2022 Warrnambool and Moyne Youth Award winners

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For the first time since 2019, a large crowd gathered in-person to celebrate the winners and nominees of the 2022 Warrnambool and Moyne Youth Awards.

The award ceremony was held on Sunday September 11 at Deakin University’s Warrnambool Campus.

Warrnambool award winners were Akira Fish-Laird (12-15 age category), Paris Nagorcka (16-18 age category) and Sidney Davies (19-25 age category) while Sahara Davey (12-15 age category), Tayla Spencer (16-18 age category) and Mitchell Spencer (19-25 age category) were recognised as the Moyne winners.

Runners up included Rachel Nsubuga, Charlee Sutcliffe, Chloe Matthey, Hayley Nagorcka, Sam Niklaus, Jermaine Ferguson, Sienna Gladstone, Brianna Hallinan and Keneisha Ferguson.

Family connections were a common theme in 2022, with siblings Tayla and Mitchell Spencer both winning awards while siblings Jermaine and Keneisha Ferguson were both runners-up.

Warrnambool Mayor Cr Vicki Jellie said it was special to be able to bring everyone together in-person to recognise the Youth Award winners and nominees.

“A big congratulations to all of the winners and nominees,” she said.

“There’s a real sense of occasion, a sense of electricity almost, that comes with bringing so many people together in the one room to present the 2022 Warrnambool and Moyne Youth Awards.

“It was great to see some familiar faces from last year’s awards and to be able to meet them in person and congratulate them on their continued achievements. 

“One of the goals of the awards is to encourage the nominees and inspire them to keep doing the great things that they’re doing, so I’m glad to see that they are still reaching for the stars.

“And a big congratulations to all of our first-time nominees. Being nominated for a youth award means that someone out there, a teacher, a coach, a mentor or someone else, has noticed something special in them.

“And that in itself, being noticed, being recognised for something that they have done or that they are continuing to do, that can be a powerful thing.

“Whether they know it or not, these young people are playing their part in making our region a happier place, a more connected place, a kinder place, a better place, for everyone.”

Moyne Shire Mayor, Cr Ian Smith congratulated the nominees, as well as those who nominated for this year’s awards.

“I would like to congratulate all of the nominees who were recognised at this year’s awards ceremony and celebrate what our amazing young people are achieving in every corner of the Shire,” he said.

“The leadership, commitment and passion of our local youth who dedicate themselves to volunteering and leading projects is a huge asset to our community and it’s important that we acknowledge their achievements and show our support.

“All of the nominees deserve recognition for their hard work and contribution to the community and we couldn’t be more proud of their achievements as it’s these young people who will be tomorrow’s leaders.”

The awards were proudly presented by the Warrnambool City and Moyne Shire councils with support from Rotary Club of Warrnambool, the Gwen and Edna Jones Foundation, Freeza Victoria and Deakin University.

About the winners

Warrnambool 12-15 age group category winner
Akira Fish-Laird

Akira has a vision impairment but this does not affect her willingness to give things a go.

Akira is a part of the Holiday Actors and Warrnambool Theatre Company community, who performed in the 2022 season of CATS. She was a valued member of the CATS production and contributed to the talent of the cast as well as the inclusive community ethos. Akira is extremely passionate about music. As well as performing via dance and voice, Akira also plays the flute and piano.

While other cast members could read and learn songs via a libretto book, Akira could not read the small text due to her vision impairment. Instead, Akira had to learn the words and harmonies by ear and rely on her memory. Akira demonstrated tenacity and diligence to perform the songs and choreography to a high standard.

Moyne 12-15 age group category winner
Sahara Davey (Hawkesdale)

Sahara is a mature, reliable and diligent person and is always willing to try new things. She is heavily involved in extra-curricular activities and enjoys participating in local community events and sport, including playing netball for Hawkesdale-Macarthur FNC.

Sahara is a talented individual who enjoys a variety of craft work, especially digital photography. She always displays kindness and empathy, even using her photography skills to produce calendars featuring her photos to gift to family members. 

