headspace Youth National Reference Group

The headspace Youth National Reference Group (hY NRG) is made up of a diverse group of young people of varying ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. The group represent each state and territory and work with headspace to ensure young people's voices and opinions remain front and centre.

The hy NRG team is made up of a group of people who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people. Hailing from all over Australia and from a diverse set of backgrounds, many of the hy NRG team have experienced their own struggles but overcome them to become advocates of youth mental health.

hy NRG makes sure that any new initiative from headspace will make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and the resources headspace receive from government and corporate partners are put to the best use.

 

Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi Amelia Walters Anna Brockman Charlie Cooper Christopher William Slee Elizabeth Woolley Emma Donaldson Glenn Hatwell Hannah Cheers Honoree Kalisa Kaitlyn Francis Keiah Smith Naomi Searle Natasha Jones Rachael Laidler Rian Smit Sara Strachan Sophie Hope Taz Clay Tonii Skeen Trent Caldwell

Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi

Portrait of Alessandro Donagh-De Marchi

Where are you from?
Southern Highlands in New South Wales

Associated centre
headspace Campbelltown

A bit about Alessandro…
For a year or so I had been doing work in my local area and Sydney for headspace, talking about my experiences and ideas surrounding mental illness and mental health. I was encouraged to apply for the hYNRG group to further my involvement and bring my suggestions and goals to a national level and learn from other young people around Australia.

Suicide prevention and men's mental health are areas I focus on because I've had the most experience with them. They are important personal issues for me but also issues I can speak about with a degree of insight and education. 

An interesting fact about Alessandro…
I lived in Hong Kong from age 8 to 13 and went to a school that was a nine-storey international school with a swimming pool and cricket pitch on the roof. We lived in an apartment that was just 400 square foot in the middle of Mong Kok which is the most densely populated place on Earth with 130,000 people per square kilometre, compared with Sydney's 8000 people per square kilometre.  

 

Amelia Walters

Portrait of Amelia Walters

Where are you from?
Brisbane originally, recently moved to Melbourne

Associated Centre
headspace Collingwood

A bit about Amelia…
As a young person, I am passionate about improving the everyday experiences for young people. I hope to be an advocate of youth mental health, to change our current cultural narrative so that it is coloured with many unique stories and experiences. Sharing stories and being heard is so crucial to well-being and recovery, as well as eliminating the enduring stigma.

I have found that connecting with others gives me hope. I want to change the world by making small changes in our community; through building more inclusive, connected communities that equip our young people with the resilience, inspiration and sense of personal power that allow them to flourish. 

An interesting fact about Amelia…
I'm an adventurer and explorer in every sense of the word; from hiking mountains to investigating the depths of a novel.

Anna Brockman

Portrait of Anna Brockman

Where are you from?
Melbourne

Associated centre
headspace Collingwood

A bit about Anna…
I’m an advocate for people who suffer with both mental health and drug and alcohol issues. I would like to have a say on how headspace can work holistically with this vulnerable group of people to reduce the systemic barriers affecting them. I feel especially passionate about working with young people as they are more susceptible in exhibiting and developing dual diagnosis symptoms related to physical health (disabilities), psychological vulnerabilities and socio-economic risk factors. 

I see headspace as a very open minded organisation whose youth centred approach to working with young people continues to promote change and empowerment for young people.

An interesting fact about Anna…
My favourite past time is fighting and boxing. I have been doing karate for 10 years and hold a black belt. Which is very hard for most people to grasp since I live in hippy pants with rainbow coloured hair. 

Charlie Cooper

Portrait of Charlie Cooper

Where are you from?
Melbourne

Associated centre
headspace Hawthorn

A bit about Charlie…
One of the biggest motivators to get involved with headspace was the negative stigma surrounding mental illness. This is what discouraged me from speaking up when I was facing my own mental health challenges. I believe stigma continues to prevent so many young people from seeking help when they need it. 

I want to tackle the stereotype among young men that we need to 'toughen up'. In my eyes, the 'toughest' thing a young person can do is find the courage to speak up and seek help. I am also aware of how prevalent mental health issues are in young people who identify as LGBTI and I am passionate about raising the profile of headspace within this community.

