership group, Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre leadership program and school captain for 2021. Sumaya’s skills and knowledge as a young leader are highly regarded, and she is known for her cheerful attitude, loyalty and willingness to help others.

Learning New Skills

Nominees in this category have demonstrated personal growth through developing new skills or hobbies during the pandemic

Asmaa, 23

Asmaa is an enterprising young woman who has established her own henna business. When the pandemic forced her to put this on hold, Asmaa dedicated herself to building new skills and pursuing leadership opportunities. This included building her YouTube presence which has grown to more than 122,000 followers in the past few months. Asmaa has also been a community leader, contributing to various Youth Services' projects online during 2020-21.

Daphne, 15

In transitioning to remote learning, Daphne needed to learn how to use a computer. Despite finding this challenging, Daphne persevered and was able to develop her skills. Daphne also trialled new strategies to manage her time and to ensure her schoolwork was completed. Daphne was very supportive of her friends during this time, ensuring that they stayed connected using Facetime.

Henry, 14

Henry joined the Holiday Activities Committee in term 1, which he attends with the support of a carer. Henry has made great strides throughout the term, building his confidence and engaging directly with his peers without the support of the program workers. Henry is very talented at maths and began tutoring one of the other group members prior to the HAC sessions commencing.

Lien (Lily), 15

Lily thrived during COVID restrictions, taking up new hobbies, including baking and painting, and finding ways of staying in touch with her friends. Lily adapted well to remote learning and completed year 9 last year. Lily has built her confidence as a student, having previously not attended school in 2018 due to personal challenges. Lily has resumed volunteering with the FReeZA committee and is showing initiative in the group.

Nafisa, 22

Nafisa joined the Girls on the Move program and committed to attending the weekly sporting activities. Nafisa demonstrated a passion for sport, and a willingness to try new sports. Nafisa has also joined the FReeZA committee in 2021, and helped to organise the recent Youth Fest event.

Richard, 17

Richard joined the FReeZA committee to build his connection with peers and community. In his short time with the program, Richard has become less isolated and grown in self-confidence. He continues to find new ways of engaging with others in the group, and has demonstrated perseverance in overcoming personal challenges.

Supporting Family

Nominees in this category have caring responsibilities that see them go ‘above and beyond’ to support others in their family unit

Bismillah, 18

Bismillah arrived in Australia in August 2019, as an unaccompanied minor alongside his three younger siblings. Bismillah is dedicated to supporting his siblings, preparing meals, taking them to school and providing transport to medical appointments or sport activities. In addition, Bismillah has demonstrated tenacity in overcoming his education and language barriers to find his own educational pathway through VCAL, despite not having experienced formal education prior to arriving in Australia.

Dhanaashree, 19

Dhanaashree arrived in Australia with her two younger siblings in March 2020, just as the first COVID lockdowns were occurring in Melbourne. Upon arriving, Dhanaashree facing the challenge of speaking English as a second language, as well as become a full-time carer for her mother and siblings. Despite facing these challenges, Dhanaashree maintains a happy and friendly persona and is now enrolled in a Diploma in Aged Care.

Michaela, 15

Michaela has demonstrated great resilience over the past year, completing year 8 by-and-large online, whilst managing family challenges and caring responsibilities. Michaela is well mannered, gets along with her peers and is very creative. Michaela has secured a part in her school’s production of ‘High School Musical’.

Positive Attitude and Persistence

Nominees in this category have demonstrated a sense of optimism and determination to overcome personal barriers in pursuit of their goals

Aziah, 12

Aziah has shown resilience and maturity in adapting to significant changes to her living circumstances over the past two years. Aziah started high school in Greater Dandenong, with no friends or connections from primary school. Her positivity and determination was recognised with the role of year 7 captain. Aziah participated in Greater Dandenong’s Happiness Project and has since expressed interest in joining other youth programs to continue building her confidence and leadership skills.

Blessing, 16

Blessing remained engaged with school throughout remote learning. Blessing transitioned to a new school at the start of 2021, and due to remote learning lost a vital experience in saying goodbye to friends and teachers at their previous school. Despite this disappointment, Blessing remained excited and positive about the change ahead and has demonstrated resilience in overcoming challenges.

Dinh (Nhu), 14
During COVID-19 restrictions, Nhu remained engaged with school and stayed positive about her transition to high school. She actively sought new opportunities to be social and try new experiences, including participating in the Game On program in term 4, 2020 and the Happiness Project in January 2021. Nhu has successfully transitioned to high school and is now a Student Voice leader as well as being involved with netball and theatre.

Jaydee, 13

Jaydee started year 7 in 2020 and was soon faced with the additional challenge of adapting to remote learning, where she was separated from her friends and without the direct support of her teacher. Jaydee stayed positive and has shown enormous personal growth during the past year. She was the only young person to return to the Holiday Activities Committee when the program resumed in 2021.

Lakin, 16

Lakin has been a strong contributor to Youth and Family Services’ Unite Alliance program, and in April 2021 joined council’s Young Leaders program. Lakin has expressed a desire to step outside of their comfort zone and to work with new people as a Young Leader. Lakin is hoping to start a hairdressing course in 2021, and is looking to build the interpersonal skills required to be successful in a customer service dominated role.

Manjinder, 20

As an international student, Manjinder faced numerous challenges during the pandemic including isolation, separation from family and financial stress. He also faced the challenge of adapting to online learning, and studying in cramped and challenging conditions at home. Manjinder juggles his work at Dandenong Market (often completing 12-hour shifts starting at dawn) combined with his studies. Despite these stresses, Manjider has maintained a positive outlook throughout COVID-19.


Rita arrived in Australia 5 years ago, as an unaccompanied minor. Rita is currently undertaking Year 11 VCAL at St John’s College and hopes to become a nurse. Rita is recognised as a respectful, polite and motivated young woman. Rita has been building her independent living skills and cares for her niece and her younger siblings.

Sam, 21

Sam faced a number of personal challenges during 2020. Despite initially being reluctant to engage with services, Sam now attends weekly appointments and has taken positive steps towards developing life skills and improving their health and wellbeing. Sam is currently working towards their goal of finding work in the manufacturing industry, with support from a local employment service.

Shukriya, 16

Shukriya maintained a positive attitude throughout the challenges of COVID-19. Although from a large family, she never complained about sharing the dining room table with her five siblings for months whilst they all studied at home. Shukriya is a developing leader, who has taken part in the Holiday Activities Committee, spoke at the 2020 Youth Leadership Celebration and shared her migration story in a submission to ABC’s Takeover Melbourne story telling competition.

Tameka, 15

Tameka was in year 9 last year, and initiated an online group for year 7 students at her school, St Johns Regional College. Tameka’s group supported the wellbeing of the younger students, helping them to feel connected to the school. This was important as year 7 students had only just begun to settle into secondary school and build new friendships when lockdown occurred. Tameka continues to run lunchtime sessions for students this year, providing activities and snacks.

Lily, 18

Lily has shown resilience in overcoming challenges in her life,  and in doing so has become independent and tenacious. Lily is recognised by her peers as a positive role model. Lily strives to be the best version of herself, whilst also making time to support the people around her.