Click here to find out what the 2016 Youth Action Group are up to
Mitch Gainey (YAG Facilitator)
Mitch works as a Project Officer at Frontyard Youth Services, Melbourne City Mission’s flagship youth homelessness service.
He is the co-developer and facilitator of the Youth Action Group (YAG).
He has been doing youth work since he was 19 years old, starting off his career in the industrial suburbs of outer London. He has spent a lot of time volunteering in South Africa, Mozambique, India, and Brazil. From these experiences, he learnt that young people all across the world are resilient, powerful, and able to transform communities if given the chance.
He has worked in the homeless sector for the past 5 years, using his ability to connect and draw out the strengths of others to help young people change their own lives. He is a strong advocate for youth engagement, believing young people should be involved in shaping the systems that affect them.
Morgan Cataldo (YAG Facilitator)
Morgan is the Policy and Strategic Projects Officer at Melbourne City Mission and is the co-developer and facilitator of the Youth Action Group (YAG). Morgan believes wholeheartedly in supporting young people to share their stories as a form of leadership development and as a tool for systems co-design, with a focus on lived-experience.
In 2014, she was selected as one of 24 young women to represent Plan International Australia at the inaugural Girls’ Leadership Summit in Canberra, as part of the global ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign.
In 2015, she was a state finalist in the Victorian Young Achiever Awards and was elected as Co-chair on the board of Governance with the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic).
In 2016 she was selected by the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards program as one of five highly commended runners-up for Australia for her advocacy work within the community.
Morgan also sits as the Victorian member on the national Young Women’s Advisory Group (YWAG) for the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA), working to advance women’s equality.
Aleisha has done extensive volunteering in the Middle East and in her own community in Melbourne.
She has studied counselling and community services, and is planning on doing further study sometime this year. She aims to work in the community sector and change the way the sector approaches homelessness.
Annabelle is currently studying a double degree Bachelor of Arts/Laws at Monash University. Although she is an Australian, she was born in Malaysia and lived in Shanghai for ten years. With time, Annabelle has learnt to embrace her identity as a ‘Third Culture Kid.’
Her vision for Melbourne is to live in a fair society which provides everyone with equal access to opportunities and resources, regardless of age, social and financial background. Annabelle is passionate about Youth Mental Health – in understanding and raising awareness for this pressing issue.
She is excited to be a part of Melbourne City Mission’s Youth Action Group, working collaboratively with like-minded individuals, to learn and grow alongside one another and to be a voice for young people. Through this, I hope to help young people overcome their struggles, to achieve their goals and in making the society a better place.
Christine is a second year Biomedicine student and an aspiring surgeon. Public health is particularly important to her, especially regarding mental health issues. Christine is passionate about creating a sense of community despite the large, urban dynamic of Melbourne, through developing public spaces and more opportunities for communal activities.
She is excited to work with the YAG, who she says are a great team and give the younger generation of Melbourne a stronger voice to create a more connected and inclusive city.
Liz is currently studying full time for a second degree, previously in media and communications and now in library and information management. She is passionate about equal rights for everyone no matter their race, gender or sexuality, and this principle guides her moral compass in everyday life.
Liz’s ideal world would be a place where all love is equal, all young people have jobs, and are engaged and positive about the future. When she isn't trying to destroy the patriarchy, Liz enjoys going on hikes, watching too much sport and visiting new, interesting places.
mily lives in Melbourne's north with her boyfriend and two dog babies. She’s extremely passionate about social justice and helping people, hoping to find a job working within the community services sector. Emily feels that if she can make even one, small positive change in the world, then that impact is important.
When Emily isn’t volunteering, attending YAG meetings, or studying to achieve her Bachelor of Arts in Community Development, she’s busy op-shopping or working on cross- stitching for her little shop, Institchingly. Emily says that the YAG has really opened her eyes and provided so many new opportunities and experiences. She feels lucky to be part of such an amazing group of inspiring young leaders.
Hayley Van Summeren
Hayley is a single mum to her 2½ year old son, Riley, and is currently completing a Diploma in Health Science. She is very passionate about young people, women's empowerment, drug and alcohol issues and domestic violence. Her vision is to create communities where young people feel empowered about their lives and ability to heal from trauma, through accessing holistic support services.
Heath found himself homeless at the age of 16. Even though Heath has struggled to overcome issues in his own life, he works very hard to be available for other people going through similar experiences. This desire to help others has led to a strong passion for support and advocacy work.
At the age of 21, Heath became a volunteer for Melbourne City Mission’s Youth Action Group (YAG). While this began with the intention of gaining sufficient work experience to apply for a Diploma of Community Services work, his engagement and passion for this position quickly grew and Heath has found himself performing strongly with like-minded people.
Whilst experiencing transient accommodation at the time, this change in routine has led to Heath securing stable accommodation and overcoming a large portion of contributors to his recurring homelessness. A few of Heath’s proudest achievements to date are:
- Future Melbourne 2026 Plan: In 2016 the Melbourne City Council collected responses from over 2000 submissions by the public in order to develop 10 core objectives. Heath’s idea to submit a submission outlining the need for 24 hour supported, safe and accessible spaces for young people gained top popularity within 24 hours and he was asked to sit on the Citizens Jury for the development of the plan. During this time, Heath passionately and proudly advocated for the support of disenfranchised young people and people experiencing homelessness to be included in the plan. Members of the jury felt strongly that Heath was the most suited to present the plan to Council, which he will do in August 2016.