An interesting fact about Charlie…
I am quick to admit that I'm a terrible driver, but am also very proud of my 4.8/5 Uber user rating. I have two nephews who I adore. I am also a strong believer in the capacity of ham and cheese toasties to bring much happiness into one's life! 

Christopher William Slee

Portrait of Christopher William Slee

Where are you from?
Adelaide

Associated centre
headspace Adelaide

A bit about Christopher…
I saw joining hYNRG as an excellent opportunity to become better involved with my community and help address one of the biggest issues facing young Australians – mental health. 

I am very passionate about getting out and about in my community and educating young people about mental health and how important it is to maintain a positive outlook. I want to try and reduce the stigma concerning mental health as much as possible, especially in males who often find it difficult to access services because of the negative connotation associated with seeking help. 

An interesting fact about Christopher…
I collect snow globes from all around the world! I have over 50 of them scattered about my room.

Elizabeth Woolley

Portrait of Elizabeth Woolley

Where are you from?
North Queensland

Associated centre
headspace Cairns

A bit about Elizabeth…
Helping others has been a large part of my life. Being able to improve, implement and deliver better outcomes is important to me. As a hYNRG member, my position allows me to work with people who have like-minded ideas and new ways of viewing these issues.

I am passionate about tackling issues people are still reluctant to talk about. I want to improve how vocational education is given to young people and ensure longevity in the conversation of mental health, now and into the future. This generation is in a very important time of change, this is only going to be another area which we can improve on. 

An interesting fact about Elizabeth...
I am one of four children and all my siblings are adopted; we have all made Australia our home.

Emma Donaldson

Portrait of Emma Donaldson

Where are you from?
Originally Boggabri in NSW, but now I live and study in Sydney

Associated centre
headspace Bondi

A bit about Emma…
I am really passionate about youth advocacy, particularly when it relates to mental health. I want to work with universities and schools in improving the mental health conversation within boarding houses, student accommodation and other residential communities. Living with hundreds of other people can sometimes be the most isolating situation.

An interesting fact about Emma…
I'm a crazy Australian music fan. I'll be at every random or obscure gig I can find, as many times a week I can. I pretend I'm an expert in music, but really I barely know which way to hold a guitar.

 

Glenn Hatwell

Portrait of Glenn Hatwell

Where are you from?
Perth

Associated centre
headspace Rockingham

A bit about Glenn…
Joining the hYNRG group was a great opportunity to do the kind of work I was enjoying at my local centre, but on a national level. Hopefully I can be part of making a difference in youth mental health and wellbeing across Australia. 

I am really passionate about young people and mental health. I have my own experience of this, that has forever changed my path, but I want to use that experience to help others who may be struggling. Living as a young person in Australia today isn't easy.

An interesting fact about Glenn…
I love music festivals and concerts; I have been going to them from a young age.

Hannah Cheers

hYNRG Photos 2015 Hannah 01

Where are you from?
I am originally from Sydney, though I lived in Bathurst for three years and now I'm living in the Southern Highlands

Associated centre
headspace Bathurst 

A bit about Hannah…
I wanted to join hYNRG because I loved working with headspace Bathurst on a number of projects. With a lived experience of a mental health problem, I believe the group is a great way for young people to have a say on the issues that we can provide an informed opinion on.

The issues I am most passionate about are youth sexual health and engaging the young LGBTQIA+ community. I am really interested in helping young people be more informed about the sexual choices they make and understanding the importance in looking after ourselves and our partners. I also think it’s really important that the needs of young queer community are recognized and attended to, particularly in rural and regional communities.

An interesting fact about Hannah…
I’m an enormous fan of musicals. I’d love to one day combine my passions for youth health and musical theatre to create an educational musical about sexual health.

Honoree Kalisa

Portrait of Honoree Kalisa

Where are you from?
Logan in Queensland, however, I am originally from Rwanda.

Associated centre
headspace Meadowbrook

A bit about Honoree…
I have always wanted to use my experience to help those in need. There is a lot that the refugee community in Australia needs to learn about mental illnesses and I think it is up to the youth of Australia to help tackle this. 

I’m passionate about bridging the gap between service providers and those hard to reach communities, such as those with cultural differences where some communities might not recognise the impact mental health issues has on their community. I also find the rehabilitation of young offenders and assisting them back into society is important. 

