Young Women Inspiring Us During the Pandemic

Content warning: this article references sexual assault and rape

During tough times, when everyone is discussing politics, lockdowns and the Delta strain, it can be easy to lose sight of the wonderful things that are happening and the individuals that are making them happen. 

This blog reports on five incredible young women from around Australia that are fighting for gender equality, winning medals and pursuing social justice. We hope that you can draw inspiration from their stories! 

Isis Holt

“If you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it”

Image from Isis’ Instagram @isis_holt

20-year-old Isis Holt is a Paralympic sprinter and medallist from Melbourne, Australia.

Isis recalls having little interest in sport throughout primary school, but once she tried out for athletics later in high school, there was no going back. 

In 2015, after only two years of training, Isis went to compete internationally and became a world champion after winning the 100 and 200 metre sprint. This year, at the Tokyo Olympics, ‘Lightning Bolt Holt’ stunned Australia when she won silver in both her events and smashed her personal best.

Isis has spoken candidly about her mental health and the struggle of balancing study, life and elite athletics, reminding herself and others that no matter where you are in life, it is always acceptable to ask for help.

You can watch Isis bolt for gold here

Chanel Contos

“I have lived in three different countries and I have never spoken to anyone who has experienced rape culture the way me and my friends had growing up in Sydney amongst private schools”

Image from Chanel’s instagram @chanelc

Chanel is a 23-year-old working hard to tear down rape culture within Australia. She is a former student of a private girl’s school in Sydney’s north-eastern suburbs and during her time in there, she remembers feeling sick and tired of constantly hearing her friends’ accounts of sexual assault. Something had to be done. In February this year, Chanel posted a poll on her Instagram asking Sydneysiders if they had ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school. The response was 73% yes to 27% no. 

In the days following, Chanel began receiving messages from hundreds of different people who were coming forward to bravely tell their stories of sexual abuse.

Due to the overwhelming public response, Chanel launched a nationwide petition calling for schools to put sexual consent at the forefront of their educational issues from a young age.

This petition now has over 43,800 signatures and 6,600 testimonies. You can read more about Chanel’s work and sign the petition here.

Aretha Brown

“It’s time for white Australia to sit down and just listen… to what we have to say,”

Image from Aretha’s Instagram @_enterthedragon_

Aretha is a proud Gumbaynggirr artist and comedian who is using her voice and art as a force for monumental change. She has been advocating for the rights of First Nations people by fighting to change the date of so-called Australia’s national holiday and ensure that Indigenous history is taught, to a high standard, in all schools.

Aretha has used her creative talent to light up the City of Melbourne with her murals, publish a guide to reflect on one’s relationship with colonisation and more recently, design screen printed jumpers and t-shirts that read ‘Teach Blak History’.

 You can check out Aretha’s awesome work here.

Macinley Butson 

“Don’t let anyone tell you that your age matters, don’t let anyone tell you that your gender matters. Anyone can find simple solutions to global problems!”

Image from Macinley’s Instagram @macinley_butson

Scientist and inventor Macinley Butson is paving the way for young inventors by showing how a small interest can become a lifesaving creation. Macinley has always had a curious and imaginative outlook on the world and recalls creating her own little science experiments, such as her very own pair of sunglasses, from the age of 6. 

Macinley has taken inspiration from the John Lewis quote, ‘if not me, then who? If not now, then when?’ Pushing her to take her inventions from the garage to a global stage.

Macinley is the first Australian to ever win the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair and her most well-known invention, SMART Armour, is being worn by breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy to reduce the risk of them developing breast cancer later in their life. 

If you would like to hear more about Macinley’s inventing journey, watch her video here.

Grace Tame 

“Hear me now, using my voice amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced. Let’s make some noise, Australia!” 

Image from Grace’s Instagram @tamepunk

Grace is the 2021 Australian of the year and an influential advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

The 26 year old often appears as a guest on television programs or at public engagements where she speaks eloquently and courageously about her own experiences of child sexual abuse and what must be done to prevent such things from happening in the future. Grace is actively pushing for law reform and increased awareness raising.

While she recognises that speaking about sexual assault can be extremely uncomfortable, Grace continues to reminds us of the power our voices hold.

You can watch Grace’s acceptance speech here.


Lily is in the final year of her Bachelor of Arts Degree at Melbourne University, where she has majored in Politics and International Relations. While Lily is not yet set on one particular career path, she has a drive to make a difference by continuing to critically analyse, interrogate and improve the current state of affairs in Australia.

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