He has only just begun Year 12, but Benjamin Wilson has already topped the state in a HSC Course.
The Champagnat Catholic College Pagewood student completed Aboriginal Studies through Sydney Distance Education High School a year before his peers, leaving 11 units of study to focus on in 2016.
“It was a big relief to get the two units out of the way and know that the hard work has paid off this year,” he said. “I was attracted to the course because of my interest in Australian Aboriginal history. My school prompted me to do the course a year in advance because they knew I was a dedicated student.
“It was difficult not having a teacher in front of me, but making timetables to make sure I stayed on track and didn’t push my work to the side really helped me get through it.”
Benjamin made the choice at age 15 to complete Year 11 course work for the subject in Year 10 and Year 12 coursework the next year. The course included comparative case studies on health and criminal justice, units on heritage and identity, research and information processes, and a self-guided research project. Benjamin opted to survey his peers with Indigenous heritage to see whether they believed or preferred Aboriginal dreaming stories to biblical stories.
Benjamin is of the Wiradjuri people. His grandmother, respected Aboriginal elder Aunty Elsie Heiss spoke at Champagnat’s 2015 NAIDOC Week celebrations, interviewed by his younger brother.
“As an aboriginal person I think I have responsibility to be educated on the issues that affect Indigenous people,” Benjamin said. “Looking at the local and state government initiatives to tackle things such as disparities and inequities in health and their interaction with the criminal justice system are important to me because they’re cyclical things that we need to prevent from continuing to occur.
“It was also important for me to look at the influence of Christianity, because the contemporary implications are not really evident in everyday life but doing community consultation you really see the impact. The students at my school had varying and diverse opinions on their own faith and aboriginal culture and identity so that was really interesting.”
Benjamin spent a week before his HSC exam on an immersion trip to Mutitjulu, a remote Aboriginal community near Yulara in the Northern Territory’s south. While there he played sport, camped and helped Yulara students with literacy activities, as English was their second or third language.
The group also spent an unplanned three hours roadside in the desert when their bus blew a tyre and its brake lines snapped on a river excursion. He said the visit had consolidated what he had learnt about access to education, health services and affordable food.
“In Yulara the Anangu people can’t afford to maintain a healthy diet because the fresh food at the local store is so ridiculously priced,” he said. “Being able to see and experience that really supported what I had read, and then when it came to the exam it wasn’t a matter of memorising the content, it was more about drawing on the physical experiences I had on the immersion which were much easier to remember in the exam.”
Benjamin’s mother Gisella said the family were now trying to keep a calm vibe for the 12 months ahead. “We’re super excited and so proud,” she said. “It’s such a sense of relief knowing that the commitment and hard work that Benjamin had put in has paid off.”