Australian of the Year Alumni inspire students at University of Western Australia 

  • 12 September 2022

Three incredible members of our Australian of the Year Alumni inspired Year 9 and 10 students and teachers from across Perth with their stories of rising from adversity. 

Led by emcee and Auspire Ambassador, Conrad Liveris, our speakers shared their stories of failure at school – all admitting to subjects they struggled with and failed but then sharing their road to their incredible achievements and successes. Each of them have certainly overcome those obstacles as they’re now highly involved in the subjects that didn’t resonate with them at school.

Man standing on stage

The students gathered at UWA’s Octagon Theatre to hear WA’s 2022 Local Hero, Craig Hollywood, explain how he was inspired to begin Short Back & Sidewalks. He explained how a family member experienced adversity and homelessness which gave him the ‘fire of empathy’ to set about helping people in a similar situation. With the help of his own barber and other hairdressers, Short Back & Sidewalks now offers free haircuts for people experiencing homelessness along with the opportunity to connect, have a friendly chat and link them to other community services. The students were surprised to hear that Craig had failed Science at school but is now a successful civil engineer. 

Woman speaking on stage at event

Also admitting to failing  Science at school, 2022 WA Young Australian of the Year finalist, Dr Hayley Passmore’s career has led her work as a researcher in neurodisabilities in young people in detention at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. Her findings have led her to develop her ‘Reframe Training’ program to help custodial staff, police officers and teachers recognise early symptoms and issues in young people and address those appropriately. 

Man speaking on stage at event

Our final speaker was 2022 WA Australian of the Year, Paul Litherland, who gave an informative and eye-opening presentation on his work with online safety. Paul focussed on how the popularity of smartphones and apps has changed over the years, leading to higher risks for young people. As someone who is dedicated to preventing the negative effects of internet use, he urged the audience to help him by protecting themselves and each other. Paul confessed that his downfall at school was Maths and his work is highly supported by statistics.  

Conrad, who failed English at school and now writes for national international news outlets, then led the Q&A session and encouraged students to ask their own questions. The speakers had obviously struck a chord with the audience as the questions came quick and fast. It was great to see the impact that the personal stories had on everyone as they all gathered for their selfies on stage with the speakers, before taking part in campus tours of UWA. 

Group of people talking on stage

The overall message from the speakers was for students to make their path through life one step at a time as you never know what doors open along the way and to grab all opportunities with both hands. And those failures are just learning opportunities to help achieve your goals. 

Auspire thanks our supporters their support of the Inspiring Australians Student Forum: Chevron Australia, Australian of the Year Awards National Diversity and Inclusion Partner. The University of Western Australia as venue partner. And the students all enjoyed the gifts provided by Perdaman. 

A special thanks goes to the teachers and staff for bringing the students and we look forward to welcoming future young leaders to the next Inspiring Australians Student Forum.   

View photos of the event here.

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