NSW Youth Work Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame honours the hard work and commitment that the awarded individuals have shown over their professional career. The NSW Youth Work Hall of Fame award was inaugurated in 2020.


Kylie Semler

Kylie has worked with Youth Off The Streets (YOTS) for 20 years this year. She began her career as a Youth Worker in residential care where she spent 8 years with young people who were transitioning from juvenile justice. Kylie was part of supervised visits, attempting to reconnect families with the young people. Following this Kylie spent 7 years in Youth Outreach where she was able to support and assist young people to access housing and medical care. In the outreach space she improved her skills so she could run programs such as RAGE, Rock and Water and early intervention programs like Mums and Bubs. Kylie moved into a YOTS school and is Senior Youth Worker. As a Youth Worker in a school, Kylie models the advantages with learning having acquired her Cert IV TEA and is teaching Community Services. Kylie has established a driving program at the school for students wishing to get a license. Kylie has established a canteen so students experience budgeting and buying goods with school dollars. These dollars are earnt by students working and participating to the best of their ability during class time and gained through good works around the school. Kylie’s motto is “Young people have a hard enough life as it is, and I like to provide opportunities and experiences that may challenge and inspire.” Kylie is an exceptional role model for all the youth with whom she works. She is often the only reliable adult in their world; often the only adult who will sit and listen. Nothing is too difficult for her as she is a creative problem solver attuned to the needs of our youth. 

Lloyd Munro Senior 

Lloyd started the Juvenile Court Support Program by visiting the Local Magistrate to work out how the service could assist in breaking down the barriers between young people and the court. Lloyd was instrumental in seeking funding to support the service to have a 7-night patrol program. Lloyd would spend many hours in arranging vocational education programs for the youth to experience what opportunities young people in the city’s have and to encourage them to put education first. Lloyd has been a mentor to young people who are involved in youth councils in their local communities, across state and national levels. Lloyd is a caring and compassionate man who sees the good in all young people and is very proud when he sees young people succeed. 

Louise Hakkenbrock

Louise has been advocating for young people since 1983 (as a young person herself) and started working as a youth worker in 1985. Louise has represented young people at a national level as part of the National Youth Affairs Council in the late 80’s. Louise has a passion to enhance the quality of life for the young people in Shellharbour and in general. Louise has been in her current position at Shellharbour City Council – Youth Services for 25 years. Louise has said “I will continue to work with young people until I’m way too old as long as young people choose to engage with me.”  

Louise will ever stop advocating for young people. Louise is hardworking and passionate and has worked with young people aged 12-24 years of for over 30+ years. She has been at Shellharbour Council for 25 years as a Youth Development worker delivering a range of youth-based activities across the city. She radiates energy with a particular passion for circus-based activities. Louise has mentored so many young people and has a passion to ensure that all young people have a voice within our city. She is someone who many adults and young people recognise within our community for the work she has done with young people. She has a wealth of knowledge pertaining to youth services and young people in our area. 

Mark Merritt 

Mark currently works in Mission Australia’s Youth Justice Community Support Program, providing case management support to young people across Central West NSW who are supervised by Youth Justice or who are working through a Youth Justice Conference outcome plan. Mark has been with Mission Australia since 2018. Prior to working at Mission Australia, Mark worked for Youth Justice for close to 14 years, supporting young people as a Youth Officer at Orana Youth Justice Centre. In his current role, Mark works across the Dubbo region (including Dubbo, Wellington and Narromine) as well as travelling several hours at a time to other areas as needed to support the young people he works with. Mark consistently goes above and beyond to support not only his direct clients but to support his colleagues and assist with those they may be working with. He supports young people who are experience a range of complex challenges and does so without judgement, with respect, with honesty and always with a perseverance that demonstrates his willingness to help them achieve their goals. 

Michelle Ackerman 

Michelle Ackerman is a dedicated and passionate youth advocate who has spent over 25 years transforming the lives of young people in the community. With an unwavering commitment to empowering youth, Michelle has tirelessly championed initiatives that inspire personal growth, resilience, and positive change. Michelle’s profound impact on countless lives is a testament to her exceptional leadership, creativity, and deep understanding of the challenges faced by today’s youth. 

