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17 February 2017

Top Aboriginal students achieve sky-high results

An aspiring flight attendant and a future astrophysicist – the two top public school Aboriginal students for 2016 were celebrated this week as they talked about their ambitious plans for the future.

At the Aviation History Museum in Bull Creek, Perth Modern School graduate Patrick Olofsson and Comet Bay College graduate Eli Swinson were named the 2016 Rob Riley Memorial Prize winners.

Eli Swinson and Paulina Motlop at the Rob Riley Memorial Prize award ceremony on Monday.

The prize is awarded each year to the leading public school Aboriginal Year 12 Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) student and Vocational Education and Training (VET) student.

Proving that school these days is not all text books and classrooms, Eli Swinson was flying high as her proud family joined her for the presentation – mum and brother in person, and dad watching on from work thousands of kilometres away via FaceTime.

She won the VET prize after completing not only her WACE and a Certificate III in Aviation (Flight Operations) but also a Certificate II in Community Services and a Certificate II in Retail Services.

Eli said she was shocked and surprised when she found out that she was a winner.

“It’s such a big thing, I am so happy,” she said.

“I worked really hard and stayed focused on my goal throughout the year.

“I loved the aviation course – we learnt all aspects of flight operations from what to do in an emergency, security, and food and beverage service.

“I am going to Canada in a couple of months to live and work this year but when I return I will pursue my dream of working as an international flight attendant.”

Patrick – who brought his mum along to the ceremony – received the WACE prize after achieving an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 96.6.

He said his high score will allow him to follow his passion of physics, in particular astrophysics.

“I’m really looking forward to starting university this year – astrophysics is amazing. I can’t wait to be studying it every day,” he said.

Patrick Olofsson and his proud mum Paulina.

Paulina Motlop, who joined the Department of Education this year as Director Aboriginal Education Teaching and Learning, congratulated the students on their achievements.

“It is a great time in Aboriginal education to celebrate the achievements and successes of Patrick and Eli,” she said.

“They are exceptional examples of the opportunities and pathways that are available for students today.

“It’s not just 12 years and then university and full-time study. They can go off and do many things, find their strengths and move on as individuals to become great global citizens.”

Patrick and Eli both received a $5,000 prize to go towards further education and training and a copy of Rob Riley’s autobiography.

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