In late 2011, Priscilla herself applied for enrolment at St Augustine’s to commence Yr 11 in 2012. Priscilla is a Sudanese student who was born in Kenya, spent nine years in a refugee camp in Egypt before her family was granted refugee status in Australia. She had spent some years in western Sydney before moving with her family to the Redbank Plains area. Priscilla explained in her interview that she had worked for some months to save for the cost of attending school. She also disclosed that she was the mother of twin boys, then aged 19 months, a fact she wanted to keep confidential. Priscilla herself was just 16.
Priscilla commenced Yr 11 in January 2012 and worked with support throughout 2012. Towards the end of the year, her home situation deteriorated to a point where her parents who provided some home support for the twins separated with her mother moving to Central Queensland. The family home became unsafe for the twins and for Priscilla. During the Christmas break Priscilla applied herself for public housing and was successful in securing a house in the suburb of Leichardt in Ipswich.
In January 2013 as she commenced Yr 12, staff became aware that Priscilla and her twins were in a dire situation with little furniture, little disposable cash to purchase food and basic requirements and no capacity to pay her way through school. She was also driving unlicenced to drop her boys to day care and then on to the College. It was at this point that a group of staff rallied to put in place a substantial support package for Priscilla. We approached and were successful in receiving financial support from the Paul Finnimore Trust to pay for Priscilla’s school costs. The local chapter of the SVDP provided support to hire a tutor. Staff and parents of several schools donated furniture, toys, clothes, curtains and white goods. Several working bees were organised to help organise the house, make the yard safe, erect curtains and repair breakages. A number of staff worked a roster to drive with Priscilla to school and on weekends enabling her to complete and successfully obtain a Drivers Licence.
We are pleased to say that Priscilla completed Yr 12 and passed every subject, with best results in English and Chemistry for which she received tutoring. Currently Priscilla is a house mum with her challenging youngsters. Her goal is still to attend university to become a Radiologist. She is a young woman with a wise head and an amazingly calm but determined nature and we have no doubt that she will commence university studies in the next few years.
– Leon Capra OAM
Principal, St Augustine’s College