Stacy Jacobs 

Stacy has worked in the youth sector in the Lower Hunter Region for 23 years and currently works at Cessnock High School, part time in disabilities and provides Youth and Teen Mental Health First Aid Training to all community sectors at cost price only. Stacy works as a Student Support Officer, she runs “The Hub” at CHS which provides a safe space for vulnerable young people where they are welcomed, cared for, supported and fed. She organises external agencies such as PCYC to come into the school to run programs. She has connected with a registered psychologist to come up to CHS a couple of weeks a year to assess young people who are unable to engage with a private practitioner due to financial constraints. She works tirelessly with her young people and their families. Stacy mentors’ university and TAFE placements, supporting the next generation with training and delivers training to other Student Support Officers across the state every school holidays. Stacy has supported more than 95 young people to get their drivers licence with hours of support as a supervised driver. 

Kim McLoughry 

Kim’s nomination for the Youth Action Hall of Fame is a recognition of her exceptional contributions and transformative impact over three decades. Her legacy is etched in the hearts of the countless young individuals whose lives she has touched, providing them with opportunities, hope, and a brighter future. We wholeheartedly endorse Kim’s induction into the Hall of Fame as a symbol of her enduring dedication to youth empowerment and community development.


Darrel Smith

Darrel has been employed for the past 10 years with Miyay Birray Youth Service an Aboriginal community controlled organisation based in Moree. He has a passion for seeing youth achieve their goals. Darrel has been instrumental in seeing the service grow with forming many partnerships.

Prior to working with Miyay Birray Darrel was the regional manager for the Commonwealth Department of Education Darrel assisted in coordinating youth career expos and trips to help young people think about the future. Darrel has been involved in mentoring and coaching many young people in soccer.


Darrel Smith

Darrel has been employed for the past 10 years with Miyay Birray Youth Service an Aboriginal community controlled organisation based in Moree. He has a passion for seeing youth achieve their goals. Darrel has been instrumental in seeing the service grow with forming many partnerships.

Prior to working with Miyay Birray Darrel was the regional manager for the Commonwealth Department of Education Darrel assisted in coordinating youth career expos and trips to help young people think about the future. Darrel has been involved in mentoring and coaching many young people in soccer.

Keira Taggart

Keira Taggart has been an active and passionate youth worker in the Lake Macquarie region for 22 years, working in community youth support and within Hunter Sports High School. Keira was a youth worker within a school before such a thing as student support officer (SSO) existed. She has pioneered the SSO role, advocating for students and their wellbeing, as well as the school staff.

In 2022, Keira completed a Bachelor of Youth Work degree through Victoria University, a huge personal achievement. Balancing study, work and home commitments over a two-year period highlight Keira’s dedication to her practice and the profession of Youth Work. Kiera is trusted and respected by the young people she works with, her colleagues, her community, and the local youth sector. Keira’s contribution to young people and the profession of youth work deserves to be recognised in the NSW Youth Work Hall of Fame.


Dale Garbutt

Dale Garbutt has been a youth worker in the Hunter Region for over 20 years. He started at The Palais Youth Venue, run by Newcastle City Council, which then evolved into The Loft Youth venue in a different location, and dedicated himself to engaging and facilitating creative and social justice programs with young people for some 13 years until the sad demise of the venue. Under Dale’s leadership The Loft won a number of awards for its programs and achieved a high level of respect in the Hunter region and beyond. In the last 7 years Dale has evolved into a significant figure in support of young people and families from refugee background at both the Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre Lambton and at Callaghan College, Waratah campus. His limitless energy and innovation in developing programs in these two roles have produced great outcomes for young people.

Melissa Leaudais

Posthumously Awarded

Melissa Leaudais was a much loved youth worker who sadly passed away in late 2021. She spent the majority of her career working with Weave Youth and Community Services. She started in their Kool Kids program based in La Perouse. She was responsible for driving their Surfing Program, sharing her love of the ocean with the Kool Kids and gifting them with a beautiful healthy outlet that they could carry with them for life. Even after Mel left that role, it is still the most popular program to date. She later worked as a caseworker at Weave’s Woolloomooloo Community Hub and their Waterloo Women and Children’s Centre. Mel’s generosity, kind heartedness, and passion for working with young people and families impacted everyone who met her. She made people feel like they were the most important people in the world and saw her role as supporting them to be the best that they could. More recently Mel worked at Marrickville Youth Resource Centre and the Women’s Justice Network where she brought that same energy and love of helping people. Mel’s heart was devoted to working with children, young people, and families. She knew that trust is built in moments of laughter and trauma is healed by embracing the things that bring you joy and sharing that joy with others. She was a true role model of what is best about youth work. She will be deeply missed by all those whose lives she touched.

