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Youth Focus supporters celebrated at Make a Difference Awards 2021

Youth Focus supporters who contribute to the mental health and youth suicide prevention cause in Western Australia have been recognised in the 2021 Make a Difference Awards.

Nine awards were presented to recipients in a special ceremony at the State Reception Centre at Kings Park last night.

The annual Make a Difference Awards are presented to individuals and organisations who have displayed drive and compassion in support of Youth Focus’ important work to prevent youth suicide and promote positive mental health.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed greater vulnerability among young people, which had led to a significant rise in the level of mental health distress.

“Never before has access to mental health care been so important for young people. The continued assistance from our supporters means Youth Focus has been able to reach as many young people as possible with vital counselling and education programs,” he said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the nation, with Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing 58 young people aged between 15 and 24 died from intentional self-harm in Western Australia in 2020. This is a significant 18 per cent increase on 2019, when 49 young people died by suicide.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said this data strengthens community calls for swift, effective and accessible mental health services to help our young people.

“While funding and support in suicide prevention and mental health education has been ongoing, the number of young people lost to suicide is cause for alarm and shows greater investment in youth mental health is still desperately needed.”

“We are indebted to our supporters who are the cornerstone of Youth Focus and play a pivotal role in helping us reach as many young people as possible in our mission to improve the mental health of young people,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“From the ongoing support of individuals to corporate partners to our staff, everyone has a role to play. These contributions make positive differences to young people’s lives and have a meaningful impact on our community.”

Last financial year Youth Focus supported 4,599 young people through its free counselling and assessment services and another 7,696 people through school and community education programs at 48 schools.



Youth Award:

Bryonie Dann-Stokes

Bryonie has attended headspace Albany since September 2019. At the time, she was completing Year 12 with aspirations of becoming a nurse. She has overcome situational barriers that were impacting her ability to study effectively, maintain her physical and mental health, and find meaningful employment. Bryonie was proactive in her recovery plan which included attending regular counselling and vocational support appointments. With the assistance of headspace Albany, Bryonie was successful in gaining a full-time government traineeship for community mental health services. Her Vocational Specialist and Care Co-ordinator have observed a continued growth in Bryonie’s confidence and self-esteem, overcoming significant barriers including violence in the family home and being at-risk of homelessness. Bryonie is now completing her full-time traineeship while focusing on securing a permanent position with WA Country Health Services, is living in independent accommodation, and has recently gained her driver’s licence with the assistance of headspace. Bryonie has met all her challenges with the tenacity of a young person who is willing to change and secure a good future for themselves.


Youth Award:

Tia Dunn

Tia was referred to Vocational Support Program in November 2019. When first meeting Tia she was close to graduating from high school, she was quiet, shy and made limited eye contact throughout appointments. During her time with the Vocational Support Program, Tia completed a Certificate in Gaining Access to Training & Employment (GATE) and a Certificate III in Community Services. In addition, Tia has learned significant life skills and is now volunteering at an Aged Care Centre where she assists the elderly community with group activities. Tia is highly driven and motivated to achieve her goals. Always arriving early, planning ahead and managing her diary are significant organisational skills that will be incredibly valuable to her future workplace or educational institution. Tia actively searches for employment and confidently approaches employers to self-market her amazing skill set. She is honest, reliable and a genuinely kind-hearted person. Throughout her vocational journey, we have worked collaboratively with her counsellors to support Tia with self-management strategies which have been an integral part of Tia’s mental health recovery. Practicing a shared care approach has only maximised Tia’s opportunities to excel. Tia has a profound sense of kindness and warmth that she spreads to all those that she encounters. Her dedication to her wellness journey has been inspiring.


Community Impact Award:

Ally Collins

Ally has repeatedly volunteered her time at not only Youth Focus events but wider community events. Ally has engaged with her school community to offer her services as a youth group coordinator, in leadership camps, and in youth parliament. Ally attends school networking events where she discusses the supports available to young people; breaking down barriers for young people. Ally has openly discussed her lived experience with mental health and believes being transparent with the youth of WA is key to promoting positive change. Ally consistently offers her feedback and support to Youth Focus for youthful insights into services, programs, events and campaigns.


