Anything is possible, just ask Cody Chatfield.
The 22-year-old is proof that despite challenges you can “come back from the bottom and still come up” after leaving school in year 11.
Cody shared experiences from her challenging upbringing and how she has got to where she is today with Warrnambool College Kalay Academy students at an alumni event on Tuesday.
The indigenous girls heard how Cody, then aged 15, would get up to her three younger siblings during the night and get them ready for kindergarten before heading off to school, while her mum battled mental health and substance issues.
She left Warrnambool College and worked to support herself, returning to complete her schooling at South West TAFE. Cody then gained an administration traineeship through Brophy Family and Youth Services who paid for her to complete a Diploma of Community Services and worked at the organisation for two years.
Cody is now employed at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Co-operative where she is a support worker, helping vulnerable families through its Cradle to Kinder program.
Cody has continued to challenge herself and will complete her postgraduate certificate in family therapy at Latrobe University’s Bouverie Centre next week.
“I didn’t think I’d be helping 30 or 40-year-old mothers,” Cody said. “I had to grow up quite quick. I had no choice.
“You can come from the bottom and still come up. In the Aboriginal community you’ve got inter-generational trauma and I think I have somehow managed to break it.
“I never would have thought I would have done a uni course. Each step I go I think ‘I can go bigger than that.”
Cody credited her partner Travis, who she has been with since she was 15, for his positive support and encouraging her to reach her potential.
She said hearing from a young Koori person when she was at school might have made a difference to her outlook and she hoped the students took some of what she said on board.
Student Laini Johnson, 17, said it was amazing to think that Cody was a Warrnambool College student like her not that long ago.
“I’m sure everyone will agree, knowing what you went through and the strategies you used to get there will inspire us and help us overcome any barriers that come our way,” Laini said to Cody at the end of her presentation.
Our School alumni co-ordinator Jody Abbott said hearing Cody’s story of overcoming adversity was inspirational.