Youth National Reference Group

The headspace Youth National Reference Group (hY NRG) is made up of a diverse group of young people of varying ages, genders and cultural backgrounds.
The group represents each state and territory and work with headspace to ensure young people's voices and opinions remain front and centre.

The hY NRG team is made up of a group of people who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people. Hailing from all over Australia and from a diverse set of backgrounds, many of the hY NRG team have experienced their own struggles but overcome them to become advocates of youth mental health.

hY NRG makes sure that any new initiative from headspace will make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and the resources headspace receive from government and corporate partners are put to the best use.

Applications to be a part of the next hY NRG group are now open. Click here to find out more.

Alessandra Finnis Belinda Black Brooke Sattler Dani Leever Erik Kroyherr
Gillian Abadines Fergus Paterson Hannah Hyatt James Bush Kimberley Scanlan
Liam Cobain Madeline Paull Mason Hope May Lyn Ly Merinda Johnson
Niharika Hiremath Pheobe Ho Raja Clay Sina Aghamofid Sophia O’Callaghan
Alessandra Finnis
On the Limestone Coast, in Southern Australia
Associated centre 
headspace Mount Gambier
A bit about Alessandra…
I have been volunteering with my local centre (as a YRG member) since its inception in 2016. When I learned that the hY NRG recruitment process was underway, I thought it was a great chance to  use my voice, experiences and ideas, working with like-minded people to enact change at a national level.
I have several areas of interest, including:
• Mental wellbeing and access to safe, relevant, and effective services for all young people, especially those in regional, rural and remote areas
• Being young and LGBTIQA+
• Reducing stigma around help-seeking
• Disability and/or chronic illness and mental health
• Promoting awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity, and ensuring the varied needs of neurodivergent young people are addressed

There are others, but I think the list might be long enough already!

An interesting fact about Alessandra…
I like the number three, so:
1) I’m Italian-Australian (my nonna, mum and auntie make amazing food)
2) I am a self-confessed history aficionado
3) I love animals and live with a seven-kilogram cat named Bob. Consequently, I’m shocked whenever I pick up another cat - they’re so lightweight!
Belinda Black
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Associated centre   
headspace Kalgoorlie
A bit about Belinda…
I am passionate about educating families and friends of young people experiencing mental illness so they gain a better understanding, and offer more support to the young person. Having had my own experiences with mental ill-health, I feel being a part of hY NRG is an amazing opportunity to use those experiences in a positive way to help others.

While I believe helping all youth is essential, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people is my biggest passion.

All young people need to know that it’s ok to ask for help. Reducing stigma around talking about mental health issues and help-seeking is another passion of mine. 

There are others, but I think the list might be long enough already!

An interesting fact about Belinda…
I love road trips. Just the road, my music and me!
Brooke Sattler
Tregeagle, New South Wales
Associated Centre   
headspace Lismore
A bit about Brooke…
I was born and raised in Western Sydney. I grew up and had a career in dancing and children's entertainment, which took me all over the world. My journey over the years has lead me down a path of curiosity and love for helping people which has lead me to where I am today – a psychology student who lives in a small town in Northern NSW. I love nature, animals and children, all of which help to put a smile on my face.

I am passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health and living with a mental illness. I also wish to advocate for young people who are trying to get into, or are going through the mental health system. I feel strongly about promoting positive body image and self-esteem. I wish to work on reducing eating disorders in young people and educating people on the complex illness it is.

I am a proud gay female with a wonderful partner. I would love to encourage and support any young person to know that it is ok to love whoever you wish to love.

An interesting fact about Brooke…
I sleep with a stuffed Panda every night (Panda's are my favourite animal). I have travelled to many different countries around the world. I love Ninja turtles way too much for someone my age and I also believe my life won't be complete without a baby and a dachshund.
Dani Leever
Melbourne, Victoria
Associated centre 
headspace Collingwood
A bit about Dani…
I’ve always been really passionate about social justice, fighting for equality and smashing the stigma around mental illness. Through my work and my place in the LGBTIQA+ community, I often see how bullying and prejudice impacts on mental health and I want to strengthen the narrative that it’s OK to reach out for help.

