Selected as 2017 EY Social Entrepreneur of the Year and 2016 NSW Young Australian of the Year, Melissa Abu-Gazaleh is passionate about delivering innovative young male social education programs to combat the trends of anti-social and risk-taking behaviours.
At age 19, she realised there was something drastically wrong with how Australian young men were not engaged in the community. As a young female, Melissa was always fortunate to participate in a range of self-development and leadership programs. Yet, with young men over-represented in youth crime, alcohol-related violence and suicide statistics, Melissa became frustrated with the lack of investment in progressing young men’s social and emotional welfare.
So in 2006, Melissa established the Top Blokes Foundation, a youth-led organisation that has worked with thousands of adolescent boys and young men, improving their mental health and well-being through peer mentoring and social education programs.
Powered by her favourite quote “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, Melissa is not shy to speak honestly about the crisis Australia faces with its young males and how young men play a role in building their own brighter future. She is equally as passionate about youth leadership and empowering young people to define their dreams and become agents of change, not tomorrow, but today.
Melissa has previously been guest speaker at major events including the National Boy’s Health Forum, Men's Health Conference, National Volunteering Conference and often speaks at various corporate, university and youth leadership events.
Melissa’s bold and daring presentations have inspired and educated thousands of Australians to join the movement in building a new generation of young male Top Blokes.
Why Young Men
Currently, untreated mental illness in young men costs the Australian economy $387,000 per hour and $3bn annually in lost productivity (Inspire Foundation, 2012). Presently, 24% of all deaths of Australian young men (up to 24 years of age) are suicide, representing the number one cause of premature death among this group.
The National Male Health Policy (2010), did not identify young male health as part of their six key priority areas, yet the disengagement of Australian young men from functional family frameworks, formal education and community involvement is a major contributing factor to the often resultant anti-social and risk-taking behaviours as well as depression and risk of suicide.
Melissa established the Top Blokes Foundation to tackle the anti-social and risk-taking behaviours of disadvantaged young men aged 14-24.
Top Blokes Foundation is recognised as one of only a small handful of organisations in Australia that respond to the urgent need to invest in young men.
The Top Blokes programs provide young men and teenage boys with the opportunity to build social and emotional resilience, awaken a sense of purpose and self-direction, express positive attitudes, experiences and beliefs about themselves and opportunities for them to display leadership and become role models to their peers.
Read more about Top Blokes Foundation