Gemma has recently turned 17 years old and lives with her dad, three younger
siblings and her grandmother in a duplex home in Campbelltown.
Gemma must wake up extra early every morning to take a public bus to attend high
school in another suburb. She does not particularly like her high school, but she
finds it difficult to make new friends and does not want to change schools each time
her dad moves. They have moved three times since she made the decision to move
in with him four years ago.
Before making the decision to move in with her dad, Gemma had lived in Adelaide
with her mother, her little brother and her mother’s new husband. Gemma loves her
mother and has a great relationship with her. However, her stepfather has an
extremely strict parenting style, and he didn’t involve Gemma in decision making,
which led to many family arguments. Gemma’s stepdad dismissed her feelings as
“emotional outbursts” and he did not like Gemma challenging his authority. This
eventually led to Gemma moving interstate to live with her dad.
Gemma calls her mother every few days and stays connected via social media. In
normal circumstances, Gemma would visit her mother a couple times a year,
however, due to the pandemic, she has not seen her mother in 18 months and
misses her very much.
Gemma moved in with her dad and enjoys spending time with him and her other
younger siblings as he treats her well and gives her some independence. Gemma
loves debating hot topics such as social justice and climate change with her dad as
she has become interested in considering multiple points of view and thinks of
herself as very empathetic.
As her dad works a lot, her grandmother has moved in to help with the younger
siblings, so Gemma doesn’t have to babysit as often and can spend more time with
In her spare time, Gemma enjoys doing yoga. However, Gemma is self-conscious of
her body, and this gives her a lot of anxiety.
Gemma went through puberty quite early compared with her friends and was teased
about her changing body, so she only wears baggy clothes to cover her figure. She
is uncomfortable in the school uniforms and frequently gets sent to the office for
being out of uniform.
Despite being quiet and shy, like most of her family, Gemma fell in quickly with a set
of friends at school and formed a little clique. She was happy and felt like she was
finally fitting in. She has a crush on someone at school, but she doesn’t feel ready to
have a romantic relationship yet.
In year 11, however, the clique began to fall apart as some of the group had left
school to follow other pathways. Gemma was unsure whether university or a
vocational path was right for her and felt pressured to make decisions about her
future that she did not feel ready to make.
Her parents don’t really get involved with her schooling, but she still feels pressure to
achieve high marks. Personalities of the members of her friend group were also
changing and Gemma found herself not getting along with some of the girls that she
had been closest with in the past.
Recently, an old friend who had left school in year 10 invited Gemma to hang out
with her. When Gemma came over for the weekend, she was introduced to a new
This group frequently met up to party, doing drugs and drinking. To Gemma, this
made the new group of friends seemed so cool and welcoming. Just wanting to fit
in, Gemma started drinking and taking drugs too. Despite knowing that it was wrong,
she rationalised this behaviour by saying that she only did it on the weekends to
loosen up and have a bit of fun.
Nature Video. (2018). Adolescent risk-takers: The power of peers. Scientific
American. Available from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/video/adolescent-risk-
Patton, G. (2021). Young Australians faced unique challenges even before the
pandemic. Neglecting them jeopardises the country’s future. The Conversation.
Available from: https://theconversation.com/young-australians-faced-unique-
Beane, L. Chambers, M., Wardman, N. (2019). From childcare to high school, this is
what to do if you don’t like your kid’s friends. ABC News. Available from: