Nhulunbuy students graduate together
They’ve watched each other grow-up from shy and quiet preschool students to young adults about to complete Year 12 and take on the world.
Patrick Walker, Ned Odell, Lucille Patullo and Kiara Mare share a close bond and will graduate from Nhulunbuy High School this year as the only students to have completed all levels of schooling together in the remote Arnhem town.
“It’s like having a second kind of family,’’ Patrick said.
“We’ve all known each other from a very young age. A lot of the other people we grew up with left when the refinery closed down. A good 500 families had to leave – it was devastating.’’
“I think we’ve all changed but we have a lot of fond memories together. We’ve had 15 years of friendship.’’
But the foursome are now focused on getting through exams, as they contemplate their future and a life outside of their remote Nhulunbuy home.
“It’s hard having so many options. I don’t really want to leave. If I get through to Uni, I’ll have to really look at my options,’’ Ned said.
“The best thing about living here is the community spirit. Everyone knows each other, it’s really nice to be here; it’s so grounded.’’
With so many options to choose from, the close-knit group are considering all possibilities from studying at university, taking a gap year to go travelling and starting full-time work.
Lucille is still thinking about what she wants to do but she does know that she wants to stay in Nhulunbuy.
“I’d like to get an apprenticeship – I’m not sure yet, I’m still thinking. But I want to stay because I want to work straight away and save money for a car,’’ she said.
While Patrick is tossing up between travelling to Europe or potentially going to University in Melbourne to study fine arts.
“It’s so confusing when you’re here trying to make big decisions when you’re not aware of exactly what they are. There’s no university here so I’m not exactly sure of how it all works,’’ he said.
Although they are yet unsure of what lies ahead, the students do know that growing up in Nhulunbuy and attending school together has equipped them with a strong education and life skills.
“I’ve enjoyed being raised in the bush, going outside and playing rather than being raised on an Ipad,’’ Kiara said.
“When you grow up in an Indigenous area you are very open and very respectful of different walks of life because that’s all you know. It’s really important that you’re exposed to that because it gives you good skills for life and keeps you grounded.’’