Year 12 student, Amelia Leach, has discovered a welcoming environment at Bendigo Senior.

This proud, young Aboriginal woman uses the term “inclusive” to describe BSSC; the school’s reputation being a big part of the reason Amelia’s family chose to move to this area from North Eastern Victoria.

“I once went to a school where you got into trouble for wearing the wrong-coloured hair tie,” she says, “so I especially love not having to wear a uniform.”

If Amelia could go back and offer her twelve-year-old self some advice, she would want to give her hope.

“I would tell her that the Covid lockdowns were coming, that she would find them really hard, and to take time to be vigilant about caring for her mental health,” Amelia says.

“I would also say, it’s going to get better!”

And indeed it has.

Amelia has been impressed by the genuine interest BSSC teachers have shown her—not only about her learning, but how she’s going generally.

While she accepts that VCE is, by its very nature, a challenging part of the educational process, she’s worked hard to get into a “good groove” of effective study methods after the challenges of Covid.

“Summary notes, mind maps and poster boards—they all really work for me,” she says.

BSSC has allowed Amelia to meet many students who’ve had varied and different life experiences to her own and she enjoys meeting them and hearing their stories.

She’s also delighted her Indigenous status has been respected and welcomed by BSSC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (AATSI) program.

“I’ve never experienced that,” she says. “The college has supported me right from the start. Sue Pickles, the AATSI program coordinator, has been wonderful and is presently helping me obtain my Confirmation of Aboriginality certificate.”

Amelia has experienced racism in the past and believes until all Australians can accept what really happened to so many Indigenous people in the past, we can’t properly move into the future.

Amelia is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman and part of the Kaurareg Aboriginal people who live on Waiben—otherwise known as Thursday Island.

Amelia has a deep interest in politics and was delighted when an Indigenous politician—Ken Wyatt—was appointed Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

When incoming Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, came to deliver his acceptance speech on the night of the federal election, the three flags—Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait—were in the correct order, to Amelia’s delight.

“That means a lot to Indigenous people,” she says.

Linda Burney will now take over Indigenous Affairs which is a double bonus in Amelia’s eyes—her being both Aboriginal and a woman.

Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is another female politician Amelia would love to meet, believing her ‘misogyny speech’ is a critical moment in Australian politics.

“I’d love to meet and speak with this woman who said ‘No!’ and paved the way for others to stop accepting misogyny as normal,” she says. “It’s still out there. When I expressed my interest in politics to one guy, he said ‘you won’t get into politics—you’re a girl’.”

But that’s exactly what Amelia plans to do. She hopes to be part of “progressive change” and wants to add another Indigenous voice to parliament. And she’s already preparing for this future.

This year Amelia is studying Economics, Business Management, Legal Studies, English and Maths. She will focus on politics at university—perhaps a double degree in Politics and Economics.

“I particularly love Legal Studies,” she says. “It gives great insight into the justice system and understanding why certain decisions are made.”

Amelia has also successfully applied to be part of the 2022 Victorian Youth Congress which advises the Victorian Government’s Office for Youth on issues pertinent to young people.

“Members of Youth Congress are not allowed to comment on politics or be members of a political party,” she says, “but they are expected to be passionate about challenges facing young Victorians.”

While Amelia is delighted to see the record numbers of women entering the federal arena of politics, she also sees it reflected in the high number of young women putting their hands up to join the Youth Congress.

Her own journey to Youth Congress began when one of her Mum’s friends suggested she should go for it. Careers and Pathways Coordinator, Naomi Flint, supported Amelia’s application as a referee.

“One of my friends sent me this awesome text on the day of the first meeting,” she says. “Happy Congress Day.”

The Congress meets monthly. Face-to-face meetings are held in Melbourne with every second meeting online.

Now, well into the year, Amelia reflects on her experience.

“Being able to have a say about things that really matter to the young people of Victoria and contribute to positive changes is so satisfying,” she says.

“My Mum is incredible and has been such a support and awesome role model. One of the issues she’s really passionate about is youth homelessness.

With VCE and Youth Congress responsibilities, Amelia has little time for other interests, although she does work locally at Beechworth Bakery and loves to spend time with friends and family.

“I have such great people around me,” she says. “I’m so grateful for that.”