Around one in 200 Australian students are home schooled. In the Central Goldfields that statistic would be even slimmer, which makes Nathan Jordon’s story even more unique. As the middle child of seven Nathan spent the first ten years of his schooling learning from the family farm at Talbot.
“My earliest recollection is of mum teaching us to read and write but as we got older we followed more of an online curriculum,” he says. “It was a lot of self-direction, but we still had an assessment every Friday. We had freedom. It really allowed me to do a lot.” Take for one, Nathan’s volunteer work with St John Ambulance. The experience inspired him to pursue a career in health and next week he’ll finish a four-year Bachelor of Applied Science and Masters of Physiotherapy.
“I was always interested in the health fields,” he says. “I weighed up becoming a paramedic or studying to be a chiropractor in Melbourne, or thought, do I want to be a teacher? I wasn’t 100 per cent sure. Then I came to change of preference day at Bendigo at the end of Year 12 which is when I decided on physio.
“There are lots of career options, you can work in sports or a hospital, there are lots of job opportunities and there’s not a lot of work you need to take home with you, so it’s a good work/life balance.”
Nathan is about to get that all-important balance in check as he prepares to take up a position at Maryborough Hospital in January. It’ll be like a homecoming for the sporty kid who grew up just a three-kilometre warm-up run from the Talbot footy field.
Mention fellow football and netball club players and Nathan has already likely wrapped up a hamstring or ankle through his community work as a club trainer and with St John, which turns out to be a family tradition. “My dad was a cadet when he was younger and my grandmother was a Sister of the Order back in the day. She was in the organisation for over 40 years. I joined after she passed away.”
Nathan says the role put him in contact with plenty of inspiring health professionals, plus was his ticket to attend a few AFL grand finals. The Cats vs Collingwood match of 2011 was a highlight. Masses of people means a busy first aid post and among the usual casualties was a fair share of cardiac arrests, perhaps broken-hearted Magpies supporters, as their team lost by 38 points.
“I got to meet a lot of people, you brush shoulders with people,” Nathan says. “But it was always about that community spirit. I think when you get involved with the community, that’s when you meet people and make friends and those memories to carry around with you.”
Playing sport was a way to be involved in the community despite being schooled at home, and gave Nathan great connections when he eventually enrolled at Maryborough’s Highview College for VCE. “The transition to school was actually pretty good.” he says. “A lot of people say they don’t enjoy high school but I loved it.”
One benefit of attending the rural school was the edge it gave him on his uni application. The year Nathan applied to study physio the required ATAR score was 96. “I didn’t quite get that. I got 89.65 and I remember that clearly because it was .35 off what I wanted all through VCE. But because I’d done the right subjects and I went to a rural school, that bumped up my score quite a bit.”
Lucky for La Trobe he ended up here too, as he’s spent the past four years making a difference on campus. After being on the School Partnership Program team for the first year of his degree, Nathan successfully applied to spend the next three years as a student ambassador, representing La Trobe during events and open days. He’s juggled the commitment with study, part time work, playing and coaching squash and keeping up a much-loved gym schedule.
On top of that, Nathan spent his first three years in Bendigo as a live-in support worker for someone with Multiple Sclerosis. “It helped to cover my rent and gave me a sense of responsibility as well. I got to learn a lot about someone living with a disability. I think it kept me in check and gave me more of a sense of routine.” The commitment included helping with housework and the evening routine, including using a ceiling hoist to help his housemate into bed – equipment he was later required to use on campus and placement.
For his last placement, which begins next week, Nathan will head to the hospital that’s employed him. As a grade one physio he’ll work across aged care, out patients and wards. “It’ll be nice to go back home,” he says.