Jirrah is a proud Wiradjuri man who is currently in Year 12 at Gorokan High School. He is following a HSC + ATAR pathway. Find out how his strong connection to Culture is helping him to navigate his HSC journey.

Jirrah Nelson HSC pathway

Who I am

I’m Jirrah – a proud Wiradjuri man. I am currently in Year 12 at Gorokan High School.

I really enjoyed the first part of high school but I was a bit cheeky in class and lucky enough to coast through on my natural ability and general knowledge. But I got to a point where I needed to put in more effort and with marks counting in Year 11 towards the HSC, I knew I had to pick up my game.

From the start of high school, I knew I wanted to do the HSC and go to uni, without knowing what I wanted to study. Even without a specific plan for uni, I liked the idea of having the HSC to fall back on if I needed it.

How my school helped me prepare for the HSC

My school has three programs which have really helped me – Didgeridoo group, a leadership program for students in Years 9 and 10, and a mentoring program in Years 11 and 12.

In Year 9, I knew I needed to change my act and start demonstrating my commitment to school and so that I could take part in the leadership program. The program helped me understand that I am who I am, and I don’t really need to change that – but I should work with my strengths.

Didgeridoo group has been great for connecting to my Culture and getting to perform in the community. Through our Didge group more Aboriginal kids are feeling confident to come say hi around school.

What I’ve learned from my mentor about study skills

My mentor is one of the PE teachers at my school. We’ve talked a lot about study skills and tips for the HSC. I’ve learned that I’m really goal oriented. I map all my assessments out on a calendar and plan my study backwards, so I can knock each assessment out in time. It’s been good to practice and master these skills during the HSC, and I think it’s really prepared me for life after school.

Time management is the most important skill I’ve been working on. You’ve only got so much time but there’s a lot of work in the HSC. There’s always something you could be doing when you’ve got free time. Planning my time also helps me have a life outside of school so I don’t get burnt out. Rather than an hourly study timetable, I have a to-do list. I just focus on one task at a time – it helps me get what I need done.

I’ve learned that good time management is really about how much effort you want to put in, making sure you’re using your time well, and getting your work done to a high standard. Now I’m putting in more work, and getting better results – ranking counts in the HSC, so I’m always aiming to be first in my class for every assessment.

My biggest challenges during the HSC

For me, the biggest challenges so far have been balancing cultural learning with the HSC, and avoiding burnout.

Aunty Lesley Armstrong, the Aboriginal Education Officer at Gorokan High School and Central Coast AECG President, always knew I’d go well with my education. She also wanted me to be an Aboriginal role model within the school and community. It’s great that we can learn about culture through school, but it’s easy to get overloaded and miss classes.

I am working on balancing Didge group, leadership, and the HSC. I try to use free periods and afternoons to catch up on work so I don’t fall behind. On top of that, sometimes I’ll spend a day or two absolutely ripping into assessment tasks. If I can’t focus, I’ll switch to a task that I can knock out easily.

I’m lucky that I’m doing the HSC with lots of my mates. When classes get stressful, I have a good laugh with them, and then go home and get my work done. Keeping active and catching up with mates is really important for avoiding burnout – sometimes I even get out bush, away from phones and technology, to have a break from study.

I have a strong support network inside and outside of school

I have a good support network of role models outside of school, through church. There are lots of high achievers who did really well in the HSC, and I can go to them and ask for help with school, or even applying to uni. It’s good to have different perspectives outside of school for advice and information.

I’ve also developed closer relationships with my teachers since starting the HSC. I love the content we’re learning, the ideas make sense to me. I have great teachers who teach really well, know how everyone in the class learns, and connect with us on a personal level too.

If you want to turn your act around and change your mindset about school – find someone who you want to be like, talk to them about who they are and what they’ve done, and aim to be more like them.

I’m going to become a PE teacher

After the HSC, I plan to study Physical Education teaching at Newcastle University. I really want to show the world that everyone can go well in the HSC if they aim high! I also want to break down stereotypes about Aboriginal students. Most of all I like the idea of having a job where I will have an impact on young people and be in a school with lots of people to talk with every day, rather than a job where I’m by myself all the time.

If you’re finding school and the HSC tough, my advice would be to find out what you want to do after school and use that as a goal. Have fun and start taking opportunities to step up at school and within community.

Want to know more?

Visit My Future, My Culture, My Way, follow the Department of Education on social media, talk to your school, or contact your local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).

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