Driven to find solutions for difficult social issues surrounding health, disability, disadvantage and unemployment, Westpac Social Change Fellows are leading change to create a more equitable future for Australia.
Westpac Scholars Trust has awarded ten outstanding entrepreneurs a Social Change Fellowship in 2023, valued at $500,000 in combined funding.
The program, which is dedicated to supporting extraordinary individuals tackling complex social challenges around health, disability, disadvantage and unemployment, awards up to $50,000 to each Social Change Fellow to grow and develop as leaders and scale their impact to keep driving positive change in Australia.
Communities of focus among this year’s Social Change Fellows are at risk youth, people with disability and First Nations people, each of which are still significantly impacted by disadvantage.
Nicholas Marchesi OAM, Tenille Gilbert and Kirra Johnson are three 2023 Westpac Social Change Fellows tackling homelessness and youth at risk.
Marchesi, awarded an Order of Australia in 2020 for his service to the community, co-founded charity organisation Orange Sky in 2014 with the vision to provide clean clothes, a warm shower and connection to people experiencing homelessness. Since then, Orange Sky has washed nearly three million kilos of laundry free of charge and has a 2,500-person strong volunteer base across Australia.
“At Orange Sky, we believe in positively connecting communities. We do this through the provision of basic human needs – clean laundry and showers; however, the most integral component of Orange Sky is the connection and conversation that occurs between volunteers and people doing it tough, each and every shift,” he said.
“This enables us to establish meaningful human connections, fostering close relationships and support systems within the community.”
Each Social Change Fellowship is a bespoke experience crafted by the Fellow to meet the needs of their development and initiative goals. The funding can be put toward overseas travel and research or development courses.
“So often, brilliant changemakers don’t have the time and space to reflect inwardly about their personal development, mindset and leadership style because they are so stuck in the ‘doing’,” said Westpac Scholars Trust CEO Amy Lyden.
“The Westpac Social Change Fellowship gives the Fellows this unique opportunity alongside a cohort of like-minded individuals. We believe this is critical in accelerating impact.”
Audrey Deemal and Corey Tutt OAM are two other Westpac Social Change Fellows offering support to First Nations people to improve financial literacy and representation in STEM.
“Having worked in STEM for many years, I found the gross underrepresentation of First Nations people in science to be problematic, so I started working with young people to help them find a love of science and foster a passion through free resources,” said Tutt.
Since 2018 Tutt’s social enterprise, DeadlyScience, has shipped thousands of books, telescopes, Lego kits and other STEM resources to over 800 communities, with more to come.
Confronting social issues around disability inclusion are 2023 Social Change Fellows Gabrielle Mordy, Michael Tozer and Mandy Lau.
Lau founded Reach & Match nine years ago to support children with disabilities through inclusive play. She partners with schools and community groups to use her award-winning Inclusive Education Kit and Program to help vision impaired kids learn braille and kids with multiple disabilities develop important foundational skills. Her program has supported over 55,000 kids globally.
“Since 2016, I have provided high-level Reach & Match inclusive education training and consultation to Save the Children, and then to other organisations such as UNICEF, Plan International and World Vision to help children in vulnerable communities and in developing countries,” she said.
Lau hopes to continue scaling her initiative to enable children with disabilities to have a fair chance to thrive and develop their full potential.
The Social Change Fellowship is one of five scholarship programs offered by Westpac Scholars Trust. In 2023, the Trust awarded 100 scholarships to university students, early-career researchers and social entrepreneurs to create a brighter future for Australia.
Celebrating our 2023 Social Change Fellows:
- Audrey Deemal (Cape York Partnerships)
- Tenille Gilbert (For Change Co)
- Eloise Hall (TABOO Period Products)
- Kirra Johnson (Good Cycles)
- Mandy Lau (Reach & Match)
- Nicholas Marchesi OAM (Orange Sky)
- Gabrielle Mordy (Studio A)
- Hedayat Osyan (CommUnity Construction)
- Michael Tozer (Xceptional)
- Corey Tutt OAM (DeadlyScience)