Two women Bella Davies admires are blazing a trail in their respective fields of influence and have captured the BSSC Year 12 student’s well-deserved admiration.

For Bella, who is aspiring to become a journalist and is concerned about social justice issues, Antoinette Lattouf is an excellent role-model.

Lattouf is a journalist, author, diversity advocate, and social commentator who helped found Media Diversity Australia in 2017—an organisation working to make Australian media more authentically representative of the diversity of our nation.

Bella is well aware of how it feels to be part of a minority. Around 12% of Australians are neurodiverse—and Bella is one of them.

On her journey to fully understanding her particular giftedness, Bella attended a forum where young Australian actress, author, and disability advocate Chloé Hayden, was a guest speaker.

“I would love to ask her how she got her career started given the barriers many neurodiverse people sometimes face.”

It’s a process Bella will soon be managing once she completes a gap-year and heads to university—either Monash or La Trobe to study Journalism.

Bella was diagnosed with autism and ADHD three years ago, after a long and arduous process where her daily challenges were frequently being underestimated.

She remembers how her teachers saw only that she was clever but didn’t realise how much she struggled with other aspects of school such as concentration and especially socialising.

To Bella the huge classrooms at her 7-10 college were overwhelming and she frequently had to leave classes.

Despite the relief at finally understanding her brain was excellent, just different, Bella was initially uncomfortable with being labelled.

“These days I can see the benefits of being neurodiverse and once my teachers ‘got it’ the one-on-one support I received made such a difference.

“Mum has been amazing. She kept approaching my schools until I got the support I needed. She’s so super supportive of me all the time.”

BSSC’s teachers are the aspect of this college Bella likes best.

“They’ve all been really nice, but so have the students,” she says. “I’d use the word ‘inclusive’ to describe BSSC because there’s so much diversity in the people here—and it’s welcomed.”

Bella says she’d recommend this college to others because of the high standards of the teachers, the quality of the education that’s offered, and because the support services are so good and accessible.

This year she’s studied English Literature, General Maths, Classics and Legal Studies—and completed 3/4 Psychology last year. She also studied Law at La Trobe University through the CHES programme.

Bella chose subjects she enjoys and although she initially thought she wanted a career in Psychology, her course will also set her up well for Journalism.

“My favourite subject is Classics because I’m really interested in Greek Mythology and realise how those stories still have relevance and impact us even today.”

Asked to name a favourite myth, Bella says there are too many! “Maybe the story of Eros and Psyche.”

The greatest challenges for Bella have been around motivation and therefore keeping up with the work and studying effectively for exams.

“I really like deadlines—they keep me on track,” she says.

De-stressing is important for everyone, but for people who live with neurodiversity, it’s essential.

“I de-stress by isolating and usually sleep or take short naps. I often wear noise-cancelling headphones too, because background noise is so distracting for me.”

Bella’s approach to forming friends has changed over the years from just sticking with familiar people because they are familiar, to being willing to ‘find her tribe’.

“Sticking with the known has not been helpful,” she says. “Since being at BSSC I have made new friends—a small group who look out for each other—and we love hanging out together.

“Most of my closest friends, I now realise, are also neurodiverse. We really understand each other.”

When Bella is not studying or catching up with friends, she has a wide range of other interests, including a passion for reading—mostly fiction and classic books. She has also continued to play soccer this year for Eaglehawk.

Back when she was 13 years old, and with good intentions to raise money for the Children’s Ward at Bendigo Health, Bella shaved her head.

“If I could go back and have a conversation with my younger self, I’d say, stick to the cause but don’t shave your head!”

Bella would also tell herself to be friends with the people she likes and feels drawn to.

“Don’t put up with people who aren’t right for you.”

With her final Year 12 exam now done, Bella looks back at what she’s achieved during VCE.

“It’s been challenging for all sorts of reasons, especially because we moved twice last year. The hardest thing I found was managing the workload of Year 12.

“But I’ve learnt to reach out for support and I’m really proud I did that.”