In 2019 we had a great time collaborating with the Hunter Innovation Festival, so we were thrilled to do it again last night! As is the tradition, Awesome Newcastle was open to the public, and The Criterion hosted a lovely, lively crowd. Thank you to all the kind people who came out and showed support.
Last night we welcomed three guest board members: returning guest board member Lauren Devine of Slingshot, original board member Grant Thomas of Learning Advantage and first-time guest board member, executive director and mediator Karen Howard.
We enjoyed drinks and dinner and met a variety of people, some first timers and some who’ve been Awesome Newcastle cheerleaders for a long time. For May’s Awesome Newcastle finalists, we welcomed Michael Holt of The Junto Men’s Hub, Phoebe Everingham and Sinead Francis – Coan of Circular Tourism Newcastle and Troy Hepple of Hunter River High School.
Michael of The Junto Men’s Hub spoke first. An ex-engineer turned gym owner and health promoter, he told us that just being male is the biggest risk factor to death, and that almost 80% of suicides are men. He rattled off plenty of statistics related to men’s health, men’s relationships and more. He feels that initiatives out there for men aren’t working. He wants to create a place for boys and men to go where they felt safe to share. The place would give them tools and skills to be men of strong moral character and values, a place that helps fathers to better connect with their sons. He wants to make it easier and normal for men to communicate and have a healthy and well-balanced life. He wants men to feel encouraged to see a GP or a counselor. He would use the money to assist in fitting out the facility. Money from grants will also go to running free workshops/seminars and programs for men struggling.
Next up were Phoebe and Sinead. Phoebe is a tourism researcher and academic at the University of Newcastle, and Sinead has a background in tourism studies at the University of Newcastle. The two told us about how Covid 19 has revealed the unsustainable practices of global tourism and pushed people to explore more local tourism experiences. They envisage Newcastle and the Hunter Region as a vibrant hub for exploring local, ethical and sustainable tourism options. They pointed that the city already has a foundation on which to build this platform including walking tours, biking tours and Aboriginal cultural tours. But they’d like to see an overarching network that supports tourism operators to work collaboratively. Their initiative Circular Tourism Newcastle aims to bring people across the system together to ideate, collaborate and accelerate the shift to a circular economy. If they won, they would use the money to contribute to website design and other promotional costs and allow them to experience a wider range of tours through subsidising our overhead costs.
Our final finalist of the evening was Troy. Troy describes himself as a “SUPER openly gay man.” He teaches Special Education at Hunter River High School. He’s started preparing for the school’s Wear It Purple event in August. Wear It Purple Day is all about increasing and enriching awareness of LGBTIQA+ peoples, perspectives, and issues, and he began his presentation by sharing some statistics on the subject. Last year for Wear It Purple, they had a door decorating competition, but he wants to go even further this year to supply better resources, incorporate the event into their curriculum, get purple writing stationary and more. He would use the money for additional staff training and for resources for the door decorating and purple stationary. He hopes no one ever has to feel the way he did when he was a kid at school, in the closet. With Wear it Purple Day, the school creates a supportive environment for all kids, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
After pitches and questions, the board went to deliberate. After they cast votes, for the first time ever in Awesome Newcastle History, we had a split down the middle, an even tie! Half the board wanted to support the Wear It Purple event, the other half wanted the Junto Men’s Hub. We sent them back to drawing board to deliberate further, and at last they chose a clear winner.
We called everyone back to the front, and we invited Karen up to the stage to award the cash to Michael! Congratulations Michael, we wish you and The Junto Men’s Hub all the best!
We all applauded our finalists and then our host reminded us that applications never expire, so there’s a chance we might get a finalist or two back for another Awesome Newcastle! Big thanks to all our supporters including The Criterion Hotel and Hunter Innovation Festival.
Get to dreaming up your next big idea, and we hope you’ll stay in touch for another Awesome Newcastle!