MADDIE Fogarty wants to change the way communities approach inclusion and says often the seemingly simple changes can make a big difference.
Finding the courage to tell her story has taken Maddie to Canberra the past week among 50 passionate youth from regional Australia, each bringing their community issues to the table.
The Loreto College year 12 student, who has cerebral palsy, had a chance to pitch ideas to federal members of parliament and senators with ABC's Heywire Regional Youth Summit.
- READ MORE: You can find Maddie's ABC Heywire story here
"It's been absolutely phenomenal to get this outlook at such a young age," Maddie told The Courier. "I feel I'm much more aware of issues in regional Australia now than most people might be, from a lack of farming support to racism to resilient communities."
In a sub-group Maddie focused on inclusivity. Together they pitched an idea for a "relax lane" - a path in busy places like shopping centres or airport baggage carousels for people with disabilities, pregnant women, the injured or elderly to move at their own place.
"We don't want to be degrading and call it a slow lane. We want to push the mantra to just relax," Maddie said. "Everyone moves from point A to point B so fast in society."
Maddie said she found her voice in playing sport, learning to speak up for herself and her abilities. This also gave her courage to take up drama.
Using drama was how Maddie and her team members in Canberra made their relax lane pitch. Her team walked fast about Maddie and when she fell, they leave her alone and walk right by.
Maddie said telling stories was a powerful way to highlight an issue.
Heywire participants met with major leaders at the ABC, including chairman Ita Buttrose. Maddie also met with Ballarat federal MP Catherine King.
Maddie encouraged other young people in Ballarat to use their voice for the experience.
"Don't be scared about any differences you might have that make you feel marginalised. This whole experience and the team are so supportive," Maddie said.
"Anyone who has a story in them should use their voice."
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