Australian of the Year: Taya Davies, youth worker and community volunteer #AOTY2020 #ausoftheyear

I’ve always really enjoyed being around people and
working with people. I remember when I was younger, I used to try and
take sick days off school so I could go to work with mum. She worked at our local special needs school. Everything was fairly normal at our home and in my
home environment when I was growing up for a window of time. I
lived at home with my mum and my dad and my siblings. And then all of a sudden things changed for us. Substance issues became a problem in our environment. And I also experienced a lot of grief and loss and
didn’t really know how to be myself anymore. I lost my adventurous spark and wasn’t as
vivacious and lively as I used to be. My crossing lady and my art teacher were the first
people to touch base with me and see if I was doing okay. One day after school my art teacher asked me if I
would like to come and do some extra art. At first I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure if
I could trust an adult in my life. So I declined the first time. But she persisted with me and asked me if I’d like
to go a second time. So I took her up on the opportunity and we did
some mosaics and it was actually the first time in a long time
that I knew how to have fun again. We listened to Skyhooks and AC/DC and we smashed
up tiles and we had to look at each piece intricately and
figure out how to make something beautiful again. For me, that was when I first realised that
other people can be safe humans in your life and you can make things feel whole again, even
if there are fractures in the artwork. That is when I decided I was definitely
going to persue youth work as a career, as a profession, and I’ve been doing that ever since I was 19. I started working in out-of-home care where I
worked with young people who had experienced a lot of trauma, who had no
real connection to other positive role models in their life. I just felt really inspired to be able to work
with those young people and provide opportunities for them to build their
life back up, to create something different, to create a different story for themselves. As a youth worker I feel really privileged that
young people trust me to look at their foundation and journey with them and get them to the place
where they want to be. Whether that’s making a small goal or re-engaging
at school, or just simply eating a meal at home with their
family. Just like those mosaics, I like to try and
encourage the young people I support to look at each part of their life and put the
pieces back together to create something beautiful.

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