In the midst of all that Year 12 has thrown her way, BSSC student, Maddy Amy, has been finding a few moments here and there to explore as growing passion—the astounding musical instrument, the Theremin.

Invented in 1919 by a Russian physicist, this no-touch instrument works though the performer using their hands as electrical conductors poised between two antennae. A wooden box acts as the ‘speaker’. Maddy saw the instrument on TV a few years ago and was amazed by it.

“I think they were once very popular for making spooky music in movies,” Maddy says. “It’s pretty cool, but so hard to learn.”

Her step-mum bought Maddy her Theremin—despite not being able to find one in Australia at the time—and she has been dabbling with this notoriously difficult musical marvel ever since.

Maddy was a student at Castlemaine’s Olivet College at the time. Coming from a small school of around 100 students meant BSSC was something of an adjustment.

“Daunted” is the word Maddy uses to describe how she felt at the time. Fortunately there were two other students from Olivet who came to BSSC that year and they managed to find each other in the crowd.

“It’s actually been pretty good,” Maddy says. “I’ve been well-supported here and enjoy all my subjects. I like my teachers and have really benefitted from the support of the Wellbeing team and the Indigenous cultural support through the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Program (ATSI).”

This year Maddy has been studying English, Further Maths, Sociology, Psychology and Auslan. While she’s found the workload challenging at times, she accepts that it’s just a part of VCE and expects many other students feel the same way.

“I think the way to cope is through being organised,” Maddy says. “…keeping a balance between all the things you need to do.

“For me, it’s a study-work-sport balance that I think allows me to do my best and still be involved in other stuff.”

‘Stuff’ like her part-time job at George’s Bakery in Huntly. And the soccer team she coaches. And the indoor soccer she plays.

Maddy is also involved with her local CFA and has recently completed the minimum skills training, making her eligible to get called out to fires.

“The CFA is really careful about what we get called out to when we are new,” Maddy says. “They don’t want us to have awful experiences while we still have a lot to learn.”

In reality, Maddy’s family has an impressive history of community involvement through long-term foster care. This has given Maddy a hands-on, close-up and genuine insight into how the child-protection system works—and doesn’t work—and has inspired her to aim at qualifications that will allow her to make a positive contribution to this sector in the future.

“I’m a Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung woman,” Maddy explains, “so I particularly want to do good things for Indigenous people caught up in that aspect of the welfare system.

“I know some people get burnt out doing this kind of work. I hope I’ll be able to find that balance where I’m both looking after myself and really making a difference to people.”

It’s partly because of the inspiration provided by her step-mum—who has been a foster-carer for quite a long time—that now sees Maddy planning to enrol for a degree in social work at La Trobe University Bendigo.

Maddy also notes that the social issues around child welfare are an international concern—and that there are countries that perform much better and much worse than Australia in caring for families and children who need extra support.

“But it’s not only people who suffer when they don’t belong to a family,” she points out.

Maddy has a deep affection for all animals and, after a confronting experience in Bali a few years ago, realised first-hand how much street dogs endure—desperately trying to eke out their survival in terrible conditions without any care.

“Dogs are like family,” she insists, “and so intuitive. I’ve seen a dog respond to a traumatised child by just laying down beside them and tolerating all the thrashing about. Then it gently laid its head on the child—who gradually began to calm down.”

Asked what advice she would offer herself at that age, Maddy admits to having learnt a lot over the years since then.

“I would tell myself to keep a really good support network around me,” she says.

“And learn more about Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung culture,” she says, “because growing up I didn’t take many opportunities to learn about my culture. Over the last two years, while at BSSC, I’ve really appreciated things like the Facebook page set up for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“I also went to an ‘Academic Boot Camp’ organised by La Trobe University for Years 9 to 12 Indigenous students from across Victoria. It was really great.”

Now, with the end of the year looming, Maddy is in full-swing with her exam preparation—her first being Auslan.

Given Maddy’s other values it makes perfect sense for her to have learnt a language that allows a group of people with communication challenges to better connect with others.

“I’ve really enjoyed studying Auslan,” she says. “I’m glad I’ve continued with it—I think it’s something I’ll be able to use in my future life and career.”