7 young aussies fighting to make 2017 brighter
Some people are celebrated more than others: actors, models, musicians, and artists all make our lives more beautiful in bold, visible ways. But what about the ones behind the scenes? The members of our communities working to keep us safe, happy, and...
Deirdre Fidge, 28
What do you do? I'm a writer, social worker and mental health advocate. I mainly write comedy discussing topics such as feminism, LGBTQ issues and the latest political bullshit. I also write personal essays around mental illness and sexuality. What are you passionate about? Dogs in human clothes. LGBTQ rights. Social justice. What are you afraid of? The ever-consuming loneliness and existential dread that creeps up on me every night as I attempt to sleep. LOL just kidding! I'm scared of moths. Who do you look up to? So many people inspire me to do better as a writer, as a comedian, as an activist, as a human. My mother has always been a source of support and strength for me, if I have any redeeming qualities at all they are because of her. Nakkiah Lui, Clem Bastow, and Anna Spargo-Ryan are all writers I greatly admire. I look up to my best pal Bec Shaw in so many ways because she is kind, wise, and the funniest fucko I know. If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be? You are worthy of good things. You are enough. In 2017, what are you fighting for? Breaking down the structures and systems that prevent the voiceless from being heard. Let's make noise.
Atong Atem, 25
What do you do? I'm an artist, writer, and I make pies sometimes. What are you passionate about? I'm passionate about active decolonization and solidarity, conversations about personal experiences, writing about my feelings, and science fiction. What are you excited for? The future. I'm really lucky to know so many people who are active in their communities working towards tangible social change. Particularly First Nations peoples, South Sudanese young folks here and back home, and artists, writers, and activists who are openly discussing deep-rooted social issues and challenging them directly. Who do you look up to? My mom, who's constantly surprising me with information about her upbringing and her experiences in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. My mom, my aunties, and great aunties paved the way for me and very literally made it possible for me to be as wanky an artist as I want. They also instilled me with the social responsibility and decolonial motivation that drives everything I do because they lived it, much, much worse than I, and continue to seek change. Honestly, black women make the world go round. If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be? Listen to my mom's advice. What are you most proud of? Slowly coming into my own on my terms and learning about myself in really big ways recently. I'm proud of the amazing black folks around me, especially young black women who are so ridiculously motivating and supportive and intelligent and loving — I owe everything to them.
What do you do? I DJ and take photos. What are you passionate about? Building a community based on respect, love, and forgiveness. What are you excited for? Life as a trans woman. What are you afraid of? Life as a trans woman.Who do you look up to? I don't really look up to anyone — I believe more in a mutual exchange of gratitude between people. If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be? We're all learning. What are you most proud of? Surviving. In 2017, what are you fighting for? Community.
Sasha Chifura, 20
What do you do? Artist and Talent Management, and I co-run a label called Valve Sounds. What are you passionate about? Entrepreneurship — it fulfills my need to take risks, to build, and nurture from the ground up, as well as my desire to make something significant. Who do you look up to? Jay Z has always been one of the most influential figures to me and recently, I've been getting really inspired by Oprah and Serena Williams. Work ethic, dedication, a unique and a creative approach to growing their brands is what links them all for me. If you could change the world in one way, what would it be? It would be nice if we were given the ability to independently think and reason our individual discontent, rather than being spoon-fed what our problems are. If each individual was able to think independently about society's structure and act based on their own experience, we would see a more educated population contributing their own ideas as solutions to countless problems. A thousand 'woke' minds leads to a million practical solutions. In 2017, what are you fighting for? Empowerment and growth of my people and immediate circle. There are a million things wrong with the world and unfortunately I can't contribute to fixing all of them. Sometimes you have to be selfish by prioritizing and fixating on issues that immediately affect you and those around you.
