Youth National Reference Group
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.
Abbie first connected with headspace during Year 12 when she was named Wellbeing Captain at her school.
Abbie has lived experience of depression and anxiety and wants all young people to know their futures are bright and hard times will pass.
Her approach to self-care is twofold. Not only does she make time to do the things she enjoys, she’s also sure to talk with other people about the challenges she’s experiencing.
When she’s not passionately advocating for youth mental health, Abbie pursues her love for singing and music. These are the activities she finds most therapeutic.
Abbie is also completing a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Wollongong. After graduation she hopes to work with young people, survivors of family violence and the refugee community.
Annas is excited to use his platform to advocate for the mental health of culturally and linguistically diverse community members.
As a member of the YRC at headspace Armadale, Annas has been invited to speak at community events about his lived experience of mental health challenges.
He’s determined to help break the stigma attached to seeking help, especially among young men and the Muslim community.
He says it’s important to talk about what you are feeling and not worry about what other people will think.
Annas, who experiences depression and anxiety, loves headspace because it’s a place he feels safe speaking openly and honestly about his lived experience of mental ill-health.
He enjoys road trips, PC gaming, dining out and supporting his AFL team, the West Coast Eagles.
Beck wants to share their story about growing up in a religious community and attending a religious school that wasn’t always welcoming of queer or transgender people.
Beck is also an alum of the headspace Digital Work and Study program. The program connected Beck with work opportunities to complement their university studies.
Beck has just completed a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University in Melbourne, with a major in linguistics.
Beck has a powerful message about mental health to share with others their age: ‘You’re not alone, and it’s not forever. You will go on to have a really fulfilling life.’
Beck spends downtime crocheting, as well as perfecting their repertoire of vegan dishes.
The Year 12 student is a familiar face at headspace Dubbo where she is a member of the centre’s Youth Reference Group.
Charlize has enjoyed collaborating with other YRG members on social events and fundraisers for her centre.
She’s also a published author, with her semi-autobiographical book, The Thread of a Demon, exploring her lived experience of mental health challenges.
Charlize hopes sharing her lived experience will encourage other people to take their mental health more seriously. She is keen to help other young people notice signs and symptoms of mental health challenges.
Away from school, Charlize enjoys spending time with friends as well as working her casual job in retail.
This meant that Cody worked through much on his own. When he saw people experiencing similar challenges he didn't want them to face these alone as he had, so he decided to help however he could, he may find it hard from time to time but knows it's important to look after ourselves, because we can't help others if we don't care for ourselves.
He’s thrilled to be a hY NRG member and is looking forward to sharing his experiences of being a pansexual young person in rural Australia and to help change the way people treat others, because 'we can't know exactly what others are going through, so there are no small things when it comes to others.'
Cody has taken the helm of that centre’s LGBTIQA+ support group and will be handing the torch to another, although is hoping to help the Riverland become a comfortable place for the generations to come.
Cody wants other young Australians to express themselves freely and authentically. ‘It’s OK to just be yourself,’ he says.
For Cody, that includes exploring many artforms including drag, though he hasn't had much practice, he is looking forward to this part of his journey.
Gerard is passionate about intersectionality in the mental health system and wants to see services that are safe and inclusive for all people to access.
His message to young people is to persevere through challenging times because things will get better.
When the Year 12 student isn’t busy with schoolwork, you’ll find him playing Roblox or watching Drag Race.
He also loves a good comic book and dreams about one day opening a bookshop in a country town.
Grace understands just how difficult it can be for young people to navigate the big changes that happen in their lives. She speaks openly about her lived experience of mental health challenges during the transition from school to university.
It was at university that Grace was first introduced to headspace Woollongabba. She’s gone on to become a long-serving member of the centre’s Youth Reference Group.
Grace knows what it’s like to lose a loved one to suicide. The experience has compelled her to advocate for the mental health needs of young people, especially young men.
The psychology and chemistry graduate wants other young people to understand the important link between connecting with others and maintaining your mental health.
‘It seems really simple, but we often forget there are people in our community who can support us,’ she says.
Grace currently works in the mental health sector, while continuing her research in the field of psychology.
Today she draws on her lived experience to speak passionately about mental health and ill-health, particularly suicide prevention.
She credits headspace with providing her the tools to take care of her mental health and improve her outlook on life.
As part of the Youth Reference Group at headspace Meadowbrook, Grace has played key roles in several community engagement initiatives.
She also shares her story in her work with batyr, another youth-focused mental health organisation, and does advisory work with Beyond Blue.
Grace has completed a Psychology degree at Griffith University and is now studying a Master of Suicidology - bringing her another step closer to fulfilling a decade-long dream of becoming a psychologist.
Grace uses her free time to indulge a love for true crime, politics and history, as well as playing video games.
Hannah joins hY NRG after a year as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health. She also brings experience from her time as a member of the headspace Hobart Youth Reference Group.
She wants to use these platforms to empower young people to seek support, speak up about their lived experience and reduce stigma on a national scale. Everyone’s experience of mental health and mental health challenges is valid, Hannah says.
Hannah is completing studies in psychology and sexology at the University of Tasmania, and already has qualifications and experience in aged care.
When Hannah isn’t working or studying, you can probably find her watching Grey’s Anatomy and Wentworth repeats, having Disney sing-alongs with her family or hiding away with a good book.
He loves the sense of community that headspace fosters, with everyone uniting around the common goal of improving young people’s health and wellbeing.
Hugh says learning to care for his mental health has been a ‘driving force’ in his life, a journey he embarked upon as a teenager after the death of his mother.
