By Dylan J. Stone
Zayden Speechley, born in 2001, received the 2015 Australia Day Youth Encouragement award from the Broken Hill City Council, for his tireless work in a number of school and extracurricular committees, including the school’s Student Environmental Council (SEC), Student Representative Council (SRC), and the Cameron Pipe Band.
As a young person, Mr Speechley was the victim of bullying, and the effects had remained with him.
“I just don’t think people understand how it impacts you not just at the time, but many years later,” he says.
Mr Speechley joined the SEC and SRC to escape bullying, to make new friends, and to get involved in the local community.
“It was a real eye-opener of just how many people were dealing with the same things I was dealing with, and from that moment, I really wanted to help people as much as I can.”
“Getting involved in these committees changed my life, because I was able to develop so many different leadership and life skills, which have stuck with me to this day.”
His achievements included being elected the youngest ever SEC President at 13-years old, negotiating many agreements to improve waste disposal systems, took part in regular tree-planting and clean-up days, and raised awareness of social and environmental issues for the broader community to consider.
Mr Speechley’s award in 2015 recognised he had overcome, “hardships with his natural leadership skills and … (he became) an inspiration to not only the members of the organisations he is part of, but the wider school community”.
The award, says Mr Speechley, “changed my life, because it made me realise I was stronger than the bullies, and that I could achieve my dreams, even if people said I couldn’t”.
Mr Speechley’s dream throughout his young life was to become a train driver.
During his school days, Mr Speechley said most teachers and friends dissuaded him from this dream, “because they thought I couldn’t do it, but I did have a couple of really good family and friends who did support me in my aim to achieve my dreams”.
Seven years after receiving the Broken Hill City Council Youth Encouragement Award on Australia Day 2015, where is Mr Speechley now?
“I now live in Wallan in Victoria with my partner of one year, and I am living out my dream as a Trainee Locomotive Driver at Southern Shorthaul Rail.”
He has almost finished the third year of his traineeship, which means he will become a qualified train driver in the next 12 to-18 months.
“I think the advice I want to give to anyone is to believe in your dreams, and to surround yourself with friends who support you and build you up, not knock you down.
The bullying I suffered from people, and the discouragement of my dream from the people I should have been able to rely on, was difficult. But those who did support me had my back and now I am living out my dream.”
Mr Speechley, as the Barrier Truth noted in 2015, ‘is an inspiration’ to the entire community.
He is certainly a worthy former local leader to feature in this inaugural column, and seeing Mr Speechley achieve his dreams against relentless negativity and discouragement, certainly demonstrates the resilience the local Australia Day Awards is all about.