The journey of our 2023 VCE-VM Dux, Vanessa Mills, epitomises the value of a strong work ethic, flexible pathways, and having access to the tools to succeed. Vanessa's determination and ability to focus on her goals - combined with the opportunities she received at school and the support of family and friends - led her to secure her dream job straight out of secondary school as a Jillaroo in North-West Queensland.

Vanessa reflects on her time at Mater Christi as transformative.

“Mater provided me with so many great learning opportunities and new experiences – it shaped me into the person I am today. My teachers, especially Mrs Mugridge, were always so positive and supportive, guiding me in the right direction to improve”.


While Vanessa had a deep love of horses and had been riding since she was very young, like most Year 7 students, when she arrived at Mater Christi, she didn’t have a clear direction for her future nor a specific plan about how to achieve her dreams.


“I was just nervous and along for the ride.”


Vanessa's personal growth and development during her time at Mater Christi were inspiring. As she progressed through secondary school, Vanessa became more confident, brave, and goal oriented. She evolved into a person who actively pursues her dreams and is ready to take on any challenge, a testament to the character-building opportunities at the College.


In addition to school, Vanessa acknowledges the importance of the support she received from family and friends in shaping her determination and helping her pursue her goals.


“My parents always supported my dreams and encouraged me to do my best.”


Despite the busyness of Year 12, Vanessa also made sure to keep up with her hobbies.


“Spending time with my horses gave me a sense of balance. It reinforced my passion for working with them and helped me focus on the end game.”


Choosing the VCE-VM pathway allowed Vanessa to utilise her preference for practical learning experiences and study topics relevant to her immediate life after secondary school.


“I was able to complete most of my work in class, focusing on the tasks at hand and smashing them out. When I couldn’t finish something in class, I would do it on my own time, even if it wasn’t compulsory. I wanted to be ahead and get as much feedback from my teachers as possible.”  


Today, Vanessa is living her dream, working on Oban Station—a 660,000-acre, 30,000-head cattle station in northwest Queensland. She does property maintenance, musters cattle on horseback with the help of helicopters and motorbikes, and drafts cattle in the sale yards.

“Over the years, I learned many of my riding skills from my grandpa, who owns and operates his own horse training business. Now, I find myself exploring a different world of horse riding, mustering cattle on the station. I’m excited to learn more, and who knows where this will lead, but I don’t think my journey with horses will ever end!”

The hours at Oban Station are long, and the job is hard work, but Vanessa has already proven she’s not shy of either of those things!