What do you do? I'm Secretary of the Australian Sex Party, Victorian Parliamentary Electoral Officer, and Campaign Coordinator for Melbourne Period Project and The School Project. What are you passionate about? Getting good shit done. What are you excited for? A tomorrow that is slightly better than today. What are you afraid of? Unimaginably fucked catastrophic global occurrences being mismanaged by elected officials and the insidious ramifications of male privilege. Who do you look up to? Anyone who is thanklessly working away for a greater good. If you could change the world in one way, what would it be? Global and unrestricted access to healthcare. What are you most proud of? Working with the Sex Party in 2015 to legislate 'Safe Access Zones' in Victoria, ensuring people seeking abortions had harassment free access to fertility clinics, away from the annoyance of god-botherers. In 2017, what are you fighting for? Sensible civil liberties being legislated: voluntary euthanasia, personal marijuana use, the removal of the GST on tampons, and the survival of original Shapes' flavors.
Honor Eastly, 27
What do you do? I'm an artist, podcaster, and professional feeler of feelings. Much of my work has a focus on mental health and sits in the space between art and advocacy. What are you passionate about? I'm fascinated by the interplay of mental health, identity, and culture. The current conversation around mental health considers it largely a medical issue, but I see it as also being a cultural and social justice issue. I'm interested in what our views of madness tell us about ourselves, and what they say about our society. If you could change the world in one way, what would it be? I'd like to say something about mental health, but honestly climate change is terrifying, and there are no mental health issues if there's no planet, so can we please do something about that already?! If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be? I've been thinking a lot about this quote, "no one knows themselves as evil." It means everyone either thinks they're doing the right thing, or at least they have some justification for whatever they're doing. Remembering that helps me to stay curious about the world, and it means I learn way more about my place in it. If everybody in the world makes sense, it means I just haven't made sense of them yet. What are you most proud of? Probably the No Feeling Is Final campaign. I convinced people to submit to the review of Medicare by giving away badges to people who made a submission. As a result, the contributions from the campaign accounted for eight percent of all the submissions, which is a lot for one person. I think that's the moment where I realized the power of an authentic voice and some ad-hoc online marketing skills. In 2017, what are you fighting for? For a bigger conversation around mental health. I see so many challenging, insightful conversations happening around topics like feminism, but very few critical conversations around how we look at and deal with mental health as a society. I'm currently gathering my community of interest, people who are passionate about mental health and invested in finding different ways of understanding human distress. If that sounds like you, please find me on the internet so that we can build that conversation together.
Kate Pern, 28
What do you do? Good question. I'm a nurse, the safety coordinator for Cool Room, I run a training and consultancy business called Safer Spaces, and I DJ as Perno Inferno. What are you passionate about? Dogs, cheese, preventing sexual assault, hot chippies, diversity and equal opportunities in music, and creating safer dance floors. What are you afraid of? Heteronormative patriarchal power structures, antibiotic resistant superbugs, and the unchecked development of A.I. Who do you look up to? DJ Sprinkles aka Terre Thaemlitz. Terre is a phenomenal DJ and producer who unapologetically makes us confront the way we think about gender and sexuality. I admire Terre's music, uncompromising expression of self, and activism which challenges the white patriarchal notion of the gender binary. What are you most proud of? Getting by with a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with CFS/ME (Chronic fatigue syndrome) and had to quit a job I loved. Suddenly my energy became a finite resource, which ran out very quickly. Every interaction, activity, and expulsion of physical, mental, or emotional energy, suddenly came with a price. It forced me to re-think the way I engage with the world and put a lot of things in perspective for me. I had to learn how to say no, something I was really bad at before. While not being able to work a conventional job has been challenging and has taught me a lot about how society places values onto people, it has also given me the opportunity to follow my passions by starting Safer Spaces, working with Cool Room and learning to DJ — things I would never be able do if I was still in my previous full time role. In 2017, what are you fighting for? Creating safer spaces. Everyone deserves to feel safe when they go out. Unfortunately for many women, people of color, and LBGTQI+ people, assault and harassment is a normal part of a night out. I believe we're going to start seeing a really positive change in 2017 by using education, community building, and fostering diversity in crowds and line ups.
Photography James Robinson