Augustin Kadende was named Hobsons Bay’s Young Citizen of the Year on Australia Day. He speaks with Goya Dmytryshchak.

Can you tell me a bit about your circumstances in your homeland that brought you to Hobsons Bay?

I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We left Congo after my father was killed due to the war and we fled to a refugee camp in Malawi and I lived there for four years until the immigration department accepted our application and we came to Australia towards the end of 2010.

Congratulations on being named Young Citizen of the Year. Can you tell us about some of the things you have been involved with to receive this award?

As college captain, my aim was to redefine what it means to be a man, what it means to be a young man in our community. Getting rid of the negative stigma around talking about mental health and our emotions is an important aim for me, thus I ran numerous projects in hopes of encouraging my peers to at least start the conversation. Furthermore, I took part in the Hobsons Bay Turning the Page anthology to highlight the impact that libraries have in our community.

What issues are you passionate about?

I am very passionate about mental health, especially in men: suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. We are more likely to die by suicide than skin cancer, yet we know comparatively little about the processes that lead to suicide and how and when to effectively intervene. I want everyone to know that our mental struggles do not detract from our virility.

What does Australia Day mean to you?

Multiculturalism is very important to me for a person who wasn’t born in Australia. I know it’s a difficult time for our Aboriginal people. There’s a saying that white Australia has a black history. That’s why, to me, on Australia Day I celebrate Indigenous cultures, stories, peoples and traditions. Australia Day is my opportunity to recognise the survival of Indigenous people and culture despite colonisation and discrimination.

What are some of your favourite places and things to do in Hobsons Bay?

My favourite places in Hobsons Bay include Pier Street in Altona, the Movies by the Bay that are held in Altona, Altona North Anytime Fitness and KFC. The Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market is always cool to check out. Finally, the parks are always a good place to hang out with family and friends.

What are some of your future aspirations – you’re studying to become a lawyer?

Currently getting ready for my first year at The University of Melbourne. I have a few plans I want to achieve this year, which I will be speaking to the council about. The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll. I want that number to be zero because I genuinely believe that if we can break the stigmatisation around our mental health, we can save so many lives. All I can say for now is stay tuned, watch this space.