EXCLUSIVE: Aussie advocate says Prince William was ‘lovely and kind’ at Diana Awards

Maddison O’Gradey-Lee met with both Prince William and Prince Harry after winning the Diana Legacy Award.

When Australian mental health advocate Maddison O’Gradey-Lee received an email at two o’clock in the morning from the prestigious Diana Award committee, she thought it was fake. 

Two years after winning The Diana Award for her work as a mental health advocate, the Sydney-based advocate was notified that she had been selected in a cohort of 20 to be honoured with the Diana Legacy Award.

“I was at a conference where I was presenting my research when I received the email and it was quite wild because you’re not allowed to tell people it’s kind of strictly confidential,” Maddison tells The Weekly

The Diana Awards then flew Maddison, as well as the other 19 recipients from around the world, to London to accept the award at a prestigious ceremony where they met with both Prince William and Prince Harry.

Prince William, Prince of Wales meets Maddison O’Gradey from Australia as he attends The Diana Legacy Awards.

“They told us ‘We need to interrupt your workshop for a really special announcement’ and then they let us know that Prince William was going to be presenting our awards that night, which was extremely exciting,” Maddison tells The Weekly. “The energy in the room was palpable.”

“He was so lovely and kind to us,” Maddison says, explaining that they only had mere moments to chat with the Prince of Wales while accepting their award.

“He asked me about my work, what I was doing and the journey to get there and then we also discussed just how long it is to travel from Australia to London,” Maddison added.

After the ceremony, the Diana Legacy Award winners were treated to yet another surprise when they got to chat to Prince Harry via Zoom.

“We actually got a little bit more time with Prince Harry, which was great, he was quite funny,” Maddison recalls. 

“I got to talk to Prince Harry a little bit about our work and what we do in the fellowship as well as my work within mental health advocacy more broadly.

“I also spoke to him about what he saw his mother’s legacy as being and the values carrying through that around curiosity, fearlessness and empathy.”

At just 26, Maddison co-founded the Orygen Global Youth Mental Health Advocacy Fellowship. The fellowship consists of an online education course and an extensive mentoring programme for youth mental health advocates across the world. The program aims to help better the support and education of mental health advocates in their communities across the world.

“We kept hearing the same narrative that young people who were advocating were doing so because they had lived experience of mental health, but they often felt really alone in their work and were never given training on how to be an advocate,” Maddison explains.

“That’s where the fellowship really developed from. It trains and empowers young advocates to strengthen their impact within their communities, specifically around youth mental health.”

The Diana Awards were founded in 1999 in memory of the late Princess Diana, who passed away in 1997. The awards, which received the support of both the Spencer family and the royal family, have recognised thousands of outstanding young people who are changing the world through a variety of initiatives.

“I think our fellowship aligns really nicely with Princess Diana’s values that young people truly can change the world, which is what The Diana Award is all about.”

After nabbing such a prestigious accolade, Maddison is back on home soil and is now looking to expand her fellowship and continue advocating for mental health.

“We want to continue building the fellowship and expand to running two fellowship programs a year to double our impact in the ASEAN region,” Maddison says.

“We further want to strengthen our alumni network of 54 young people and counting who have completed the fellowship through online initiatives and connect them with each other.”

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