Making a Difference in the Community


Tahnee Burgess (2011), Dylan Bolch (2019), Caitlin Russo (2012) and Vanessa Weir (2011) returned to Senior Campus for our ‘Making a Difference in the Community’ Careers Assembly in Term 2. Addressing a crowd of Year 10 to 12 students, they spoke of their post-school journeys through tertiary education, employment progression and the twists, turns and reinventions that make up the passion and purpose-finding process that is building a career.


While at Woodleigh, I was inspired working with the Chunkriel Language School in Cambodia and went on to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in International Relations at Monash.

In undertaking this degree, I realised the impact climate change had on global systems and transferred to a double degree in climate science.

I have since gone on to complete my Masters of Environment and Sustainability and researched how to most effectively communicate climate change across Australia and the Pacific.

I work as the Communications officer with the Climate Systems Hub. We’re a group that brings together climate scientists from across Australia to help inform federal and state government policies and help community organisations adapt to climate change. My work involves translating science for a range of audiences.

It’s important that people understand the science of climate change so they can manage the impacts of climate change and make informed choices to reduce emissions. Climate change impacts every aspect of our lives.

A lot of the time the communities who are adapting to the impacts of climate change are society’s most vulnerable. In the Pacific we see increased rates of domestic violence linked to shifts in weather and increasing drought. LGBT people are most likely to be left vulnerable as climate change exacerbates existing poverty. And the impacts of climate change are going to worsen. A 10-year-old today will experience 5 times more extreme weather than their parents.

In 2018, I attended the Katowice UN Conference of Parties 24, the global forum where countries pledge emission reduction targets based on the latest science.

While there, I was confronted by watching countries like Nauru and the Solomon Islands advocate the 1.5 degrees of warming would literally mean the loss of nations.

This while Australians were arguing that building coal mines were still a good idea.

Having the opportunity to work on the global stage has shown me how communities can act on climate change. In many cases, they’re already adapting to climate change.

A lot of the time it’s women, young people and Traditional Owners leading the charge and traditional knowledge is being used across the world to store carbon in natural spaces, protect biodiversity and adapt to extreme weather.

It’s important that as you enter the workforce you do something you’re passionate about. It’s not as simple as just getting a degree, or degrees and landing a job in your field. But there are also so many opportunities in emerging industries in sustainability. Explore your passions. It’s okay to not know what that is at age 18.


The roar of a Formula 1 car engine can be heard from kilometres away. Being trackside is deafening. As the race official waves the chequered flag, it’s a mad rush down to pit lane to enter the media pen. There, it’s a scrap between journos to try and access each driver as they finish the race and embark on their required media commitments.

I’m lucky enough to talk to Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was buzzing after a season-best finish in Melbourne. He reveals to me how happy he is to get his season back on track and that he is set to “rehydrate with a few beers” later that night.

My name is Dylan, and I graduated from Woodleigh in 2019. I’ve always had a passion for sport and everything to do with it. From a young age, I would watch the footy with the family and took a great interest in statistics and analytics, which fostered my enjoyment of maths and numbers. Once I got to university, I applied for every sports journalism internship possible and was eventually offered one at the SMJFL, a junior local footy league.

At the end of my second year at uni, I saw a job advertisement on Twitter for a Media Manager at the Melbourne Renegades. I didn’t get the job. However, the Renegades asked me to jump on board on a casual basis and help with writing match reports. This lead to me jumping on board with the Melbourne Stars as well. So while a lot of my mates were out at the beach or away camping having fun, I was going to and from either the MCG or Marvel Stadium every second night working at the cricket.

Career aspirations aside, that was absolutely awesome to experience as a sports tragic. I was the first person to speak to Glenn Maxwell after his record-breaking innings in the Big Bash, and have now interviewed Marcus Stoinis a couple of times.

At the conclusion of the cricket season, the Herald Sun contacted my boss at Cricket Victoria, asking if he knew of anyone who might be keen on doing paid work.

Fortunately for me, my boss put me forward for the role and within a month I was working for the Herald Sun covering AFL matches.

It also helped that I had done an internship at the Herald Sun in January.

I am also the media manager at the Sandringham Dragons, which is something I am really determined to excel in. Being a volunteer role, there are no set hours and it is totally unpaid; I can do as much or as little as possible. However, I dedicate approximately 15-20 hours a week here, making sure that what I do is as good as it can be. There’s a saying in sport ‘train like you play’ and I have tried to use that approach in my work for the Dragons.

Within this role, I write weekly articles, have changed the face of the webpage in terms of graphics and have recently launched a podcast for the club.

I’ve recently taken on the role of AFL Social Media Producer, controlling the socials and video content. One of my highlights of this has been creating content for the AFLW draft. Seeing young women realise their dreams of making it to the AFLW was so rewarding, especially with the girls I had worked with at Sandringham.


My name is Caitlin and I graduated from Woodleigh in 2012. Straight from school I went to Australian Catholic University in Melbourne and studied for a Bachelor of Nursing, which took 3 years. Then I was fortunate to be offered a graduate position as a Registered Nurse at the Alfred Hospital in 2016.

I am still at The Alfred Hospital nearly 7 years later and am now a Clinical Nurse Specialist in my area of Theatre and Recovery. My role in my department is broad, and each day is very different.

In recovery, I help patients wake up from surgery and manage their pain, nausea, and wounds. I also work as a scrub nurse in Theatre, assisting the surgeons in completing the surgeries.

Additionally, as a Resource Nurse, I am in charge of my area and staffing while coordinating the Undergraduate Program within my department, assisting student nurses from university on their clinical placements.

While it is a challenging career - especially in the last few years during the pandemic - it is an extremely rewarding one. We are with our patients during the worst time of their lives, and they are often scared and alone, so being able to provide that care and comfort to them is so important and a part of my job I will never take for granted.

It is a career I recommend if you’re passionate about helping people and making a difference in the community.


I graduated from Woodleigh in 2011 and completed a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University, with a double major in International Studies and Criminology. I discovered a passion for social justice through my studies. I volunteered as a mentor for a young person in foster care and worked in the Youth Justice System before completing a Master of Social Work at RMIT in 2020.

I currently work at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, or VACCA, an independent, not-forprofit organisation that is governed by and held accountable to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to provide services for children, young people, and families.

I work in the Nugel program, which is a Wurundjeri word meaning ‘belong.’ The program provides a culturally safe and appropriate Child Protection service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

I work with children who have been removed from their parent’s care and live either with family in kinship care, or with foster carers.

The Nugel program began in 2017 in response to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in child protection, out of home care, and youth justice systems. Nugel aims to put culture and relationships with family at the centre of all work. Nugel also provides healing approaches which address the impact of past child removals and trauma. The overall goal of Nugel and my work is to keep children connected to culture, to community and to Country. While it is not always possible to reunite children with their parents, Nugel works hard to ensure that the children remain connected with their family.

Supporting the cultural safety and identity of Aboriginal children is linked to better outcomes, with the overall goal of eliminating overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in government systems.

A challenge that I’m currently facing is trying to look after myself whilst doing challenging work with community. Sometimes it can be hard to separate work from the rest of my life. Maintaining perspective about why I’m doing this work can help in the more challenging moments. Priorities, values, and circumstances change, and sometimes we find ourselves on a completely different path to the one you think you want. My advice to other young people would be to keep your mind open to the opportunities that come your way.