Charlotte Uniacke – Class of 2020

Charlotte Uniacke started at Goulburn Valley Grammar School in Year 5 and instantly became involved in the extra-curricular activities that were on offer. She has participated on more than 70 separate occasions over eight years in events such as the Year 9 buddies program, annual Eisteddfods and interschool sports. With the ongoing support of her teachers, Charlotte has been able to keep her busy schedule in check. “Sometimes I would miss out on classes, whether it was for sport, music or productions,” she says. “But the teachers have been very accommodating and always made sure I had everything I needed to keep me from falling behind.” While Charlotte has played a key role in the school community during her time at GVGS in many different areas, her passion is performing arts. “Oliver last year was one of my favourites,” says Charlotte who has also been a cast member in every single school production since 2013. “The entire cast was really close, all the younger students mixed with the senior students and it was a great environment.”

Along with so many of the other extra-curricular activities, Charlotte was looking forward to being involved in for the last time as a GVGS student this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic she has also been unable to fulfil her role as Performing Arts Captain. “It was pretty difficult at the start, especially since we got a taste for what the year ahead was going to be like for a few weeks and then everything just got shut down,” she says. “I try to keep in contact with everyone a best I can because I think it’s really important to stay connected during times like this.” Charlotte has been less isolated than most during remote learning, sharing her time in lockdown with her three siblings – Edward, Year 10, Sophia, Year 8 and Arabella, Year 5 – who are all students at the school this year as well. “They’ve all been very helpful and understanding, giving me the space that I need to do my work,” she says. “They make sure the internet is working when I’ve got online assessments and stuff like that.”

While separated from her friends, the classroom and any sense of normalcy this year Charlotte found motivation in online lectures from one of Australia’s highest-profile psychologists, Dr Michael CarrGregg and international public speaker and millennials expert, Darren Pereira. “Both lectures were really good and I took a lot of their advice on board,” she says. “It was really helpful that the school organised these speakers for us because I got really good motivation for exams.” From the very beginning, Charlotte felt support by GVGS as she navigated her way through online learning. “The school has been really good during the whole lockdown and we felt very prepared right from the start,” she says. “They predicted that we’d all get pretty tired of it and they knew what to do.” Charlotte also commends the consistency and commitment of her teachers during 2020. “The teachers are amazing, they’re always willing to help at any time of the day…they always reply to emails so quickly,” she says. “They’re on Zoom at all hours of the day with any questions that I have…they’ve been so supportive the entire time I’ve been at Grammar, but especially this year.” This year Charlotte has been discovering her love of horticulture, spending many hours gardening and using her time in the backyard to relax and momentarily distract herself from the pressures of VCE. “Our garden at home wasn’t that big at the start of lockdown, but now we have a large succulent garden and a lot of indoor plants as well,” she says. “It’s been a good way to get me outside and give me a break from sitting at my computer.”

When asked about her proudest moment during her time at GVGS, Charlotte says her involvement in the Eisteddfods overs the years has been particularly memorable. “I’m really proud of the Ryall banner that we made last year,” she says. “It was helpful to have that artistic outlet to destress and it was very therapeutic.” Charlotte also fondly recalls her time in Indonesia when she participated in World Challenge over the 2017/2018 Christmas break. “Since I speak the language and had such a good time, I’d love to go back,” she says. Her time spent volunteering in Sumatra, one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia, spurred her to continue studying the language right through VCE. “I’m really glad that I’ve studied Indonesian in Year 12,” she says. “Although it’s been very time consuming, it’s such a valuable skill to have…I genuinely enjoying learning the language and I look forward to the classes every time.”

Although she has never been one to turn down a chance to get involved in a school production, sports competition or an opportunity to showcase her musical talents, Charlotte has committed herself to her academic studies in her senior years. Charlotte’s favourite subject is biology, one she chose to fast track in 2019. “I loved what we learnt about, and getting to push myself in the final exam,” she says. In 2021, Charlotte plans to head to Melbourne and pursue biomedicine at Monash University. “I’m nervous about moving down to Melbourne, but I’m really excited to focus on what interests me as well,” she says. In the future Charlotte hopes to combine her multilingual skills with her love for science and potentially work for the CSIRO in Indonesia, focusing on biomedical research. “It’s the ‘big dream’ to study biomedicine and after that I’d like to move into biomedical research if I can,” she says.

When she started Year 12, Charlotte took advice from last year’s GVGS School Community prefect and dux, Farhan Islam, to guide her and make sure she gets the most out of her final year. Charlotte also hopes that the Class of 2021 follow the same invaluable advice. “Farhan said to always have a really good relationship with your teachers because they’re there to help you and they want to make sure you understand,” she says.