Heaps Good: Lucy Thomas of Project Rockit

By Sam Eacott

Growing up, Lucy Thomas always figured that “someone should really do something about bullying.” Then she realised: I am that someone. Now, with a 10 year history running PROJECT ROCKIT, Australia’s youth driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice, Lucy has dedicated her whole life to the cause. Because of this and the recent conversation and the recent debate on the Safe Schools program we thought it was about time we spoke to Lucy about PROJECT ROCKIT and what they do.

Tell us a little about the organisation?

PROJECT ROCKIT was launched in 2006 by my little sister Ro and I when we were pretty fresh out of school. Both of us had a pretty positive experience of high school, we copped our fair share of social knocks and blows but formed solid friendships, felt safe and took up opportunities to extend ourselves. However, both of us reflected on the profound way that bullying negatively impacted some of our peers and how we wished we had felt better equipped to do more at the time.

We felt that there was a real need to tackle these issues in a real, non-judgy, fun way and couldn’t see anything out there that was reaching young people in a way that would have hit the mark for us, so we hustled our way into schools ourselves. As a result, PROJECT ROCKIT isn’t a terrifying lecture, or a theatre performance or a negative sobfest. Our team heads out into schools to run credible, strengths based and creative workshops that empower young people to stand up to bullying with empathy and strategies that we’d actually all be willing to use.

Since then, PROJECT ROCKIT has reached hundreds of thousands of young people around the country and stands as Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice. Our team works really closely with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google and YouTube to package up impactful campaigns, learning and events around the issues that we hear school students talking about the most – identity and values, social leadership, diversity and inclusion, gender equality – that type of thing. And thanks to input from the next gen of Aussie high school students, we’ve translated the content into a new set of online workshops (PROJECT ROCKIT Online) that create a really immersive multimedia-rich learning experience on standing up to hate, accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. But yeah, the brief can be summed up like this: PROJECT ROCKIT runs workshops (online and offline) that empower young people to stand up to hate instead of standing by watching.

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Whats most important to your organisation right now?

Diversity is a huge focus for us right now. We need to step up and create more avenues for different voices and identities to be part of our organisation. We have a small team, but in some ways we’re kicking goals. We have a great representation of people across different gender identities and sexualities, strong presence of women in leadership and don’t hire based on tertiary qualifications. We also work with a brains trust of unique and frankly brilliant young people from a range of backgrounds. But in other ways, we’ve got a lot to learn. We’re quick to put our hands up and say that we need to be better, we open, we’re learning and we’re listening. We’re genuinely inviting different perspectives into our team, especially those grounded in multicultural, Indigenous and various faith-based experience.

How are you going about achieving that? What do you do on a day to day basis to accomplish your goals?

As so many of us within the LGBTI community are acutely aware, there are no shortcuts on embracing different identities and perspectives. There’s no shortage of people with strong views on these topics, but often the people standing front and centre speaking up are the people who need to be listening. So what am I doing? Well I’m showing up to conversations around cultures and histories that I don’t have first-hand access to, but instead of speaking up, I’m listening up.

How are things going with it? What successes have you had?

I’m not sure how to articulate our successes around diversity, probably because so much work still lies ahead. I imagine that in five years we’ll better equipped to reflect on this when have even more people at PROJECT ROCKIT who can take a look at the issues from the inside out.

More broadly, there are huge gains seeing the content play out with new audiences. The style of our workshops is so communal and the learning exchange between PROJECT ROCKIT and school students has always been two-way so we’re all growing with every community we work with. We’re just wrapping up our National Regional and Remote tour, which saw young people all over Australia thrashing out PROJECT ROCKIT content, breaking it down and putting it back together in new ways.

What are the long term goals?

At PROJECT ROCKIT the big goal is the same as it was 10 years ago: To create spaces where kindness and respect thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice and all young people are free to realise their potential. It sounds like a pretty dreamy idea, but looking around right now, you’ll probably agree that the world needs this now more than ever. So much has changed over the past decade, but as our team grows, as we reach even more young people and spill further into the online world, this is the why behind everything we do.

To find out more about PROJECT ROCKIT visit there webpage here!

Lucy Thomas Instagram: @lucylockit

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