Grafton's Holly Butcher was inspirational in her battle with Ewing's sarcoma before she passed away on Thursday, 4th January, 2018.
Grafton's Holly Butcher was inspirational in her battle with Ewing's sarcoma before she passed away on Thursday, 4th January, 2018.

Clarence Valley youth making a difference

HARD-WORKING, dedicated and community-minded youth are not hard to come by in the Clarence Valley but there are a few who stand out as pillars of the community.

With the help of Giane Smajstr from the New School of Arts and Allira Newton from Clarence Valley Council, The Daily Examiner has devised a list of people under 30 who are the influencers of our future.

Working at The Daily Examiner, I have seen first-hand a lot of the hard work the youth of the Clarence Valley put into making it a better place.

While we can't recognise all the hard-working people who advocate for our youth, we can do our bit to help highlight some of the younger people in the community who are making a positive .

From Jeremy Jablonski, who was number 23 in the overall Power 30, to local artist Kade Valja and dance studio owner Ashley Albert, these young people all have a lot to offer the community.

Our No.1 choice, Clarence Youth Action, was one of the most significant steps in making the Clarence Valley better for youth. Two years after its conception, it continues to organise events and create a safe space for the youth of the Valley.

These 10 young people are creating the opportunity for the future youth of the Clarence Valley and giving our even younger people someone to admire.

A special mention went to Holly Butcher, who died of Ewing's sarcoma at the start of the year. The note she left upon her death rang true for people all over the world, reminding them that life is short: "That's the thing about life, it is fragile, precious, unpredictable and each day is a gift.”

Giane Smajstr, Youth Week Coordinator, Gabby Andrews, Zak Masters, Jeremy Jablonski and Hannah Craig from Clarence Youth Action get ready for the Youth Week AYA Music Fest.
Giane Smajstr, Youth Week Coordinator, Gabby Andrews, Zak Masters, Jeremy Jablonski and Hannah Craig from Clarence Youth Action get ready for the Youth Week AYA Music Fest. Caitlan Charles

Clarence Youth Action

THE collective has been recognised on a national scale, received a Premier's Award for their hard work in the community and created many safe and inclusive events for the youth of the Clarence Valley. Clarence Youth Action (CYA) started in 2016 as a Clarence Valley Council-led group. Now an entity in its own right, CYA is a beacon for the future of youth in the Valley.

The group will continue to work with services and advocate for the youth of the Valley into the future.

Jeremy Jablonski, president of Clarence Youth Action, accepts the Premiers Award from Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Jeremy Jablonski, president of Clarence Youth Action, accepts the Premiers Award from Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Caitlan Charles

Jeremy Jablonski

DANCE teacher, DJ, event organiser and youth advocate Jeremy Jablonski was number 23 on The Daily Examiner's Power 30 most influential list.

The president of Clarence Youth Action and owner of Jempire Events, Jeremy has been working with the community, businesses and service providers to bring more youth-centred events to the Valley.

Recently, he's been working on bringing a music festival to the Clarence Valley. G-Fest is set to hit the Clarence River Jockey Club in March.

Aneika Kapeen
Aneika Kapeen Contribute

Aneika Kapeen

ANEIKA became chief executive of Nungera Co-operative at 25 years old in July 2017. She is a passionate advocate for culture, children, young people and community, often doing what she doesworking with a baby on her hip. Aneika is an active member of the Yaegl Land Council, Youth Interagency and Local Drug Action Team and has worked tirelessly to run events and activities such as NAIDOC planning, Close the Gap Day, Youth Week events, school holiday activities and the recent Aboriginal Women's Camp.

Ashley Albert
Ashley Albert Contributed

Ashley Albert

WHEN you search through The Daily Examiner archives, they are filled with stories of Ashley Albert (Molloy). An exceptional ballerina, Ashley dreamed of dancing, performing and entertaining.

She is owner and teacher at Ashley Albert Performing Arts, which opened in 2011 and is now one of the best most well-attended dance academies in the Clarence Valley.

She and her husband Brendan, who owns Big River Pizza, are two of the Valley's youngest entrepreneurs.

