2021 ABC Heywire winners announced

ABC Heywire celebrates 35 young regional Australians in its 2021 storytelling competition.

Since 1998, Heywire has become a powerful platform for rural youth to share their stories and make a difference in their communities.

This year, hundreds of people entered from across Australia. The winners were chosen for “telling it like it is” about life in their part of the country.

From growing up in a refugee camp, to busting myths around Autism and celebrating LGBTQI pride. Lawn bowlers, bull riders, young farmers, linguists, female cricketers and disability advocates share what life is like for them in regional Australia.

Shakira, a proud young Jingili woman from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory is one of the latest Heywire winners.

“I’m pretty excited – I’ve never had an opportunity like this before, to tell my story on the radio. It’s pretty big,” she said.

“Tennant Creek is pretty small with not many people and opportunities for young people. It’s exciting to tell people about my story and my place.”

“I want people to know time is precious, don’t waste it. I want young people to know that they’ve got to be there for their parents and grandparents and value their stories and knowledge.”

Shakira is looking forward to seeing more stories like hers out there.

Federal Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, also applauded the successful entrants.

“Heywire continues to empower young regional, rural and remote Australians to share their stories, ensuring their voices are heard far and wide. It is why the Australian Government is proud to be an ongoing sponsor of the program,” Minister Coulton said.

“Many of these young people have grown up facing issues like drought, bushfires, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to put their best foot forward to drive change in their communities.

“I congratulate all 35 winners for sharing stories about what life is like in regional and rural Australia.”

Heywire winner Ku Htee from Bendigo, VIC said, “I’m over the moon. I didn’t think I was going to win. It feels so amazing to have my story heard, I’m so proud, so happy and so excited – I have so many emotions! I can’t believe I’m a winner.”

“A lot of my personal experience of growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand is in my story. I hope other people from refugee backgrounds hear my story and take every opportunity that comes their way.”

Ku Htee hopes her story will encourage people to make refugees feel welcomed and accepted in Australia, without any racism or discrimination.

Director of ABC Regional & Local, Judith Whelan, congratulated the annual competition winners on their stories.

“Heywire continues to be one of the most influential means for young people from regional and rural communities to be heard," Ms Whelan said. 

"And in these testing times it carries even more importance.

"It is impossible not be drawn into each and every one of the 35 outstanding stories from our 2021 Heywire winners. They are compelling and engaging and will, without doubt, have positive impacts on their communities.”

The Heywire program would not be possible without the support of the Australian Government through: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; The Department of Health; The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; The Department of Education, Skills and Employment; The Department of Social Services and AgriFutures Australia.

The full list of Heywire winners and their stories are here: https://www.abc.net.au/heywire/winners/

Photos of each winner are also available.

Kevin Broome, WA I am a Yawuru, Jaru, Bardi, Bunuba boy from Broome, WA and I am a cowboy.
Connor Geraldton, WA Cadets means family to me.
Cindy-Lee Donnybrook, WA Young mums can have careers too.
Pedro Gibson, WA Music helped me survive bullying and gangs.
Zander Albany, WA I’ve faced my fears to conquer my shyness. I’m a baritone in my school choir.
Rania Cocos Islands, WA I was born with bones as fragile as glass.
Liam Ainslie, ACT Moving from the dangers of Cape Town to safety in Canberra.
Lily Nowra, NSW The wheelchair isn’t who I am, but it’s definitely shaped who I am.
Amber Lithgow, NSW My ‘four-legged therapist’ has helped me smile through the toughest battle of my life.
Alyssa Moree, NSW Racism is real, but I won’t let it drag me and my brothers down.
Jake Temora, NSW I am the only boy in ballet class.
Kimi Coonamble, NSW The best thing about Australia is less homework!
Paris Yamba, NSW My heroes wear helmets.
India Bega, NSW Organising a Pride festival in my small town was so freeing.
Sam Callaghan, NSW Basketball helped me beat cancer’s lasting grip.
Josh Macksville, NSW Cerebral Palsy won’t stop me chasing my farming dreams.
Maletta Tiwi Islands, NT I have two goals: to be a kick-boxing champion or an animator.
Shakira Tennant Creek, NT My pop couldn’t go to school, but he instilled in me a love of education.
Tahalia Biloela, QLD People that truly care about me won’t judge me for my hearing loss.
Elijah Bundaberg, QLD Art helped me through the dark years of coming out as transgender.
Kaleb Kewarra Beach, QLD My love of language has taken me across the world.
Ty Longreach, QLD We put 60,000km on the car just going to sport this year.
Jessica Esk, QLD Living with autism feels like I need to ‘script’ my whole life.
Matthew Callington, SA Farming wasn’t as easy as I thought!
Chloe Mintaro, SA Just like my cover drives, women’s cricket is rocketing towards the boundary.
Ella Naracoorte, SA Aunt flow was a nightmare!
Seth Cleve, SA Flying high – I want to be a commercial pilot!
Ashlyn Broken Hill, NSW Winning the Wudhagaragarra Award for Excellence in Indigenous Education.
Zoe Acton Park, TAS My dad made coming out to him easy.
Patrick Launceston, TAS Autism won’t stop me chasing my dream to work in agriculture.
Miranda Creswick, VIC I’m the first one of my siblings to go to boarding school… and I was terrified to leave.
Ku Htee Eaglehawk, VIC After spending my first 15 years in a Thailand Refugee Camp, I have a new life in Bendigo.
Ella Myrtleford, VIC Girls can work in building and construction too.
Will Moulamein, NSW Three cheers for the rain, because our whole lives depend on it.
Tully Dixie, VIC You never appreciate home until you leave.