We’re passionate about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the digital world. Digital inclusion is improving, but there is still a long way to go – especially in regional areas around the country – and a lot that we can do to support people in need.

Our Telstra partner Big hART runs Project O to teach and empower young women with digital skills. In time for Get Online Week, we learned more about Big hART’s mission.

We caught up with Project O alumni Chey Denby at Tunes in the Tulips, an annual music event at Table Cape Tulip Farm in Wynyard, Tasmania which is produced by Project O young women. Chey is now a mentor of Project O, which empowers young women in disadvantaged communities to speak up, develop new digital skills and learn how to drive change in the world around them.

Image: Mel Kate Photography

Chey’s experience of Project O helped her learn more about the digital world, and gave her opportunities to create a website to help other young people better understand mental health and the challenges that come with our increasingly online lives.

“In 2017, we had an offer from TasTAFE to work with people attending Certificate III and IV in Community Service classes. They wanted our input on what would appeal to people our age and younger, and to lay out a mental health website. We went over and discussed everything – from what the layout should be, what information it should house and how it should be set out.”

“Part of my contribution to that was the name and logo – I came up with the idea of a tree with the leaves represented by bursts of colour, each with their own emotion. I learned from Big hART how to handle planning for the website, as well as how to find deep meaning in small things.”

Image: Mel Kate Photography

All the art for the Branching Out website was made by students at Hellyer College and Don College in Tasmania. “We sold the art at the launch of the website, and all the profits went to the artists.”

Chey’s time with Project O gave her a new perspective on the community around her. “My experience of Project O opened my eyes to what’s happening in the community, as well as giving me a lot more self-confidence – in myself and in what I do. That eventually led me to wanting to help others who are going through what I’ve experienced too.

“Project O made me realise how much of a caring nature I had; I thought I’d put that to good use and go into community service. I don’t think I would have had this career without Project O – I’d still be in my shell, but I broke out.”

Image: Mel Kate Photography

When we asked Chey how she would like to see other young people use the internet, she pointed to the importance of making it a positive experience: “[Seeing] fewer negative things. I don’t think young people should be seeing only negative things, they should be seeing positive things that brighten up their lives. With the way that technology is evolving, it’s crucial for the younger generations to learn digitally.”

Chey said that her time with Project O helped her become a more confident person. “Project O helped me to speak up for myself and for what I believe in. The biggest thing I learned was not to be afraid to speak out.”

Get Online Week runs from 14-20 October and aims to raise awareness of the issue of digital inclusion. Telstra is committed to driving greater digital inclusiveness across Australia and has a range of products, services and programs in place to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the digital world.