What I want to show kids is that you shouldn’t wish to be anyone you’re not.
Just wish to be a better person.
I got a second chance with my education and I'm not taking it for granted.
When you talk with Lucas, you know you’re in the presence of a young man with vision. This 18 year old is passionate, magnetic and seriously determined. Now in his third year at NG Central School, it’s clear that he has made a home here, winning the respect of his peers through his recent appointment as NGC School Captain.
But Lucas’s journey as a young Aboriginal leader hasn’t always been without challenges. He speaks candidly about his early high school experiences, where he struggled to engage.
“I just couldn’t cope with so many kids in a classroom, I found it tough to concentrate and I’d end up getting into fights and being cheeky to the teachers. I started wagging because it didn’t feel like there was any point being there and I ended up getting totally kicked out in Year 9.”
This setback could have threatened Lucas’s education for good, as he describes falling in with the wrong crowds, getting in trouble with police and facing disciplinary action. But he credits NG Central with turning his life around when he found out about the school’s distinctly different approach to learning. From there, he hasn’t looked back. When asked what makes NG Central different, Lucas says it's the support he receives in and out of the classroom, where people genuinely care about his welfare on a daily basis and celebrate a diverse range of skills, knowledge and cultural perspectives.
“You get a lot of support - it’s like a mob, a family. People always ask how you’re going and I’ve made lots of new mates. The classes are way smaller which means I can handle it and concentrate better. I never thought I’d like going to class, but they break it down for you so that you can understand.”
Lucas’s academic performance is on an upward trajectory, but that’s not the only way he’s contributing to the school community. As a proud Aboriginal man of Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi descent, Lucas has always been connected to his culture and seeks opportunities to live it proudly through dancing and art.
He’s been able to participate in the Dream Builder Program, through a NG Central partnership with Indigenous organisation Bara Barang. This focused on building positive leadership skills, social wellbeing, masculinity, relationships and goal-setting. Lucas was responsible for the design and painting of one of several totem poles installed on school grounds and used his artistic flair and initiative to create a student-led graffiti wall. He also recently represented NG Central School at the YC Group and Rotary Gala Ball, where he read out a Dreamtime story to an audience of hundreds.
“Dream Builders was about connecting with our culture, knowing where our tribes come from and understanding our family trees. I love dance - once I put the ochre on me, it’s like I go into a different world. It’s hectic, you just zone out. It’s the same with art. I want everyone to come together and just share what they’ve got, whether they’re black or white fellas.”
Lucas has also built on his employability skills through his vocational training. He’s currently working towards a Certificate II in Horticulture and has participated in classes specifically targeting work-readiness, such as learning about resumes, cover letters and interviews. When asked what he has planned for after school, Lucas is committed to graduating Year 12 through a non-HSC pathway. He has his heart set on being the next Lionel Rose, with natural talent in the boxing ring and on the Oz-tag field.
Most importantly, he wants to be a leader for other Aboriginal young people - and School Captain is certainly a great start to that legacy.
“I swear it can hard being black sometimes, but what I want to show kids is that you shouldn’t wish to be anyone you’re not. Just wish to be a better person. I want to be a role model for kids like me cause I got this second chance at my education and I know that there is so much more out there to do than sitting round and mucking up. You just got to push yourself to work hard and be proud of yourself.”