Story by GO supporter and Stories for Simon author Lisa Sarzin.

Yarning with new GO Scholar and young Dharawal woman, Larissa Nicholson, is like basking in a ray of sunshine.

“Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin are absolute geniuses for coming up with the idea of GO” enthuses Larissa, who is a Year 8 student at Camden High. “GO is a fun, caring and loving community”.

“The thing I’m most excited about in joining the GO family is being part of a new community that’s something about me. Netball or sport is a choice I have, I don’t have to do that. But being Aboriginal is something I own. I could stop playing netball but I could never stop being Aboriginal which is a good thing because I love it.”

Larissa is all about belonging, community and kinship. She is at the heart and centre of so much: she’s the middle of three children (“so obviously I’m perfect!” she laughs), she’s surrounded by a very big Dharawal family with a large Greek side too (“Walking past someone, Mum will be like, ‘oh, that’s your cousin’”), she’s at Camden High, where generations of her family have gone (“it’s like a full generational thing”), she plays netball for Douglas Park (“A lovely group…I know everyone there”) and participated in the Wakakirri Story-Dance Festival (“the teachers are so kind”).  So Larissa is excited to step into her new GO family and further extend her connections, particularly with other Aboriginal students from all around Australia “Most of the Aboriginal events I’ve done are run by the school, not beyond school.”

Larissa describes all the people in her various circles as ‘kind, nice and supportive’ and it’s not difficult to see that Larissa herself is a caring, supportive and people-centred young woman. The achievement she is most proud of is being there for family and friends. “It gives me a warm feeling inside that I have people who trust me and I trust them.”

Larissa’s sense of belonging is exemplified by her connection to Country: “It’s good living on Country because I’m from right here. Whenever we go out and hear the Acknowledgment, it’s extra special because when they say the traditional owners of Dharawal country, I’m like, ah, that’s me, I’m part of that.”

Larissa is part of a large, close-knit family, with her great-nan, nan, great-Uncles and cousins around her. “You always have someone you can talk to or get advice from.” Life growing up was “mostly going to someone’s house and going on little trips with the family. Lots of trips to K’gari. Always having family over.”  Larissa’s mum is her biggest role model, especially her devotion to her children and the late-night chats that soothe a difficult day.

Larissa’s school, Camden High, is an extension of her family, with many generations of her family having gone there. “I like school. I like the educational side and the social side. It’s always nice to have friends and make new friends”.

As far as future professions go, Larissa is considering either Law or Teaching, or even both, “because why not? Live once, do more!” she says enthusiastically. The idea for studying law started as a “little joke, because when I was little, I always had something to say about something, I never kept it in.” Over time the little joke turned into a serious thought, “I wouldn’t mind doing something I like and something I’m good at.”  Larissa’s dream of teaching comes from the inspiring role model of her mum who taught at a preschool for almost 20 years.

With a clear vision of the future, Larissa is making the most of the present and working hard to make her dreams come true. Her GO Scholarship has not only validated her dedication, focus and conscientiousness to date, but has also provided her with the motivation to stretch herself even further. Larissa intends to stay “motivated in class and outside of school, making sure I do the best I possibly can and taking that extra step.”

Larissa recalls getting the call about the GO Scholarship, during a time when she wasn’t having the best week. Her mum jumped up and down from excitement and expressed how proud she was. Larissa remembers feeling that everything had “wrapped itself in a pretty bow and neatened itself up.”

For Larissa, COVID has been stressful, particularly maintaining friendships online rather than face-to-face, and having fun team activities grind to a sudden halt.  But in true Larissa style, she’s focussed on the positives, such as the extra time she’s had with her family at her home, particularly her dad who usually travels a lot for work. She’s also gained important insights, such as “don’t overthink things. A new day is a fresh start”.

Larissa’s ultimate aspiration is “to be happy” and she feels most empowered when she wakes up each day, determined to make it a good day.