Keeden Graham.

Meet our local Victoria Young Australian award nominee: Keeden Graham

“Since that moment I’ve taken opportunities that don’t let me become comfortable and complacent.” Torquay local Keeden Graham describes a meaningful moment in his personal journey, recalling the day when he’d lost his job. “I was pretty upset about it. But then I gave my Dad a call and, surprisingly, he said “Good! Did you really want to be doing that for the rest of your life? You have so much potential!”. 

Keeden Graham has ever since gone on to make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal youth in the local community and beyond, and is now most deservedly a 2022 Victoria Young Australian of the Year award nominee!

Keeden is a Yorta-Yorta, Wiradjuri, and Dja Dja Wurrung man, a board member of the Ngarrimili Charity, a member of the Victorian Youth Congress, a former council member of the Youth Council at the Commission for Children and Young People, and is Manager and Deputy CEO of Strong Brother Strong Sister, “a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned-and-operated organisation, that provides a culturally appropriate and safe place to help Aboriginal young people thrive.” 

Now 22yrs old, Keeden has been involved in improving the lives of young people for the past four years, inspired by what he learned when searching for his own sense of identity and belonging as a teen.

“From that personal journey I saw heaps of other young indigenous people who don’t have that sense of belonging and that connection to their community and their family. This is what inspired me to help and walk along-side them. It’s hard to find your purpose if you don’t have that sense of connection to your local community.”  

Through Keeden’s current role at Strong Brother Strong Sister he’s seen how the past two years especially have been tough on Aboriginal youth. Strong Brother Strong Sister have been able to provide resources to assist mental health and suicide prevention, a necessity in the covid landscape where disconnect from others has been keenly felt. He also notes the anxiety for many around coming out of covid lockdown and re-connecting, the unknown and change.  Keeden is heartened to see how, with the organisation’s help, young people are being able to talk more, and recognise that they are not alone in going through a hard time. “They are putting their hand up to help each other out too.”

Through youth groups and mentoring, Keeden has seen visible signs of the positive change that this organisation brings to young people from Indigenous backgrounds. 

“The Youth groups are about being physically active and eating healthy food.  We see increased energy levels and positive interactions and everyone’s interested in what we’re doing. It’s great seeing young people connect to the land and listen to the story telling about the country that they’re on, and how ancestors used to use the land to eat and hunt. The biggest positive impact is that connection to culture, connection to country, connection to community.”

Through his roles so far Keeden is grateful to have been part of high-level conversations about growing opportunities for Aboriginal youth, and has relished the chance to think strategically and logically to make change happen.

“I feel really blessed to be in a role that has facilitated such growth.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of work that my ancestors have done to allow me to be in this position, to be able to give back.  The sense of responsibility weighs a little bit heavy some days and working against all the odds and the barriers and seeing the circumstances that people are going through, it’s hard.  But a lot of Aboriginal people feel that sense of responsibility. There are so many elders working for community, for family, for culture.”

As a nominee for Young Australian of the Year, and one of our bright shining stars leading the way forward, we asked Keeden how he feels about the future for the Indigenous youth of Australia.

“I’m definitely optimistic. At times it can be disheartening when you hear the more ignorant biases in the community. But seeing the demographic of people in the Black Lives Matter and climate change rallies, all on the younger scale, I’m optimistic that the youth of today are way more informed and educated than some of the more senior citizens. It’s testament to them wanting to know, and now there’s more information and amazing spokespeople and leaders who advocate for change every day. We’re seeing local councils and shires taking this on as well, and Governments are making change and it’s all because young people care.”

We greatly appreciate Keeden’s passion to help others, and are so excited that his efforts are being recognised in this important award nomination.

For more information on Strong Brother Strong Sisterhttps://www.strongbrotherstrongsister.com/

Meet Keeden when he speaks at the free Humans in Geelong Expo on Sunday 5th December at 2pm in the Silks Dining Room.

Story: Sarah Treacy. Photos supplied.