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Story: Sophie Malcolm Photography: Simon Bingham

‘‘The only reason I finished school was because I had the most incredible teacher, and she said, ‘I’ll give you the lead role in the production if you stay in school’. ‘‘Music’s just always been my life and it’s what saved me in the end.’’ After finishing Year 12, she took a gap year, then moved to Melbourne with her boyfriend to study event management at university. Six months later, they broke up – she was devastated that the three-and-a-half year relationship had ended and eventually moved back to Shepparton. “Shepp usually makes it better,’’ she said. She continued to perform gigs around town, began working at Lemon Tree Café and volunteering at the Hospice Op Shop, and joined the board of directors for Word and Mouth and local youth service The Bridge. ‘‘I loved volunteering because I wanted to meet new people and get involved,” she said. The next year, she enrolled at Notre Dame College, completing a traineeship in theatre studies. She returned to university in Melbourne (where she studied for two years and six months) and told her teachers she wanted to start her own festival – the result was the 3630 Festival which ARIA award winners Angus and Julia Stone headlined last year. She said the encouragement from people in the community reaffirmed her passion for the local area.

‘‘I’ve always got people being like, ‘Why would you waste your time, why would you go back there, just go to Melbourne’ ... I don’t think they feel the support and the community that I feel.

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‘‘I want to make this place the best I can, and I want young people growing up to have the same experiences and opportunities that I did and have such a positive light on this area. ‘‘It’s not that hard to be a part of your community and make it better.’’ She now lives between Melbourne, where she shares a house with five other girls, and Shepparton and plans to go back to university next year if she doesn’t land a full-time job.

It’s not that hard to be a part of your community and make it better.

She said her goals for now included some big, and not so big, dreams. She recently got engaged, plans to travel, find a full-time job in the music industry or return to university, and to keep volunteering. ‘‘I kind of tick off one goal and I’m like, ‘Bam, next one’ and I keep aiming higher and higher and higher.’’ Jamie said she used her experiences to try to inspire youth in the region – but was reluctant to pin herself down as a role model.

I kind of tick off one goal and I’m like, ‘Bam, next one’ and I keep aiming higher . . .

Music’s just always been my life and it’s what saved me in the end.

‘‘That’s why I have such a dedication to Shepp,” she said.

She said teachers used to check up on her – dropping off bags of groceries, giving her money for lunch and sending her text messages to make sure she woke up in time for school.

“If my actions can change one young person’s life for the better then it’s all worth it,” she said. ‘‘Just to be acknowledged that you’re alive and that you can contribute is so much.’’ ■

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