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NEWS > Philanthropy News > Overcoming the odds to become star student

Overcoming the odds to become star student

Class of 2019 graduate Lua Pellegrini went from having limited confidence in her learning abilities to achieving Band 6 in all of her Year 12 subjects, ranking 3rd in the state for Aboriginal Studies.
Lua Pellegrini
Lua Pellegrini

Class of 2019 graduate Lua Pellegrini went from having limited confidence in her learning abilities to achieving Band 6 in all of her Year 12 subjects, ranking 3rd in the state for Aboriginal Studies, and using her creative talents to write and illustrate The Quinnies, a Dreaming story shared with her by her community elders Uncle Wes Marne and Uncle Greg Simms which she now uses as an educational resource.

Third oldest in a family of six, Lua is the first of her siblings to complete Year 12 and the first in her family to go to university, where she now studies Fine Arts, with a major in Indigenous Studies and a minor in Human Resource Management.

“I had lots of learning difficulties, and I didn’t really get any support for those at the primary school I went to. And they weren’t really engaged in Indigenous culture.”

Lua’s mother was a strong influence in her persevering.

"All through primary school, Mum pushed us every day to go to school. There were years when I had zero days off. Just having that expectation at home was so important.”

Her mother heard about Loreto Normanhurst from a nursing colleague and investigated opportunities for Lua to attend as a day student supported by the GO Foundation.

Starting as a Year 7 student, Lua didn’t immediately appreciate the differences of the Loreto Normanhurst experience - “but as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate it and value it so much and the opportunities I was given. When comparing the support I received from school with my friends outside of school I realised how lucky I was”.

Lua comes from a multicultural family with her father being Italian and her mother being a proud Wiradjuri Woman. Lua’s great-grandmother and grandmother were part of the stolen generations and connecting back with family has been difficult. Through living on Darug Country, Lua and her family have connected deeply instead with the Western Sydney Aboriginal Community.

Lua’s favourite subject at school was Aboriginal studies. She was very grateful for the opportunity to study this subject as it is not offered at many schools across NSW.

"Being able to do Aboriginal Studies, and feeling respected by the Aboriginal Studies staff and students, made me feel like I could integrate culture and education, rather than have them be separate.”

Another highlight for Lua was being able to travel to Yarrabah multiple times during her studies.

“In Year 9, we got to do an immersion tour and visited different communities where we learned about Indigenous culture and heritage. I really enjoyed the immersion a lot and ended up going on a second trip in Year 11 to do community work with young students in Yarrabah.”

Lua also deeply appreciated the sensitivity of her teachers.

“In Studies of Religion, I had a really good teacher who was also invested in Aboriginal culture, which made the world of difference. Part of the curriculum is learning about Aboriginal culture, and the way she taught it was so respectful and with such understanding.”

“She would always ask the Indigenous students what we thought and would warn us prior to class if there was sensitive material being presented, which was really respectful.”

Lua also feels that the school continues to show support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student.

“With Miss Ugonotti as Principal, we have seen even more respect for Aboriginal culture than ever before. In 2020, they introduced an Indigenous Art Program, which will be really good for both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. The School has incorporated Aboriginal design in the school’s 2020 banner, which is a step forward in the right direction.”

Lua’s major project for Aboriginal Studies was creating The Quinnies, a re-telling of a Darug Dreaming story, about Aboriginal spirits who live on the moon and are the cause for dew in the morning and babies laughing in their sleep.

Lua’s younger brother, who was born 17 weeks premature, served as one of Lua’s inspirations for writing a children’s book.

“My younger brother loves the book! I read him lots of draft copies and now he knows the story of by heart. I read it to all my nieces, and I gave copies to all the Elders who helped me write it.”  

Lua said “It has been a fantastic educational resource and I have shared the story with many local primary schools.

With her HSC results, Lua said she suddenly realised she had a lot more opportunities than she thought she would. Embarking on her first year of tertiary study at UNSW in 2020, Lua is set to complete her double degree in 2023.

“My family are all very proud of me, that I’m here in this position. I’m the first in my family to go to university”

Lua said: “My Loreto education gave me the tools to further my education, however, it was ultimately up to me to utilise them”.

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