Joel Findlay: ‘The Smart Kid’

by | Dec 5, 2018 | Bush Voices

Joel Findlay

Preparing for Year 12 at Korumburra Secondary College


Gearing-up for his final year of school, Joel Findlay has his eyes firmly on the prize.
He knows it won’t be simple and he knows he has plenty of work ahead but he’s also very aware that it’s just One Year.
One final year to enjoy — and sometimes lament — the institutional life of being a school kid.
One final year to hang out with his mates every day.
One final year living at home with his parents.
It’s just one final year before he embarks on “the rest of his life”.

Fortunately, Joel has a plan for how the rest of his life will pan out.
Well, that’s probably (definitely) an overstatement.
But what he does have is an idea of “what he wants to be when he grows up”.

A doctor.

Doctor Findlay.

And, all things going to plan, Dr Findlay plans to specialise in something like pathology or immunology because “diseases are fascinating”.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “this Joel kid is clearly a smart cookie” – and you’d be right.

Very right.

Joel Findlay is an exceedingly intelligent young man who, as the saying goes, has his head screwed on.
He’s the kind of student who finds most elements of education relatively straight-forward, and the kind of student teachers enjoy to teach.
But the point of interest — the thing that even Joel says is more important than “being smart” — is that he has goals and he’s determined to reach them.

As Joel puts it:

“Yes, I’m probably known as ‘the smart kid’ but there are plenty of people who have all the brains in the world and they choose to do nothing with them and I think it’s the same for everyone, no matter how smart they’re considered to be. Like, it’s a given that not everyone can get the marks to study medicine … and not everyone will be remembered as ‘the smart kid’ but everyone can aim to do their best, everyone can set goals and then go about achieving them.”


And that’s where we pick up our interview with (Doctor) Joel Findlay – our Rural Inspire Mentor for December.

Okay Joel, take us back, what has it been like growing up in Gippsland?

Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed growing up in Korumburra – it’s not too small and not too big, plus it’s not too far away from everything. Like, in South Gippsland there’s a couple of towns just fifteen minutes to half-an-hour apart, which means we’re not overly disconnected or isolated.

Where have you attended school?

Pretty straight-forward, really. I started out at Korumburra Primary School. To me, it was a really, really good school. There was a lot of passionate staff and a really great principal so, as I remember it, there was a lot of good that went on.

High school has been at Korumburra Secondary College and it has been good but it has its challenges. All up, I’d say we have about 350 kids at our school so we’re not tiny but we’re still relatively small, which is good if you’re close to people but, if you’re a bit independent, it can be a bit tough.

 How would you describe yourself as a student?

Yeah, I’m fairly driven. I have my aims set pretty high and I know I’ve got to work hard to get where I want to go so that’s what I do, I work hard. I guess I’ve always prided myself on my academic endeavour – I’m a very curious person and I love to learn new things.

Does that mean you’re a model student?

Oh, I don’t know about that. I think I’m just a hard-worker and my teachers know that, so they’re always available to me and encouraging me to keep going. By comparison, I think there are definitely aspiration issues around here – there’s not a great number of students in my year level who are really pushing to achieve the best they can possibly achieve and that’s what I don’t understand, as I mentioned before. Like, I know we’re not all academically inclined and we’re not all aiming for university, but is that reason not to try?

Fair point. So, what are you studying?

This year, in Year 11, I’ve studied Units 1&2 English, Methods, Chemistry, Physics and Legal Studies, as well as Units 3&4 Further Maths.

Next year I’ll drop Legal Studies and just focus on the others. I was fortunate enough to do Units 3&4 Biology in Year 10, so I’ve already got that under my belt, which is handy.

We’ve established that beyond school your goal is to study medicine but how did you reach this decision?

Yep, medicine is the goal and I’d love to specialise in something like pathology or immunology because I really enjoy learning about diseases and the immune system.

When I did biology last year, the immune system was just something that really clicked for me – I don’t know why – it just automatically captured my attention and I was fascinated by the way diseases work and how our immune systems respond.

So, was that it — was that how you decided on medicine?

Actually, not really. I’d have to say it was my Mum who steered me onto the doctor path. She’s a nurse and she was the one who suggested medicine as a career. I mean, I’d basically always known I’d end up doing something with science — it was just a matter of figuring out what exactly that would be.

And then, I guess my Year 10 work experience played a big role. I got to spend a week shadowing a GP, which my Mum also teed-up. I got to sit-in for GP consultations, and then I got to spend an entire day in the skin clinic, watching lesion removals all day, which was pretty cool.

Assuming you achieve your goal, have you considered where you’d like to live in future?

First of all, I’d like to study at Monash University because it’s the only uni in Victoria that does graduate medicine, which makes it a five-year degree, rather than seven years.

After that, the tricky part about specialisation can be that the jobs aren’t really out in rural areas – you have to stay in Melbourne or look at big regional centres but I am a country boy and I do love the country so I’d love to come back here if there’s work for me.

From that, I assume you’re proud of your country upbringing?

Yeah, I am. But it’s like anything, living out here has its good and bad points. In the country you get to do so many things and have so many freedoms that city people don’t get. But, at the same time, there are issues with isolation and, sometimes, alienation because when you live in a small town everyone knows your business.

You mentioned earlier that you see an issue with aspirations in your school. Do you think this is part of a broader issue in country communities?

Yes. And I’d say my school is a pretty good example because, as a school, we are clearly under-represented at all of the major tertiary institutions. The fact is that country kids don’t go to university in the numbers that city kids do. Many country schools have an extremely low uptake of tertiary or further studies and that can’t be a coincidence. I’d say there isn’t enough being done to help us get there because it is significantly more complex for people from the country to head-off to university … There should be every incentive provided to help country kids make that leap but there isn’t.

This issue has formed a significant part of the 2018 Country Education Partnership Rural Ambassador program, which you’ve been involved in. Have you enjoyed it?

Being a Rural Ambassador has been absolutely incredible – the self-development it enables and the relationships you establish – it’s something special. Through the year we have debated issues that are directly impacting our education and it’s been a pretty powerful experience.