A shining light on the horizon

Jennifer Star with students

Jennifer Star is no ordinary woman.

Named as the 2012 NSW Young Australian of the Year, Ms Star is passionate about education.

The daughter of two teachers, Ms Star founded an international education NGO, Tara.Ed when she was 20.

Tara.Ed has three main focuses:

  • the creation of cross-cultural links between Australian and Indian schools
  • hands-on training programs for Indian and Australian teachers through a teacher tour and skills exchange
  • the provision of resources for rural schools to enhance the education project.

Unlike other initiatives, Tara.Ed targets teachers rather than students in order to provide quality education.

Life-changing experience

Attending Hill Top Public School and then Bowral High School, Ms Star was selected as a World Vision Young Ambassador in 2004 and travelled to India to see the organisation in action.

The experience changed the course of her life.

While at Macquarie University she received one of three Goldman Sachs' scholarships to attend a leadership conference in New York at the United Nations.

Here she conceived the idea of Tara.Ed to support the UN's millennium goal of universal primary education for all children in developing nations.

She also met husband Shaun Star, a fellow Goldman Sachs scholar.

Having spent 10 weeks teaching in the slums of Jaipur, India, she then trekked Kokoda, having been selected by Clubs NSW. While walking she convinced the Clubs NSW CEO to sponsor schools on the track, receiving the Spirit of Kokoda award for her efforts.

When her husband won an award to complete his law degree in Asia he chose India, where the couple lived for 16 months, with Ms Star working at a school for street kids.

Now at Oxford University, she is studying towards a Masters of Education.

School opportunities

Her father Martin Purcell, principal of Mulwaree High School, is proud of what his daughter has achieved.

 "At Bowral High School she was a beneficiary of opportunities presented to her," Mr Purcell said.

"She sees the only way for the millennium goal of universal education is through the public system."

According to Ms Star, as in any other public school in NSW, she was provided with a broad range of opportunities.

"While I was at high school I made my first Australian team and medalled in judo at the Youth Olympics," she said.

"I completed the HSC, supported by a group of brilliant teachers and gained admission to university.

"Indeed, it was my high school mathematics teacher who originally sent me to a World Vision leadership conference, igniting my passion for India and education which led to the conception of Tara.Ed."

And while Mr Purcell misses his daughter and wishes she was in Australia, "you can't encourage growth and then expect them not to grow".

Photo: Jennifer Star with some of her students. Photo supplied by Martin Purcell.


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