Svjetlana’s Story

Svjetlana was born in Bosnia, the youngest in a family of three siblings. Her education commenced at primary school in Bosnia which she attended for four years.

Her family migrated to Australia to escape the aftermath of war and ongoing poverty. Although her father also migrated with the family, the marriage with Svjetlana’s mother broke down almost immediately after their arrival in Australia. From that point on she lived with her mother, brother and sister.

They initially settled in Brisbane, but after three months moved to Melbourne and eventually found accommodation through the Housing Commission in Richmond.

Svjetlana’s siblings are quite a bit older: She has a brother nine years older who has obtained business management and accounting qualifications through RMIT, and a sister, approximately six years older, who did not complete secondary school due to a learning disability. The sister married and moved out of the family home while Svjetlana was still at school.

Svjetlana attended Melbourne Girls’ College in Richmond which she considered to be a good school and enjoyed attending. Her mother had moved back overseas in the final years of her secondary schooling, and she lived in the house with her older brother.

Never having heard about the program Svjetlana was informed of the possibility of Skyline Bursary when her form teacher gave her the application form in Year 10.

While she felt positive about applying for the Bursary, she doubted that she would be successful. Due to these doubts, she had not completed the application form as the due date loomed. Her mother was living overseas, but fortunately her older brother pushed her to fill out the application and to submit it.

Svjetlana found the testing and interview process for the Skyline Bursary relatively easy. Neither the test or the 30 minute interview were particularly intimidating and she considered it a reasonable process to select appropriate candidates.

The impact of the Busary for her during the two years of VCE was pronounced. “If I hadn’t had the help in Years 11 and 12 I would not have been able to concentrate on my subjects as much as I did.”  The financial support provided by the Bursary was a key support for her, as both her mother and brother were dependent on Centrelink allowances at that stage.

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With no parents to assist, Svjetlana was mainly responsible for household duties such as cooking and cleaning as well as maintaining her study. Knowing that any school related costs would be met allowed her to relax and concentrate on her school work. According to Svjetlana obtaining the Bursary ‘was a perfect time to get help’.  Removing financial stresses enabled her to participate in additional school activities such as the school camp.

The other aspect of he Bursary that Svjetlana found particularly valuable were the personal development activities.  The Camp and Personal Development days she found particularly helpful, due to the interaction with both other students and the staff. “These provided days when you could meet up with a group of people and many of them were in the same boat as me.” She felt able to openly discuss personal problems in these forums and found them to be very supportive raising issues with other students in similar situations.

Svjetlana was particularly surprised by the amount of support provided by the Skyline Program Coordinator. This confidential one on one support provided was reportedly very helpful for a young person who felt different from most other students due to her living circumstances and lack of spare time. The regular telephone and email support from the Program Coordinator provided a base line of emotional support that was particularly needed and welcomed. “It was really nice having that personal touch of support.”   

The support of the Program Coordinator was, for Svjetlana, much more significant than the school-based support. The Program Coordinator has maintained contact since she completed the program, and she is happy that the personal relationship has been maintained.

Reflecting on her experience in the program, the discussions with others in the program were particularly beneficial where she would discuss plans and aspirations for the future. These were conversations that did not occur with her friends at school. She maintained contact with one of the other Skyline students for some time after they finished school, but have found that difficult to maintain as they live far apart across Melbourne.

On reflection, Svjetlana would have liked more opportunities for interaction and activities with other students in the Personal Development program. She found that a lot was happening in her life during the two years of the VCE, and felt that she would have benefitted if the periods of time between the scheduled Personal Development activities were shortened by more regular activity.

Svjetlana is not sure herself whether being awarded a Skyline Bursary actually improved her results much, as she is very self-motivated and thinks that she might have been able to achieve the same level of performance in her VCE. On the other hand, the stress she was beginning to experience as a result of her personal circumstances was becoming more acute. She was beginning to experience blackouts at some stages when doing her homework, so the reduction in stress provided by the Bursary probably enabled her to manage these pressures better than she might otherwise have done.

Achieving an ENTER score of 76.2 in her VCE, Svjetlana enrolled in a Bachelor of Science Psychology at Victoria University. However, she found that the course was not what she wanted, and deferred after two months. After seeking work for a short period of time, she returned to study focussing on fitness, nutrition and health which had been areas of long standing interest for her.