Meet the 2024 Westpac Social Change Fellows: Pioneering a Brighter Future for Australia
Addressing a spectrum of complex and pressing social challenges, Westpac Social Change Fellows are pioneering transformative change to create a more inclusive Australia.
The Westpac Scholars Trust announced the ten exceptional entrepreneurs awarded a 2024 Social Change Fellowship. The Westpac Social Change Fellowship is a distinctive program investing in those passionate about enhancing Australians’ wellbeing. Tailor-made for each Fellow, the program provides social innovators with the resources to refine their abilities, leadership potential, and networks. Valued at up to $50,000 each, the fellowship is designed to catalyse their personal and professional growth, hone their leadership development, and elevate their impact.
The focus communities of the 2024 cohort are wide-ranging, encompassing people with disabilities, refugees, asylum seekers, youth, at-risk women, and sustainable futures.
Among the 2024 Westpac Social Change Fellows are Angelique Wan, Zac Lewis, and Carla Raynes, all committed to improving young people’s lives.
Raynes established Bridge It in 2021, an organisation dedicated to eradicating youth homelessness by offering homes, community support, and tools for independent living.
“I founded Bridge It to address the urgent need for safe, supportive, affordable housing for young people at risk of homelessness in Melbourne,” she said.
“Prior to this, I spent nearly two decades working in the homelessness space and I’m committed to trialling creative approaches to find a long-lasting solution.”
Two Fellows making significant contributions to disability services are Andrea Comastri and Luke Hallam. Comastri, co-founder and CEO of Hotel Etico, Australia’s first social enterprise hotel, offers employment and independent living opportunities to young people living with a disability.
“I am motivated by honesty, fairness and social justice and by a desire to enhance the quality of life of people facing barriers to inclusion,” said Comastri.
“I draw inspiration every day from the amazing team we have put together at Hotel Etico. Our trainees exemplify and show passion for life, work and learning.”
Supporting women at risk are Ifrin Fittock and Maryam Zahid. Zahid, an Afghan-Australian human rights advocate, leads empowering programs for immigrant and refugee women through her initiative, Afghan Women on the Move.
“Advocating for marginalised communities is a vital part of my commitment,” said Zahid. “My journey from a former refugee is a testament to resilience, and I am truly honoured to contribute to positive change.”
Having dedicated over 21 years to the community sector, Zahid holds positions on various advisory boards across government and non-government organisations. Her efforts to elevate diverse voices and encourage inclusivity have been recognised, notably with her receiving the Woman of the Year award in 2019.
This is also the first year where two scholars have a strong sustainability focus in addition to improving the wellbeing of Australians. Ninna Larsen is helping create a circular economy through innovative waste collection and waste minimisation projects through her social enterprise Reground, while Claire Lane is the founder of Save Our Supplies, a not-for-profit that collects and redirects usable medical supplies to developing regions.
The Westpac Social Change Fellowship allows each recipient to craft a personalised development journey. They identify experiences that directly invest in their skills, knowledge, and networks, helping them achieve their goals and amplify the impact of their social change initiatives.
“This wonderful group of social entrepreneurs are doing remarkable things in their local communities, tackling some of Australia’s most complex social issues,” said Westpac Scholars Trust CEO Amy Lyden.
“Often these entrepreneurs find themselves too immersed in the day-to-day aspects of their work, leaving little room for self-reflection on their personal growth or time to pursue development opportunities, so we’re thrilled to be able to give them that chance through this fellowship,” Lyden adds.
Congratulations to the 2024 Social Change Fellows:
- Andrea Comastri – Hotel Etico
- Angelique Wan – Consent Labs
- Carla Raynes – Bridge It
- Claire Lane – Save Our Supplies
- Ifrin Fittock – SisterWorks
- Jane Marx – The Beautiful Bunch
- Luke Hallam – Ocean Heroes
- Maryam Zahid – Afghan Women on the Move
- Ninna Larsen – Reground
- Zac Lewis – Western Chances
The Social Change Fellowship is one of the five scholarship programs offered by Westpac Scholars Trust. The Trust annually awards 100 scholarships to university students, early-career researchers, and social entrepreneurs, fostering a brighter Australian future.