BSSC Alumna from 2019, Emily Gower, has returned to her old school in a role she is relishing.

Emily says she loved being a student here and sees her new role as Trainee—First Nations Support as an opportunity to ensure other First Nations students can make the most of their time at BSSC.

“It’s a way to ‘pass it on’ and work with mob and support them as a culturally safe person, in their formal education.”

Emily is a young Palawa woman who maintains close connection to mob and is the sole First Nations person presently employed at BSSC, successfully applying for the role after her sister Josie, was the inaugural First Nations Support Trainee.

This role also sees Emily promoting cultural awareness at BSSC and nurturing the budding artists amongst the group.

“I recently had a yarn with a student about her artwork,” says Emily. “It had a very beautiful and personal meaning surrounding her own mental health and how people can’t always tell how a person is feeling just by looking at them.”

However, the interaction went much deeper as Emily shared a “beautiful and deep conversation” covering many issues such as racism, issues in community and the education system.

“I found her very inspiring—she is so young and involved in Community. She’s always sticking up for what’s right and has an amazing future ahead of her.”

Emily’s own journey after she completed Year 12 included going ahead with plans to study Graphic Design. She subsequently worked for two years at Eaglehawk Secondary College.

Her role at BSSC is part of a Bendigo TAFE Cert III in Community Services studies. Emily is also completing a certificate in Aboriginal/Torres Strait Cultural Arts at Bendigo TAFE.

“Emily takes all this initiative looking after The Scholars Hut,” says Sue Pickles, BSSC’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Program Coordinator.

“She makes the space a safe, well-stocked and tidy place for First Nations students to gather.”

The history of the room’s name, ‘The Scholars Hut’, is significant.

Back in the 1800s the Australian Government legislated that Aboriginal children were only allowed to attend school up to Grade 3. They then had to go to work.

Thomas Shadrach James (1859-1946), was a Mauritian medical doctor who initially connected with the wonderful choir at the Cummeragunja Mission.

He soon discovered the appalling restrictions on the education of Aboriginal children and was invited by the community to become a teacher there.

During the day the children were obliged to go to work. But at night the kids would sneak out so he could continue their education by candlelight in what was known as ‘The Scholars Hut’.

This ‘illegal’ project became his life’s work and BSSC honours him and his work through naming of our study area for mob ‘The Scholars Hut’—and by offering our First Nations students a place and a First Nations support person to encourage them with homework, cultural development, and their wider sports, hobbies and other pursuits.

Welcome—back—to BSSC Emily!

You can also check out Emily’s 2019 student profile at: