“At BSSC you get to find yourself and grow into new friendships,” Year 12 student, Olivia Murley says.

Like many students on their first day at a new campus, the former Eaglehawk Secondary College student was nervous but excited by the new setting. Given the size of the college, she’d wondered whether connections with teachers would suffer.

It didn’t take long for Olivia to realise that the college offered “a great blend of personal support and encouragement to be an independent learner”.

“I love how much freedom we have as students here and how we help each other out in class,” she says. “All my teachers have been so welcoming and are so approachable. They quickly work out how you learn best, but also take time to find out what else is happening in your world.”

At the end of Year 11, Olivia was invited to be on a panel discussing the way Maths is taught, not only at BSSC, but across the whole of the secondary sector. The aim was to identify any disruptions to the flow of learning—especially between Year 10 and Year 11.

“It was good to be part of a group working to streamline the Maths program,” she says. “Though I’ve always been quite an independent learner.”

Given that Olivia is now in her second year at the college and halfway through VCE she has some kudos when it comes to ‘hot study tips’.

“Use your study periods wisely,” she recommends. “I really liked the Year 11 Study Centre because it helped me get a lot of my homework done so I could have a good break over the weekend. It taught me to use my time efficiently.”

She also finds it really important to have ‘brain breaks’—a complete break from study so she returns truly refreshed and re-motivated.

Olivia says one of her ‘brain breaks’ is to watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

“I love things health-related, but it also gives me a feeling of escape,” she says.

Given her long-term plan is to study nursing, VET Allied Health is a favourite subject. And Olivia loves how open the discussions are.

“Opinions are encouraged and we all feel we can talk freely about topics that many people find a bit awkward.”

Early in February, Olivia was part of a group of Year 12 VET Allied Health students who attended a day-long seminar at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

“We had presentations from researchers who are looking at health challenges such as endometriosis and the Human Papilloma Virus,” she says. “We also had a great talk from the CEO about the politics of women’s health—it was so interesting.”

It’s people like this—making tangible differences to people’s lives—who are heroes for Olivia.

Indonesian is also a favourite subject and has been part of Olivia’s life since Year 7. She plans to continue to study Indonesian, along with her nursing studies, once she gets to uni.

“I just fell in love with Indonesian, partly because I picked it up relatively quickly, but also because I had a great teacher and was fascinated by the culture,” she says.

Since Year 9, when Olivia visited Indonesia on a study tour and had language lessons with a local teacher, she has been desperate to get back there.

While it may not seem obvious at first, Olivia can clearly see how her interests in nursing and Indonesian will fit together in the future—a future she hopes will include being in the Australian Navy.

The idea of joining the navy emerged from a chance meeting with one of her grandfather’s friends—a man who had a long career with the Navy and who convinced her it might be for her.

“I had no idea of the opportunities available—including support to study in your area of interest and the chance to develop skills in other things you might discover along the way,” she says.

“I can imagine that someone with nursing and language skills would be so valuable if there was some kind of disaster in Indonesia that the navy was involved with.”

But Olivia also acknowledges that nothing is set in stone. She can just as easily see herself as a nurse in a civilian setting—maybe working at Bendigo Health and being closer to home.

In Grade 6, during a time when her Mum was unwell, Olivia experienced the benefits of a having a large and supportive family on hand.

“We all had to really step up during that year and other people in our family helped so much,” she says. “I learnt a lot about responsibility and the value of a close family that year.”

Olivia is also a twin—her sister Grace a mere 15-minutes older than her—but, because they are fraternal twins, “we’re actually quite different… more like conventional sisters”.

“One of the jokes Grace and I have is when she says to me: ‘Olivia, when I was your age I was doing…’ whatever it is she thinks I should be doing differently. It’s pretty funny.

“Academically-speaking we’re different too. I’m probably better at Maths and anything health-related, while she is a really great writer. But we both play women’s footy.”

Olivia and Grace have played women’s AFL for four years and love the strong team spirit.

“My Dad is our coach and that actually works fine,” she says.

Despite her strong connections to Bendigo, Olivia is not only locally-focused.

“I wish I could help to shape or change issues such as Global Warming, homelessness and areas of the world where the health care is really inadequate,” she says. “Homelessness makes me feel so helpless. I want so much to help in some way, but I don’t know how.”

While she acknowledges the amazing way Greta Thunberg has focused people’s concerns on Climate Change, Olivia says that if she had a billion dollars she would want to support medical research and fight poverty.

“When I was in Indonesia I saw heaps of poor people, including children. It affected me deeply.”

Asked what advice she would give her 12-year-old self, Olivia has no hesitation, offering this hard-won advice.

“Be optimistic about the future—even when things are really hard or stuff doesn’t go your way.

“Work your absolute hardest, and never take the people around you for granted. Keep the ones close!”