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Julian’s* photo should come up when you Google the word resilience. For someone so young he has already faced and overcome a number of big challenges with admirable courage and determination.
Imagine being forced to change direction from a long-held dream of being a chef into not knowing where life will take you, deciding to do a TAFE NSW business course - completing that in half the allocated time - then securing a university place in a Bachelor of Contemporary Music course mere months after picking up a guitar. Impressive?
Now imagine you are blind. And you have been in hospital more often than not over your 19 years. And you have had between 20 and 30 brain surgeries, plus spinal surgery, due to hydrocephalus - an abnormal enlargement of the brain ventricles caused by a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid.
Anyone would agree these career achievements are impressive to say the least.
The career journey
The amount of hospital time Julian’s illness required of him meant he wasn’t able to finish school so he turned to vocational study, to follow a dream of becoming a chef. Unfortunately in late 2017 he was asked by his private education provider to leave his chef apprenticeship studies due to too much sick time. Shortly after, the Make a Wish Foundation granted his wish to meet Gordon Ramsay.
That fateful meeting inspired Julian immensely and proved to be a turning point. He was able to ask Gordon about the challenges he had faced throughout his lengthy career and found similarities.
Julian says, “It was a fantastic experience flying down to Melbourne to meet Gordon Ramsay. He was a lovely guy. It was great timing in that I was losing my sight at the time and then lost it fully not long after that, and he gave me what I needed to push forward.
“Meeting someone who’s successful in the area you want to achieve success in is inspirational. Gordon spoke at length about a number of things he’d overcome personally and professionally and showed he’s proof that if you push yourself hard you can get there. It was what I needed to hear.”
When Julian lost all his sight soon after he reflected on what he wanted from life and changed tack.
He says, “I’ve definitely been on a learning curve. I’ve never done so much in my life as I have this past year. It’s been hard trying to adjust to things but as much as it gets me down sometimes in a strange way it’s also got my life on track.”
Kick-starting a new career
Determined to find out what he could achieve rather than what the world told him he couldn’t do, in February 2018 Julian enrolled in the Certificate III in Business course at TAFE NSW Lismore thinking it was a good start to a new career, whatever that may be.
Having only recently gone blind, Julian needed to become familiar with a range of adaptive technologies to undertake his studies, as did his teachers. Together they learned the likes of Jaws screen reader program and used TAFE NSW computers to navigate the learning landscape.
Julian says, “TAFE NSW provided the computers and the software. I brought my own iPad and laptop but didn’t use them. The help at TAFE was awesome. The environment and the people were fantastic, they supported me so much. They’ve helped me excel.
“I’m so grateful for what TAFE NSW has done for me. If anything I want to prove to my teachers and supporters that I can get to where I want to get to get. Having people so kind with so much faith in you, you’ve got to prove them right.
“I would recommend studying to anyone who is unsure of what career path they want to take. Completing a course makes a difference to your mindset. It’s a big part of why I’ve been doing this stuff – getting out and pushing my boundaries, as much as it can scare me.”
Moving into music
Last year was a big year for Julian in another way.
He didn’t know a musical note in February, then picked up a guitar in March and discovered a love of making music. So much so that by late 2018 he applied to Southern Cross University to do a Bachelor of Contemporary Music.
He was stunned to be accepted into the course and will embark on it in only a few weeks’ time.
Julian says, “I’ve been playing guitar over the past few months and really focusing on it. Although I like cooking and want to be a chef, sometimes I struggle with how that’s going to work out and I’m realising that’s where I was headed two years ago, it’s not necessarily where I’m headed for the future.
“Now, I’m definitely looking to take my guitar into a career. Music is calling me, I know I can excel in it.”
With attitude like his Julian is bound to be a success.
The TAFE NSW Certificate III in Business course is offered at more than a dozen locations, including online via TAFE Digital. For more information on TAFE NSW courses visit www.tafensw.com.au or call 131 601.
* Name withheld for personal reasons
Media contact: Kristy Sheppard, TAFE NSW Media & Communications Business Partner, 4923 7784 or 0407 450 860.