Bendigo’s Young Citizen of the Year Amethyst Downing is hoping more youth can receive the support they need to make a difference in their communities.
The 22-year-old set up the Jaara netball team in 2011 to give her peers another opportunity to get involved in the sport.
The team ended up taking out second place at the statewide indigenous netball carnival in Mildura.
Ms Downing now plans to extend the program to establish an Aboriginal sports club in Bendigo, modelled on similar successful programs in Shepparton and Melbourne suburb Fitzroy.
“We wanted to further it and enable everyone to take part,” Ms Downing explained.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together.”
Ms Downing has been involved in all facets of setting up the club – budgeting, grant submissions, fund-raising, planning and volunteer recruitment – but she said she didn’t think anyone had noticed the work she was doing.
“I feel very privileged to have been nominated and very surprised I won,” she said.
“I’m glad my hard work has been recognised, but I just do it because I enjoy it.”
As well as her work with Jaara, Ms Downing was kept busy last year as a member of the Youth Advisory Group, and she was also nominated for the Ricci Marks award, which recognises young Aboriginal achievers.
She said travelling to Vanuatu on a youth leadership and development project was also a highlight.
“We built a library and teacher’s conference room and were involved in some small community projects,” she said. “And this year I have also been chosen to participate in the Indigenous Government Development Program, so I’ll be studying for my diploma in government and community capacity.”
Ms Downing said she liked being a role model for other young women in her community.
“I’ve mentored girls from a young age wherever I have lived,” she said. “I want our youth to grow up and know they can achieve their dreams.The sky is the limit, anything is possible.”