I looked that shy on stage?

Youth Up Front Award

Roma Street Parklands

June 2003

“… and publishes ‘Cookies’ a street magazine that promotes the ideas and work of young people”. The Honorable Minister Matt Foley reaches around and grabs the plaque, turns to me, shakes my hand, pausing for photographers and passes it to me along with a cheque for $1000.

I walk slowly to the lectern and fumble around, searching for the best place to put my newly acquired treasures.

I almost laugh out loud when I see it’s framed in plastic, that looks like wood. ‘Those guys are soo cheap’ I think.

Three of us, Natalie and Natasha and myself each receive a ‘Youth Up Front award’. Mine is for my “Commitment to social change and volunteer activities”.

“I’ve got a lot of people to thank, so please bear with me…” I start. “First up Open Doors, they’re a lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth support group…”

I thank the organisations I’ve volunteered with, or who’ve supported me. SpeakOut, Visible Ink, Mision Australia Community Café, Brisbane Youth Service and the stepUP Foundation get a mention.

Earnestly I go on “… I’d also like to thank Lisa who wrote my incredible application.” I speak directly to the crowd “If you’re going to read anything in your whole life-time, you’ve got to read my application.”  Minister Foley giggles again and half the crowd laugh. I think even Minister Peter Beattie does, standing up the back.

Later that day I look back at the video tape I asked to made, and am embarrassed by how much I fidgeted and moved around. I can’t believe I moved soo much. I’m sure I do it a lot, it’s a wonder anyone asks me to do public speaking.

Launch of SpeakOut Design Studios

November 2003

There’s a resounding applause among our 200 strong audience. That’s soo awesome, they’re doing what I asked them! To applaud the trainees when I’ve finished speaking.

I look at my sister in the front row and we giggle like we’re in some conspiracy together. I’m soo glad she’s there.

I look around for Levi (a contestant from 2003s Australian Idol) and his crew but I can’t see them. I’m on the same stage that Levi from Australian Idol was!

“No, no wait!” I shout. Too loud. Oops.

I put up my hands, and the applause dies away. “Sorry, it was the wrong bit, this isn’t the end. The next bit’s the end”

A few people laugh and they look like they’re having fun.

Now they’re silent again. Like you could hear a pin drop silent. I’m feeling soo peaceful.

“What I want to end with is, A few days ago, I was walking down the street and I saw Daniel (another young trainee) leave the building and cross the street, and there were these business people walking past and they didn’t even look twice at him. And I thought, ‘y’know, you have no idea who he is. This is a 16 year old who has an awesome talent for art and graphic design, and who’s about to start his own fashion label. And you probably think he’s just another kid. Well you know what, he isn’t, and I’m not. None of us are…”

I’m interrupted by this massive applause where I can’t even hear myself think.

“Thank you”. I’m stunned, confused and immensely proud as I stumble of the stage.


SpeakOut Design Studios

Later that evening



“Do you know who I am?”

“Yeah, you’re John Birmingham. My sister was talking to you.”

“Oh, who’s your sister?”

“That girl, in the red dress” I point.

‘She’s a great girl’.


He says “I came over because I wanted to let you know that I loved your speech. I’ve been to a few writers conferences and seen a lot of speakers and yours was one of The Best that I’ve ever seen.”

“Wow. Oh my god. Thank you.” He must be the 6th person tonight, but it’s even better coming from him because he’s famous!