- A television interview with Martin Foley: In 2016, Frontyard Youth Services, a drop in centre in the city providing a broad range of support for the needs of young people, announced the development of the first CBD youth refuge to be built in Melbourne with the support of Housing Minister Martin Foley and the Victorian State Government. Heath was asked to talk about his experiences growing up and the importance of support, particularly accommodation. This was broadcasted on Channels 7, 9 and ABC news.
Jen is 22 and has completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, graduating with an HD average. Prior to starting university, Jen completed RYLA, helped out on a Rotary cultural relief trip to Cambodia, and embarked on a voyage on board the Young Endeavour. She is a leader for Youth Insearch, sitting as a member of the state and national councils.
She has an intense passion for animals and is considering a future in veterinary medicine or animal behaviour.
Jess is a Youth Work graduate who is keen to organise and facilitate events and programs for all young people, in the hopes to raise awareness about broader issues and give young people a voice. She currently works with the Moonee Valley City Council and is incredibly passionate about issues surrounding mental health and equality (in every sense of the word – employment opportunities, marriage, education etc.).
She is hoping to make some changes in these areas as part of being a young leader with the YAG. She believes wholeheartedly in creating a sense of community by having discussions with others. Jess also studied arts in the music industry and loves to utilise her creativity and event management skills as part of creating positive change.
Johnson is a Christian; his faith providing him with a sense of direction and a desire for justice.
He is currently studying Economics and Finance at the University of Melbourne, and is particularly keen on culture, community, and public policy issues. Johnson loves all things about classical music and spicy food (he is easily befriended with Korean food or Nando’s).
Johnson feels that the YAG has been an amazing opportunity to learn from and engage with other young people and see what they care about. Being a part of the group has developed his desire to see change in areas where people are denied dignity and opportunity. He feels it’s been a great privilege and heaps of fun to work with such a diverse, passionate, and loving group. He’s really looking forward to what the rest of this year has in store!
Kendall is originally from Sydney, but relocated to Melbourne in 2015 to study a Graduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of Melbourne. Prior to this, she travelled through Europe, the USA and South America over a period of two years. During this time, she volunteered at a youth hostel in Budapest, meeting many other young people who were on their own backpacking adventures.
Kendall has also completed a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University, majoring in Italian and Studies of Religion.
Kendall is passionate about youth mental health, women’s rights, domestic and family violence, Indigenous affairs, and climate change – among many other issues affecting young people in Melbourne.
As a young leader of the YAG, Kendall hopes to improve her leadership skills, participate in policy and advocacy training, gain experience with marketing and event management, and work alongside the team to execute their kick-ass projects and ideas throughout the year.
She is super excited to see such a diverse group come together and challenge each other with their many ideas and stories.
When she doesn’t have her head in a psychology textbook, Kendall can be found hunting for bargains in Melbourne’s op shops, brunching, or attempting to practice her mindfulness skills.
Nellie has recently moved to Melbourne from the glorious nation’s capital, Canberra. Having a wild sense of adventure, at 16 she moved to Italy and lived in a small town on the outskirts of Naples in 2012.
After years of being involved in a range of not-for-profit organisations, Nellie set sail for Edinburgh, Scotland to embark on the journey of a life time. While in Edinburgh, Nellie lived and worked in a residential community for young people experiencing homelessness. Nellie's experiences in Edinburgh has led to her studying Social Work and Psychology at RMIT. She is also heavily involved with a political party and is in the initial stages of creating a co-designed organisation with young people experiencing homelessness.
Paddy is currently studying a Bachelor of Business and Communications at Swinburne University. He comes from the coastal town of Ocean Grove near Geelong and loves being outdoors. He has always felt strongly about equal opportunity and has been involved in the development of a variety of programs for refugees, people with disabilities, and people experiencing disadvantage within his local community. Geelong has a variety of youth issues such as underage drinking, street violence, and drug abuse.
Seeing the effects of these issues on his local community has motivated Paddy to create change. Paddy loves talking to and meeting new people and hopes to contribute to sustainable change within the community.
Now a local resident of Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Rylan was born and raised in far North Queensland’s tropical beaches of Cairns. He has spent the past 6 years building a holistic health facility (Thrive Health Clinic) based in Melbourne. With his strong community links, his dream of a centre inspired by Aboriginal culture is set to open in spring of 2017.
Rylan’s true passion lies in music. He is acutely aware of the barriers it can break down and has seen this happen with the people he works alongside. His guitar and vocal skills tell stories of his deep connection to the land and world around him, commentating on Indigenous rights and issues, political hypocrisy, human and environmental injustice, and the occasional love song and personal reflection thrown in for good measure. His music is set to be released in 2017.
Tom is 19 years old, and was born in a small town in Former Yugoslavia. He came to Australia when he was 3 years old and has lived here ever since.
Tom has jumped from passion to passion, including; engineering, music, finance, and health.
He has seen the way the world turns and has come to the sound conclusion that if any one person isn't living with an altruistic goal and purpose, they're going to find life a real struggle to get through.
Ever since having this realisation, Tom has been searching for ways to transcend his own life. He is self-described as “intense, chilled and laid back, and pumped to smash out 2016!”
Tony is 19 years old and currently studies a Bachelor of Environment at the University of Melbourne. His main interest areas are in property, urban design and planning.
Tony hopes to empower, enlighten and encourage other young people to participate in programs.
He also wishes to take a proactive stance in creating social impact within his community.
He is currently involved in a diverse range of student clubs, including: Change by Youth, China Rural Education Initiative, National Australia Day Council, Oaktree, and many others.
He hopes to one day travel to the United States of America to network and communicate with inspirational leaders in the field of environment, gaining in-depth knowledge of implementing leadership and social entrepreneurship.