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Topics: Overcoming Adversity

Abdi Aden

Abdi grew up in Mogadishu until the outbreak of Somalia’s devastating civil war separated him from his family and home. He fled Mogadishu with 300 others and headed for the Kenyan border. On the way, death squads hunted them. Abdi and a group of other boys were caught and lined up to be executed. Miraculously the bullets missed Abdi but he fell to the ground and feigned death. Of the 300 who set out from Mogadishu, only five survived to reach Kenya.

» Read more about Abdi Aden

Ben Cryan

Ben Cryan achieved the unachievable. After falling from his surfboard onto a coral reef and developing a serious illness, he survived thirty-three operations, including a kidney transplant. Now back on his feet and rebuilding his life, he has an incredible story of resilience and hope to share.

» Read more about Ben Cryan

Justin Heazlewood

Justin Heazlewood is an award-winning triple-threat of writer, musician & comedian. As The Bedroom Philosopher he has appeared on Triple J & ABC TV, releasing three albums including the ARIA-nominated Songs From The 86 Tram. The video for Northcote (So Hungover) earning nearly half a million hits. In 2014 his first non-fiction book Funemployed, about being an artist in Australia, was an indie-hit, earning praise from artists and industry alike. In 2015 an 8-part series was commissioned for Radio National.

» Read more about Justin Heazlewood

David Nyuol Vincent

David Nyuol Vincent is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He was trained as a child soldier in Ethiopia and lived as a refugee in Kenya until he was twenty-six. Since rebuilding his life here in Australia, David has become an advocate for refugees and the Sudanese community and he is a Victorian Human Rights Youth Ambassador and a People of Australia Ambassador. He also helped to set up an all-Sudanese refugee football team, the Western Tigers, in the Brimbank soccer league. David is a true humanitarian and is committed to achieving peace for his people in Sudan.

» Read more about David Nyuol Vincent

Chris Turney

Chris is an Australian and British professor of Earth science and author of three popular science books. Chris is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change at the University of University of New South Wales, where he and his team are focusing their efforts on finding lessons from the past.

» Read more about Chris Turney

Luke Ryan

Luke Ryan is a Melbourne-based writer, comedian and two-time cancer survivor. His first book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo, is a comic memoir about growing up and getting cancer that grew out of his critically acclaimed 2009 Melbourne Comedy Festival show, Luke’s Got Cancer.

» Read more about Luke Ryan

Daniel Witthaus

Daniel Witthaus has spent the past two decades challenging homophobia one cuppa at a time in schools, rural communities and, occasionally, developing countries like Sri Lanka, Poland and Indonesia. He is the author of Beyond Priscilla: one gay man, one gay truck, one big idea… (2014), Beyond ‘That’s So Gay!’: Challenging homophobia in Australian schools (2010) and the Pride & Prejudice educational package (2002, 2012) – which won three Tasmanian schools Human Rights Week awards.

» Read more about Daniel Witthaus

Sian Prior

Sian Prior is probably best known as an ABC radio presenter, a columnist and critic for The Age, and a musician. But this accomplished public performer is also the author of an acclaimed memoir, Shy. Her book solves the riddle of how someone who has grappled for decades with debilitating social anxiety has nevertheless managed to carve out a series of successful careers in the public eye.

» Read more about Sian Prior

Jesse Fink

Jesse Fink has worked in journalism and publishing for over 20 years in various capacities: editor, writer, columnist, author.

Jesse is the author of four books: Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC’s Back In Black, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, Laid Bare and 15 Days in June.

» Read more about Jesse Fink

Luke Kennedy

Luke S. Kennedy was formerly an obese alcoholic and drug addict. He was leader of a street fighting and graffiti crew. Luke came close to death numerous times and also nearly killed others in street battles. He was stabbed on two separate occasions; once in the lung and the other time in the head.

» Read more about Luke Kennedy

Donna Campisi

Donna is an adventurer at heart. She’s an inspiring speaker, author, blogger, and humanitarian, crazy runner, and marathoner. Donna is also an adventure & performance coach, and workshop facilitator. Inspiring many people with her challenges and ‘go do it’ attitude, that those who work with her are achieving their BIG goals!

