22.6 C
Byron Shire
January 29, 2023

Connor just wants to finish his HSC in 2021

Latest News

Bundjalung host Byron Shire Survival Day 

Main Beach Park in Cavanbah – Byron Bay, was the place where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people gathered yesterday to celebrate the longest-living culture in the world – people who are now living on unceded land.

Other News

Local MP mute over PM diary secrecy

Local federal Labor MP, Justine Elliot, has declined to comment on why her government are refusing to provide the diary of Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, as a public document. 

Ballina community legends to be recognised

This Thursday, Ballina will recognise members of the local community who have stepped up in the last twelve months, with the Australia Day Awards.

Largest slaughter of wildlife

The kangaroo is at risk of annihilation. Since European settlement, six Macropodidae species have already become extinct. The roo...

Man dies in highway crash at Chinderah

A man has died following a crash at Chinderah overnight.

New blood running again

If you missed out on tickets to October’s sold-out season of the award-winning local musical New Blood, you will be thrilled to know that it’s back by popular demand for a second season in February. The musical that got the whole region talking is back, for two nights only, at the Byron Theatre, 8–9 February. This new musical, created by local musicians and performers, is an absolute ‘must see’ – it’s funny, deeply moving and resonated loudly with local audiences.

What’s next for Ballina? Mayor Sharon Cadwallader’s view

This is part two of an in-depth interview with Ballina's Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. The first part examined what's happened since she was elected in 2022. The Echo also asked Cr Cadwallader what she sees coming along the road for Ballina in 2023, and beyond.

Kim Goodrick and David Meldrum with their son Connor, who just wants to finish his HSC. Photo Tree Faerie.

Eve Jeffery

On March 23 2019 Connor Meldrum’s life changed forever and he has spent much of the last two years trying to regain normality – that is, as much normality as you can with only half a skull.

Connor fell from a cliff face at Cape Byron in 2019 when he was 15, and from being airlifted to the Gold Coast University Hospital where he had surgery for a serious brain injury, then going into and coming out of coma, rehab at Queensland’s Children’s Hospital and having a plate inserted in his skull, Connor was able to go back to school at Trinity Catholic College part-time just three and a half months later, and in those weeks until the end of the school year, he had to relearn how to read, speak and walk.

Top eight of his class in 2020′

Connor finished year 11 in the top eight of his class – a clear track record of his capability. Photo Tree Faerie.

Things went well in 2020 and Connor finished year 11 in the top eight of his class – a testament to his self-motivation, willpower, bloody determination and intelligence. He was on track to do well as part of the 2021 cohort of HSC students at the school when before the year began, he developed an infection and the plate in his head had to be removed.

Connor rallied enough to get back to class not long after term one started but he was only up for three subjects with a regime of 24hr IV antibiotics for three months. This would make him two subjects shy of the HSC requirement.

There is nothing more that Connor wants than to finish his HSC this year, but try as they might, Connor and his family and friends are not having any luck with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).

NESA says ‘no’

NESA, according to their website, are ‘an independent statutory authority reporting to an independent Board and the NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning. Making sure all children and young people in NSW leave school ready to take advantage of life’s opportunities, as well as to rise to its inevitable challenges, is at the heart of what we do.’

Yet, helping Connor take advantage of his life’s opportunities and helping him rise to his life’s challenges, doesn’t appear to be at the heart of what they are doing for him, say his family.

A letter from NESA’s CEO Paul Martin to Connor’s parents says that ‘NESA’s illness/misadventure program is available to students when a recent, emergent and unforeseen event, including illness or accident, affects their HSC exam performance. Students cannot apply for illness/misadventure in advance, as the program explicitly excludes long-term injury or illness unless a recurrence during or immediately before the exam period affects a student’s exam performance. 

What that boils down to is that Connor’s illness is chronic, therefore he doesn’t qualify for any dispensation, no matter how ill he is and no matter what he has achieved so far.