An interesting fact about Honoree…
Every time I dream, it's always about flying!

Kaitlyn Francis

hYNRG Photos 2015 Kaitlyn 02

Where are you from?
Rural South-Western Australia

Associated centre
headspace Albany 

A bit about Kaitlyn…
Having been a consumer of headspace services and then joining the Youth Reference Group, I got involved with my local community and found a passion with working with young people. Using my own experience with youth mental health and homelessness, I found I've been able to help a lot of people through their experiences. I wanted to do this on a much larger scale with hYNRG.

I want to normalise mental health and reduce the stigma associated with it. When people talk about mental health they should not feel ashamed. I hope to achieve this by speaking to others and sharing my story.

An interesting fact about Kaitlyn…
I'm the youngest hY NRG member. I live with my cat, Tortie, who is a little rascal and when she isn't destroying raw packets of pasta, she's plotting world domination under the couch!

Keiah Smith

Portrait of Keiah Smith

Where are you from?
The Gold Coast

Associated centre
headspace Tweed Heads

A bit about Keiah…
I am a part of the Youth Advisory Group at the Tweed Centre and I absolutely love giving back and I really wanted to be a part of the positive change, not only in the community but nationally and I thought being part of the hYNRG group is a great start.

I'm passionate about lots of different things; mental health, youth homelessness and drug and alcohol issues. As well as the importance of giving young people a stable life and feeling wanted in this world.

An interesting fact about Keiah…
I'm a secret bingo lover, even though I'm only 21 and I tend to shock people with this fact. I also wish to one day open a youth service and be nationally known like headspace

Naomi Searle

Naomi

Where are you from?
Tasmania

Associated centre
headspace Hobart

A bit about Naomi…
I have been a part of the headspace Hobart youth reference group for four years and wanted to start working with headspace on bigger, nationwide projects as well as continuing to work at a local level.

I am passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health issues in young people, particularly in the workplace.

An interesting fact about Naomi…
I helped create a community garden in London in 2011 and returned in 2015 to find that it was still there and had been expanded by local community groups. It's great to see a project have a lasting impact and it's also good to know that my inability to keep a plant alive for more than a year does not transcend international boundaries.

Natasha Jones

Portrait of Natasha Jones

Where are you from?
Wellington in New Zealand but I've been living in Melbourne since 4 years old

Associated centre
headspace Sunshine

A bit about Natasha…
I have a degree in psychology and wanted some more work out in the field. I think headspace is a great organisation and does a lot of good work with young people. I'm passionate about young people with disabilities and ensuring their mental health needs are met, as well as young people with disabilities and sexuality.

I want to help young people express their sexuality in a way that is safe, appropriate, and meaningful for them. As well as promote good body image and self-esteem when it comes to disability and relationships. There are a lot of negative stereotypes out there relating to people with disabilities and sex – I want to challenge those. 

An interesting fact about Natasha…
I was born three months early; I was supposed to be born on April Fool’s Day, but was actually born in January.

Rachael Laidler

Portrait of Rachel Laidler

Where are you from?
Sydney

Associated centre
headspace Camperdown

A bit about Rachael…
headspace helped me turn my life around and finally believe in myself. I started working with them to help other young people the way headspace has helped me.

I want to demolish the stigma and self-stigma that exists about mental illness. Everyday people living with mental illness are told they won’t be able to live the life they want because they are unwell and I know that to be false. All people, from all walks of life, are capable of amazing things if they’re willing to work for it!

An interesting fact about Rachel…
I am a huge sci-fi fan; I have seen the movie 'serenity' over 250 times. 

Rian Smit

Portrait of Rian Smit

Where are you from?
Darwin

Associated centre
headspace Darwin

A bit about Rian…
I wanted to take my voice and advocacy for youth experiencing complex mental health issues to the next level, after I participated in the headspace Darwin Youth Advisory Group for almost a year.

I want to see more helpful and positive conversations about more complex mental health issues some people face, particularly people living with psychosis. I’m also passionate about using the arts to engage and reach youth that may have slipped through the cracks and also getting mental health services out to remote areas and indigenous communities. 

An interesting fact about Rian…
I have a tail, I have two extra vertebrate in my tailbone.  Apart from that, I am a photographer, visual artist, I compete with my horse Jago in show-jumping and dressage. I love swing dancing and receiving cuddles from my cat Micah.

