Meet the 20/21 Youth Congress | Youth Central

Find out more about the Victorian Youth Congress.
Azraf Ezaz, 2019 Youth Congress member

Azraf Ezaz - continuing member (15 - he/him)

Azraf is a year 10 student who moved to Victoria in February 2018 from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

He is passionate about youth mental health and wellbeing, following his experience in transitioning to a new a country. Azraf is a Monash Youth Ambassador and enjoys discussing ideas and issues with members of the community.

Briana Hines, 2019 Youth Congress member

Briana Hines - continuing member (18 – she/her)

Briana is a year 12 student currently studying in rural north east Victoria and recently interviewed Minister Spence for Youth Central.

She is passionate about ensuring that all young people have equal access to opportunities and access to services, regardless of their geographic location. Briana also volunteers within the education sector to represent and elevate the voices of students across the state.

Catherine Dunn, 2019 Youth Congress member

Catherine (Cate) Dunn - continuing member (20 – she/her)

Cate is a keen advocate for equal access and opportunities, due to her experiences of being deaf and growing up in regional Victoria.

She does advocacy work in the Youth Disability Advocacy Service and Disability Leadership Institute and through public speaking. Cate is working towards an equitable future for Victorians by creating transparent and accountable relationships between the community, service providers and government.

Charlotte (Charli) Ogden - continuing member (15 – she/her)

Charil grew up in Melbourne before moving to a rural area towards the end of primary school.

She participates in Scouts, where she has developed her leadership skills and a love of the outdoors. Charli is passionate about environmental issues and making sure everyone feels included and has lots of fun along the way. She is looking forward to representing the young people in her community as a continuing Victorian Youth Congress member.

Daniel Etzion, 2019 Youth Congress member

Daniel Etzion - continuing member (23 – he/him)

Daniel grew up in Melbourne’s Jewish community as an active member of its vibrant youth-led activism scene.

Daniel has just completed a Master of International Social and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is particularly passionate about education, housing and environmental policy, as well as his dog Rojo. He intends to bring his extensive experience and knowledge of policymaking and governance to the Victorian Youth Congress.

Harini Kasthuriarachchi, 2019 Youth Congress member

Harini Kasthuriarachchi - continuing member (23 – she/her)

Harini was born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Australia when she was five years old.

She lives in the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Harini is a final year Arts/Law student at Monash University. She has an interest in alleviating poverty, sexual assault policy and increasing accessibility to education. Harini wants quality and accessibility to be at the forefront of all policy development.

Jack Smith, 2019 Youth Congress member

Jack Smith - continuing member (19 – he/him)

Jack is from Mildura and is passionate about youth mental health and homelessness.

He hopes to create an accepting environment within the Victorian Youth Congress, where people from diverse backgrounds can express ideas and opinions that they feel strongly about.

Jessica Bennett - new member (22 – she/her)

Jessica is a proud Ngunnawal woman who grew up on Wiradjuri country in Albury, New South Wales.

She is a fourth year Arts/Law student at Monash University majoring in Human Rights and Indigenous Cultures and Histories. Jessica is a program coordinator at the Korin Gamadji Institute and is passionate about empowering young Indigenous people, social justice, education and sport. She is determined to have a career where she can make the quality of life for other people better.

Keeden Graham - new member (21 – he/him)

Keedan is a proud Yorta-Yorta, Wiradjuri and Dja Dja Wurrung man who grew up on Wadawurrung land in Torquay. 

Keeden is studying for a counselling diploma while working full time as an Indigenous Mentor for Strong Brother Strong Sister. He wants to stop barriers in place for our young mob and future leaders such as systemic racism, intergenerational trauma and over representation of Indigenous youth in the justice system and out of home care. 

Keeden is an active board member of the Ngarrimili Charity and is also working with the Commission for Children and Young People as a Youth Advisor to help guide the commission with working with children and young people through COVID. Keeden also loves to play football and basketball and enjoys surfing.

Kergen Angel, 2019 Youth Congress member

Kergen Angel - continuing member (22 – he/him)

Kergan lives the inner north of Melbourne and study social theory at the University of Melbourne.

Kergen has a deep interest in human rights, Australian legal history and facilitative leadership. He brings his experience of coordinating the largest state forum for young people through YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament to this year’s Victorian Youth Congress. Kergen hopes to advance this position as a platform of advocacy accessible for all young people to manoeuvre meaningful and momentous change. Kergen also really enjoys cooking and started Sharehouse Test Kitchen during COVID‑19 restrictions, which is a weekly livestream on Instagram.

Lachlan Houen, 2019 Youth Congress member

Lachlan Houen - continuing member (17 – he/him)

Lachlan is from Geelong and is in year 12.

Lachlan is passionate about LGBTIQ issues and youth homelessness and strives to bring purposeful change to all young people.

Lily Trethowan, 2019 Youth Congress member

Lily Trethowan - continuing member (17 – she/her)

Lily grew up in Rockbank, Victoria and is in year eleven.

She is passionate about issues facing women and girls, and she brings her problem-solving skills and enthusiasm for helping others to the Victorian Youth Congress. She has been part of the YACVic Working Group for its submission to the Royal Commission in Victoria’s Mental Health System and participated in the YMCA Youth Parliament. Lily loves public speaking and debating. She is also a member of Girl Guides.

Marindi Jarrett - new member (22 – she/her)

Marindi is a proud Gumbaynggirr, Larrakia, Iwaidja, Kalkadoon, Kandu woman and grew up on the lands of Wurundjeri in Melbourne.

Marindi is deeply passionate about Aboriginal economic development and how education goes hand in hand. This stems from her upbringing and the access to opportunities that many members of her big family did not have. She dreams of seeing more Aboriginal businesses flourish and young Aboriginal people engaged in meaningful employment.

Milagros (Mila) Vargas - new member (15 – she/her)

Mila believes in the need for an equal representation of young people's views and values in government policy.

She enjoys debating and public speaking and is always seeking new opportunities to contribute to the community. Mila is passionate about putting an end to discrimination in Australia, particularly as it affects Indigenous Australians. This year Mila hopes that she will be able to amplify the voices of her fellow young people to not only be heard by but reflected in the actions of the Victorian Youth Congress.

Natasha Swingler - new member (21 – she/her)

Natasha is a full time Law and Psychological Science student who grew up in Essendon, Melbourne.

Natasha is passionate and dedicated to changing mental health systems so that they further value the input of consumers and become consumer led and driven, alongside utilising lived experience of mental illness in roles such as Peer Work and Consumer Consultancy. She works in a number of lived experience roles, in peer work as well as hospitality and social enterprise.

Nuriyah Haque- new member (22 – she/her)

Nuriyah is a final year university student who has loved being lost in the world of learning.

Nuriyah completed an undergraduate degree in Climate Science and Arts and is now finishing her studies with her honours degree in International Studies. She is passionate about the intersectionality between local community engagement, migration and international development. While working at Youth Affairs Council Victoria and volunteering at Oaktree she has been able to focus these interests into dissecting the related issues while also empowering young people and her peers around her.

Otis Heffernan-Wooden, 2019 Youth Congress member

Otis Heffernan-Wooden - continuing membe(23 – he/him)

Otis grew up in the Yarra Valley in Melbourne’s east and is currently working at Reconciliation Victoria, the statewide body promoting just and respectful relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians.

He has been the recipient of the 2014 Spirit of Anzac Prize, the 2018 Armistice Tour and in 2019 was the Assistant National Leader of the Australian delegation on the Ship for World Youth, for which he is currently helping establish an alumni network. Otis will also be completing his Master of International Relations.

Que Anh (Briana) Ngo - new member (18 – she/her, they/them)

Briana grew up in Vietnam before moving to Melbourne in late 2017.

Briana is currently completing year twelve and has always been passionate about advocating for the rights of the LGBTIQ community and protecting the victims and potential victims of domestic violence. Briana’s goal is to utilise their skills to give back to the community and help people around the world.

Shengnan (Emilia) Wu - new member (25 – she/her)

Emilia grew up in China and has lived in Australia for over four years. 

Emilia completed an undergraduate of Information Technology in Ballarat before completing a Master of Business Information Systems in Canberra. Emilia is currently working in the Australian Council of Trade Unions and is interested in helping people and exploring the growth of new technologies. She is passionate about cultural diversity, volunteering at the Centre for Multicultural Youth and City of Ballarat Youth Council to develop projects. 

Tiana Sixsmith - new member (21 – she/her)

Tiana is a third-year anthropology and human rights student at Monash University.

Tiana is passionate about education, political representation and service access in rural Victoria, with a focus on mental health services. Tiana advocates with the YACVic, where she co-designed and facilitated their submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. She is the Director of Operations at UN Youth Victoria and hopes to create a world where young people from all backgrounds receive an inclusive and diverse educational experience and an equitable future.

Tom Saxton - new member (18 – he/him)

Tom is from Shepparton is passionate about education and water policy.

In the past few years he has spoken at the 2017 Parliamentary Inquiry into Civics and Electoral Participation, the 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into Career Activities in Schools, the 2019 National Youth Commission and was a guest speaker at the State Parliamentary Convention in 2019.

In 2020 Tom has been the recipient of the Young Citizen of the Year award for Shepparton and is currently undertaking the Fairley Leadership Program. Tom’s hobbies include camping, building computers and during COVID-19, Tom has been teaching himself bladesmithing.