“Initially I just wanted to become more active in my community by being involved in local youth affairs but, in time, this has evolved into something much greater. Gradually I saw a need to enable and motivate other young people to speak up and speak out”. Harry Whelan

Harry Whelan is truly a remarkable and enterprising young man. For the past three years, Harry (18), has contributed more volunteer hours and commitment than many other people are able to give in a lifetime.

His first community involvement, while still a student at Casimir Catholic College in Marrickville, was working with the Canterbury Youth Council. While gaining more and more direct contact with wide community networks of young people and service providers, Harry soon saw a need to motivate other young people to become involved. Moreover, he became aware of the negative media coverage often associated with the activities of young people and that was something he thought needed reversing.

Harry’s volunteer work over the past three years has been extensive and each new role leads to more challenging and demanding situations. In 2005, his roles included working as Youth Advocacy Team Leader with World Vision and being a member of the NSW YMCA Youth Parliament Taskforce. He has also held positions as a youth national board member with the Association of the Welfare of Child Health, and as a drug and alcohol peer education program facilitator with Rosemount Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services.

He is also a Bridge to Volunteering and Student Community Involvement Program facilitator with The Centre for Volunteering. This allows Harry to use his public speaking skills in schools to inspire young people to volunteer to make a better society. He also volunteers as The Centre’s youth advisor advising staff on issues pertaining to young people and how to best attract and involve them in volunteering.

For his own commitment and dedication to the community, Harry Whelan has already received two awards – a Commendation of Community Service in recognition of services to the community by the Wests Club in Ashfield in 2004, and a Youth Commitment Award in conjunction with NSW Children’s Week for making an outstanding contribution to the community in 2005.

On top of all this outstanding community work, Harry continues to juggle his time volunteering with the demands of tertiary education. He has already gained several certificates and is now studying a Diploma of Community Welfare at Ultimo TAFE.

Harry sees his voluntary work as a process and is proud to be involved in the idea of motivating young people to tackle the issues that confront the status and wellbeing of youth and children today and in the future. Harry believes is not only important but also fulfilling for young people to get involved with the broader community “even if it is to start by joining local activities and cultural events”.

So, whether you are young or old or somewhere in between, Harry Whelan can certainly be an inspiration to us all. To use the old saying, ‘youth knows no fear’.

By Jenny Springett