Mac proves doctors wrong

Mac Zamani’s parents were told at a young age that Mac would struggle to complete school due to his disabilities. If only they could see where he is now.

Doctors once told Mac Zamani’s parents that Mac would struggle to finish primary school, let alone high school.

But they obviously didn’t know Mac very well and how determined he is. Ironically, it was that comment that fuelled Mac to finish his schooling.

“Because of their assumption they made about my worth, I was determined to prove them wrong,” says Mac.

Mac has multiple disabilities, including a learning disability, and is a wheelchair user. He also has additional chronic illnesses.

In Year 10 and 11, his health began to deteriorate, to the point where he couldn’t continue in mainstream schooling.

When someone mentioned Chisholm offered VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education), Mac and his family decided he would give it a shot.

“I moved to Chisholm because of my health,” says Mac. “Honestly, it was the best decision ever.”

Mac flourished at Chisholm and overcame many hurdles to complete his studies, including moving to TAFE during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Mac would spend the school holidays getting ahead so that if he had a health flare-up, he wouldn’t fall behind.

If he did end up in hospital, Mac would video call into class or turn up in person after spending the night in emergency with severe seizures.

Mac proved to be a standout student. In 2022, he won VCE Psychology Student of the Year for Frankston Campus.

For his extraordinary determination, Mac was also nominated as Secondary Student of the Year at the 2023 Chisholm Education Awards.

“School has always been an uphill battle for me, which is why when I got told I was nominated for this award it meant so much to me,” says Mac.

“From someone who was not meant to finish Year 6 and was destined to be a drop out, I finished Year 12 VCE and I was ranked number one out of four or five of my subjects.”

Mac has been involved in several groups and advocacy initiatives, including Frankston Youth Council, Youth CaLD Disability Collective, Minus18, Youth Disability Advocacy Service, and Children and Young People with Disability Australia’s leadership programs.

He is a youth ambassador for Transcend Australia, a content creator and creative advisor for Project Rockit and was a committee member for the 2022 National Youth Disability Summit. He is also part of headspace Frankston’s Youth Advisory Committee.

In his spare time, Mac loves to write. In 2021 he won ABC Takeover’s Melbourne writing competition for Frankston for his intersectionality piece about how his wheelchair allowed him to accept his queerness.

Mac also loves reading, which he says is ironic because with his dyslexia, he only learnt how to properly read in 2020.

Throw in some public speaking and wheelchair sports, and Mac has a pretty action-packed agenda – one that he only manages to navigate with the help of bullet journaling.

“It’s how I managed to juggle three jobs, Year 12, four different advisory/youth committees and whatever else I was doing,” he says, with a laugh.

So, where to next for Mac?

Well, after finishing up at Chisholm he was accepted into Deakin University’s Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at the Geelong campus.

The distance from home was a bit of a roadblock, so at the time of writing this article, Mac was taking a well-deserved break from study.

“My long-term goal is to move into occupational therapy with a focus on mental health, while continuing all my advocacy and doing writing on the side,” he says.