Budding student journalist wins prestigious award

22 April 2021

Fourth year Bachelor of Arts student Courtney Withers has been selected as the winner of The Charmaine Dragun Memorial Award at the 2021 Youth Affairs Council of WA (YACWA) Youth Awards.

Courtney’s winning submission titled ‘Independent Minor’ explored youth homelessness in WA and was described by the YACWA judges as “powerful, moving and shone a light on some of the difficult issues faced by young people.”

The award is the latest feather in Courtney’s cap, having already written, produced and performed in several shows, coming to the close of a four-year double degree, and taking a role as the Assistant Producer at RTRFM.

All these achievements are coming together to set Courtney up for an impressive future in journalism, a career that runs in the family and has been destined for her since an early age.

“I always enjoyed telling stories and being creative,” Courtney says, “My dad was a journalist in the 80s and I’ve just always been interested in journalism.”

It was Courtney’s dad, now an English teacher, who first gave her the idea of the award-winning feature story.

“He taught this girl last year and was telling me about her, and I just couldn’t believe her situation. Although I was only a few years older than her, our lives were completely different. I knew this story had to be told.”

Courtney admits she knew little about the awards before submitting her story. In fact, she first thought of applying for the theatre-related awards, but once she saw the specification for youth issues in the journalism award, she remembered the article she had written in one of her recent Notre Dame courses.

Even during the ceremony, Courtney says she wasn’t expecting to win, just happy to have been shortlisted.

“I wasn’t even sure I should prepare a speech,” she said, “but fortunately I wrote a few dot points to have with me just in case.

I wanted to thank the Dragun family, it was a huge honour to have them there, as well as the subject of my story and of course my Journalism tutor, Mignon Shardlow, at Notre Dame.

Charmaine Dragun was an Australian journalist and broadcaster who sadly took her own life in 2007 after struggling with depression and eating disorders. The YACWA website writes that the award “recognises an outstanding journalist, photographer, blogger or media contributor under the age of 25 who has committed to fair and balanced reporting on young people or youth issues.

“The award acknowledges the role the media play in forming public opinion about young people and youth issues in our community. The awards encourage the media to take a lead by responsibly reporting on young people and youth issues.

“Charmaine Dragun was a recipient of a WA Youth Media Award for an outstanding journalist under the age of 25, and this Memorial Award has been created in her honour and is supported by the Dragun Family.”

When discussing her experience at Notre Dame, Courtney talks of her love for the university lifestyle in Fremantle, as well as offering some words of advice for those about to begin their own university career.

“Make sure you like what you're doing. Pretty much all my friends changed at least one aspect of their degrees, so don't just stick with something, make a change.”

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Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 | breyon.gibbs@nd.edu.au