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Development   /  Benny Edwards

New Years Day

Shining a light on the resilience, courage & hope that inspires young people to be powerful agents of positive change.


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Benny Edwards

  • PRODUCER Lincoln Smith (Producer), Avalon Bourne (Producer), Zac Hardaker (Cinematographer), Maia Dal Berger (Editor), Katie Barry (Executive Producer)



Summer holidays in the idyllic Shoalhaven ( South Coast, NSW ) embodies all the elements of a dreamy Australian childhood on the coast; Hot days spent on white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, uncrowded surf breaks, the local take-away shop, skipping school & getting up to mischief with friends, traditionally culminating with a ‘scorcher’ Christmas day & New Year’s Eve fireworks down on the foreshore. But during the summer of 2019-20 that all drastically changed.

January 1st 2020 went down on record as one of the worst days in history for summer fires across Australia, & in particular, the Shoalhaven region with approximately 80% of the Shoalhaven impacted or burned by fire. 12 months on from the event, & with the forest of the Shoalhaven starting to show signs of regeneration, how do the young people (15-25 yrs.) of the community feel in the wake of the devastating fires? Have their experiences made them stronger, & at what cost? What is the collective mood of the young people in the community? Has the picture-perfect south coast “Australian summer” changed for good?

New Year’s Day is an intimate portrait of four young women Cassie, Tylah, Rosie, & Tekesa. Through their stories of the summer, we examine the collective resilience of the community, humility & courage amidst tragedy. In a society often criticized for becoming increasingly disconnected, the bush fire season showed the opposite. Shoalhaven citizens supported and relied on neighbours, volunteers, firefighters, local reporters, community notice pages, & more. They held fundraisers, donated supplies & money, hosted evacuees & the newly homeless, volunteered, replanted, saved animals & one another’s homes. The fires unearthed an interconnectedness & selflessness across the communities.

Reflecting on the past 12 months & in anticipation of the year to come; What will we leave behind & what will we take into the New Year.

Support this project

0.40% funded
  • $50,000.00

  • $200.00

  • June 2021

  • 3

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Natasha Moore $100.00
Enid Bourne $50.00
Elizabeth Furbank $50.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The film explores three key issues: Firstly, the disengagement & disempowerment of young people in regional areas. In particular the stigmatisation of young people around school disengagement & drug use in regional areas. Subsequently, the resentment this leads to towards community because they don’t feel valued & are often overlooked and presumed to be disengaged.

Secondly, the mental health of young people in rural & regional areas & the lack of opportunity for collective processing after both the fires & the covid-19 pandemic.

And finally, the age-gap between generations in the regional communities & employment opportunities for young people. There is a sense that only entry-level employment opportunities exist & that these often feel tokenistic. It is our hope that by exploring these issues, young people in the Shoalhaven area will be uplifted, feel connected, & rise up together.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

New Years Day will elevate the voices of young people in community decision making and shift attitudes towards young people and their capacity to be powerful agents of positive change.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

New Years Day will be a catalyst to

• Encourage young people and communities affected by bush-fires and other traumatic events to seek support.
from headspace and Lifeline and participate in collective processing, to re-frame the conversation from victim-hood to survivor.
• Encourage young people to share their own stories of perseverance, survival, action & contribution to the community.
• Encourage young people to participate in youth-led community impact projects with Sonder Youth or other youth services.
• Encourage local and state governments, businesses, schools and youth services to facilitate youth-led community projects and capacity building opportunities for young people to develop skills, and contribute to decision making on policies & activities that are about & for them.
• Raise funding for Sonder Youth and other youth services to run youth-led community impact projects.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Develop new or promote existing: • Materials for health and youth services around narrative therapy • Programs and platforms that facilitate young people to share their stories; and
• Advice for governments & businesses in how to include youth in decision and policymaking.

Raise awareness & funding: in collaboration with Headspace Nowra, who have a psychologist based at Vincentia & Ulladulla High Schools specifically to work with bushfire affected young people from these catchments. Develop Community Engagement events & psychoeducation/mentoring groups to be implemented in these locations to achieve a positive impact in the broader community & also promote headspace clinical services.

Inspire young people to get involved in the community, & in particular, Sonder Youth is seeking funding to roll out the Changemakers program an immersive leadership, well-being & positive impact program for 15-17 y/o, where young people are mentored to deliver their own community impact projects.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

The Producers, Lincoln & Avalon work at two of the youth services in the Shoalhaven region – Headspace Nowra and Sonderyouth. Sonderyouth has been working closely with Ruby, Maddy, Rosie, & Lucy to support them to tell their stories.

Headspace Nowra has committed $12,500 towards a launch event where the premiere screening will take place and aim to bring together youth across the Shoalhaven area.

In addition, Benny (Director) has a working relationship with the NSW Mental Health Commission and has begun discussions with them to explore if they would like to be involved.

Katie Barry (EP) is also the Impact Producer of The BULLY Project Australia, bringing experience in developing documentary materials and programs to facilitate youth-led and community-led action.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The film will uplift young people who have been negatively impacted by the 2019/20 Bushfires & COVID, & unite them to stand together through this tough time. Young people feel empowered and inspired, particularly young women.

We hope the film will also change the broader community attitude towards young people and place greater value on their potential. Increase understanding & awareness of the mental health challenges that young people are facing, & shift community attitudes towards young people & their capacity to be powerful agents of positive change.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We are planning to measure indicators and collect data such as:

• Youth engagement statistics in Impact Partner’s relevant programs • Downloads/access to materials created or promoted • Youth engagement statistics & actions arising from community screenings • Young people sharing their stories of perseverance and survival with us or our program partners.