Community Impact Award:

Dee Franklin

Dee Franklin is a mother of three whose 20-year-old daughter, Kyah, took her own life in September 2020. Just weeks after the devastating tragedy, she signed up for the inaugural Walk for Me event to raise money for Youth Focus and help celebrate her daughter’s life. In a few short weeks, Dee rallied family and friends to join her Walk For Me 2020 team, Kyah’s Tribe, and walked 15km together, raising $13,000 for Youth Focus. She subsequently entered the 2021 Walk for Me event, in which Kyah’s Tribe raised more than $19,000. Dee has been a stand-out advocate for suicide prevention and for Youth Focus since she first shared her story publicly in September 2021. She is driven in her conviction to the suicide prevention cause and committed to using her heartbreaking story to raise critical awareness about youth mental health and services provided by Youth Focus. Her frank and honest account engaged audiences through the Youth Focus media campaign and prompted a flood of donations to the charity. Dee’s compelling message, and in turn exposure of the suicide prevention message and Youth Focus’ work, received extensive media coverage across WA, including in The Sunday Times STM magazine, Channel 10, local newspapers and numerous online news websites.


Community Partner Award:

headspace Midland Consortium: Key assets; Helping Minds; WA Police(Midland); Youth mental Health; Swan City Youth Service; RISE Community Service; North Metro Community Alcohol and Other Drug Service; Mercycare; APM Employment; EDGE Employment

The headspace Midland Consortium has been in membership since 2016 and has been instrumental in supporting young people to seek support for issues related to their mental health. Each organsiation has improved access for young people to mental health, physical health/sexual health, alcohol and other drugs services and vocational/educational support, and to ensure better coordination between those services by providing holistic services through headspace centres, satellites and associated services; increasing community capacity to identify young people with mental ill-health and related problems as early as possible; encouraging help-seeking by young people and their families and friends; providing evidence-based, quality services delivered by well-trained, and appropriately qualified and experienced professionals; and providing a mechanism for service coordination and integration. Without the support and investment of each organisation, headspace Midland would not be able to meet the needs of young people across the community. This collaborative approach has led to more than 6,000 young people receiving treatment, care and support through collaborative referral and integrated case management.


Geoff Rasmussen Corporate Citizen Award:

Paul Hopwood

Paul Hopwood was the first event director for the Hawaiian Ride for Youth in 2003 and has been a strong advocate for Youth Focus since. Paul offered his time to assist in securing sponsorship for the Hawaiian Ride for Youth, and with his assistance the sponsorship income for the 2022 Ride is close to $800,000 – a record-breaking amount. This is in large part due to his confirmation of BHP as the Heritage Peloton Sponsor who is contributing $200,000 for the opportunity.


Tim Anderson Scholarships:

Sarah Sinclair

Sarah has overcome much hardship in her life with a background of family trauma. Sarah is passionate and committed to improving the quality of life for young people in WA ensuring they have adequate support to flourish and do not have to experience the same hardships as herself.

She has always wanted to work with people and help people in a clinical environment but was hesitant as this meant going to university. With her previous struggles this never seemed achievable to her, to manage her mental health, financial stress, and a full-time university workload. But she feels after her attendance at Youth Focus has helped her develop healthy coping strategies and building a support network. She has never felt so stable and ready to study at a high level. This scholarship will provide her with some reprieve from financial stress, allow her access to education and most importantly give her a confidence boost knowing that someone believes in her and supports her.


Zoe Dutton

Zoe has overcome multiple barriers in her life where she now has the capacity to complete her university education. Zoe is in the process of converting her enrolled nursing training into a registered nursing qualification. She has had to manage on her own without support to gain her education and whilst she is self-sufficient balancing her study whilst financially supporting herself can be stressful. She has a passion and empathy for helping those in need who may not have support systems in place, which is why she chose patient advocacy and a caring profession. This scholarship will assist Zoe in being able to focus on her studies and develop her skills further to support her community as a nurse.



Hayley Sarre

Detail Marketing Communications

[email protected]

0449 202 945