Budding veterinarians, teachers and film-makers took pride of place in a first-of-its-kind Zoom graduation on Tuesday.
A record number of Indigenous Year 12 students from five schools in the Illawarra graduated together via Zoom.
The 35 students from Dapto, Oak Flats, Warilla, Lake Illawarra and Albion Park high schools celebrated this important education milestone remotely, ensuring the schools could hold a joint ceremony while remaining COVID-safe.
Nine students from Oak Flats High School graduated, much to the pleasure of principal Angela Byron.
"It is really exciting for our network of schools to come together and celebrate the graduation of our Aboriginal students," Ms Byron said.
"We've come together as a network of five high schools to really make a very strong commitment to increasing the number of Aboriginal students who finish school.
"We know what a huge difference that makes to their opportunities beyond the school and to a whole range of social indicators, even increasing their life expectancy.
"That is one of the reasons why we've decided to come together and really celebrate these students who have completed their HSC this year. We are also looking to inspire the Aboriginals in the five high schools to make sure that they finish school and they know how highly valued they are."
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell congratulated the students on their academic achievements.
Of the Year 12 students graduating, 14 are planning to go to university, four are enrolling at TAFE NSW and a further 17 will go straight into the workforce.
Ms Byron added it was good to see such a huge diversity of aspirations among the students.
"We have students who are heading off to university, we have a couple who would like to be teachers and then there's Mason, who has an interest in becoming a film director."
Oak Flats High student Mason Horsley has already directed a short-film called The Suicide Clinic.
"The film deals with the themes of suicide and how people feel and how people can have the human ability to push through knowing that there is better things ahead of them," Mason said.
The 17-year-old said he planned to complete early admissions at the University of Wollongong and hopefully study creative writing, communications and media.
"The end goal though is to get into film-making," he said.
Schoolmate Junisa Allison has set her sights on becoming a veterinarian.
"I've always loved animals and I have always aspired to be able to work with them and help them," Junisa said.
"As I grew older I knew that I wanted to become a vet and am now doing everything that I can to become a vet."
Director Educational Leadership of Lake Illawarra South Network, Raechel McCarthy, said "the graduation celebrates where they've come from and where they're going".
"We are definitely seeing more Indigenous year 12 students completing the HSC and NSW Education is working hard to nurture and support them including offering Aboriginal studies.
"Statistically the HSC opens many pathways and doorways that lead to higher incomes, better health outcomes and enables them to be a role model for other Aboriginal students."
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