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    CLIMATE PROTECTORS – SHANNON MEILAK

    Date:

    By Anthony Gleeson

    Every now and again you come across someone whose spirit and energy leaves an indelible mark on you. Keilor Lodge resident Shannon Meilak was one such person for me. 

    Shannon is a passionate advocate for people who don’t usually get a say. She is leading the formation of the Brimbank Sustainability and Climate Action Group to push for real action on climate in their municipality. In the same sphere, she is also very active in campaigning for the ‘No 3rd Tulla Runway Coalition’.

    She works tirelessly on many other fronts: disability rights/inclusion, LGBTQIA rights, general environmental issues, at-risk youth, animal rights, amplifying the needs of neurodivergent people, and improving access to government for all citizens.

    Being neurodivergent herself, her time at school in the 1990s caused many issues for her, as there was very little understanding of, or special provisions made, for people who learned differently. This period of her life could have easily crushed her, but she attributes her survival and resilience to her parents’ love, and the value system they nurtured in her.  

    Her father, a Libyan immigrant, was especially influential in building a very solid foundation in her. She clearly remembers his stories about the great joy he experienced when he gave things to people who were less fortunate than him. She emerged her formative years with a strong sense of justice and a sense of responsibility to support people who had it tough: the apple hasn’t fallen too far from that tree in Shannon’s case.

    For the next few years Shannon had a series of jobs that left her unsatisfied. Eventually she came to realise that if she didn’t change something, that would be it for the rest of her working life.

    This change was Film School, firstly at Swinburne TAFE for two years for an Advanced Diploma, followed by a degree in Film from the same place. It was the ideal combination of practice and theory and this time her education experience was much more fruitful. Her different learning style was acknowledged and supported. She thrived in this atmosphere.

    She was disappointed however, when her film wasn’t chosen for the student exhibition at the end of her final year, but her assertiveness and self belief shone through. She believed that the film was good enough, so she sought a second opinion by way of successfully entering it in a number of film festivals. Here her film justified her belief in it by winning a number of awards.

    What followed were a series of transformative experiences where her voice was appreciated and listened to. She came to realise that not being able bodied didn’t have to define her. She found her voice and became more and more determined to use it to make the world a better place for people on the margins. She came to realise that, while her lack of mobility didn’t allow her to be physically involved in some activities, she could still champion causes she believed in, because, in herself, she had all she needed to advocate for the voiceless. Her credo became ‘You have no right to complain if you are unwilling to challenge the status quo’.

    In the process she became a major asset for her community at many levels. A voice for the voiceless. She is uncompromising in the belief that all policies that are created should only be done in consultation with the people they directly impact.

    As for the future, Shannon will no doubt continue to be a problem for people who wish to continue injustice in its many forms. At the same time she will continue to sample life to the fullest.  

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