James Clarke Wins WA Young Person of the Year

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Last night James Clarke was awarded WA Young Person of the Year in a ceremony presented by the Youth Affairs Council of WA and the Department of Local Government and Communities with support from Lotterywest.

17 year old Clarke was recognized for having overcome prejudice as an Aboriginal and out homosexual youth. He has been elected vice captain of Lockridge Senior High School. He speaks publicly about supporting students who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and gender and sexuality diverse.

Clarke said he was thrilled to receive the award. “It’s not just for me, it’s for the minorities which I’m within. It’s amazing for everyone who identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and/or same sex attracted, gay lesbian or intersex. It really made me feel like I was being recognized for the work I was doing and it made me feel like a million dollars. It made me feel like Beyonce when she accepted awards, it was amazing.”

Clarke runs a campaign called Unity in the Community. With eleven other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, he has made a video aiming to discourage discrimination and bullying against LGBTI people:

Clarke shared what he would like to see take place in schools to fight against discrimination:

“Simple guidelines, like unisex toilet options. That’s probably one of the ones I feel most passionate about because even though I simply identify as homosexual I have trouble going into the guys toilets. I just haven’t in my whole five years I’ve barely once stepped into the male toilets.

“That and more positivity, positive posters in classrooms talking about how great people like myself are, rather than how much of an abomination or a negativity.

I didn’t have any positivity growing up as a child through my educational places like primary school and secondary school. Just a poster that says something like ‘Hey, you may identify as something different but that’s fine and no one is telling you to be something you’re not.'” Just something positive.”

“James is a young man who has refused to accept bullying and shame, and has used his outstanding leadership qualities to gain the respect of his peers,” WA Youth Minister Tony Simpson said.

“His resilience and self-determination have made him a leader for social justice at a very early age and his actions have had a profound and lasting effect on his school and beyond.”

Clarke was also named winner of the Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award. He is hoping to study Indigenous Studies and Gender Studies at university so he can continue speaking out against discrimination.

Sophie Joske

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