LGBTQIA champion wins Queen’s Young Leaders Award

Jacob Thomas won a Queens Young Leaders Award after giving a TEDx talk on gender equality.

Jacob Thomas won a Queens Young Leaders Award after giving a TEDx talk on gender equality.

Jacob Thomas from Access Monash has achieved the almighty honour of being one of just two Australians to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders Award for 2016.

Jacob’s work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community led to his election as a Queen’s Young Leader.

They* will be flown to the UK for mentoring and to receive the award from Her Majesty the Queen herself.

Jacob is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQIA community and works tirelessly with state and federal government representatives to advocate for stronger support for the community in accessing primary healthcare.

The 25-year-old graduated from Monash in 2013 and has worked at Access Monash since 2011 as a Project Officer for SEAMS (Strengthening Engagement and Achievement in Mathematics and Science) and as a Senior Project Officer (Education Strategy) at Monash Warwick Alliance.

Jacob said they were shocked to even receive the award, let alone one of such calibre.

“To be on par with 59 other young people across the Commonwealth in 2016 is equal parts humbling and exciting,” Jacob said.

“As a non-binary and queer young person, I feel this award highlights the existence and celebration of people with diverse experiences. It shows that you don’t have to have it all in order to make positive change in your world, which is necessary for many of us who may struggle to see ourselves as visible in these spaces.”

The award comes after Jacob delivered a TEDx talk at the Queensland University of Technology on gender equality and worked with UN Youth Australia in developing its LGBTQIA Human Rights Summit, an event that encourages high school students to take part in achieving equality for the community.

“Equally for Monash, this is a great opportunity to continue celebrating the LGBTQIA community and our accomplishments. Doing so shows our students, staff and visitors that we are unafraid of difference, and when working with prospective community members that they know we are a university built on pride,” Jacob said.

The future is bright for Jacob, who is an ambassador for a number of LGBTQIA groups in Melbourne. They are also a youth expert with the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network (CYGEN), which focuses on ensuring young people are actioning positive change in sectors relating to gender.

Jacob’s work is currently focused on reducing suicide rates of young people who identify as LGBTQIA and enabling them to seek health advice about issues such as alcohol and drug abuse and sexual health. Jacob has also been working with the Foundation for Young Australians to build a smartphone app that helps the LGBTQIA community find safe and accessible healthcare providers.

They also teach community and university classes at Monash on the lives and needs of transgender people.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Award is part of The Queen’s Young Leaders Program, which celebrates the achievements of young people who are taking the lead to transform the lives of others and make a lasting difference in the community.

*Jacob identifies as genderqueer and uses the pronouns they/them to refer to themself, and for others to refer to them.