Brent is one of eight finalist across the state in the VCAA Leadership awards. Brent McGrath has a passion for empowering young people with disabilities to participate in community activities. He is an avid sportsman and uses his skills to mentor students from Echuca Specialist School and clients of Murray Human Services by coaching their football team, The Rockets. Brent runs training sessions and games for the students, who readily respond to Brent’s personable and compassionate nature. Brent feels that he has ‘inspired local young people with disabilities to participate in community activities and highlight their strengths and abilities’ and he hopes to enrich the lives of young people with special needs in his community.

In 2012 Brent was elected as a school community captain and led his community sporting group in athletics and cross-country carnivals. His friendly and encouraging manner ensured that everyone felt comfortable to ‘have a go’, rather than to win at all costs. Mrs Carlie Jones, his Year 10−12 Student Wellbeing Leader, says that Brent is ‘acutely aware that there are many ways to demonstrate sound leadership’, highlighting that it does not necessarily always have to be in a formal sense. She credits Brent as a ‘positive, passionate and responsible mentor’.

Brent is also involved in a community-based project, the One & All Inclusion Project, which aims to create an inclusive and active environment for people with disabilities. As part of this project, Brent spent nine weeks assisting with the first ever Special Needs Debutante Ball in the Echuca-Moama community. Jacqui Davis, Project Coordinator, says that Brent not only made a ‘terrific dance partner’ but he also ensured that all of the participants had a wonderful evening, providing ‘leadership, enthusiasm and compassion towards his new friends’.

Due to the success of the event, Brent became part of two group nominations for the 2013 Australia Day Community Event of the Year (2012), in both the Murray and Campaspe Shire Australia Day Awards. While the group’s nominations were unsuccessful, Brent attended the Campaspe Award ceremony to accept the nomination on behalf of his school.

Brent is a supportive and effective team member, attributing this to his experience leading school sports teams. Within his school, Brent has captained the college’s soccer, football and volleyball teams. Even though Brent was nominated as captain, he maintains the importance of working together as a team. He says that he always takes every member’s ideas and opinion on board to improve the team’s chances of success. As a reflection of the respect he has earned from his peers and the college staff, Brent was elected as this year’s Echuca College Captain.

Brent also has a keen interest in humanitarian aid and encourages others to contribute. To this end, he initiated fundraising activities and is helping to organise a trip for a group of Echuca College students to travel to Cambodia as part of a humanitarian tour. While in Cambodia, the student group intends to use the funds they have raised to build classrooms and to volunteer at orphanages. Brent hopes that their contribution ‘will change the lives of many children in Cambodia and give them the opportunity for an education’.

Brent’s commitment to his community is exemplified by his supportive team work, his determination to make the most of every opportunity and his enthusiastic promotion of the achievements of others. He epitomises leadership and is a supportive role model for students and other aspiring young leaders.

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