Year 12 graduate Sunny Syme, like many people, is deeply concerned about the way climate change and human exploitation have impacted the oceans. But, unlike many of us, she is planning to do something about it. She plans to become a marine biologist.

“For me, it feels personal,” Sunny said, “especially the deforestation of the coral reefs. We are losing all these amazing sites and it will be almost impossible to bring them back.

“I can’t believe the way our governments have supported the Adani mine when this will be a direct problem for our reefs.”

While Sunny’s specific interest is in aqua-culture management and making aqua-culture industries more sustainable, the truth is that she loves pretty much anything to do with animals—and unsurprisingly admires others who have the same passion. Such as the iconic David Attenborough, “because of his passion for all the natural world.”

Sunny also ‘walks the talk’ herself and works part-time at a vet clinic.

“I’m presently raising a couple of baby magpies,” she said.

However, in contrast to her future plans, the here and now finds Sunny being celebrated for something completely different: her drawing and painting.

Back in August Sunny submitted samples of her artwork to Nacho Station—a group partnered with City of Greater Bendigo in a project to revitalise Pennyweight Walk. Sunny was one of nine artists selected to exhibit.

“I began the piece in September and recently went to the official opening of the new exhibition,” Sunny explained. “There was no definite theme, but because my usual style is portraiture and I’m really into plants, I decided to combine the two.”

Her work will be on display there for the next two years.

Sunny grew up surrounded by people who are into art.

“There are artists on both sides of my family,” she said, “but I don’t feel like I’ve been pushed… I just always had paint and paper and other materials available.”

When it came to VCE subject selection, Sunny chose subjects that are prerequisites for marine biology: English, Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science, but admits her favourite subject was Art Fashion.

“It’s been a good contrast to the other subjects,” she said. “It’s flexible enough that students are not obliged to just make clothes. I’ve made hats and other accessories, and now the piece for Pennyweight Walk.”

BSSC has been a perfect fit for Sunny.

“It is a lot bigger than my 7 to 10 school, Castlemaine Secondary College,” she said. “The opportunity to meet new people and do subjects I couldn’t have done otherwise has been amazing. I’ve had a great time and like the fact that it’s almost a uni environment—the teachers here feel more like friends or colleagues.

“The main challenge for me has been commuting. I take the train but it still takes me an hour from home to school.”

Asked what advice she would offer her younger self, Sunny remembers back to pressure she put on herself to do well.

“I think by the time Year 12 came around I was just a bit tired of trying so hard for so long,” she said. I noticed others didn’t start working really hard until VCE and they seemed to have more energy.

“So my advice to my younger self is to relax a bit more. Don’t take it all so seriously.”