To me, being an Australian isn't about a single culture, tradition or way of doing things because we've got people from all walks of life who each bring their own experiences to the table.
Instead, I think it's about a feeling; a sense that you can fit in here no matter where you come from or what your story is. To be Australian is to believe that everybody deserves to belong.
I think Australia Day is the ideal opportunity to honestly reflect on whether we're living up to that belief.
I've often said that our young people are our most accurate barometer of how we're doing as a nation. Working with kids like we do at BackTrack, you get a 100 per cent genuine, unflinching look at their lives.
Sometimes, that can be a confronting reality check because it shows us that many young people are getting left behind in our country. They're doing it tough and they don't have the same level of opportunity to learn, find work and participate in their community.
These challenges have only increased over the past year with bushfire, droughts and COVID-19 impacting their mental health, social connection and job prospects.
Against this backdrop and alongside many incredible leaders and organisations, the BackTrack team is doing what we can to give young people the support they need to thrive and find the sense of belonging that every Australian deserves.
Every day that we manage to do that, I feel an enormous amount of hope for our country's future because these kids have so much to give and so much gold in them.
Since being awarded Australian of the Year Local Hero in January 2020, that hope has only grown.
As a result of the award, I started a podcast called Everyday Heroes and I've had the privilege of talking to dozens of legends from all sectors of society.
What they have in common is that belief that everyone deserves to belong and have a fair shot at making a great life for themselves.
They're quietly rolling up their sleeves and taking action to make this country a better and more inclusive place.
And I can't think of anything more Australian than that.
- This edition of VORA was written by BackTrack founder and 2020 Australian of the Year Local Hero, Bernie Shakeshaft of Armidale in NSW's Northern Tablelands
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