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January 17, 2017 Nunka-Wa-Ru follows his nan into the classroom

Nunka-Wa-Ru grew up in Gilgandra in western NSW. In 2017, as he enters Year 12, he’s decided to get serious about study and start planning for his future. We dragged Nunka away from a winner-takes-all game of Uno in the main hall to ask him a few questions about where he comes from and where he’s going.

What was behind your decision to change schools?

I swapped schools because the high school down in Gil is not as structured. It’s a bit rough and the students aren’t too focused there. Between Gilgandra and Dubbo it’s 70 kms, but I live 20 kms out of Gil so it’s only a 50km drive for me. It’s still a fair bit!

That must have an impact on your social life.

I spend a lot of time at home, but I recently got my Ps so I’m in and out of Dubbo a lot now. Before it was more when somebody rang up and said ‘Come in.’ Other than that I’m by myself quite a bit.

Have you always been focused on academic stuff?

It’s more recent. Now I’ve got my head straight and focused a bit more and realised I’m going to be 18 soon. I’m gonna be out of school and have to be an adult, you know? It sorta hit me a bit.

Do you have a plan for the future, or are you winging it?

My nan’s an AO, which is an Aboriginal Education Officer, in my old primary school. It’s like a teacher’s aide, but it’s more for the Indigenous students. She’s thinking about retiring at the end of this year, so all her fellow staff members and my old principal are thinking about putting me in for her position. Whilst I’m doing that – if I get it – or if not, I’ll probably do a block teaching course for primary school, to do casual work.

Has having your nan in that role helped shape your decisions?

Yeah, I guess it’s sort of pointed my views in that direction more than anything else but I’ve mainly grown up wanting to help out kids. A lot of cousins that have come to live with us – if I can get them in school and help their life out in school, maybe it’s not so bad when they get home.

Getting involved in the Goat Island activities for the Tribal Warrior Harbour Cruise

Nunka getting amongst the Goat Island activities for the Tribal Warrior Harbour Cruise

How did you get involved with the WMBB Summer Program?

One of my cousins, who’s doing it now with me here, saw it and she said, ‘You should come do this with me.’ I had a read of it and it’s a pretty solid program, with the whole week at uni, getting the uni life experience and seeing what it’s about, knowing how to get in and all the scholarships and stuff.

It’s early days, but how are you finding it?

I couldn’t think of anything better, really – it’s very social and everyone’s getting along. No one knew anybody but everybody’s talking to each other and our mentors have come down and got everybody a lot more relaxed.

Have you been to Sydney before?

Just for football and holidays and stuff, but not often. I used to play rugby league for a bit, and got New South Wales side and all that – but I don’t like talking myself up! It comes up a lot and people say, ‘What did you do? Oh, you played for New South Wales, oh that’s great.’ I don’t like talking about it! It’s fine, I just don’t like sounding like I’m up myself a lot.

Hey – if you earned it…

That’s what a lot of people say!

So you’re all about cracking the books now?

Starting to get there with the study, getting my head around it cos I never really used to study much. I wasn’t really into school much but now, Year 12 – like I said earlier, I just hit me and I thought I’ll try to focus and bit and get everything organised.

Thinking ahead five years from now, what would success look like to you?

Five years time, hmmm… Probably in my nan’s position. Have that, a steady income and a nice house – if not a house, then something good for me and maybe someone else.

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we let you get back to the Uno?

I think it’s great that the program’s focused on Indigenous students. I know there are a lot of programs that unis and stuff try to get going, but it’s good that they’re continuing with this one because I mainly went to Catholic schools and they’ve never involved the Indigenous students much at all. As I’ve changed into public school for my last two senior years, they’ve got a lot more involvement and I just love it.

Shane Cubis
is a contributor for A•STAR