Peers and friends as a source of support at school

Friends and peers at school can be an important source of support. In their interviews, people talked about the feeling of belonging that came with having other students of a similar background at their school, about the importance of having friends who share your goals, and the difference that support from friends could make.


So I felt like being around particular teachers and friends and students that I was around at the time, my circle of influence, we all had that goal to go to university. So I really do believe it was by luck that I had a really good group of friends who were all study partners. I may have just fallen into the right group. I could see if I was in a different group of friends, maybe my outlook or my future may have been a bit different, but I do believe that I guess with a little bit of common sense and just knowingness of, who you should be friends with, who was actually going to benefit you really did help play a role.

And that’s something that I kind of knew back then as a teenager, not to say that I was the perfect teenager. I did get up to mischief here and there sometimes, but I did try my best to stay in school, finish it regardless of whatever was happening, make sure that I was doing what I could with the limited resources and skills that I had. And I think having friends who were going through similar things as well, we kind of comforted each other. I had some friends who, obviously didn’t…came from families that didn’t have both mother and father there. And I think that kind of helped us because we all kind of worked together to motivate each other.


I do remember you making a point where you said yourself, in primary and I think in most of your education, you remember having a really good time, like it was a pretty good experience.


So, like you said, like whether or not it’s like the social aspect or not, it was definitely more of a social thing for me. I’m a Leo, so I’m very social, I’m very outgoing. I’m very loud and boisterous. School for me, was pretty much my time to shine in that aspect. Because at home, it was just me, I was an only child, there was no kids around.

The school part was definitely a social thing for me, because like you said, the learning part, it was difficult. I did feel like I couldn’t comprehend a lot of the things.

I would say I had quite a severe learning disability. I wasn’t the best reader. I wouldn’t even say I could read properly until I left school. It wasn’t until my best friend, my childhood friend, who we’ve been friends since I was maybe six or seven and he’s one of the smartest people in the world, in my opinion. Like academically smart, it’s ridiculous how smart this guy is. And I think he picked up on me not being comfortable with reading, for example. And he just said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to read unless you read.”

So he gave me some books and said, “I want you to read these books and I want you to read them properly, don’t skim, just read them. And then I want you to come back to me and tell me about them because I’ve obviously read them. So just tell me what you thought. Tell me about the characters.” So he got me into reading maybe like when I was like 22 or 23 and I had never really read a book, in all honesty, I never really read a book. So yeah, reading was a big thing for me to kind of get, I don’t even know how I got through school, in all honesty, with my reading ability and my writing. My writing to this very day is probably still really bad. But yeah, he saw something that needed help and he just was like, “Look, if you just read more regularly, your reading will get better.” So sure enough, now my reading is a lot better, thank God, and I read really well. But it’s really him, he was just like, “You just need to read more, focus.”


Wow, what a great friend.


Yeah, great. Great. Really great friend.


Age wise, I arrived in Australia in 1976. That gives a sense of…it was not as multicultural as it is now in Australia. And certainly where I lived in Central West New South Wales, it was not a multicultural place. Just being different was really something that I had to learn to live with very early on. And I think as a Pacific Islander, you become acutely aware of people’s kind of two-dimensional kind of ideas about who you are.

I then went to boarding school in Sydney, an all girls boarding school for the six years of high school I was there. That was challenging as well. I think I was at boarding school when I was 11. And that was…Sydney was about six hours from where we lived. It was a long, long, long way away and I really struggled being separated again from family and having to live in a boarding school that was incredibly strict. We had bars on the window. It was just so, so old fashioned. You weren’t allowed to call your family. You could only call them once a week. You had to line up. I got in trouble for writing too many letters home. The deputy headmistress told me I’d written too many. I was worrying my parents. Those kinds of archaic kind of teaching or whatever methodologies were around then. I’m probably giving you more of an indication by age by talking about that because it was quite a long time ago.

One thing I did love about high school was that I was all of a sudden with other girls of colour. So there were girls from PNG, there were girls from…I think there was a couple from the Solomons. And so I didn’t feel like I was the only different looking one. Plus Sydney is just such a multicultural place that after I finished high school, I never really went back to the country. I kind of stayed there. I felt more at home in a bigger metropolitan area.

I think for me and especially going to boarding school, my network of family, pseudo family were my friends and they were people that I was living in a boarding house with for six years. So that became family for me as opposed to my actual family family.

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