» Read more about Donna Campisi

Mariam Issa

Mariam Issa’s refugee experience is a powerful and positive one.

It’s a journey of inspiring resilience and strength.  When she arrived in Melbourne from her Somali homeland in 1998, she had a husband, four children and a fifth on the way, with little knowledge of Australian life, other than the motivation to provide a secure, safe future with her family. In her book Mariam talks of her experiences of Integration, refugee issues, new beginnings and the power of community.

» Read more about Mariam Issa

Mike Rolls

In September 2001, at the age of 18, Mike was struck down with the deadly meningococcal virus while on a routine football trip. As a result he su­ffered extensive injuries and was given a 5 percent chance of survival.

» Read more about Mike Rolls

Tommy Dassalo

With his youthful exuberance, charming storytelling and wickedly sharp turn-of-phrase, Tommy Dassalo has fast found himself among Australia’s most sought after young stand-up comedians, television writers and podcasters.

At 10 years old, he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare and life threatening illness. He spent two years in the Children’s Hospital if Melbourne, before finally receiving a Bone Marrow Transplant.

» Read more about Tommy Dassalo

Esther McKay

Esther Mckay is a retired Forensic Investigator, bestselling author and social justice campaigner.  She is a passionate and long-standing mental health advocate dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health issues, improving conditions and creating better support services for first responders.

» Read more about Esther McKay

Ruth Clare

Ruth Clare is a Melbourne-based author and speaker. Her memoir Enemy: A Daughter’s Story of How Her Father Brought the Vietnam War Home is about growing up with a violent father and an alcoholic mother, and the way Ruth faced these trials with courage and strength. Her book is also a compassionate unraveling of the psychological impact of war on veterans and their families.

» Read more about Ruth Clare

Deng Adut

Criminal Lawyer, refugee, awe-inspiring speaker.

Deng Adut is a community leader, author and internationally renowned lawyer. He has been nationally recognised for his achievements with NSW Premier Mike Baird inviting Deng to give the 2016 Australia Day Address, which drew critical acclaim home and abroad. The 2016 Australia Day address can be read here. In November 2016, Deng was named NSW Australian of the Year.

» Read more about Deng Adut

Jonathan Holloway

Since giving up stand-up comedy by popular demand, Jonathan Holloway has spent more than twenty years as an international artistic director, chief executive and cultural leader.

» Read more about Jonathan Holloway
Tara Moss

Tara Moss

Tara Moss is an author, journalist, TV documentary presenter, speaker, human rights advocate and anti-cyberbullying campaigner. She is currently host, co-executive producer and co-writer of Cyberhate with Tara Moss on the ABC, examining the phenomenon of online abuse.

» Read more about Tara Moss

Sami Shah

Comedian, Writer and Broadcaster, Sami Shah has been profiled in the New York Times and ABC’s Australian Story, and appeared on BBC Radio 4, BBC Asian Network, TEDx, The Project, and the Soho Theatre.

» Read more about Sami Shah

Eddie Ayres

Eddie Ayres is a musical adventurer, teacher, writer, broadcaster and transgender man. He was born on the White Cliffs of Dover and began playing music when he was six years old. He studied viola in Manchester, Berlin and London, and played professionally in the UK and Hong Kong. After a decade of performances throughout Asia, including for the Hong Kong Handover in 1997, Ed decided on a new path, literally, and travelled by bicycle from England to Hong Kong, with only a violin for company. The journey took him a year and went through Europe, Iran, Pakistan, India and China. The trip was eventually chronicled in Cadence, Ed’s first book and a national bestseller.

After immigrating to Australia in 2003, and after a character-building year scrubbing dishes in St Kilda, Ed eventually began broadcasting with ABC Classic FM. He spent many years hosting the cult hit breakfast programme and doing things like cycling to the source of the Ganges in his spare time.

After more than a decade in the ABC studios, Ed decided he needed to get out and about again and applied for a job teaching cello to street children and orphans at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. Eddie’s second book Danger Music is about this turbulent, life-changing year, where he survived the threat of bombs, kidnappings, beginner string players and hormone-charged teenagers. It was during this year that Ed finally accepted the man within and began his transition from female to male. Emma became Ed just before his fiftieth birthday. Better late than never.

» Read more about Eddie Ayres