Many students at BSSC recognise Year 12 student, Toni Hunter, thanks to her great singing and fabulous stage presence at BSSC’s ‘Open Mic’ sessions where her band plays regularly.

She describes singing as “an amazing feeling” and says her voice is “so important to me—to lose it would almost be like losing life itself”.

Toni’s been singing in the car with her Mum since she can remember and began singing lessons at eight years old.

By nine, her teacher said she was ready for her first public performance and, despite being very scared, Toni sang an original song.

“My singing teacher was an important role model for me and when Covid came along and the business had to shut down, it was a huge loss.”

Then, as Covid receded and Toni stepped up to BSSC, she also began singing lessons with Kristie Woodward.

“I’ve learnt so much from Kristie, including the importance of grabbing opportunities that come along.”

As far as the future’s concerned, Toni says, she’ll take singing “as far as the universe wants it to go”.

While it’s music that sustains and brings her the greatest satisfaction and joy, like all of us there’s much more to Toni.

Should she get into her preferred university course—Electrical or Fabrication Engineering at La Trobe, Bendigo—she might well end up heading in a completely different direction.

“What I really want is to keep exploring and having experiences that grow me as a person. I’ve already bought a caravan and plan to go travelling around Australia one day.”

This year Toni is studying General Maths, VET Engineering, Systems Engineering, VET Music Industry Performance and English.

Toni says BSSC is the only school she’s been to that has lived up to the claims all schools make about being understanding and supportive of their students.

“I started Year 11 with little expectation my new teachers would, or could, help me make the most of my education. But by May, everything had changed—and so quickly, so flawlessly and so effortlessly.

“Sharn Treloar, my English teacher, was the first one who convinced me he was genuinely interested in me doing well.

“When I realised how much faith all my teachers had in me, I felt so much better about my life in general.”

Toni and her Mum also noticed Toni’s experience of school was impacting positively on the rest of her life.

“I felt like my future suddenly looked worth something and found my self-confidence and ability to work with others growing.”

Even at her part-time job at the Reject Shop, Toni noticed a change in the way she held herself and spoke to customers. Especially that she was able to be kinder.

“I recommend BSSC 100%. Definitely!” she says, “but students need to do their part too.

“The teachers are so patient, but if you don’t want to be helped, there’s not a lot they can do.”

Toni, who is neuro-diverse, says her autism was only diagnosed at the beginning of this year.

“Having this diagnosis has actually made me feel so much better. I have explanations for things I struggled with—like some study techniques that work for neuro-typical students—but not for me.”

Toni remembers equations and formulas much more easily than quotes from novels and says, “I can read and read and nothing goes in.”

Despite this, she thrived academically during Covid and was very happy with solitary online learning. Now, armed with a new understanding of herself, Toni has found ways to make school work for her.

She also heads off to the gym regularly and practices yoga and meditation.

It would be reasonable to guess Toni would name her voice as the aspect of her life she is most grateful for. But she says; “my Mum”.

“Mum is such a great Mum. She raised a very annoying child all on her own for ten years (Me!!) and taught me many values that have saved me.”

If Toni could go back and give her 12 year-old self some advice, she would tell herself two things.

“First, ‘listen to your mother!’.

“I would have gotten out of many awful situations if I’d just taken her advice,” Toni says. “And if you can’t tell your mum what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”

Secondly, Toni would say; “Don’t waste your kindness”.

“You are worth more than the way some people treat you, and you can’t make other people happy if you aren’t happy yourself.”

Toni wishes she had focused more on caring for herself and not done things for people who did not respect her.

“It can be hard to recognise people who will impact negatively on your life. I should have introduced them to my Mum—she would have picked them!”

Toni greatly values insight allowing her to find a subtle balance between letting people know they’re not alone, while accepting you can’t fix another person’s problems.

So who would Toni love to have a conversation with?

“I’d like to talk to someone who’s been through it all, and succeeded, and is happy. I’d ask them: ‘What gave you the motivation to keep going?’.”