Year 12 student, Alex French, has his eyes firmly set on a career in Law.
The journey to this decision is an inspiring story highlighting the human capacity to transform serious difficulties and disappointments into a drive to become the change you want to see in the world.
“I have been through a lot,” Alex says, “but I want to do something with my life that turns all my suffering into something meaningful.”
Alex looks back over his life and sometimes wonders how he managed.
“Almost every system that was supposed to protect and help me failed,” he laments.
It still makes him angry, but Alex is grateful he hasn’t felt hatred towards the people employed in those systems.
“Instead of just grieving about it, I want to find a way to work in the system,” he insists. “So others might not have to suffer like I did.”
Alex is also grateful for having insight not to identify with his suffering in a way that trapped him in it—something he has seen others fall into.
Meanwhile, the future is looking much brighter, with plans to study Law at RMIT.
Alex sees this career as a way to help others find their way through the systems that consistently let him down, and in the process make positive changes to those systems.
Alex left home as a young teenager and couch surfed until a family friend offered him a place.
“She welcomed me into her home and believed me when I told her what had been happening,” he says. “I still have Christmas there.”
In April last year Alex moved into a Residential Care home.
“Resi Care has such a bad reputation,” Alex says, “but my experience has been amazing.”
He describes a supportive place offering a chance to learn valuable life skills.
“I remember the first time I opened the fridge and knew I was allowed to eat anything in there,” he recalls. “I almost cried.
“We have 24/7 staff who are so supportive and I think about resi care as a wonderful place for ‘psycho-social rehabillitation’.”
Alex describes Residential Care as having a warm community feeling.
“Every time I’d go home, there was someone there to welcome me,” he says.
There have been camping trips which Alex loved, and he’s been linked in with Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co Operative and Edgar’s Mission, an animal rescue service.
“No-one starts out wanting to live in Resi Care or being involved with other protective services,” Alex points out. “But sometimes life is so complicated such things are sometimes necessary.”
At one time, during all these changes, Alex experienced a moment of realising he could fight for himself. It was a critical revelation and he felt like a huge weight had been lifted from him.
“I saw I wasn’t the only one who had to struggle to access essential resources, or find vital information without help,” he says.
As well as a clear plan for his future, Alex has a fantastic group of friends. They have become his family and he’s incredibly grateful for them.
“I would say my friends are the ‘light of my life’, he says. “They even throw me a party every year on the anniversary of the day I had to leave home!”
Alex has recently become a Youth Ambassador for Headspace and is discovering he has valuable knowledge to pass on to other young people.
In contrast to some aspects of his life, Alex has consistently found school to be a source of stability and opportunities.
“I’ve always enjoyed school and coming to BSSC every day is part of knowing where I’m going and gives me a lens to my future,” he says.
Both his time at Eaglehawk Secondary College and BSSC have been very positive.
“I think about BSSC as a bridge,” Alex explains. “Students are here are to progress across this bridge into the future and the goals they want to pursue.
“If you’re serious about wanting to get to where you want to be, this place is so good. There’s also the Wellbeing and Careers teams who are so helpful.”
Asked if he’s had to face any challenges at the college, Alex laughs.
“Considering my life’s circumstances, school is a walk in the park!”
He also admires the way his teachers accommodate their students’ needs while also holding them accountable for their progress.
“Prue Winter is one of my favourite teachers and she does this so well,” Alex says. “She’s direct, but so empathetic.”
Alex, like many people who suffer trauma, also has to manage a chronic physical condition and says the college has been really accommodating with that too.
This year he is studying Legal Studies, Economics, History of Revolutions, and English Language.
Alex’s favourite subject is Legal Studies—no surprises there. He also points out how useful it is to have legal knowledge in general, and to understand how our political system works.
His hot study tip is to use coloured pens when taking notes. However, Alex laughs as he admits he is easily distracted and says he should probably study in a room with absolutely nothing to tempt procrastination.
Alex de-stresses by spending time with his “great friends”, and by pursuing his other interests, which include volunteering at local legal firms to gain experience, some tutoring, the punk scene, and art—particularly game development.
If Alex could go back and give his twelve-year-old self some advice, it would be this positive affirmation: ‘You don’t deserve this. You are wonderful, bright and cheerful. You are definitely not stupid and you deserve good things to happen to you’.
“It took me a while to realise I was/am allowed to have a good life,” Alex says. “But I’m looking forward to the future.”