Against all odds

Connor’s mum Kim says that not many people realise the extent of his injuries. ‘His headaches are caused by atmospheric pressure directly on the brain. Having a skull protects us from them. He really is incredibly vulnerable every day. One hit to the head could easily kill him. Photo supplied.

Connor came back literally against all odds to be one of the top students in his year, his track record is clear and concise, yet NESA doesn’t think he should be given any special treatment, even though they have the power to extrapolate the capability he has shown in his work to date, work that he completed under extremely trying conditions, to allow him to gain his HSC.

Connor says that everyone at the school has been very supportive, to the point of starting a petition to NESA that got over 2,000 signatures on the first day. ‘I’m so grateful to my friends who started a petition, all of the Year 12 at Trinity, and everyone else who has signed this in support of me getting the HSC this year. It makes me feel like people understand and there is hope.’

Parents struggling to understand the system

Connor is very grateful for the support of everyone at his school and the students who started a petition to b e sent to NESA. Photo supplied.

Having come close to losing their precious boy, Connor’s parents are struggling to understand a system that appears to be working against their son.

‘This is a classic example of where individual circumstances are sacrificed for rigid adherence to a general principle,’ says his father David. ‘Instead, there has to be an acceptance that sometimes extraordinary circumstances require an individual approach.’

Connor’s mum Kim says there isn’t a single person she has spoken to who supports NESA’s position on this, other than the staff at NESA. ‘Even if there were a note on the HSC Certificate that Connor’s results had been extrapolated for two subjects due to a life-threatening condition in year 12, we’d be happy with that. We’re not asking for anything unreasonable here – just for fairness in what are extreme and very challenging circumstances.’

For Connor, this is not about skipping ahead. Having to complete his HSC next year means having to struggle on without the people he has spent that last six years with to support him.

But it’s about more than even that – it’s about having another year of HSC looming and all of the stress that goes with that level of study, and it’s about having a rest from the turmoil and taking a gap year to regroup and work out how he can move forward into adulthood.

With the tenuous grasp he has on good health, having another year of the HSC is more than a boy approaching manhood should have hanging over his head.

‘Finishing this year with my friends is the most important thing to me at the moment,’ says Connor. ‘I’m facing another brain surgery in the next few months and I just don’t understand why NESA doesn’t have a system for dealing with students who have life-threatening illnesses in their final year, instead of punishing them by making them do the HSC over two to five years.

‘It’s not like we chose this – we have just been victims of very, very bad luck!’

If you would like to add your voice to the petition, visit: me.getup.org.au/petitions/hsc-for-connor-meldrum-2021.


Previous articleBring them home to Biloela
Next articleCyclists please

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. I have been privileged to meet Connor – he is a good friend of my granddaughter – also in year 12 at Trinity. I have watched him struggle back from the brink of death and try so hard to achieve his goal of finishing year 12 with his mates. Listening to him play the piano brings tears to everyone’s eyes. He has struggled so hard and achieved so much – this is just so inhumane. Please sign his petition.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Ballina’s Citizens of the Year announced

Ballina Shire Council announced its Australia Day Awards yesterday at the Lennox Head Cultural Centre. The awards were presented by Sandra Jackson and netballer Liz Ellis, with music by Katie Rutledge and Levi Maxwell. The event was also livestreamed.

Lismore City Council’s awards ceremony

Sophia Watt was named Lismore City Council’s 2023 Citizen of the Year at an awards ceremony held at the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre yesterday.

Police find body of missing Elanora woman

Detectives attached to taskforce Victor Arum investigating the disappearance of 61-year-old Elanora woman Wendy Sleeman have recovered a body and vehicle at Wilston on Brisbane’s inner north yesterday.

Tweed Council celebrates citizens new and old

Yesterday Tweed Shire Council celebrated members of the community, old and new, with an award ceremony. The Citizen of the Year award went to refugee advocate Joan Henderson of Urliup.