Toni Hodge, Swinburne University
Hope and determination
I was a person that was not given the chance of an education after the age of thirteen, so things seemed to deteriorate. My jobs were in pubs, factories, picking fruit and cleaning. I had children at a young age, a bad marriage that had violence, drugs and an alcoholic future. Then later to watch my child die.
So after l buried my youngest child, he was twenty-seven, l needed to find a way to cope with the pain and loss so l asked the government to send me to school: they agreed. So the Swinburne, Wantirna Campus was where l thought l would start this journey.
It was very hard for me to come to school, when l was still suffering from depression, suicide, anger problems, distrust and worst of all no faith in myself.
Not knowing if l would be able to stay in school at all, let alone be taught to read and write, I had days of such sadness, that l would either cry or get angry with my work projects and walk out of class.
I ended up asking for help both from the teachers and the school counsellor and psychologist and they came to my aid.
I have now been in school over three years and my whole outlook towards people and the system have got better. l have started writing short stories. I have now got to watch my second child slowly deteriorate and die from the same disease as my son died of. She is thirty-four.
If the school lets me return next year it may be the only way of handling this nightmare again. The teachers have been totally accepting of my circumstances and have done more than l ever could have foreseen to help me in my learning, and for that reason and my own determination, l have stayed in school, even though I may never work again as my age is a barrier. I will always say the best thing l ever decided to do in my life was going back to school. It really was the best thing l could have done.
Well, we all may chase rainbows, but the reality of learning: even a basic thing like reading and writing will make your rainbow easier to find.
Even though my pain and sadness will still come again and at times overwhelm me, though having these few years in school has made me feel more confident in how l handle the next part of my life, after the death of my next child.
School didn’t give up on me even when everyone and everything else in the world did.
So thank you Swinburne!