Mariah's VCE a lesson in persistence

MARIAH Briggs’ achievement in passing her VCE exams is being hailed as a model for the region’s indigenous community.

The 18-year-old Warrnambool resident has shattered the stereotype of low education achievers and set her sights on becoming a teacher.

She overcame the odds of a disturbed childhood and early teenage years which saw her live in at least 10 homes around the state with her single mum and family. At times they were homeless.

Only two years ago she considered dropping out of year 10, like many in Aboriginal communities had done in the past.

“There was a point when I was in Echuca that I didn’t want to go back to school but I made the choice to continue, encouraged by my mum, to give it one more try,” she told The Standard yesterday.

The family’s decision to move south again, closer to their traditional Framlingham community, and enrol at Warrnambool College was a turning point. Mariah knuckled down to study with six subjects in year 11 and five in year 12, plus weekend tutoring and night homework classes.

When Mariah learnt of her VCE pass on Monday she was overjoyed. She now plans to have a gap year working, plus some mentoring in schools, before embarking on a teaching degree at university in 2015.

Also delighted was Framlingham Aboriginal Trust secretary Kyeema Lovett, who took a keen interest in supporting the family.

“We are so proud of her — she is leading the way as a young Aboriginal woman,” Ms Lovett said.

“She did it despite lots of disruptions in which she lost interest.

“Most other kids who achieved VCE passes can’t imagine the hurdles Mariah has had, more than what most people would realise.

“Kids are our future. If we help them achieve an education they in turn can help others.”

“She is the first person from the Clark-Ugle-Roach clan in the Framlingham community to achieve VCE and I think only one of four Aboriginal students in Victoria to complete VCE in a state school this year.”

Things are also brighter for Mariah’s mother Tracy Roach, who has obtained a job teaching indigenous art at a primary school.

Ms Lovett is part of a renewed leadership team determined to carve a positive future for the Framlingham community.

“We aim to break down negative perceptions and stereotypes, to encourage young people like Mariah to move forward,” she said.

“Education is the key.

“We’ve started meetings for parents to discuss the challenges of keeping our kids at school.

“We want to change the mindset and will help cover costs of school camps, books and equipment where needed.

“Kids are our future. If we help them achieve an education they in turn can help others.”

This week Warrnambool College teachers will visit the Framlingham community to gain a better understanding of how to bridge the gap.

Ms Lovett said work by the South West Local Learning and Employment Network showed low educational achievements in local Aboriginal communities with many girls dropping out after year 9.

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