Eight weeks ago, Madison left for the most amazing experience – a term at the School for Student Leadership, in Marlo, Victoria.

Our vision:

A community where people are passionate, informed and active global citizens.

Our mission:

We are a Year 9 residential school for Victorian government students, which provides opportunities for personal, community and leadership development.

It was a fabulous experience, and when she initially told us about it (with some reservations), we completely encouraged her to apply. I actually believed she had zero chance of being accepted (only 5 people from year 9 at each school are selected). She wrote her application, and then was shortlisted for an interview!!! (me of little faith!). A week or so later – she rang me with the news that she had been accepted, and would be going away FOR EIGHT WEEKS!! There may or may not have been tears – 8 weeks without my ‘person’.

The lead up to departure was fraught with many tears (from both of us!), anxiety, apprehension and excitement. Departure day was a write-off – we nearly had to wrangle her out of the car, she cried for three hours whilst we were there, and begged me to take her home. I hugged her tightly, and said, “do you know how much this cost” “honey – hundreds of kids would kill to be in your position. It’ll be tough – but the experiences you are going to have will be amazing. Have no regrets and just do it”. Oh – the tears. We left (heartbreaking), and she pretty much sucked it up. We have had no phone contact, only snail mail (one!!) and email (many per day!). Slowly, via her emails, which started off with “I am so homesick, only x-days until visiting weekend”, and slowly morphed into “oh my goodness – I am having the most amazing time, thank-you for giving me the chance to be here”, we could see a change in our girl. She was growing right before us!

Her thinking, her maturity, her outlook – her everything has changed. She is still the same caring, loving VERY family-centred Madison, but now with added extra. Resilience (she developed a ton of that in the first week!), maturity, leadership skills, ability to speak out, and stand up for what she believes in. No longer is she a shallow-thinker. I can see how things that typical 14-year olds think are important (social media, what others think of them, relationships, how they look etc), are not so important anymore. She is more about the big picture. Action. Leading from the front. It’s an impressive transformation.

Four weeks ago, we attended visiting weekend! We picked her up early on Saturday morning, and returned her Sunday afternoon. We spent the weekend exploring her new found adventure playground. She showed us the bushwalking tracks, the best surf spots (she is now a super surfer!), bike tracks, canoeing rivers, bridge-building sites and more. We all reveled in her excitement and energy. She was treated as an icon by her three sisters. She respected them – like I have never witnessed before.

We spent the weekend doing exactly what we do every weekend when the weather is warm – only in a different locations! Surfing, eating, cooking, walking, laughing, hanging out, swimming, loving, relaxing, chatting and enjoying each others’ company.  Perfect.

I took many photos – we wanted to record and remember this experience – a weekend that we are unlikely to forget.


It was a most wonderful weekend, one that we will cherish for a long long time.

Whilst away, Madison has been posting to a blog – MADISON’S SNOWY RIVER EXPERIENCE. Part of the curriculum includes reflection, and every night, the group of 45 sit down for 30 minutes, and reflect upon their day. Madz’ takes you upon a journey with her blog – her growth literally jumps off the page at me, with every entry. There have been some technical difficulties with her blog apparently, so it is not completely up to date as yet – but I encourage you to head on over and read her exceptional journey (such a cliche term – ‘journey’, but in this case, very warranted!).

We are so incredibly proud of her, and there are three sisters desperate to welcome their most favourite person back into the Clark-fold! Wilbur and I are pretty keen to have her back too!

much love…….



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