Rebecca Heinrich


Interviewee: Rebecca Heinrich, born 1982

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 28 Aug 2001

Transcription: Catherine Sapir, May, 2006

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

The Princess Quest gave way to the Excellence in Youth Awards and the Shire’s Youth Ambassador for 2000 was Rebecca Heinrich.

I am almost 19 years of age, in two weeks’ time I will be. In Year 7 I was elected to the Carlingford High School’s Student Representative Council. I was lucky enough to work myself up through the ranks and I went through the District SRC and then the State SRC and then in 1999 was fortunate enough to be elected the President of the Australian Student Representative Council. Got to go to America on a leadership tour so soon after getting back to Carlingford High School I was elected School Captain there, so within my school as President of the SRC, myself and the other School Captain, a very good friend of my called Tim Smith, started up a campaign to raise $10,000 for Canteen which is an organisation looking after kids with cancer. We basically got up at assembly one day and said “alright guys if you can raise $10,000 we’ll shave our heads.” And they did, I had long blond hair halfway down my back and now I don’t have a lot of hair at all but that was one of the first initiatives I did as School Captain but I guess the real turning point from coming back from America was actually starting my own business called Banana Power with my best friend from the trip whose name was Lisa Bollard and the two of us started up this business in 1999. It’s now 2 ½ years old and we’ve been to over 500 schools in the country and every day, in fact I’ve only just got home from a school presentation, we’re getting out there and meeting young people and telling them our story and training their student leaders and trying to get the young people to solve the problems in their school and get out and be inspired and make sure they reach their own potential.

Banana Power – there’s not a real definition to it. It’s bright, it’s catchy, it’s energetic and it’s youthful.

Who funds Banana Power. Is it all voluntary?

We have about 40 young people who are volunteers but all the money we make from Banana Power we put back into running camps and conferences in school holidays and we sponsor rural kids and disadvantaged kids to come along to these events.

What sort of things does Banana Power do to motivate people into action?

A key example would be simply doing a key note address to a school assembly so that would just be speaking to them. This morning we went to a school that were holding their anti discrimination week so we went in and talked to them about sort of perceptions and stereotypes and how we shouldn’t judge each other and mutual respect and school spirit and getting students involved in school life and supporting each other. But we also spend a lot of time with SRCs like Prefects and other student leadership bodies in schools and we do leadership training covering topics like goal setting and communication skills, team work, public speaking and also looking at youth issues like youth suicide and drugs and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, the lack of youth space and things to do. You name it, we’ve probably covered it. It’s a good time.

Is Banana Power for year 7 upwards?

It originally started for year 7 and upwards, however we’ve recently worked with primary schools as well from about 8 years to old to 18 years old now. We sponsored some Aboriginal kids from rural Australia to come to one of our camps last January. We have a lot of different workshops run on youth issues and one of the issues which keeps coming up time and time again is the need for reconciliation and we have a lot of young, like Aboriginal young people, come in and present workshops, that sort of thing so we’ve had a lot to do with that. We also ran an anti-discrimination pledge. It was put into action in all schools in NSW and young people were encouraged to sign an anti- discrimination pledge and that covered the issue of discrimination based on race as well, so that was another angle we’ve worked with Aboriginal people.

Every school holidays, whatever season it is, we run camps where kids from all over the country come together. We’ve held camps in the Hills Shire at Vision Valley Conference Centre and also at other places in the State and usually there’s about 120 kids that come per camp. They come from Tasmania and Western Australia and the far corners of the country and it’s four days of personal development where we teach them a lot of new skills. They make some great friends and the feed back we keep getting is just hold more and more so that’s what we’re trying to do.

What’s your present commitment to Banana Power. How many days a week would you spend say on Banana Power at work?

I’d say minimum a week we’d do at least three schools. Last week we did about fourteen so it varies a lot. You can have big weeks and not so big weeks. The really great thing is about it, it is so flexible and when I have a lot of other commitments like trying to study at University it’s good but when exams come around and that sort of thing I can calm down Banana Power and concentrate on those things.

What about the Hills Young Leaders Breakfast. What’s your involvement with that?

Twelve months ago now I was selected as the Baulkham Hills Shire Council Youth Ambassador, which means I was the winner of the Excellence in Youth Awards which is one of the events of the Orange Blossom Festival and when I became Youth Ambassador I was expected to represented the Shire at absolutely everything you could imagine. I was basically expected to be on a lot of different committees at the Council and be a spokesperson for youth and be their voice but what I also tried to do within the position was sort of try and get in there and get my hands dirty and one of the ways I did that was through the Hills Young Leaders Breakfast which I started almost a year ago now. We have run three successful breakfasts now. It’s basically young people who are out there achieving in various fields from sport to music to environment, business, etc. and they come together once every couple of months for these breakfasts that we have and we have a speaker along and it’s just a real great chance to not only recognise the great things that they’re doing but give them a chance to meet new people, make support networks and just have a lot of fun.

You also have a connection with Westmead Hospital. What do you do for them?

They have an in house radio station at the hospital for all the kids in the wards. They’re all connected up to this radio station and they can ring in and request songs. I host a show every Monday night for a couple of hours – that’s a blast. We have kids ringing up requesting songs and we walk around to all the wards and have competitions and it’s great. Like it’s something that just to see them smile and laugh and have fun is great.


Excellence in Youth Awards 2000

How do you find time for all this?

It’s difficult, it’s challenging and to be honest I’m still waiting for an eighth day of the week to be invented, but my outlook is you only get out of life what you put into it so I’m just go, go, go and I collapse every once in a while and try and sleep for a few days but I have a passion for it and I love getting out there and being with young people and representing young people.