An advocate for a more inclusive performing arts sector, a social entrepreneur seeking to reduce recidivism through fitness and the founder of a national gift delivery service employing women experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence are among 10 outstanding individuals from across the country who’ve been awarded a 2022 Westpac Social Change Fellowship.
Valued up to $50,000, the Fellowship will give each recipient the chance to turn their attention to themselves, spending the next 12 months focused on their own personal and professional development to enhance their leadership capabilities.
Among the 2022 recipients is Joe Kwon, founder of ConFit and Confit Pathways, a social enterprise and a not for profit helping to reduce recidivism amongst former inmates and young people in custody through fitness.
“Currently in Australia it costs $511,000 to house a single young person in Youth Justice Centres each year and 84% will return to custody within 12 months,” says Kwon.
“Through Confit Pathways, we plan to reduce the rate of youth recidivism to 20% by providing pathways to employment, education and community support from mentors with lived prison experience.”
Kwon himself has lived experience of incarceration, and at the age of 21 was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
“I grew up in a community full of violence, substance abuse and negativity and I thought that a life of crime was normal,” he says. “During my incarceration, I was fortunate enough to meet my first ever positive mentor who taught me the value of education, business and most importantly about self-worth.
“I spent my former years taking away from so many people’s lives but now I intend to spend the rest of my life giving back.”
Westpac Scholars Trust Acting CEO Amy Lyden says the Trust is committed to investing in new generation leaders like Kwon, working to create social change in Australia.
“Our Social Change Fellows are in a position where they really benefit from investment in their own leadership capability to enable them to grow their enterprises and create even greater impact.”
Kwon and his fellow recipients will design their own fellowship plan, giving them the chance to connect and learn from leading experts and entrepreneurs locally and internationally.
They will also take part in a bespoke Leadership Development Program to strengthen their networks and help them become more adaptive leaders.
2022 recipient Cessalee Smith-Stovall, founder of Stage A Change, which works to create more professional opportunities for artists of colour in Australia, says, “The Social Change Fellowship is so special because it means that someone else sees the value in the work, the artists we support, the change I want to make. And it means they believe in me.
“It's an opportunity to reach out to a wide network around the world and bring skills, learning and innovation back to Australia.”
The 10 Social Change Fellows will also become lifelong members of the program’s alumni, the Westpac 100 Scholars Network (W100).
Growing by up to 100 Westpac Scholars every year, the W100 is a supportive scholar-led community that values diversity and creates opportunities for collaboration, professional development, networking and contributing to positive change in Australia.
“I see the W100 as an incredibly rich opportunity to become part of a long-lasting community,” says Kwon. “It’s a chance to investigate, learn more about and build cross-sector collaboration to bring about impactful change.”
With the W100 set to grow to over 650 scholars in 2022, Lyden says, “the potential of the network to create positive change is enormous.”
Each year Westpac Scholars Trust awards up to 100 scholarships a year to outstanding university students, researchers and social innovators in Australia. Since 2016, the Trust has invested $31 million in more than 560 Westpac Scholars.
2022 Westpac Social Change Fellows
Bronwyn Bate, Mettle Women (WA)
Cessalee Smith-Stovall, Stage A Change (VIC)
Geoffrey Smith, Australian Spatial Analytics (QLD)
Joe Kwon, Confit Pathways (NSW)
Maya Newell, The Unquiet Collective (NSW)
Megan Donnell, Childhood Dementia Initiative (NSW)
Melissa Reader, The Violet Initiative (NSW)
Nikita Fernandes, Ally Assist (VIC)
Roxane Fousler-Piggott, FreddyMatch (QLD)
Dr Tiffany De Sousa Machado, The Village Foundation (SA)
Find out more, visit Westpac Social Change Fellowship here.
Published 24 March 2022