Twenty-two year old Matthew Bill has been working across four primary schools and one high school helping struggling students who are detached from schooling.
“It wasn’t really my intention to be doing anything like this at the start, but once I started I loved it, I just kept going with it,” he told NITV News.
The Yamatji man has been working for the Shire of Mundaring in Perth’s north-west region.
He was born and raised in that area and says his Indigenous background has made it easier for him to connect with the kids he works with.
But he does admit he wasn’t the gold star student.
‘I threw my hand up and said, yeah’
Matt tells NITV News he had some hardships during his high school years.
“I was a teenager, I mucked around a little bit and liked to skip class and go to the beach and stuff,” he admits.
“I ended up leaving school because, I don’t know, though I knew what was best at 16.”
Matt has now cleaned up his act and enjoys the work he does for his community.
“Every morning I go pick up kids, with my grandad, and we go drive around in the van and then I walk around and pick up kids after that.
“And we take ‘em to school, and give ‘em breakfast and make sure that they have the uniform and whatnot, and they’re ready for the day.”
He says the job came around unexpectedly. At his work, employees were asked if anyone wanted to “entertain” the group of kids in the park and he thought it would be a good idea.
“I just threw my hand up and said ‘yeah’,” he says.
“I just took a basketball and a few sandwiches to the park and played basketball for a few hours.”
But working with youth isn’t all Matt does.
Man on a mission
The 22-year-old also runs a men’s group called Moorditj Maaman, a support group for men.
“It used to be just Noongar men, now anyone can come because we started getting all different blokes. So anyone can just rock up and we go bushwalking and do all sorts of stuff,” he explains.
He told NITV News he's learned how connection to country is very important for mental health, and not just for Indigenous men.
“We take all sorts of blokes out and they benefit from the same stories and from being in the same countries in the same way we do.”
Matt says he’s still in shock about winning the award.
“I still don’t believe it, but it's an incredible feeling! I’m still blown away, I'm absolutely honoured,” he says.
“Since I have gotten into this work, I've had to pull my own head in.”
The youth worker says he knows this position will mean he is now a role model for many people, not just the Indigenous community. And it’s a challenge he’s willing to take on.
“I've set an example, but I've always kind of been conscious of that though. I've always been mindful of what I'm doing and I’ve always been conscious that other people are watching. So yeah, I am a role model.”
For the future, Matt says he’d like to travel the state and learn from all the different mobs within Western Australia and bring lessons back down to the city.
“I have to get out and see who I'm working with. I'm not just working for my community but for the whole state,” he says.
The WA Youth Awards highlights the achievements and contributions of Western Australians aged 12 to 25. It also can involve organisations who work with and support youth within the state.