I want to share my story to prove that mental illness isn’t a personal failure and is nothing to be ashamed of. I joined hY NRG to continue working with young people and empower them to tell our own narratives, fight for what we’re passionate about and leave a lasting impact in society. 

An interesting fact about Dani…
I’m an experienced dog walker and dog sitter - I’m actually obsessed with puppers. I reckon at least once a day I watch on Youtube a golden retriever compilation video. They’re too cute. 
Erik Kroyherr
Melbourne, Victoria
Associated centre 
A bit about Erik…
I am passionate about improving the mental health of young men, and decreasing stigma around drug and alcohol use.

In my own experience, I have found that young men can struggle to connect with those around them. Starting conversations about my own mental health with close friends and family was one of the hardest, yet most worthwhile things I have ever done. Throughout my hY NRG term, I want to encourage young men to feel comfortable to start the right conversations, at the right time.  

I also feel passionately about making drug-taking and alcohol consumption as safe as possible for young people. Having mental health problems can drastically change your attitude towards, and relationship with, substances. Equipping young people with the knowledge and confidence to make well-informed decisions for themselves, is an area I consider to be important. 

An interesting fact about Erik...
I have been DJing for 5 years and I love electronic music. Also, my dog has a successful Instagram account.

Gillian Abadines
Mount Druitt, New South Wales
Associated centre   
headspace Mount Druitt
A bit about Gillian…
Having had my own experience of mental health distress and seeking help through headspace, I wanted to give back by volunteering at my local centre. Being part of my youth reference group has come with many opportunities, one of which was the opportunity to delve into the sphere of peer work where a lot of my passion in regards to mental health has culminated.

When I saw the opportunity to become part of hY NRG, I saw it as a way to share the importance of peer work in youth mental health. Being a hY NRG member will allow me to promote the core values of peer work by instilling hope, and breaking down stigma to drive a meaningful recovery for every service user. This is done through fellow young people utilising their lived experience to share their story and guide other young people through their own recovery journey – an idea that is very close to my heart.

An interesting fact about Gillian…
I never know what to write or say in these sections! But a real interesting fact is that I really love board games and cool socks, I have too many of each that I don’t rotate through each of them enough!

Fergus Paterson
Melbourne, Victoria
Associated centre 
headspace Greensborough 
A bit about Fergus…
I applied for hY NRG so that I would be able to help people all over Australia who are struggling with mental health issues (mainly depression, anxiety, and use of alcohol and other drugs). I am very passionate about young men’s mental health and how drugs and alcohol can affect it. When I was struggling with depression I found it hard at first to reach out to someone for help. I had never been taught about mental illness and I felt like I was so alone and isolated from the rest of the world. I want to change that so people can feel safe enough to seek help. 
An interesting fact about Fergus…
I have a passion for martial arts, specifically Taekwondo. At the end of 2016, I achieved my black belt after three and a half years of training. I have tried to train hard and use my martial arts to better both my physical and mental health. I have a dream of representing Australia through Taekwondo.
Hannah Hyatt
Ipswich, Queensland
Associated centre   
headspace Ipswich
A bit about Hannah…
I have been volunteering on my local youth reference group for almost two years now and it has played a huge role in my recovery. I applied for a position on hY NRG because I want to further develop the skills I’ve gained through my volunteer work, make a contribution to mental health services on a national level, and learn from the experiences of other young people from around Australia.

My main areas of passion within youth mental health are early psychosis and complex mental illnesses. I know from experience how scary and isolating it is to receive a diagnosis that is surrounded in fear, stigma, or just a general lack of understanding within the community. It’s easy to lose hope. I want to use my lived experience to help other young people who are going through similar struggles, and show them and the wider community that recovery is not only possible, but inevitable. I’m also passionate about the importance of holistic treatment and peer support in recovery.

