James Tran

James Tran

James Tran is a Youth Speaker and Aspiring Teacher who seeks to inspire change in the world. Searching for his own identity throughout his childhood posed its own challenges but has ultimately made James determined to be a role model for future generations.

When I started Kindergarten, I did not know how to speak or understand English. I was raised in a traditional Vietnamese home, so attending a primary school where I was a minority made me feel extremely lost in a very large, strange world.

I was bullied for being different. I had no friends and brought my own toys to school to play by myself. When I eventually picked up English, I realised I was being bullied for being different. In an attempt to fit in, I became a class clown who always made those around me laugh at the expense of getting myself into trouble.

The transition to high school saw me evolve from a class clown to a bully and rebel. I thought that by being a bully myself, I would be protected from other bullies. I am not proud of the mistakes I made and the people I hurt during these years. Things turned the worst in Year 11, when I came to school over 35 days late, skipped over 7 weeks of school and came close to last in almost all my subjects.

My first turning point came after losing my temper in an argument with a teacher, where I threatened to take her life. I was extremely close to getting expelled, but my Year 11 coordinator had a talk with me and offered me two choices; to continue the way I was going or to take my final year of high school seriously. I chose the latter, realising that the role of the bully and rebel I was playing was not truly me. 

I committed myself to change and when I graduated high school, I came top 10 in all my HSC subjects and I was accepted to study law at UTS. But despite changing the course of my life, divorcing the personality of the rebel that I had adopted so well over the years was difficult.

I had lost a huge part of my identity and I felt like I was that kid in kindergarten again - lost… except this time in a larger and even stranger world. I then turned to substance use, made poor choices including disengaging from my studies at university, and risked criminal convictions.

It was only after seeking help from a Drug and Alcohol counsellor that I started to see improvements in my life. I re-engaged with university and continued to pursue my law degree.

Through this time, the source of my greatest strength was found through my faith in the Catholic tradition. I learned of a deeper call to the vocation of teaching and made a spiritually inspired decision four years into my law degree to pursue the call to teaching, that is, to be a ‘channel of God’s love’ for all young people.

As a youth speaker, I have spoken to many young people sharing my perspective on the complex issues of bullying, including my mistakes and learnings, to help them re-evaluate their choices, make better decisions and build their best futures.

My message to all young people is that, ‘You have endless potential. You are special. You are loved. You are supported. Go for it and pursue your dreams.”

My service as a youth speaker can be viewed on or social media pages @jamestranhn.