Laurie Matthews

Laurie Matthews is the CEO of Caretakers Youth Services in Bondi but he will always describe himself as a youth worker. His long-term commitment to youth work is unequalled, and he has never weakened his resolve to ‘make things better’ for young people. Laurie believes strongly in young people’s value, worth, and rights, and has delivered relationship-based connections to young people for his entire working life.He first became interested in youth work at 16 while involved in a school holiday program at Holdsworth Street Woollahra. That experience transitioned into supporting a teenage after school and weekend drop-in centre in 1974 – 1975 which eventually became Caretakers on January 1, 1977. Laurie worked as a volunteer building that program to what it is today. Youth work has always been more than a job to Laurie, it is a life-long vocation. Laurie has been a dedicated, consistent and steady person at a key service delivering support to young, vulnerable and disadvantaged people who are not living at home and may have had very traumatic lives. Laurie once said that he hoped he could make things a little better for someone each day, which is a commendable goal to his commitment to youth work practice.

Jen Parke

Jen has dedicated her career to protecting and empowering young people over her  25+ years as a youth  worker in Sydney and the Northern Rivers, NSW region. In  roles ranging from direct service to program management and working with  Indigenous youth, young people experiencing homelessness, involved with the  justice system, and struggling with drug and alcohol issues and mental health, Jen’s  approach is to find a way to give young people a voice and an authentic seat at the  table. Jen is one of the most inspiring youth workers in the region and tirelessly advocates for unlocking services and opportunities for young people. Jen’s  extraordinary commitment to young people shines through in everything she does.

Sonya Parker

Sonya is colourfully animated and vibrantly inspirational character who lights up the world up with her ethics, energy, laugh and commitment the youth sector! The Hawkesbury Community Outreach Services, where Sonya works, is based in the lower Blue Mountains nestled in a warm & inviting community centre. HCOS’ mission is to provide quality services delivering programs and support directed towards strengthening the community connectedness, wellbeing, safety and knowledge. Some of the programs Sonya implements are innovative and often one of a kind. She takes into consideration the needs and background of the young person as an individual or group and pieces together the perfect program to ensure the best possible outcome for the young people in her care. If you have met Sonya you will understand and have felt how she transforms people, places an

Bernie Shakeshaft

Bernie Shakeshaft is the founder and director of BackTrack Youth Works. With 25 years in the youth sector he has helped some of the most disadvantaged young people throughout Australia turn their lives around through BackTrack’s innovative youth work. As a young man he worked for many years as a jackaroo and a wildlife researcher in the Northern Territory and was mentored extensively by Aboriginal people in the region. This formative experience radically transformed Bernie’s perspective of learning and what it means to practically share skills and knowledge in an innately non-judgemental and non-prescriptive way. Upon returning to NSW, he started formulating an idea using working dogs to support vulnerable young Australians who were having a hard time. Bernie saw young people being incarcerated, dropping out of school at increasingly young ages, experiencing severe psychological distress and at risk of falling into a cycle of entrenched disadvantage that could affect the rest of their lives. Frustrated by the cracks within the existing system, Bernie knew there was a gap that needed to be filled for this group of young people. BackTrack was his solution and the mission was simple: to help as many kids having a hard time as possible. Bernie founded BackTrack and is motivated by three goals; to keep kids alive, out of jail and chasing their hopes and dreams.


Justin Burke – Northern Beaches Council

Justin has been working with young people for more than 25 years in a variety of roles. These include working at a Summer Camp in NJ, USA, casual Links To Learning Officer at Manly Council, volunteer, casual and full time YDO role at Warringah Council. For the past 3 years Justin has been Youth Services Team Leader at Northern Beaches Council. Justin continues to work hard establishing and innovating a variety of youth programs, events and activities on the Northern Beaches and has built a new youth team with a focus on innovation, community and council collaboration, and partnerships. Justin is a strong advocate for young people to be involved in decision making processes which has led to creative ways that council consults with young people.

Natalie Chiappazzo – Blacktown Youth Service Association (BYSA)

Natalie is a passionate and dedicated Youth Practitioner, Leader and Change maker. For 15 years, Natalie has been the manager of Blacktown Youth Services Association (BYSA). Alongside her role at BYSA, Natalie is a board member of Western Sydney Community Forum where she represents the needs and passions of young people. Natalie is a strong advocate for and driving systems change across the Western Sydney region.  