An interesting fact about Hannah…
I’m a duel New Zealand/Australian citizen so I can never be Prime Minister! I can also cook 2 minute noodles in 1 minute and 59 seconds.
James Bush
Bairnsdale, Victoria
Associated centre   
headspace Bairnsdale
A bit about James…
applied for hY NRG because I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet and learn from like-minded people.

I’m passionate about changing the stigma around mental health illness in rural and remote communities, as well as creating stronger local support systems for priority groups such as LGBTIQA+ and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse young people. Addressing the needs of these groups in regional places can be challenging, and I hope through my advocacy to increase understanding and acceptance of minority groups in our communities. 

An interesting fact about James…
At the beginning of 2016, I changed my name to James, after Captain America’s side kick and best mate Bucky Barnes.  I’d like to have a career as an art therapist or an actor. I also aim to see as many art exhibitions and theatre performances as I can.
Kimberley Scanlan
Hobart, Tasmania
Associated Centre   
headspace Hobart
A bit about Kimberley…
I'm really passionate about youth mental health and have been volunteering at my local centre for almost five years now. It's been incredible to have the opportunity to share my passion on a national level through the headspace Youth National Reference Group. headspace had my back when I needed it, so it's great that I can now help others through this amazing service. 

I feel strongly about breaking down stigma around mental health and encouraging people to look out for each other. Though I think establishing support networks is essential, I am also passionate about increasing supports available to young people without close social networks. Mental health literacy (especially about the less spoken about disorders) and peer support are central interests of mine. I also care strongly about helping youth engage with their future and discovering new opportunities for themselves. 

An interesting fact about Kimberley…
I tend to go through many little hobby phases. As a result, I know a small amount about lots of random things such as knitting, gardening, and vintage shaving equipment. One of these hobbies even grew into a business, making and selling skincare. 
Liam Cobain
Adelaide, South Australia
Associated centre   
headspace Adelaide
A bit about Liam…
I thought that being a part of the headspace Youth National Reference Group would provide an incredible opportunity to meet passionate young people from all around Australia who are equally driven to implement change within this space. Like all too many, I have seen and experienced the devastation that is caused by suicide and have a particular passion for men’s mental health and reducing the stigma that unfortunately still permeates our Australian communities. 
An interesting fact about Liam…
Forget AFL, forget NBA, my one love is for Arsenal FC... Putting sport to one side and perhaps more interestingly, when growing up my house at times resembled a zoo rather than an abode. We have always had animals as part of our family and I have experienced almost everything – at our most outrageous time I think we had seven cats, two dogs, a horse, a number of mice, stick insects, ravens and other assorted birds. Put simply, it was never boring.
Madeline Paull
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Associated centre 
headspace Alice Springs
A bit about Madeline…
As a young person, I see first-hand what mental ill-health can do to an individual. Having lived experience, it has become my goal to educate the wider the community on the definition of mental ill-health in youth and what are the correct ways to help someone. I am a big believer in talking out what you are feeling – to a friend, family member or a professional before things get too difficult.

I have been a part of my local headspace for three years now and I have always enjoyed connecting with my community and others. headspace has allowed me to grow as an individual in a safe environment where it was OK to be me and now, I’m OK to be me. 

An interesting fact about Madeline…
In martial arts, I was the first in Australia to skip three belts when I was eight years-old and when I was 11, I was two belts away from black belt.

Not many people believe this because I’m a big softy who adores hugs.

Mason Hope
Kuluin, Queensland
Associated centre   
headspace Maroocydore
A bit about Mason…
applied to be part of headspace Youth National Reference Group because headspace really made me the person I am today – a happy, confident and resilient person.
I am passionate about getting this message out there to help other young people before things get worse for them. I am interested in media, communications and education with headspace to get the info out there.
An interesting fact about Mason…
When I was 13 I found out that my paternal grandfather was my school bus driver. I had been on the bus with him for six months when he was told this.
I am a singer/songwriter. 
May Lyn Ly
Sydney, New South Wales
Associated centre 
headspace Liverpool
A bit about May…
I initially found headspace as a client, but I really got to know and love the organisation for the difference it makes in young people’s lives. I felt passionate about the work that I did as part of my local Youth Reference Group, and wanted to join hY NRG to have the opportunity to continue to fight stigma around mental health issues and reach young people on a larger scale.