Sahara is a high achiever at school, having participated in the School for Student Leadership Program (SSL), the Victorian Young Leaders to India Program and the Girls as Leaders in STEM research project. 

Sahara always displays a kind and friendly attitude towards others and is passionate about her community. She has volunteered at numerous community events including Hawkesdale Campdraft, Macarthur Campdraft and the local football canteen. Sahara has also shown kindness and consideration for the environment by getting involved in tree planting days at Hawkesdale P12 College.

Warrnambool 16-18 age group category winner
Paris Nagorcka

Paris has always stood out as a young woman who is the first to put her hand up to help out, to volunteer, to support and to lead. She demonstrates initiative time and again and in her school community and is almost regarded as an extended member of staff at Warrnambool College.

She is a strong, passionate and fierce advocate for the underprivileged, for those without a voice, for those who need someone to stand up for them, and for herself - as a person who strives every day to be better a version of herself than the day before.

For her Media project last year, she spent eight months researching, planning and creating a documentary on homelessness, highlighting the plight of the vulnerable and the invisible, walking the streets of Melbourne and interviewing the young and the old to provoke empathy, support and respect in her final presentation that moved mountains.

Moyne 16-18 age group category winner
Tayla Spencer (Killarney)

Tayla’s entrepreneurial nature led her to start her own business, selling seedlings at local markets at eight years of age. She now sells an astounding 7000 seedlings a year at community and farmers markets, as well as donating around 5000 plants a year to schools.

Tayla is an extraordinary young person who always aims to inspire and contribute to her local community through volunteering with soccer, nippers, primary performers, Friends of Tower Hill, the Great Otway tree plant, assistant teaching and donating. 

Tayla is an exemplary and inspirational young person who is also a keen advocate when it comes to improving the environment. She volunteered in local tree planting and revegetation projects before learning to grow organic vegetable seedlings. 

The value of kindness is at the centre of everything that Tayla does. Following her love of art, she has also participated in a senior citizen art group for six years, forming strong connections with the group. 

Tayla currently works fulltime as an apprentice hairdresser at Grayce the Salon in Warrnambool, as well as working a second job waitressing.

Warrnambool 19-25 age group category winner
Sidney Davies

Sidney Davies is a proud Yorta Yorta woman who is passionate, resilient and responsible beyond her age. Sidney has been an active participant in many community programs and initiatives and has represented Brophy and the Great South Coast in a cross Government Community of Interest meeting held in Canberra to advocate for better traineeship and apprenticeship models for young people.

Sidney currently works at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative as a Media and Communications Officer. A great intersectional role model and positive influence on other Aboriginal and LGBTIQA+ youth in the community, she regularly puts her hand up to host and organise important LGBTIQA+ calendar days at Gunditjmara. 

She showed initiative to lead the Career Inspiration Video Series that have proved instrumental in promoting agricultural roles to young people both locally and nationally. This project has since been recognised by Dairy Australia to potentially be replicated in other states.

Losing her house and car through a fire in a neighbouring property in mid-2022 did not stop Sid and she is able to use lived experience to assist others going through challenging times and showing that your past doesn’t define your future.

Moyne 19-25 age group category winner
Mitchell Spencer (Killarney)

Few 22-year-olds have the confidence to run a business - Mitchell owns and runs Bottega Toscana Restaurant in Port Fairy.
As well as running a successful business, Mitchell is also an active member of the community getting involved through volunteering, sport, work and business.

Mitchell is constantly looking for ways to give back to the community and help others. During COVID lockdowns, Mitchell displayed his resilience and diversified his business by altering his trading hours to include coffee and lunch, employing local musicians to play at the restaurant and providing free food to the community. 

Mitchell is determined to give back to the community wherever possible. Devoted to helping people and organisations doing it tough, Mitchell has donated over 300 kids meals to Port Fairy Nippers, donated over $3000 to flood victims, was the gold sponsor for Southwest Soccer and has also sponsored local events.