He wants other young people to see their lived experiences of mental ill-health as a strength, something from which they can learn tools to maintain healthy, balanced lives.
Hugh also works with youth mental health organisation batyr, where he shares his story of mental health challenges with schools and other groups of young people.
Hugh is completing a double degree in Arts and Science at Monash University, with majors in History and Psychology.
He’s also a keen photographer and movie-buff.
Motivated by her family’s experience of mental illness, Jasmine was a founding member of the Youth Reference Group at headspace Gladstone when the centre opened in 2016.
It’s this motivation that led her interstate to study medicine. She has since joined the eheadspace online peer support moderator team in 2019.
Jasmine wants to tell other young people facing mental health challenges that they are not alone, their feelings are valid and there are people in the community who can help.
When she’s not studying or advocating for mental health, Jasmine can be found exploring new places and learning new skills, baking or playing the trumpet.
Before joining hY NRG, Jesse Cotter already possessed a wealth of experience with headspace: from being a young person who used headspace services, to volunteering for headspace at local schools and even being a part of the centre establishment process in Strathpine.
Jesse’s mental health advocacy is informed by her lived experiences of chronic illness, alcohol and other drug use and suicidal ideation.
She wants to make sure headspace can reach in-need young people who are not yet engaged with mental health support. She is particularly passionate about the health and wellbeing of young women.
She wants other young people to understand there are trusted professionals in whom you can confide about life’s challenges.
When she’s not studying or working her several jobs, Jesse can be found on the netball court where she specialises in goal keeping.
That’s why they’re a passionate advocate for culturally and linguistically diverse young people and their unique experiences of mental ill-health.
As someone who is both autistic and has ADHD, Lehan is a strong voice for neurodiverse young people. She has established a social group for neurodiverse young people at headspace Camperdown, where she’s also a member of the Youth Reference Group.
Lehan is in the final stages of a Bachelor of Data Science with her sights firmly set on a PhD in economics.
Lehan is also an accomplished concert photographer, having shot gigs for Mac DeMarco, King Princess and Northlane.
Their message to young people is to be kind to yourself and make time for your mental health: “It’s the backbone of everything you do.”
Nikia is a proud Ngarrindjeri woman living on Kaurna Country. As a member of the headspace Wominjeka Youth Reference Group, she helped shape the Foundation’s 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing campaign, Take a Step.
She hopes being open about her lived experience of mental illness will help break down stigma within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
She believes mental health is something that requires ongoing maintenance. Nikia is currently studying a Master of Psychology (Clinical) at the University of South Australia.
Since first seeking support from headspace, Nikia has gotten involved in several aspects of the organisation at a local and national level. She is a member the Youth Reference Group at headspace Edinburgh North.
She’s also a headspace youth ambassador and works as an eheadspace moderator.
Nikia takes care of her mental health by practising self-care, often in the form of martial arts.
Rachael’s passion for suicide prevention and postvention was born out of tragedy when a close friend took their own life during high school. That experience underscored a need for what Rachael calls an ‘army of supporters’ to help young people navigating their journey into adulthood.
She wants other young people to know that what they are experiencing is real and valid, and that they deserve support for their mental health.
Having recently relocated to Perth, Rachael spent the last few years living and working in Karratha in regional Western Australia where she was a member of the headspace Pilbara Youth Advisory Group. Rachael has a passion for improving the accessibility of mental health support for young people in regional areas.
She is also an advocate for the headspace Digital Work and Study program, which she has accessed for support navigating a change in jobs.
Rachael currently works in health promotion, with a focus on sexual health in young people.
In her spare time, she enjoys long walks, going to the gym, catching up with friends and making crochet creations, all of which help her to feel mindful and grounded.
Rohan Symonds brings to hY NRG a wealth of experience from his time as a Youth Reference Group member at headspace Morwell. He loves the warm, welcoming atmosphere at headspace, describing his local centre as ‘like a second home’.
Rohan, 20, is a passionate advocate for Mental Health First Aid and other community-based mental health supports that assist not only young people but their family and friends as well.
He spends much of his free time connecting with other young people via youth initiatives in his community and is looking forward to building his network of peers during his time with hY NRG.
Rohan is also a talented cook, with French food the flavour of the month in his kitchen right now.
Rohan is currently studying a Bachelor of Community and Human Services at Federation University.
The 20-year-old’s passion for mental health literacy stems from being encouraged at a young age to talk openly about mental health with friends, family and her community.
She believes all of us have a role to play when it comes to destigmatising mental ill-health, and wants all young people to have the mental health literacy to know when they or someone they know is having a tough time.
The aspiring lawyer is passionate about mental health care policy, and about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Sammaya was a member of headspace Wominjeka youth reference group, which has helped shape the 2021 headspace Take a Step campaign.
Sammaya has recently relocated to Victoria where she is studying at University of Melbourne and works in a disability support sector. She loves spending her downtime in nature, especially at the beach.
Winona currently volunteers with her local headspace centre and sits as a Youth Advisory Council member for Orygen.
Winona’s goal is to work towards a more accessible youth mental health system for those living in the rural and regional parts of our country. She hopes to amplify the voices and valid stories that are not always heard.
Winona currently works at a Homelessness and Domestic Violence service as a Homelessness Support worker and has completed a Diploma of Music Industry as well as certificates in Community Services.
When she’s not advocating for young people’s mental health, Winona enjoys going to gigs and singing loudly, creating music, and turning everything she possibly can into a Taylor Swift reference.