Matthew Farrell
Matthew Farrell Contributed

Matthew Farrell

DESPITE his relatively young age, Farrell has always had a passion wanted to contribute to, and attempt to improve, his community. He has worked at the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-Op shop in Iluka for 11 years, taking over as manager at the age of 20. He's worked with Clarence Valley Council as part of its youth mentoring program and is hoping to run for the council in the next election. Recently he joined the Maclean Bowling Club board of directors and he volunteers as the Iluka Cricket Club treasurer (despite playing for Harwood) and as the Maclean Bobcats president.

Artists Kade Valja stands with some of his Ghosts as part of his artwork now gracing the walls of the Grafton Ghosts clubhouse.
Artists Kade Valja stands with some of his Ghosts as part of his artwork now gracing the walls of the Grafton Ghosts clubhouse. Adam Hourigan

Kade Valja

IF THERE is a blank space in Grafton, it's likely been filled by artist Kade Valja.

In the past two years, Kade's helped create graffiti art at South Grafton High School, worked on a mural in the Shoppingworld carpark, painted a temporary mural on the front of the Pelican Playhouse and a Casper-inspired mural on the dressing sheds and canteen at Frank McGuren Field. Now working on an art space and creative hub with Matthew Price, the 22-year-old is making a name for himself.

Emma Joseph at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on August 25, 2018.
Emma Joseph at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on August 25, 2018. Caitlan Charles

Emma Joseph

DESPERATE to address mental health issues in the Clarence Valley, Emma Joseph spearheaded the Black Tie Ball, a fundraiser for mental health in the Clarence Valley.

With more than 12 months of work going into organising the event, Emma became an advocate for mental health, bringing together people from all walks of life to hear stories of people's struggles with mental health and to begin a conversation.

Cousins Thomas Ferguson-Gardiner and Branden Laurie show their skills ahead of helping with Midnight Basketball program
Cousins Thomas Ferguson-Gardiner and Branden Laurie show their skills ahead of helping with Midnight Basketball program Adam Hourigan

Thomas Furguson-Gardiner

AFTER taking part in the program for years, Thomas Furguson-Gardiner stepped up to take on the role of Midnight Basketball coach this year.

At only 19, he and his sister Katelyn stepped up to take on the role and be a positive influence on the youth coming through the program that focuses on getting youth off the streets.

Also a member of Clarence Youth Action, Thomas is a positive role model for the youth of the Clarence Valley.

Already planning next year's Black Tie Ball, the organising committee has had its first fundraiser.

Katelyn Ferguson is a nominee for Young Citizen of the Year.
Katelyn Ferguson is a nominee for Young Citizen of the Year. Jarrard Potter

Katelyn Ferguson

KATEYLYN Ferguson is a community advocate who is passionate about young people, Aboriginal culture and the LGBTIQ community. Katelyn has been involved in a number of causes, including Clarence Youth Action, Camellia Cottage, Clarence Valley Pride Group, Sister Girls and Midnight Basketball.

Katelyn acts as a great role model and mentor for many young people, both in her role as a community worker for the New School of Arts and out in the community.

Shaun Marsh, 15, competing in national junior road cycling series.
Shaun Marsh, 15, competing in national junior road cycling series. Adam Hourigan

Shaun Marsh

AT 15, Shaun Marsh is already making a name for himself in the cycling circles of Grafton.

Earlier this year he took on the Cycling Australia Junior National Road Series.

A member of the South Grafton High School SRC, has been involved in Clarence Youth Action and a member of the Grafton Cycle Club, the teen was most recently involved in the Clarence Valley Ride For Youth where he stuck around for the full 24 hours to ride alongside Morgan Pilley to raise awareness for youth mental health.

Special Mention - Holly Butcher

WHEN Holly Butcher's words to live by were posted on Facebook following her death at the beginning of this year, she touched the souls of millions of people.

Reaching far and wide, people all over the world were enamoured by Holly's words that she wrote down before she died of Ewing's sarcoma in January.

Described as a loving, athletic, funny, bright and smart woman by her family, Holly's death hit her family, the town of Grafton and the whole world hard.

You can read Holly's full message on The Daily Examiner website.



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