BSSC Year 11 student, Macey Holland, has had a first-hand experience of the wilder and more unpredictable weather that climate change is wreaking across Australia.

“I grew up on a farm near Boort—right on the Loddon River,” she says. “In 2010 our crops were looking really good because there had been a lot of rain. But in January 2011 we had a massive amount of rain in a very short period. The Loddon River rose eight metres and quickly overflowed its banks and totally flooded our farm. My mum, brother and I had to be helicoptered out to safety.”

Their home was saved thanks to extensive sandbagging—sitting like an island in a vast pond—but the crops were ruined.

Macey recalls her grandfather commenting that he had never seen anything like it. She recalls her dad saying, as he looked at the ruined canola, wheat and barley once the water receded, “It’s like money you can’t have hanging on the fences and in the trees.”

The family spent years recovering but have recently moved to a different property and begun a business that Macey aspires to one day manage.

The 640-acre property came with a heritage-listed brick shearing shed built in 1871. Macey’s family have revamped it for use as a wedding venue with a section set aside as a museum to house the collection of old tools and equipment that were still in the shed when they bought the property.

The shed is still used each year for shearing and Macey works as a rouseabout during these busy times.

Almost a decade on from the deluge, Macey’s family is now struggling with drought.

“People don’t realise what a luxury it is to be able to take bath,” she says, “but when the tanks run dry and you are paying around $1200 in summer for water—just for the house—you take water really seriously and you have very short showers.”

Initially, Macey attended her local consolidated college but decided to move to BSSC purely on the basis of subject choice.

As often happens for rural students, such decisions also involve leaving home. This has been the greatest challenge for Macey who is very close to her mum, dad and brother and loves the rural lifestyle.

“It’s still really good at my aunt’s,” she acknowledges. “I get on well with all the family and we have a lot of laughs over dinner as we talk about our day.”

Macey is also fortunate that she can spend her weekends up on the farm and recounts a time when she became quite unwell in the middle of the week and her mum jumped in the car, drove down, picked her up and took her back to the farm to recover.

“I think I just needed a hug from Mum,” Macey says with a grin.

Weekends have always been about sport for Macey’s family. The Serpentine Football/Netball club is an integral part of their lives and Macey has been playing netball since she was six years old. Now an A-grade player, she has also committed to heading home for training midweek.

Macey was the only student coming from her school to BSSC in 2019. When she thinks back to her first day, she recalls getting up really early and thinking, ‘I have to look good today—there could be school photos’.

Students who were ‘flying solo’—like Macey—were placed into a group together. Macey recalls that although they all felt pretty shy and unsure, everyone was really friendly. She found it incredible to realise she was sitting between someone from Melbourne and someone from Queensland.

“I just love that I’ve met people from such diverse backgrounds here,” she says. “I now have two friends who are dancers.”

With Year 11 completed, Macey reflects on the year and gives all her teachers the tick of approval.

“I’ve found them so passionate, helpful and approachable,” she says. “If you put in the effort they will do so much to support you—and even the way they say ‘hello’ in the yard makes you appreciate the mutual respect that exists here between staff and students.”

Macey has studied a diverse selection of subjects this year—Environmental Science, Biology, Geography, English Literature, Indonesian and Maths Methods.

Her ‘hot study tip’?

“If you’re feeling really overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, make a list on paper.”

Macey’s Indonesian studies demonstrate her capacity for discipline and organisation. A trip to Bali in Grade 6 left her with a desire to learn the language, but it meant committing to distance education through the Victorian School of Languages.

From Year 7 to Year 9 this is exactly what she did. She’s now enjoying studying the language again, but in a classroom setting with other students.

Maths has been her most challenging subject. Fortunately, Macey is someone who loves a challenge.

Biology is her favourite subject and undoubtedly an important area for someone considering becoming a farm manager. In Geography and Enviro Science she realised how her farm experience had already given her language others were only discovering. Terms such as ‘sump’, ‘flood irrigation’ and knowing what a weir is, and does, were already second-nature for Macey.

The media is increasingly giving voice to Australian farmers who are bearing much of the brunt of climate change. Macey admits that she took Enviro Science hoping to save the world and now sees that some things are unchangeable.

“I see now we have to manage the diverse things that impact or are impacted by climate change—like water management,” she says. “One thing you learn in farming is that you cannot control everything and in the end you are reliant on the weather.

“Still, I get really mad at the lack of government leadership on things we can influence. Water management should concern absolutely everyone because we are all completely dependent on it.”

Next year Macey is planning to take Business Management to help her prepare for her role on the family farm. Beyond BSSC, she will possibly head to uni for a double degree in science and business.

Yet Macey is not only focused on school and farming. As well as a growing awareness and concern about the impact of climate change and especially drought—on all species—she is deeply concerned about issues such as the exploitation of young people.

The issues of child-brides particularly disturbs her. In consequence she greatly admires all the organisations and volunteers who work in this field.

Two people she really admires are Leonardo DiCaprio and Geta Thunberg.

“I think Leonardo DiCaprio—who is widely admired for his environmental activism—has used his position of influence to make the world a better place,” she says. “He uses social media so wisely and because of this, he’s the only celebrity I follow.”

Greta Thunberg, who has been so outspoken calling for climate change to be taken seriously, has also won Macey’s respect.

“Her ability not to care what others think and say about her is so impressive,” Macey says. “I’ve really struggled with this at times and if I could go back and offer advice to my 12 year-old self I would say, “Don’t be scared to stick up for what you really believe in. And don’t be scared to be disliked because of it.”