My main passions are around helping educators and families learn more about youth mental health, especially in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and lower-SES communities. Another huge passion is promoting understanding, education, and acceptance of issues surrounding sexual health. What I want is for young people to know that any barriers to reaching their personal successes can be overcome; and for the people around them who care about them the most to be there and tell them their voices have value!

An interesting fact about May…
The first time I had a bowl of pasta was when I was 18 and my life has changed so much as a result. I completely get why people love it so much!
Merinda Johnson
Darwin, Northern Territory
Associated centre   
headspace Darwin
A bit about Merinda…
I applied for this position in hY NRG because I am passionate about mental health and mental illnesses. I want to make sure that it is commonly spoken about, so that people will recognise the signs and symptoms when dealing and/or witnessing mental health issues. Being able to do this within communities is a major passion of mine. I hope to be able to help young Aboriginal people understand these issues better, because being so far out and so shy when recognising who they can go to for help can be difficult. I want to be able to teach them to work through their pain and to help their families and friends, and being able to help them understand the services they can go to. 
An interesting fact about Merinda…
am a young Aboriginal lady from both Wangakumara (NSW) and Kamilaroi (QLD). I grew up in the Northern Territory and I have spent most of my life in communities and smaller towns. Learning and growing in small ways has showed me the little knowledge that communities have out of their land.

I ran a youth forum in 2016 at Nhulunbuy (Gove) Arnhem land with about 250 youth from across Australia and some people from Canada. I started to think that helping young people restart their future and have a better understanding of why they are going through what they have been dealing with, is what I love and what I know I will be good at. 

Niharika Hiremath
Melbourne, Victoria
Associated centre 
headspace Dandenong
A bit about Niharika…
Having had my own lived experience of mental illness, along with seeing it around me in different forms, joining hY NRG was the next natural step in my dream to make stigma surrounding these things a thing of the past. I want mental health to be treated in much the same way as physical health, and to help young people live fulfilling and productive lives.

My main areas of passion are around erasing stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in ethnic and other minority communities that face concurrent issues. I would also love to see the increased use of technology in providing a safe space for people to reach out for help where they otherwise may not. 

An interesting fact about Niharika…
I have been singing for almost 15 years now, and can sing in over seven languages (I can only speak two though). I also absolutely love travel and find it difficult to stay in the country (or state) for longer than a few months (there is too much of the world to see).  
Pheobe Ho
Perth, Western Australia
Associated centre   
headspace Fremantle
A bit about Pheobe…
My biggest motivator for getting involved with headspace was to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health, and to make conversations about seeking help normal.  headspace was the first place I went to where I thought I could share how I felt in a safe environment. I realised the beneficial impact it had not just on me, but for so many other young people. I have been sharing my lived experience of mental illness in various high school and university communities over the past two years, and I’ve seen how powerful and inspiring the lived experience movement can be.

Eating disorder prevention is the area I am most interested in as I have had the most experience with it. I am passionate about educating service providers and schools in promoting healthy body image, and being able to identify early warning signs of eating disorders. 

An interesting fact about Pheobe…
Two fun facts about me: 

1) My name is spelt ‘Pheobe’ with an ‘eo’, instead the usual ‘Phoebe’ with an ‘oe’. This is because my dad was rushing for work and misspelt it.

2) I have an annoying coffee order: a dirty almond turmeric latte with cinnamon and honey.

Raja Clay
Brisbane, Queensland
Associated centre     
headspace Nundah

A bit about Raja…
I applied for hY NRG because it’s an awesome opportunity to work in youth mental health, share my story and have an impact on my local community and future generations. 

