Walking along the Esplanade, they look like any other teenagers out enjoying a balmy Cairns afternoon.
But take a closer look at their black t-shirts, and you’ll see the message “Youth empowering Youth” proudly emblazoned across their chests.
That’s the motto of DIYDG – which stands for Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good – an organisation set up by and for young people in the Cairns region aged between 15 and 25-years-old.
“We’re a collective of young people, we live in Cairns and we essentially want to do good for our community and give back, and help our place be a better place,” says the group’s founder, Semara Jose.
The idea for DIYDG was born not long after Semara completed Year 12.
During high school, she’d taken part in a school based mentoring program called the Indigenous Leaders of Tomorrow.
Not wanting the friendships and support networks she’d formed throughout the ILT program to end after graduation, Semara approached other students, and together, they formed DIYDG.
“At the time, it was just a young little group of people, just getting together and having fun, doing stuff within the community,” says Daniel Rosendale, who is now one of DIYDG’s board members.
Central to DIDYG was its motto, “Youth empowering youth”, with members of the newly formed group providing peer support to each other, as they transitioned from high school into further study or the workplace, as well as all the other important milestones of young adulthood.
“I think, for me, that’s very much the foundation of what we do”, says Semara.
“We have each others back, we pick each other up, we celebrate the successes… every, absolutely every success,” she said, adding that the group has celebrated everything from members getting their driver's licences, to new jobs and having babies."
Daniel says the supportive environment of DIDYG is like an extended family.
“While we’re an organisation, we treat everyone like we’re family. When we get together, its lets sit down, lets have some fun, lets eat some nice food, but lets talk about what we need to talk about.”
As well as supporting each other, DIYDG is also committed to living up to the second part of its name, determined to “Do Good” in the Cairns community.
“When the Murray Street tragedy happened, we connected with the healing project that was funded at the time,” Semara says.
“We hosted a couple of events in the community park, at the basketball courts, and we repainted the Murray Street community centre, so it’s this beautiful vibrant pink, yellow and purple”.
Semara says DIYDG has also hosted Closing the Gap events in community, and has run Mental Health awareness training for members.
As the group’s members got older, their dreams and ambitions for DIYDG grew even bigger.
In October 2016, the organisation took what it saw as the next logical step in its development, and officially set it up as a not-for-profit organisation, and registered it with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.
At the time, 98 per cent of the group’s membership was under 21-years-old.
“It was very much a learning curve, getting into an organisation, and learning about all the legalities and the problems that any organisation has to face,” recalls Daniel, who was just 18 at the time.
And while he says the process of setting up an Indigenous corporation was at times challenging, the experience members gained was incredibly valuable.
“This is stuff that down the line will help us all greatly, in whatever our future career, in whatever our future opportunities are. We can say, this is what I did when I was 18, 19, 20 years old, this is what we changed in the community.”
Semara says the group was also inspired by local Cairns leaders, who have helped establish community controlled organisations across the region.
“People like Jo McGuiness, people like Aunty Elverina Scott – people that were leaders and that came from the far north.”
“Essentially, its about carrying on that fight, following in their footsteps,” she says.
DIYDG members are also keen to shatter many of the stereotypes surrounding today’s youth, with so-called “millennials” often labelled as apathetic and self involved.
“There’s a lot of talk about our generation being a generation that isn’t really ready to take the plate from our successors – a lot of people don’t think we’re capable of doing it,”, Daniel Rosendale concedes.
But he says he’s confident DIYDG can prove the doubters wrong – if they haven’t already.
“Just by saying we have 30 to 40 young Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the group, willing to do things, and make a change within Cairns and the region – it shows that while we are young, we’re telling people, we’re ready to take the plate off you.”
In its first year as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation, DIYDG has been working hard on setting its foundations right, to ensure it has a long and successful future.
In the longer term, it hopes to find a permanent headquarters in Cairns to call home.
“At the moment, we sort of float between the Esplanade, Anglicares youth support program – they have helped us out and give us a space some nights – even my house!,” laughs Semara.
She said the ultimate dream would be a dedicated youth hangout, complete with skate park, commercial kitchen and conference rooms – but in the meantime, she said DIYDG members would happily settle for something smaller.
“It's literally about a space where we can all come together and just support each other, and have that space to connect every single week,” she said.
Beyond that, both Semara and Daniel dream of the day they can expand DIYDG even further.
“We hope that one day, you never know, 10 years down the track, we can be one of the leaders for inspiring and empowering young Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth within the region of Cairns and Australia,” Daniel said.
Nodding in agreement, Semara added, “We’ll start there first, and then every Indigenous community across the world, we’ll set up DIYDG. For sure!” she laughs.
Her comments may be light hearted, but given all they’ve achieved already, you can help but think Semara and her deadly, inspiring DIYDG family could well make a serious impact in the future.