Paw Ku Htee was thrilled, and a bit surprised, when she was named among 35 winners of the ABC's Heywire initiative.
A close friend encouraged the 21-year-old to take part in the competition, which provides a platform for rural young people to share their stories.
"At first, I didn't have the confidence," Ku Htee said.
She decided to apply "just for fun", sharing her journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to life in Bendigo.
"I didn't expect anything," Ku Htee said.
Then, she got a call from the ABC.
"They sounded so excited. Everybody liked my story so much," Ku Htee said.
"I've never done stuff like this before."
In some respects, Ku Htee said her story was similar to others in Bendigo's Karen community.
She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand to parents whose lives had been upturned by civil war.
In her Heywire story, Ku Htee describes life in the camp, which was her home for 15 years.
She also describes some of the transition to life in Australia, which was far from easy.
"The first year in Australia I didn't know anything," Ku Htee said.
"It's really hard when you don't know anything."
Learning English was one of the initial challenges. A dictionary was never far from hand as Ku Htee worked to learn the language.
Ku Htee hoped her story would help empower others, particularly young people who came from a culture where English was not a dominant language.
She also hoped her story would promote inclusion and acceptance for people of refugee backgrounds.
Less than six years after she became part of the Bendigo community, Ku Htee is a proud member of the city's youth council.
She works with Bendigo Community Health Services and has undertaken training in community services, with help from Access Skills Training.
The work Ku Htee does supports the Karen community in Bendigo - something she is passionate about.
Ku Htee said friends and colleagues were thrilled by her Heywire success.
"You should be so proud of yourself," she had heard time and time again.
ABC regional and local director Judith Whelan said it was impossible not to be drawn into each and every one of the 35 outstanding stories form Heywire's 2021 winners.
"They are compelling and engaging and will, without doubt, have positive impacts on their communities," Ms Whelan said.
To explore to the winners' stories, click here.
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