nine people of mixed backgrounds with a male on the screen via zoom in the background.

Meet the new 2024 Matilda Centre Youth Advisory Board Members

18 June 2024
Leading the charge on youth-led research co-design
Five new Youth Advisory Board members join the Matilda Centre from across Australia to share insight on youth mental health and substance use.

Introduced in 2018 as part of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE), the Matilda Centre Youth Advisory Board (YAB) was established to solve a challenge in youth-focused research: how to design research for young people that they will actually engage with?

Research on youth mental health and substance use is crucial – we are seeing the largest rise in mental health distress in Australia’s young people – but what happens after? Programs and interventions developed by research are of little use if young people do not engage with them. 

For the Youth Advisory Board, they utilise their diverse experiences as young people across Australia to co-design resources, provide input into research, and share what young people want to see prioritised in research and policy. 

In 2024, the Matilda Centre is proud to have four new Youth Advisory Board Members join us. Hailing from across Australia, the four new members bring different perspectives to the team, but all share one passion: supporting strong action on mental health and substance use. 

Learn more about them below.

Thomas is looking at the camera and is wearing a grey zip up jumper. He's got short dark hair and black glasses.

Thomas, SA

My name is Thomas and I currently live in Adelaide, but grew up in the Barossa Valley in regional SA. I’m in my final year studying a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) at the University of Adelaide. I currently work in a Contracts and Relationships Management role for a UK-based company, and am an Advisory Member of the Student Wellbeing Advisory Group at the University of Adelaide. Over the course of my tertiary studies, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to qualitative and quantitative research initiatives within the University and State Government surrounding Veterans' mental health. 

My areas of interest in mental health research extend to substance and alcohol use disorders, recognising the intricate interplay between mental health and addiction. Also, exploring intersectionality and mental health, understanding how factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status intersect to influence individuals' experiences and access to support services. 

Mental health affects everyone at some stage in their life, whether it’s a personal experience or that of a loved one. I believe that research is one of the most powerful mechanisms in creating positive change, and that by investing in research initiatives, we can unravel the complexities of mental health, and dismantle stigma. In my free time I enjoy travelling, visiting art galleries and attending exhibitions, and spending time in nature going for walks.

Joining the YAB appealed to me because I believe in the power of youth-led initiatives to drive meaningful change in mental health. The opportunity to collaborate with passionate peers and experts at the Matilda Centre excites me, as it allows us to tackle pressing mental health issues with innovative solutions. I'm particularly motivated by the chance to advocate for inclusive, evidence-based approaches that can make a real difference in our communities.

Mariam is looking directly at the camera and is wearing a matching pale pink shirt and headscarf. She is smiling

Mariam, Vic

My name is Mariam, I'm a university student and I've always been passionate about lending a hand to my community. It's always such a rewarding experience being able to advocate for the needs and concerns of young people. 
Aside from that, I'm into Technology. There's something about creating solutions and seeing them come to life through different types of technology and that's incredibly fulfilling to me. 
I also like reading, as there's nothing quite like the feeling of immersing yourself in a captivating story or learning something new from the pages of a well-written book.

My interest in joining the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) stems from a desire to bring a fresh perspective to the conversations surrounding youth mental health and drug use. I've noticed a tendency in mainstream discussions to overlook alternative viewpoints and the diverse experiences of young people in my community. 
I believe it's crucial to explore the intersections between these issues, considering socio-economic disparities, cultural influences, and systemic factors. By advocating for more inclusive approaches, I aim to challenge conventional narratives and foster dialogue that prioritises a wide range of people. 
My goal on the YAB is to amplify voices that are often sidelined and advocate for solutions that are empathetic and tailored to the diverse needs of young people. Through meaningful discussions and collaborative efforts, I hope to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of mental health and drug use, ultimately driving positive change in our communities.

Heidi is wearing a long sleeved black shirt and has long, black hair. She is looking directly at the camera and is smiling.

Heidi, Tas

Hello! My name is Heidi, I’m 20 years old and live in Lutruwita/Tasmania. 
I currently study Politics and Aboriginal Studies and am particularly interested in policy development to create a better and fairer future for young people in rural and regional areas, with a focus on inclusivity. 
I'm dedicated to advocating for the rights and representation of LGBTQIA+, Disabled, First Nations, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. I have personal experience in navigating the limitations of rural and regional mental health care and understand that with the right policies, we can ensure equitable access and support for all individuals regardless of their background or location.

I'm a strong advocate for grassroots-led and community-minded policy approaches. I am grateful to participate in the Matilda Centre's YAB and believe that this opportunity will empower me to develop my skills, connect with like-minded young people, and continue advocating for my community.

I'm passionate about helping progress solutions in mental healthcare. Living in Tasmania, I understand the challenges of isolation and have first-hand experience navigating a mental health system strained by chronic under-resourcing, limited infrastructure, and high demand. 

As co-founder of the Adolescent Mental Health Project (established in 2020 with Lily Wooding), I previously met with Anita Dow, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Mental Health. Even now, Tasmania lacks dedicated in-patient support specifically for youth. It has only been since 2022 that Tasmanian children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) received funding to operate 7 days a week at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH).

There are huge opportunities for early access to appropriate support programs and the Matilda Centres YAB is facilitating knowledge sharing and best practice in metal health solutions. 

Dylan (right) with a woman at an event. He is wearing a blue suit with a white shirt underneath.

Dylan, NSW

Hi I am Dylan! 22 years old, Wiradjuri man from Gilgandra & currently live in Wellington NSW on Wiradjuri land.

I come from a blended Aboriginal Family and love to give back to disadvantaged people within my community. I understand the mental health and drug and alcohol problems our young and Elderly community face, I can relate to a lot of situations that they find themselves having to face.

My goal and while working at WINS Community Centre is to encourage the youth of Wellington to aim as high as possible and achieve as much as they can through education and positive lifestyle choices.

In my experience having the right support, information, resources and assistance can make a huge impact and change the lifestyle for our community and generations to come.

I finished School in 2019 with my high school certificate while working at McDonalds completing my management then went on to complete a Cert III in administration, Cert III in leadership and management, Cert IV in Aboriginal Wellbeing and Family Domestic Violence Prevention and am currently completing my Community Services Degree.

Dominique, NSW

Hello there! My name is Dominique, and I am 19 years old. I hope to study psychology in the future, as I am incredibly passionate about the importance of mental wellbeing and, in general, advocating for accessible health services. I

am excited to work with the Matilda Centre as I believe we must create significant grassroots change to ensure the most vulnerable of society are serviced within the healthcare system. I also believe that heath and mental health research in particular, can mitigate the divide by influencing policymakers to redirect resources to underfunded sectors and services.

Some of the other causes I have a deep passion for include: youth homelessness, advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, accessible structures for neurodivergent young people and young carers' awareness and support. I have engaged with these causes in other forums, such as the Wellways Youth Advisory Council (young carer advocacy), and in 2021 I lead the nationwide Mental Health Foundation project as a youth ambassador.

My personal life experiences inspire me to continue to advocate for these causes, and I hope to contribute in a meaningful and impactful way. In my spare time, I find solace in meditation, journaling, going on sunset runs, or curling up with a coffee and a good book.

Interested in learning more about our Youth Advisory Board? Get in touch