Sara Strachan

Portrait of Sara Strachan

Where are you from?
I grew up in Melbourne and have been living in The Riverland, SA for the past three years. I have also spent two years of my life living in Los Angeles and one year in London.

Associated centre
headspace Berri

A bit about Sara…
I want to use my experiences and skills to help with the future success of headspace. The organisation is creative and innovative, doing amazing things to reduce stigma and help young people live healthy fulfilling lives.

I am passionate about reducing stigma surrounding mental illness and educating people so they can detect their own mental illnesses early and have an overall positive well-being experience. I also want to see young people following their dreams and reaching their true potential.

An interesting fact about Sara…
I am a Culture and Community Development Artist and I live in an old Church that has been converted into my home and studio.

Sophie Hope

Portrait of Sophie Hope

Where are you from?
Canberra

Associated centre
headspace Canberra

A bit about Sophie…
I am passionate about mental health and making changes in our health system and our society accordingly. Mental illness should not carry stigma or discrimination and young people should not be treated with negative ageism. I want to help headspace be an innovative leader in the mental health sector worldwide.  

Some of my passions include; increasing mental illness education, reducing stigma and discrimination, improving policy, welcoming refugees to Australia and reforming the current detention centre system.

An interesting fact about Sophie…
I represented our local district for multiple years playing netball and table-tennis. In 2014 I represented the ACT in a National Improv Tournament (in Sydney), where we performed theatre similar to ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ and ‘Thank God You’re Here’! 

Taz Clay

Portrait of Taz Clay

Where are you from?
Originally Townsville, but have recently moved to Toowoomba

Associated centre
headspace Townsville 

A bit about Taz…
My sister and youth worker at Townsville headspace told me about joining hYNRG and I figured it would be a great way to help other young people that have been in a similar situation to me.

I am passionate about transgender and suicide issues in Australia, especially in Indigenous and LGBTIQ communities. As well as the wider issue of mental health affecting young people in Australia. 

An interesting fact about Taz…
I volunteer at the Townsville Riverway Salvation Army church and I am a young youth leader there. I am also a brotherboy – a transgender female to male indigenous person.  

Tonii Skeen

hYNRG Photos 2015 Tonii 01

Where are you from?
I live in Broome, up in the Kimberley Region of W.A, but I am a Kimberley girl through and through with mixed heritage across the region from the tribes of Yawru, Jaru, Bardi Jawi, Jabirr Jabirr and Nykina.

Associated Centre
headspace Broome

A bit about Tonii…
I want to share with headspace my experiences and understanding of how it can best deal with young Indigenous people. I applied to be a hYNRG member because I see headspace as having an important responsibility to support young Indigenous people, many of whom suffer from accumulated trauma over many generations of colonisation and the continued impact of family and community violence, alcohol and drug abuse and grief.

I am passionate about the importance of healing and reconciling the conflicts that tear people, families and communities apart. I’m passionate about connecting with other young Australian’s with the aim that Indigenous and non-indigenous young people can share holistic views about issues and problems we have in common

An interesting fact about Tonii…
I have two names Tonii which is my Australian English name and Wajaay which is my Aboriginal bush name. I’m named after a very special old lady Tiny McCale. At Primary School everyone knew me as Wajaay , whenever we had a relief teacher he/she would sing out the roll call and be like “Tonii “ and the rest of my school friends will argue back that we didn’t have a Tonii in the class.

Trent Caldwell

Portrait of Trent Caldwell

Where are you from?
Broome

Associated centre
headspace Broome

A bit about Trent…
headspace got me back to my feet when I thought I'd exhausted all avenues of help. I want others to realise that it isn’t over and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We can all need help to get there.

My passion is for young people to achieve their full potential. Life has a funny way of knocking us down to the point where we think we can't get up. I'm living proof that it is possible to rise up, dust yourself off and use it to achieve what you thought would have been impossible. 

An interesting fact about Trent…
When I was 19, a soccer goal post collapsed on my head and crushed my skull, putting me into a two week coma, which I was never supposed to wake from. I had to learn to walk, talk and even feed myself again; I'm an award - winning half-blind portrait artist now.