Raquel Stevens

Walking into Daylesford College one sunny February morning, I stumble across a woman dressed as a vegemite jar, a Bindi Irwin lookalike, and a very close version of the lead singer of ACDC.

I’m here to meet Bridget Franc, the school’s head of wellbeing. She warmly informs me it’s “Feel good Friday.’  The students are dressing up as Aussie Icons and at lunchtime they will have an Aussie BBQ, then play whole school Pictionary.  I wish my high school embraced this when I was an 80’s child.

The former trauma nurse who has worked in adolescent health for the past 12 years says she’s landed her dream job at Daylesford College.

What brought you to Daylesford?

I’m a country girl, growing up on a farm in Beaufort.  I spent many weekends here in Daylesford with my mum and family. My grandmother grew up in Glenlyon, right on the Loddon River.  I have very fond memories here as a child.

What is your role here as head of well-being?

It’s about a whole school approach to wellbeing. Creating opportunities for students to thrive, celebrating the achievements of young people and really elevating their voices. A major area of focus is promoting the mental health of our students.

It felt like I walked onto an Aussie movie set today. Is this a regular occurrence?

Yes, here at the school we have implemented what we call ‘Five ways to Wellness.’  We have a wellness focus for each day of the week.  Today is Feel good Friday and everyone is in costumes.  We play games. Mindfulness Monday, you can join in meditation, Tuesdays are for toasties and tunes.  Wednesdays are for wisdom. We’ll bring in guest speakers to the school.  Thursdays are creative minds thrive.

We asked the students what they want, and they just want the opportunity to come together. Over food, games, dress ups.  It’s about being connected.

What’s a major issue facing our youth today?

Mental health concerns and anxiety. With the right tools we can address it. We believe in young people. We want to see the person before we see the problem. So, when something is challenging them, we need to look deeper and gain some understanding about what could be happening for this person.

You obviously love what you do.

Sometimes I get to school and I’ll park my car and I’ll think, “I’m back. Let’s go.”  That’s how I feel every day.

What’s the best advice you have been given?

My dad once shared with me, ‘There’s so much good in the worst of us, and there’s so much bad in the best of us, that little one of us can afford to talk about the rest of us.’

If you were sent to the Wellness Centre in Wombat State Forest for the rest of your eternal life, what would you take?

A paint brush, a blank canvas, and a book of affirmations.  Can I have a pen too, so I can add my own affirmations?

Name three people you would like to share dinner with.

My 9 year old daughter, Audrey.  I love having dinner with her because we talk about things that made her laugh that day. The other two people are Norma and Jim Foster. They run Daylesford Foundation and do the most amazing work. They have been so incredibly generous. Actually, I do owe them dinner!

What affirmation do you swear by?

Believe in yourself even when you don’t pretend that you do, and at some point, you will.

How has that translated to the youth of 3460?

Working with our young people, key things are what we would call “unconditional positive high regard for this person”.  I see you. I see everything you are capable of. I see what you can achieve in your future, but I also see everything that you are now.  And there is so much good in who you are right now.

What made you want to work with teenagers? 

The saying ‘Be who you needed when you were younger’ resonates for me here. During my secondary years, I didn’t experience a lot of joy.  They were more a struggle than joy for me. I didn’t experience that sense of belonging.  I remember one of those days I was in a running event and I could hear this verbal, let’s call it bullying, at me. There was so much pain inside of me, but it was something that fuelled me.  I remember seeing my dad on the fence during the race. It gave me this additional layer of strength. I won that race. You can beat the bullies.

Deep within me, I’ve always had the belief that I’m here to do something very good.

What would the title of your memoir be?

‘Beyond her wildest dreams.’ Because this life is so much more than what I thought I could have created.  I have known setbacks, and I have experienced mental illness. I suffered from post-natal depression. I didn’t expect to make it through.

If you were a hashtag what would you be?


You have been described as a bright light of hope, and it certainly shone on me today.

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.