ABC Heywire winners celebrate stories of life across regional and rural Australia

Strength, perseverance, and optimism feature strongly in the stories from the 2023 ABC Heywire winners.

Since its inception in 1998, Heywire has become a powerful platform for rural youth, putting them at the centre of the conversations that shape their communities.

Hundreds of Australians aged 16 to 22 from regional, rural and remote areas entered the competition by speaking openly and candidly about life beyond our major cities, through written stories, photos, videos or audio recordings.

From dreams of representing Australia in the Paralympics, to supporting young people living with a chronic illness, speaking up against racial discrimination, rebuilding after disaster, using art as a vessel for healing and listening and learning from country, the 39 Heywire winners' stories explore their capacity for resilience, amplify their voices and foster their ability to advocate for the issues that matter.

Heywire winner Jo is a proud sistagirl from Ngukurr, a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory. She wants her story to help other LGBTQIA+ young people feel less alone, "I hope it will inspire all people who have faced the same challenges as I did."

Judith Whelan, ABC Director Regional & Local, congratulated this year's competition winners on their engaging and authentic stories.

"The stories from this year's Heywire winners provide a real window into the lives of young people living in regional Australia. What is uplifting about them is that they celebrate regional communities and the things that make them unique.

"Their stories speak of the challenges of life outside our big cities but also reveal inspiring ideas on how their communities can make the most of their strengths and potential."

The Hon Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories said, "I congratulate all 39 Heywire storytelling competition winners for sharing their stories, which demonstrate the great resilience of these young leaders living in Australia's regions and the adversity they've overcome."

"Heywire plays an important role in empowering young regional, rural and remote Australians to share their stories and ideas to the nation, encouraging their journeys as they continue to enact the change they want to see in our country.

“Young people are the leaders of tomorrow, which is why the Australian Government is proud to be an ongoing sponsor of the program — investing in young leaders and their ideas to ensure a strong future for regional Australia."

Advocates, pilots, LGBTQIA+ allies, Indigenous youth leaders, photographers, medical students, law students, musical theatre performers, rouseabouts, and artists are just a few examples of the winners who have worked with the ABC to produce their stories for radio and online, the results of which are available via the ABC Heywire website.

Heywire winners share individual stories specific to their lived experience of the place they call home. The experience of growing up in Lockhart River, Queensland, with 3G is different to a childhood on a farm in Wagin, Western Australia and different again to coming out at an all-boys country boarding school in Tamworth, NSW.

Because of this complexity, the 2023 winners are passionate about creating common ground. Heywire winner jack, from Tamworth, Wiradjrui Country, said: "After the past three years we need to rebuild our lives again to some normality, not alone but together."

He spent his lockdown wrestling with his identity and knows firsthand the importance of finding a safe community and feeling connected.

Charlee from Heyfield, Victoria, Gunaikurnai Country, agreed: "I want other young Australians to realise they aren't alone, that the youth of Australia have a voice." Charlee is using her voice to advocate for more support for people suffering from chronic illness in regional, rural or remote Australia. "I want others to read my story with a new perspective on chronic pain."

ABC Heywire is supported by: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts; Department of Health and Aged Care; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and AgriFutures Australia.

You can read the fresh perspectives of young people from right across regional, rural and remote Australia here:

Photos of the winners are also available.



Synopsis of their story


Canberra, ACT, Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country

I'm from a single-parent migrant family, and I'm so grateful for my Mum's support that lets me soar.


Broken Hill, NSW, Wilyakali Country

I'm not hard of hearing; I have auditory dyslexia and I know sometimes people need patience and understanding.


Orange, NSW, Wiradjuri Country

A lot of people my age are on antidepressants. Growing up isn't easy; but the good things in life are still there.


Nowra, NSW, Yuin Country

My Mum had me when she was a teenager. Hardly anyone talks about the struggles single mother's go through.


Taree, NSW, Biripi Country

One minute I was curled up in bed, the next, I was handed a baby in raging floodwaters after we'd launched a tinny onto the road.


Tamworth, NSW,

Kamilaroi Country

Being gay in an all-boys country boarding school isn't easy, but I'm owning my identity as a young, gay rural kid and doing my best to create more safe spaces for queer young


Lismore, NSW, Bundjalung Country

With my town in ruins, I reached for my guitar and the advice of a Reddit thread.


Wagga Wagga, NSW, Wiradjuri Country

I stay connected to my culture by making Persian a part of my post-migration life


Bombala, NSW, Ngarigo Country

Work in the sheds is hard and the pace is fast but I really enjoy the challenge of being a rouseabout.


Scone, NSW,

Droughts, floods, fires, mice: disasters are inevitable — but I know they will pass.


Gilgandra, NSW, Wiradjuri Country

Everything changed when Mum and Dad separated. Now we're happier than ever: family games night just looks a bit different.


Alice Springs, NT, Arrente Country

It was a lucky day under blue skies, a yellow goanna was on the menu.


Darwin, NT, Larrakia Country

Art is my form of escapism; where I express my emotions and process things. I've just had my first solo exhibition!


Ngukurr, NT, Ponto Country and Yugal Mangi people

I'm a proud sistagirl, and I know that I'm not the only one. I want sistagirls everywhere to feel supported and be proud of who they are.


Rockhampton, QLD, Darumbal Country

A Chron's diagnosis by a doctor who spoke with kindness and consideration gave me my career: I want to be a doctor who makes a difference.


Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire, QLD

I'm just a kid from the Cape, but I have figured out a few things: I love my community, so I'm doing my best to support other young people here to stay out of the system.


Doomadgee, QLD,

Gangalidda Country

My favourite place is out bush on country with family - enjoying fresh air and spotting deadly creatures.


Toowoomba, QLD, Jagera, Giabal and Jarowair Country

Skin diseases are a lot harder when you're not white. I wanted to feel listened to and comfortable in my skin - so I started itchY.


Mooloolaba, QLD, Kabi Kabi Country and Jinibara Country

My masculinity isn't underdeveloped by having two mums.


Mackay, QLD,
Yuwi Country

After Dad died, inside the lens of a camera is where I felt safe to process my grief. I could change the settings and control the framing.


Barcaldine, QLD, Iningai Country

I work two jobs so I can afford to travel this amazing country, but the outback is my home .


Yalata, SA, Wirangu and Mirning country

I think Nana would be proud of me because she loved to help her family, too.


Port Pirie, SA, Nukunu Country

I've spent almost every weekend with Grandpa. That's where I learnt what it means to be a good man.


Renmark, SA

I want to see change in real-time; I'm listening to the land as a ranger.


Kingston, SA, Meintangk and Moandik Country

I fell in love with flying before I could walk. Now, I'm starting my pilot's licence alongside my Dad.


nipaluna/Hobart, TAS, palawa country

I'm a proud palawa woman; my voice is an echo of my ancestor Fanny Smith's and I will use it as she did.


Devonport, TAS, palawa country

Piecing rhymes together and making music saved my life and changed my world.


Ballarat, VIC, Wathaurong Country

You've got to be prepared for anything and use what skills you have to make the best of any situation; it's all part of the show.


Kyneton, VIC, Dja Dja Wurrung Country

If only mental health was clear cut and easy to explain; I became a peer support worker so other people know they are not alone.


Heyfield, VIC, Gunaikurnai Country

I don't want to have to work my entire life around pain; I'm working diplomatically with my body and the doctors I trust with it to live the life I want.


Wahgunyah, VIC, Yorta Yorta Country

It took months and months and second opinions to find out what was really going on in my ears; being misdiagnosed put me on the course I am on today.


Warrnambool, VIC, Gunditjmara Country

'Pretty' isn't about how you look; it's about how you feel and about how you treat others. Kind and compassionate - that's how I want people to see me.


Birchip, VIC, Wotjobaluk Country

I think Birchip is beautiful. I'm a photographer trying to share the beauty of the Mallee with the world.


Wagin, WA, Wirlomin Country

It feels like we're still fighting the fire, months after it stopped burning. Getting back what we lost takes time.


Morawa, WA, Wadjarri Country

Learning how to make bush medicine from Nan is special. Out bush, under an ancient starry sky, is where I am home.


Meekatharra, WA, Yugunga-Nya Country

I work at the Meekatharra Youth Centre to support young people.


Bunbury, WA, Wadandi Country

Muhammad Ali put boxing on the map. I want to do the same for wheelchair boxing.


Wyndham, WA, Balangarra Country

I knew from the moment I got a handle on my first beat that I was meant to be a drummer.