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The day the postie came

'The day the postie came' is an edited version of Imagining themselves, imagining their futures: Indigenous Australian students completing senior secondary school (Antonio Mercurio and Linda Clayton, SSABSA, 2001). The book was the product of a project designed to reveal the perceptions and ideas of Indigenous students who successfully completed their South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) in 1999.

On a day in December, close to Christmas Day, the postie comes, bringing news to those students who have succeeded in Year 12 — and those who have not. It is a day of public reckoning, a day that is met with equal doses of anticipation and fear by most senior secondary students and their families. Receiving the news can be a critical moment in the lives of young people, and in the lives of those in their communities.

Sixteen Indigenous students shared with us their thoughts and feelings about how they dealt with their 'moments of truth', and how their families reacted to their news. They graphically recounted their stories of 'receiving the results'. This is what Tom said.

I was in New South Wales at the time the postie came
'Cause we were having a holiday with friends that lived
This side of Bathurst.
Um, and dad was at home and he rang us (pause)
It was about — I don't know — 9 o'clock in the morning.
And he'd gone down to the post office to pick up my results.
And none of us were awake at the time
We were getting up like at 12 o'clock in the afternoon
And I hear the phone ringing
And I pick up the phone
And he goes, 'I've got your results.'
And I said, 'Oh God!', and I hung up the phone on him (laughter) ...
And he rung back, and he goes 'What did you do that for?'
And I said, 'I don't want to know — keep it to yourself!'
But yeah, it was
When I got home and I had a look
I was just glad that I'd passed ...

What we heard from successful students was a range of emotions — apprehension, fear, delight, satisfaction, exhilaration, relief and, at times, disappointment. In these stories the students narrated their avoidance tactics and their anxiety. What is clear is the great symbolic importance of the senior secondary certificate to the students, their families, and their communities; and to the way they imagined themselves, and to the way their families and communities imagined them.

The awarding of a senior secondary school credential is a public act. It is a public recognition of those who are 'capable', 'passed', 'completed', 'finished', or 'have graduated'. This is a rite of passage leading to further education, training, work, and citizenship.



© Commonwealth of Australia 2020