Aboriginal achiever flys high under the radar
LIKE most of her peers, ex-Byron Bay High School student Jessica Buhagiar is uncomfortable in the limelight, preferring to fly under the radar and not talk too much about her achievements.
But, later this month Jess is off to Sydney to pick up the Nanga Mai Award for the Highest Achieving Aboriginal student in NSW in the 2016 Higher School Certificate.
Jess scored 98.3% overall in her HSC and was equal second in Biology.
She's taking this year off to work and travel before moving to Sydney to study medicine at UNSW.
"I am so surprised and grateful, its very humbling to get this award,” she said.
"But it is embarrassing to talk about myself when so many other kids from our school did really well.”
Byron High Year nine student Mia Thom has also received a 2017 Nanga Mai Award for Academic Excellence.
Jessica is a Wiradjuri woman from the Narrandera region living and studying in Arakwal country.
"I want to acknowledge our elders, Aunty Nancy and Aunty Delta and acknowledge that the school is on Arakwal land given to the school by the local people.
At Byron High 4.4% per cent of the students are Aboriginal with the national average of being 3.8%.
Jess believes the support she received from her school and teachers was a big part of her success encouraging all their indigenous students to, "make their people proud, and make themselves proud.”
"I was supported really well both academically and culturally for my six years at the school.
"School work was really stressful but I had a lot of fun with my friends.”
Jess's mother Leigh said she was glad her daughter had chosen medicine.
"This will be good for our community as its important to have doctors that are culturally aware,” she said.
Her Aunty Delta was thrilled to see Jessica succeed.
"She has always been highly motivated and very respectful,” said Delta.
"It has been a real pleasure to see her grow up into this amazing young woman.”