The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) today welcomes a record 18 exceptional young Australians to its 2012 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program.

Selected from over 130 applicants, this year’s Pioneers are enacting social change through unique initiatives across diverse sectors. Some of the impressive projects include championing rugby players against gender-based violence; creating brighter and sustainable futures for orphans in Uganda; providing support and care to those with eating disorders; and empowering Australians to open their hearts and homes to asylum seekers.

Queensland Young Australian of the Year 2012 and YSP alumnus Chris Raine has been named key ambassador for Young Social Pioneers.

Chris credits YSP for taking his initiative, the now hugely successful and nationally recognised Hello Sunday Morning program, to the next level.

“The YSP program inspired me and gave me the skills and networks I needed to build my organisation and really make a difference,” said Chris, a recent winner of an Architects of the Future Award.

“The capability of this next group of Pioneers is remarkable and I can’t wait to see the difference they’ll make in Australia and the world,” Chris continued.

Now in its fourth successful year, YSP is a 12-month leadership program that invests in young change makers, providing mentoring; international networks; and training and development in leadership, communication, business planning, financial acumen, evaluation and resilience.

In addition to Chris, YSP lists Lucinda Hartley, a United Nations HABITAT Youth Advisory Board member; Nerida Lennon, winner of a British Council Big Green Idea Award and one of the Age Melbourne Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People; and Kumari Middleton, recipient of a Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grant and selected for a Cordes Fellowship, among its impressive alumni.

“FYA has been blown away by the creative, intellectual and entrepreneurial might of these young people,” said Jan Owen AM, CEO of FYA. “We are excited to unleash what we believe to be Australia’s most influential force of young leaders in social change.”

Young Social Pioneers is modelled on the International Youth Foundation’s global YouthActionNet® initiative and invests in inspired young Australians to develop their leadership skills and support their vision for social change.

The 2012 Young Social Pioneers are:

  • Adam Everill, 26, VIC: Founder of Rugby League Against Violence (RLAV), which promotes positive conceptions of masculinity in Papua New Guinea and provides a platform for players to become champions against gender-based violence.
  • Christopher Campbell, 27, SA: Founder of Our World Today, a news organisation that veers away from sensationalised and negative news, and shares positive and inspiring stories of the world.
  • Giancarlo de Vera, 26, NSW: Founder of Welcome to Australia, a social inclusion initiative aiming to cultivate a culture of welcome in Australia and to act as a positive voice around asylum seekers, refugees and multiculturalism. 
  • Hayward Matthews, 25, TAS: Founder of one cent movement, an initiative that turns everyday transactions into charitable opportunities by rounding up online purchases to the nearest dollar and donating the difference to organisations in need. 
  • Huy Nguyen, 27, ACT: Founder of Enable Development, a social enterprise that aims to build the leadership capacity of people with disabilities, and to improve the products and services available to them. 
  • Ilona Quahe, 21, WA: Founder of Ignite, an education initiative which tackles education inequality and empowers young people from less privileged backgrounds to reach their potential by engaging university students as mentors and tutors. 
  • Jessica Sparks, 20, NSW: Founder of Sparking Life, an initiative that campaigns for, advocates and spreads awareness about organ donation and its importance in Australia. 
  • Joanne Sharkey, 28, VIC: Founder of Prickle Community Acupuncture, which provides affordable acupuncture services, targeting those with low incomes or disadvantaged backgrounds to make acupuncture equally accessible to all. 
  • Jordan O’Reilly, 23, NSW: Founder of Fighting Chance, an organisation that creates employment opportunities and fulfilling life experience for people who face poverty, unemployment and social isolation, due to a disability. 
  • Julian O’Shea, 28, VIC: Founder of the Engineers Without Borders Institute, which aims to transform the engineering and technology sectors and make a positive impact in disadvantaged communities through humanitarian engineering programs. 
  • Lawrence McIntosh, 26, ACT: Founder of Canberra Clean Energy Connection, which joins communities and renewable energy to enable people to invest locally in their own energy generation. 
  • Linh Do, 21, VIC: Founder of Speak Your Mind, which trains young people in specialised, cause-based writing, enabling them to communicate with purpose while remaining objective from a journalistic perspective. 
  • Nicole Gibson, 19, QLD: Founder of The Rogue & Rouge Foundation, a charity that supports victims of eating disorders and other mental illnesses associated with body image and self-esteem. 
  • Nkandu Beltz, 29, WA: Founder of the Kununurra Youth Development Programme, a skills-based mentoring project that engages youth with positive activities to encourage a sense of ownership and belonging in the remote Kununurra community. 
  • Rosie O’Halloran, 26, NSW: Founder of foundations.(au), which provides full time care, education and safe and nurturing living environments to children in Uganda. 
  • Sarah Rowbottam, 27, WA: Founder of Proximity, an artist-led initiative that incubates the development of small-scale works by independent WA artists. 
  • Sophie Weldon, 23, NSW: Founder of Creative Ventures, which produces innovative new media experiences and social enterprise projects to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. 
  • Vanessa Picker, 21, SA: Founder of Play Forward, an initiative which collects and redistributes pre-loved sporting equipment to disadvantaged kids.