John has been caring for his mum since he was five years old. As an only child, he has helped his mum with medications, doctors’ appointments and general home duties. “Mum suffers from a long-term mental illness. Sure it can be hard at times, but it’s also one of the most rewarding roles.”

Last year he graduated from Denison College Bathurst High Campus where he set up a young carers group to support students like himself. “I did this to let others know it’s ok to be a carer to someone with mental health issues … it’s important to break down the stigma associated with this.”

Denison College Principal, Craig Petersen, recognised John’s immense contribution to the school community: “As a young carer, he never complained about how tough his lot was, but quietly got on with the task at hand, whilst maintaining a cheerful and sunny disposition. He has always taken a proactive role in helping others and was a popular choice for the campus leadership team, where he worked enthusiastically to promote the often unstated role of young carers.”

In 2013 John and his mum featured on an SBS Insight special on young carers when he spoke candidly about looking after his mum and the challenge of getting his homework done on time. At the age of 13 he also planned to work in finance, be rich and drive a convertible BMW. But it seems John’s priorities have changed.

John knows that mental health issues are common in towns throughout the central west of NSW, leading him to seek formal qualifications as a community service worker. With financial assistance from the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation Scholarship, he enrolled in Bathurst TAFE where he is completing a Certificate 4 in Community Service.

“The scholarship funds have helped me enormously – with my course fees, a laptop, even utility bills,” John said.

He completes his course this year but already says he plans to further his studies in community service. “I need to stay in Bathurst because of my mum and, with my experience, I hope to help other people.”