The first day of high school is an anxious time for any student. It can be even harder when a parent or carer is away on deployment.
This dilemma faced Corporal Marie Yorston, an Army reservist with 4th Combat Service Support Battalion, 4th Brigade, who was deployed on Operation Bushfire Assist.
Corporal Yorston is sole carer of her niece, Allee, who started her first day of high school at the end of January at Damascus College, Ballarat.
The ADF ensured Corporal Yorston was able to be there for the occasion before returning to her unit.
As Allee’s grandmother, Sue Yorston, walked her and younger brother Brody through the school door, they were all surprised to see Corporal Yorston waiting for them, dressed in her military uniform.
To shrieks of “Aunty,” from Allee and Brody, all four were tearfully reunited.
Raylee, the children’s mother - and Corporal Yorston's older sister – died four years ago from cancer. Since then, Corporal Yorston has been their sole carer.
Sue Boswell, Leader of School Development, Damascus College, said a lot of preparation went into the surprise reunion.
“It is a big milestone for Allee starting high school so we devised a story where we could maintain the surprise,” Ms Boswell said.
Adding to the occasion was the fact Allee represents the third generation of her family to attend Damascus College.
“Everyone in the ADF has been so supportive in ensuring that I got back in time to see Allee start school,” Corporal Yorston said.
“As the date got closer, the more anxious I became.”
And how ready did she think Allee was for high school?
“Oh, she’s really ready for this,” she said.