Throughout her career Natalie has been guided by the thousands of young people she has had the honour of working alongside. It is this guidance that has seen Natalie manage the only grassroots youth organisations that are immersed in Youth Culture and creativity. It has been a place of safety for young people who are living on the streets, an outlet for young people without a voice, and a sense of family for young people who cannot live at home. 

Narelle Clay – Southern Youth and Family Services (SYFS)

Narelle Clay wears many hats – CEO of Southern Youth and Family Services (SYFS), Youth Worker, Mentor, and Advocate for Social Justice. For 35 years she has supported many young people in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, South West Sydney, and the Southern Tablelands of NSW. 

Narelle has been a Member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness, a Member of the National Advisory Group Better Futures Local Solutions, a Member of the NSW Homelessness Alliance, a Member of the National Data Users’ Advisory Group, a Member of the NSW FACS Homelessness Data Advisory Group, a Member of the Southern Region’s Area Managers Group, as well as various other Commonwealth, State and Local Government Advisory processes. She believes everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their aspirations and works hard to secure housing, education and training opportunities, employment, secure income and a decent standard of living for all young people who seek her support.

Glen Crump – Miyay Birray

Glen is a Kamilaroi nation man who has been advocating for youth rights for the past 20 years. Glen has engaged in advocating for youth rights since he was a young person himself, he started by volunteering in numerous youth advisory positions, such as the NSW Premier Youth Advisory Council, Regional Board of Youth Affairs and he founded the first Moree Youth Council. Glen was twice named Moree’s Young Person of the Year and his fierce passion for youth rights has developed into a powerful career as a youth worker. For the past 16 years Glen has supported rural young people and Aboriginal young people in Moree while working with the Miyay Birray Youth Service. In his spare time away from working with Miyay Birray Glen supports young people who are navigating the criminal justice system and the juvenile detention space. Glen was also a pivotal member of Youth Action’s (YAPAs) Aboriginal advisory group that held the first NSW Aboriginal Youth Conference, bringing together delegates from all around the state to develop an Aboriginal Youth Policy which was delivered to the Premier and Minister for Aboriginal affairs.  

Glen is an incredibly dedicated youth worker who will go to any length to advocate for the young people he works with. He has never been afraid to represent young people’s views in the toughest of spaces, and against the toughest opposition.  

Glen has dedicated his career to providing space and empowerment for young people and is an especially strong advocate for the rights and voices of Aboriginal young people. Glen is a tireless Youth Worker who is thought of as “the person who is always there, any time, any day, whenever needed” by his peers and the young people he works with.  

Russell King – WAYS Youth & Family

Lifetime Achievement Winner 2020

Russell started as a volunteer at WAYS in 1987, and was the Chief Executive Officer of WAYS Youth & Family from 1989 until his passing in October 2019. Russell is responsible for the unbelievable growth and achievements of the wonderful organisation that is WAYS Youth & Family. As CEO, Russell always endeavoured to ensure that WAYS programs and activities are totally directed towards the needs of the young people and their families in the area. 

Russell dedicated his life to WAYS and the young people it serviced, no one was turned away, he did everything to make sure they were kept safe and listened to. He was an advocate for young people everywhere, he spoke up and supported them when their voices needed to be heard. 

Russell was a true visionary and innovator with an admirable sense of social justice. He has positively impacted careers and shaped people’s lives for the better.

Samantha King – Northern Beaches Youth Interagency

Samantha King has been working in the Youth Sector in the Northern Beaches / Northern Sydney region for the past 17 years with the Business Education Network. She has been an ongoing advocate for young people entering the workforce and in more recent years, the broader support for young people in their transition from adolescence to adulthood / from secondary education to the journey that lies beyond. 

Through her role at the Northern Beaches Youth Interagency as Chairperson she has ensured that the voice of young people is utilised for development of key projects to ensure the highest rate of success and support from young people.

Graeme Riddell

Graeme made the big leap from the corporate to the community sector over 15 years ago to concentrate on his passion for supporting young people on their sometimes difficult journey to independence. Graeme has a relentless attitude when it comes to uplifting those around him. His nature is calm and joyous, even in the most stressful of situation he is able to remain calm and dedicated to supporting those around him. 

Graeme never compromises to deliver dedicated outcomes to young people, he remains patient and consistent with each young person he meets. As a manager at CORE Community Services he continually drives the over arching importance of empowering young people to make their own choices and strive for independence. 

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