A proud Goombi woman from the Wiradjuri nation, currently in Year 12 at Northlakes High School.

Penelope is a proud Goombi woman from the Wiradjuri nation. She is currently in Year 12 at Northlakes High School and she is following a HSC + ATAR pathway. Read more to find out how she is succeeding by having a strong connection to Culture.

Image: Penelope a Goombi women from the Wiradjuri nation

Who I am

I’m Penelope - a proud Goombi woman from the Wiradjuri nation. I am currently in Year 12 at Northlakes High School.

There was no question that I would do the HSC, due to my determination to do better than my siblings. You see I’m the fifth child in my family, and all my siblings have graduated from Year 12. I’m really competitive, and I don’t want to be the first child to drop out! I also want my nieces and nephews to know me as the cool, smart aunty.

I’ve had to work really hard at studying

I didn’t really get into studying until Year 11. I knew that attendance mattered and I had to be in class every day and get everything done once I started the HSC. When COVID-19 happened and we shifted to remote learning, I found it really hard and mentally exhausting.

My school offers free COVID-19 tutoring to help us get back on track. So, I’ve been going nearly every day – staying back or starting school early – because I’m hoping to win free formal tickets. I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my work, especially because we’re working on past HSC questions. I know I’ll be more prepared when I walk into my HSC exams.

Sometimes it is hard getting into a good routine - I’m juggling school, tutoring, study, and work - and avoiding procrastination. When I find myself procrastinating, I just focus on putting my phone away, reading my assignment questions, and writing one paragraph at a time. I have high expectations of myself.

Some other strategies I’ve tried to implement include; being active and social in my breaks, instead of hanging out alone in my room. And giving myself rewards at the end of each day for studying and getting assignments done. I think Year 12 is the first year I’ve actually planned all my assignments out on a calendar and done them on time.

I also always hand in drafts to my teachers, because they point out what doesn’t make sense so I can eliminate most of my mistakes and get a higher grade in the end.

I love learning outside the classroom

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few different programs through school which have really inspired and helped me learn about myself and who I want to be in the future.

My connection to culture started when I was invited to go on a school camp in Year 9, where I discovered Aboriginal dance. It was a really big moment for me, and I’ve loved creating a community at school through Aboriginal dance. I don’t think I’d be in Year 12, feeling confident about the HSC, if I hadn’t connected to culture. It helped me start taking school seriously, and my culture has given me opportunities to visit universities and decide what I want to do.

Being part of the AVID program at my school has also helped me grow my inquisitiveness about learning. It’s run by university students and it’s really helped me change my mindset to focus on passing every assignment.

In Year 11, I participated in the NRL School to Work program – it was such a fun experience. It was a mix of cultural, leadership, and adventure activities. We even visited Western Sydney University to help us decide what we want to do after school, and learn about different pathways to get into our favourite degrees. It really built my confidence, and seeing what uni is like motivated me to buckle up and start working harder at school. Plus we got to go to an NRL game in a limo, life doesn’t get cooler than that.

I also participated in the University of Sydney’s Wingara Mura Bunga Barrabugu Summer Program to get a taste of university life (I also got to meet Jessica Mauboy!). I feel like I have an advantage compared to my friends, because I’ve been to three different universities already. I have a better understanding of what uni is like, and what I want to do, and how I’m going to get there. The programs have also made me more confident with my school work, and a better leader.

I’m getting more confident at asking for help when I need it

I used to be really scared to ask for help, but I’m getting better at reaching out – and the teachers and aunties at my school’s Aboriginal Wellbeing Office and Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centre have always known when to reach out to me. They’ve helped me understand my culture and who I am, and we’re working on getting my seal to prove that I am Aboriginal. The Aunties have even helped me plan my Aboriginal Studies major work, which is based on Aboriginal dance. There’s no pressure, they let me do what I can do at my own pace, and help me to get where I want to go.

My eldest sister has always been my inspiration. She was the first one in our family to graduate, and I always call her for help, especially with assignments. She’d sit down and listen to me, even when she had other things to do. I also have a mentor – my Japanese teacher, Ms Davis, who’s really helped me with managing stress.

Fitting in at school was a challenge for me before the HSC. I’ve only really secured my friendship group this year, and it’s made me so much happier at school. We listen and support each other when we’re frustrated.

My tips on getting to uni

For the longest time I wanted to study Arts at university, but I’ve done a big 180 and want to study law at Newcastle University now, maybe even work at Legal Aid one day. I think the HSC and getting an ATAR is important if you don’t know what you want to do after school, or you want a backup plan. If you change your mind about what you want to do after school, you can use your HSC and ATAR to get into a different course or degree, no matter what subjects you studied. It gives you options.

If you’re not sure what you want to do after school, pick up the University Admissions Centre book and have a look at all the different degrees and universities. Highlight five universities or courses that seem interesting, keep looking into those five options, and go visit the campus open days. If you are the first in your family to do the HSC, definitely talk to your teachers, year advisor, and careers advisor at school. Even if they can’t help you, they’ll find you someone who can.

I think pathways (doing your HSC over 3 or more years), scholarships, and early entry to university are great options if your HSC isn’t going to plan. Even if you fail at something, it’s comforting to know that there’s always another way to get into the degree you want to do eventually. Always have a backup plan. My sister actually started a different degree first and then transferred into engineering, which was what she wanted to do – she got there in the end.

  • Student voices
Return to top of page Back to top