I’m passionate about youth mental health, animals, the environment and SELF CARE!

An interesting fact about Raja…
  • I’m a vegan
  • I love plants and walking in rainforests
  • I also used to have a pet rabbit, Loppy.
Sina Aghamofid
Sydney, New South Wales
Associated centre   
headspace Castle Hill
A bit about Sina…
​recently discovered​ that​ I have​ ​a​ ​mental illness.​ ​16 ​years​ ​of​ my​ life​ ​had​ ​gone​ ​by ​​and no-one​ ​had​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​on​ ​a​ ​single​ ​thing.​ ​“Annoying, lazy, disorganised,​​ ​distracting”, were​ all​ ​comments​ ​I​ ​would ​deal with​ on​ ​a​ daily​ basis and​ accept ​as​ ​who I ​was. ​Through my own ​prerogative ​in​ ​Year​ ​11​ I​​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​see​ ​a​ ​psychologist. That’s​ when I found​​ ​out​ ​I have​ ​ADHD.​ ​I​ ​realised​​ ​​those​ ​labels​ ​given​ ​to me​ were​ out ​of my control,​ ​they​ ​weren’t​ ​the​ ​real​ ​me.​ ​It​ ​pains​ ​me​ ​to​ ​know​ ​that​ ​young ​Australians​ are​​ ​going through​ ​the​ ​same​ ​thing.​ ​They​ ​are​ ​being​ ​judged​ ​for​ ​being​ ​someone they​ are not. And they​ ​are​ ​having​ ​to​ ​plead​ ​with​ ​their​ ​parents​ ​on​ ​the​ ​realities​ ​of​ ​mental ​ill-health.​ Through headspace I​ ​aim​ ​to​ ​change this​ by increasing​​ ​mental ​​health​ ​literacy,​ ​particularly​ ​in educational​ ​institutions. 
As a​ ​society​ ​we​ ​have​ ​forgotten​ about​ ​​communities such as refugees/migrants/Muslims​ wherein mental health isn’t discussed. Both​ ​​in​ these​​ communities​​ and in ​​society​ ​as​ ​a whole,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​still​ ​a​ ​stigma​ ​attached​ ​to​ ​mental​ ​ill-health​ ​and​ ​that​ ​is​ ​something ​I aim to tackle​ ​through​ ​hY​ ​NRG!
An interesting fact about Sina…
Hmmm…my top 25 most played songs are from musicals (mainly Hamilton) and I’m a huge (HUGE) fan of Susan Carland and Waleed Aly and the work they both do. It goes without saying that I watch The Project religiously. I think that was more than a fact...
Sophia O’Callaghan
Perth originally, but I now live and study in Canberra
Associated centre   
headspace Canberra
A bit about Sophia…
headspace helped ​me ​out ​when ​things ​were ​​tough for me and now​ ​I ​want ​to ​give back and​ ​help ​other ​​young people.​ I ​​think it’s​ extremely​ important​ that​ ​not only do we have a service focused ​on ​youth ​issues, ​but​ ​that young ​people ​are also a part of ​developing these​ campaigns​ ​and ​programs. ​I’m ​really excited​ to be a​ part ​of​ hY NRG to share ​my insights and​ work collaboratively​ with ​other ​​amazing ​young ​people​ on ​projects that will help​​ to ​improve ​the ​wellbeing of ​others. 

I’m​ ​passionate about advocating for ​all young​ ​people, ​​but ​especially interested​ in the wellbeing ​of university ​students as well ​as educating ​​family, ​friends and​ carers on mental​ health ​and ​mental ill-​health. ​I hope​​ to work​​ ​on policy proposals​ ​and reforms​ ​to improve ​access​ to services​ ​in ​​my ​area.   

An interesting fact about Sophia…
Canberra​ has ​the ​stereotype ​of ​being​ full​ of ​cyclists​ but​​ ​I’m​ actually​ terrified​ of​​ riding​ bikes​ ​and ​insist on​​ walking everywhere ​instead.