ABC invites young Aussie leaders to apply for its 2024 Trailblazers initiative

Justin Stevens, Director of ABC News
Justin Stevens, Director of ABC News

NSW youth worker, Carlee Heise is calling on young people, who have started social, educational, and economic development projects in their regional communities to apply for the ABC’s 2024 Trailblazers program. Carlee, a participant of the 2023 Trailblazers program, is the driving force behind YAAS! (Young, Authentic and Social), an arts program for 12–24-year-olds with diverse abilities and identities in Darkinjung Country on the Central Coast.

What is ABC’s Trailblazers program?

The ABC’s Trailblazers program sits under the umbrella of the Heywire program, which the ABC has run in partnership with the Australia Government since 1998. The program would not be possible without the support of the Australian Government like the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts; Department of Health and Aged Care and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

Past Trailblazer projects have addressed a range of issues, like strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, promoting the well-being of young minds, advancing sustainable farming, fostering inclusivity for individuals living with disabilities, boosting employment opportunities, ensuring quality educational access, and helping entrepreneurs in remote areas.

Who can apply to be a Trailblazer?

The program celebrates dynamic young individuals, or groups of up to three, aged 18 to 28, who’re spearheading social change in regions beyond the major capital cities. From young community leaders to social entrepreneurs, advocates to event organisers, ABC Trailblazers are looking for young people with a commitment to strengthening their communities.

​What do Trailblazers receive?

  •  The chance to have their work featured nationally on the ABC.  

  • An all-expenses-paid trip to Canberra, ACT for the Heywire Regional Youth Summit.

  • Exclusive opportunities to apply for the Sally Foundation’s Trailblazers Development Fund, a partnership with the Sally Foundation and the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

  • Extensive networking, media, and leadership opportunities.

What are the thoughts of 2023 winners on the program?

Carlee Heise, participant of ABC's 2023 Trailblazers program
Carlee Heise, participant of ABC’s 2023 Trailblazers program

“Being selected as a 2023 Trailblazer has opened up so many doors and ultimately given me opportunities to experience things I never would have imagined I would be doing in my 20s. The support I’ve received from the ABC Trailblazers program has helped me to see what strength I already possess and use this to make change in my region,” Carlee commented.

Hayden McDonald is a 2023 Trailblazer in Kepa Kurl Country, Esperance, WA. Growing up on the spectrum, Hayden felt like sometimes the world wasn’t built for him. So, he combined his passions for aviation and promoting inclusion for people on the spectrum by starting Wings Without Barriers. This month he will solo circumnavigate regional Australia in a light aircraft stopping to present to schools and to show other young people that the sky’s the limit.

“The groundbreaking ABC’s Trailblazers program has helped me grow Wings Without Barriers and grow as a person. It has created huge opportunities for my project and helped me connect with movers and shakers in the aviation sector,” Hayden McDonald commented.

What does the program mean for Australia?

The Director of ABC News, Justin Stevens encourages young innovators to get involved in the program. “Since Trailblazers launched in 2017, we have seen talented young leaders take part each year who are doing incredible work in their regional communities,” Stevens said.

“I continue to be inspired by them and the impact they are having and look forward to seeing what great projects our young leaders are working on this year. The ABC is proud to bring back Trailblazers in 2024 and celebrate these talented changemakers on a national stage.”

Hon. Catherine King MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Local Government
Hon. Catherine King MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Local Government

The Hon. Catherine King MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Local Government, champions the involvement of young leaders in regional Australia.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the Trailblazers program empowers young people from rural and regional areas. It provides participants with opportunities to strengthen and inspire both themselves and their communities. Alumni from the Trailblazers program have gone on to achieve amazing things. I’d really encourage future leaders in the regions to get involved – you just don’t know where being a Trailblazer will take you, or what you’ll achieve.”

Applications are now open for the ABC’s 2024 Trailblazers program, where the spotlight shines on the brightest new leaders making a difference in their communities. The groundbreaking program is an opportunity for these young entrepreneurs and changemakers to have their work celebrated nationally and to receive an incredible package of support.

Applications close Wednesday 4 October 2023. To apply, visit the website