Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) member, Hayden Charles, was named the Sutherland Shire’s 2019 Young Citizen of the Year on Wednesday December 5 at the Australia Day Awards Ceremony.
The ceremony took place at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre and recognised the community’s most outstanding citizens.
The 20 year old and proud Griffith Wiradjuri man, Hayden was recognised for his contribution to the community, which includes volunteering with the State Emergency Service (SES), Headspace Miranda and Sutherland Shire Youth Week event.
Hayden was also a youth leader at Uniting Church Sylvania for two years and was an ambassador for Uniting Church Camp, Yurora.
“It felt pretty good getting recognised for all the volunteering work I do,” he said.
“I am the only young aboriginal person, who got an award, so that was pretty cool,” said Hayden, who is also an active member of the Council’s Youth Council.”
Hayden first got involved with SES five months ago while volunteering to help respond to the devastating bushfire in Holsworthy, Menai in April this year.
“I decided to join the SES after that.”
He is also the longest running member for Miranda Youth Reference Group at Headspace Miranda, were he has been involved for the last five years.
🏅Our 2019 #Shire Young Citizen of the Year is Hayden Charles.
Hayden is a #volunteer with @NSWSES and Youth Reference Group at @headspace_aus Miranda.
He’s also been a youth leader at @UCA_NSWACT Sylvania and #Aboriginal rep for the #UnitingChurch plus other #volunteering. pic.twitter.com/aV0SvDnMu3
— Mark Speakman (@MarkSpeakman) December 5, 2018
In that same amount of time he has been an active member with the UAICC. Hayden credits, the now National President of the UAICC Rev. Gary Dronfield, for suggesting Hayden attend the Uniting Church National Young Adults Leaders Conference in 2013.
“He gave me an opportunity to show my leadership,” Hayden said.
This introduction to leadership roles has prompted Hayden’s interest in fostering opportunities for others, especially young people, to achieve their full potential. Part of his membership with the Shire Council’s Youth Council, Hayden assisted a grant application working group that focused on helping disengaged youth achieve employment goals.
“I’m passionate about leadership and giving people a fair-go and all the opportunities that brings along with it,” he said.
Next Generation of Faith Leaders
One of the challenges Hayden found as a youth leader was growing “young people into leaders.”
“That was the hardest thing because the Uniting Church needs young leaders these days. I wanted to disciple some people but they didn’t have the passion.”
Hayden remains optimistic as the 2019 NYALC is set for 17-20 January in Adelaide and he hopes to see more young people attending.
“[I look forward to] see more young people get into the Uniting Church, having more leadership roles like myself as a UAICC member,” said Hayden.
As for what’s next after receiving the 2019 Young Citizen of the Year Award, Hayden is still considering the possibility of taking that passion for leadership and sharing faith to the next level through a chaplaincy course.
“Couple of years ago I really wanted to do a chaplaincy course and to be a SES Chaplain as well.
“I’ve always wanted to be a chaplain to police or fire brigades or something like that,” said Hayden.
Image: (L) Cronulla MP NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, Sutherland Shire Mayor Councillor Carmelo Pesce, (middle) Hayden Charles. Source: Mark Speakman Twitter.