Social entrepreneur Dan Poole has been crowned the 2018 Victorian Young Achiever of the Year for his efforts to combat homelessness one crepe at a time.

The 24-year-old co-founded Australia’s first not-for-project crepe van, Crepes for Change, which provides training and employment opportunities for disadvantage Victorians and has raised almost $270,000 for the cause since 2015.

Minister for Youth Affairs Jenny Mikakos paid tribute to Mr Poole and the other award winners at a gala presentation in Melbourne on 18 May.

A local winner was Dr Joanna Newton, 28 of Northcote who is fostering change in the Australian dairy industry’s adoption of genetic tools and technologies. An advocate for careers in STEM and agriculture, Joanna mentors students and junior scientists, inspiring their pursuit of agricultural journeys. She won the 2017 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium’s Emerging Scientists Award, and an Endeavour Research Fellowship from the Australian Government. She has spoken at international conferences and has helped move an international agricultural climate change motion.

Among the other winners, Happy Brain Education, a youth-led not-for-profit organisation, was awarded the Victorian Government’s Group Achievement in the Community Award for their provision of tutoring and mentoring services for young people.

The group was formed in 2016, as a way of funding urgently needed heart surgery for a young boy from the local community. They raised $147,000 for him and decided to establish Happy Brain Education as an ongoing tutoring service for students in Dandenong and Broadmeadows.

In all there were 10 category winners for the awards, recognising their work in the areas of community service, small business, rural and regional health, arts, fashion and education.

The full list of 2018 category winners are:

  • The Victorian Government Group Achievement in the Community Award, Happy Brain Education
  • Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award, Nikolina Mabic
  • Bartercard Online Achievement Award, Yuma Soerianto
  • Academy Graphics Regional Achiever Award, Darcy McGlade
  • Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE Student Award, Tom Lobbe
  • Berry Street Create Change Award, Dan Poole
  • First National Real Estate Leadership Award, Dr Joanna Newton
  • WFI Insurance Small Business Achiever Award, Maxwell Hertan
  • Royal Flying Doctors Service Victoria Regional and Rural Health Award, Steffi Patience
  • The Coffee Club Arts and Fashion Award, Frances Cannon

Quotes attributable to Minister for Youth Affairs Jenny Mikakos

“Every young person and organisation recognised here have given their time and energy to create positive, youth-led change in the local community – I thank them for it.”

“From science to community service, they are shining examples of what is possible. I look forward to seeing what they do next, and hope they inspire other young people to think big, be brave and enact change.”

 “These young people are doing wonderful things for the local community and the Victorian community more broadly – it’s only right we recognise them for their hard work.”