2023 Graduate Stories: Swan Christian College (SCC)

Brad Shaw looks more like a surfer than a scientist.

The shaggy-haired locks and easy-going style hide the determined work ethic of a UWA Archaeology student majoring in ancient tools and technology from the Biblical period of history.

“There is no way I would be interested in working this hard and finding my passion for studying without a number of teachers and a family friend guiding me with some important chats over the past few years,” says Brad with a big smile.

The budding historian traces the timeline of his turning from a failing Year 9 student to an enthusiastic go-getter in his senior year at SCC.

“Mr [David] Pitman started in Year 10 with me, just talking regularly about how to improve my attitude, lifestyle choices and getting fixed on a focus for life.”

A family relative who was based in Fremantle and worked on local archaeological projects then invited Brad to do some work experience. This led to fieldwork at Western Australian indigenous sites, and a love of prehistoric archaeology was born in Brad.

“Once I found something that I was interested in, the next part was Mrs [Shelley] Turnbull, my English teacher, really helping me with my writing. The essay writing needed for this type of study became clearer for me under her guidance. I knew that I needed to work on my writing, and she helped me a lot to improve this part of my learning.”

Once he secured entry to UWA, Brad specialised in the Greco-Roman world of study, with early technology as his initial area of inquiry.

“From my studies at Swan, I know that technology really accelerated quickly during the Biblical period. The concept of work and life being balanced, the Stoic philosophers, the Christian phenomena around the meaning of life, and the subsequent approach to the way people interacted in life changed dramatically at that point, and that’s where I want to delve into.”

Brad also speaks of teacher Mr Gerhard May as someone he could always go to for help and the openness of College Principal Dr Darnelle Pretorius in providing every opportunity for Year 12 students to pursue their calling in life.

“I always loved it when Dr Pretorius would speak to us, and I loved the sense of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication, and an openness to see the world in different ways—particularly coming from the Christian perspective. It’s interesting from a historical perspective in my studies, but also interesting for me personally.”

Jorja Byrne is in ‘hi-viz’ gear, unloading gardening equipment at 6.00 am in Kalamunda.

Again, looks may be deceiving.

“I graduated Swan late last year, and I was accepted into Law at UWA, but I wanted to take a gap year to work with my dad in his landscaping business.”

Jorja’s stint in landscaping has allowed her to do things that most corporate lawyers do not experience in their day-to-day work.

“I work on the excavator most days, we work with architects to re-design backyards and coordinate paving and water features. It’s incredibly varied,” says Jorja.

“Mr [Ian] Harris was really helpful for me. He was my Politics/Law teacher and directed me toward future studies. Now I’m going into Criminal Law at UWA.”

Like Mia Steyger from Mundaring Christian College, Jorja was fascinated by the criminology element of the legal process. However, she leaned away from the forensic side and is now focused on the judicial angle of defending and prosecuting offenders.

“It’s always been of interest to me,” says Jorja.

“The idea of wrong and right, the concept of redemption – these are the things that I think about a lot. They drive the legislative process, they govern life choices. I’m interested to see where the study leads me – I’m keeping all my options open at this point.”

The Year 12 graduates who made themselves available for this series of SCEA News interviews touched on common themes regardless of their particular SCEA school location:

  • Thankfulness to certain teachers who had a profound impact on their lives,
  • A receptiveness to different worldviews and free of the judgemental attitudes that young people are so often labelled with, and,
  • A wide-open view of life, with a sense that ‘life is a journey’ and ultimate pathways lie before them.

Our hope and prayer for every graduate is to continue to follow the path God has laid out for them, knowing that their parents, past teachers and the SCEA community will support them each step of the way.

Stay tuned for the 5-year update on Brad, Jorja and the other graduates in the years ahead!

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