Leongatha Secondary College student Lizzie Harms (right) has been nominated for a Rural Youth Award for speaking out against gender inequality.

A LEONGATHA Secondary College student has been recognised for leading change in her community with a nomination for a state award.
Year 11 student Lizzie Harms was last week announced as a finalist in the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria’s inaugural ‘Rural Youth Awards’ which celebrate those who’ve made exceptional contributions to the lives young people in rural and regional communities.
The 17-year-old is one of just five finalists from across the state in the running for the $1000 prize, the winner of which will be announced at a special event at Victoria’s Parliament House on September 26.
Lizzie was nominated by South Gippsland Shire Council’s Sophie Dixon for her efforts, over the last year, to inspire her community to challenge gender inequality.
In March, Lizzie organised an event that saw 400 female students from seven local high schools come together at the Leongatha Memorial Hall to hear a presentation from well-known Australian writer, speaker and feminist thinker Clementine Ford.
The event’s theme was ‘empowering young women’ and Ms Ford’s presentation focused on the link between gender inequality and men’s violence against women, and the importance of standing up for yourself and others.
Drawing on her own experiences of gender inequality at school, Lizzie also delivered a
powerful speech at the event, urging young women to stand together and support each other.
Lizzie’s since been invited to speak at events across the region, including at a conference at Rawson alongside domestic violence campaigner and former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, and most recently, at a ‘Hero Round Table’ event at Yarram.
She’s determined to continue to speak out – admitting she feels more nervous in a classroom with her peers than in front of a large audience, and has been encouraged by the
community’s response to her efforts thus far.
“When you’re speaking about gender equality, it’s always tricky to know what sort of
responses you’re going to get, but I’ve spoken in front of very mixed audiences including families and young kids and the response has been very positive,” she said.
“The Empowering Young Women event had a really good response from my female peers, and it definitely had a positive impact in terms of just making them feel better about being
female, as well as challenging our male peers.
“Seeing those sorts of positive impacts and changes is a really good feeling.
“We can all make an impact in achieving gender equality, and just knowing that I’m making a difference to people’s lives, even if it’s just for five minutes, that’s why I’m passionate about speaking out.”