I was born in Canberra of migrant parents – they left Latvia in the early 1940s when they heard the Russians were coming. If you were a fit young man you got conscripted into the Russian army and if you were a female or old you were sent to Siberia, rarely to be heard of again.
So they and about 6 others left with the suitcases they could carry, ended up in Germany and spent several years moving south through refugee camps etc, until they reached Italy. There was a ship going to Australia and Arthur Calwell (how many remember him?) was persuading all the Balts to go to Aus! So they did.
In Australia they were sadly mistreated by both authorities and ordinary people, which left them with a huge distrust of people. I was an only child and grew up not being allowed to play with the kids on the street because mum didn't like them. Somehow I never became bitter and twisted – I think God's hand was on my life already! Also my mum would tell me Bible stories about Jesus and I had a very early sense of wanting to please this Jesus and have him as my friend.
I was apparently bright – skipped year 1 and went straight to year 2 from kindergarten! I knew from about age 10 that I wanted to be a scientist, and that's the direction in which I took all my studies. I studied at the ANU doing Zoology and Biochemistry, then did honours looking for an obscure enzyme that may or may not have been there, in tapeworms that enabled them to metabolise anaerobically.
Followed the Lord
I became a Christian, got married, then I got a job at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, working in a lab with Chris Parish, who has become world renowned in cancer research.
I left work after 6 years to have kids – 3 wonderful boys! Bill (husband) had started work with the Dept of Main Roads in Sydney before we were married, then became a teacher of metalwork, woodwork, graphic design and maths and science!
He suggested I needed to go back to work, and I said "no I don't want to work at the Uni cos I wanted to be home for the kids". So he said "Do a Dip Ed and be a teacher" to which I replied "No way – I hate kids!" So after my Dip Ed year of teaching high school I discovered that I loved it (don't you hate it when the husband is right?) and have been teaching ever since at Trinity Christian School.
I have been able to do an amazing number of things through the school: canoeing, abseiling, rock climbing, skiing, bushwalking (I have coordinated the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which meant taking kids on overnight hikes and teaching them to be sensible and navigate in the bush). I have hiked in Namadgi, Kosciuszko, Morton and Ben Boyd National Parks and a few other spots.
My teaching areas are Science and Christian Life Studies, mainly to Years 11 and 12, and in pursuing those I have attained a Master of Contemporary Science and a Cert IV in Christian Ministry and Theology as well as a Cert IV in Training and Assessment. I have also been variously a Year Adviser (pastoral care of students), Science Coordinator, College Studies Coordinator and currently I am VET Coordinator, establishing a Trade Skills Centre at Trinity. I may be a teacher, but God is constantly teaching me!
Also through the school I have been to India three times now, taking groups of students on mission trips. These have been very eye-opening and confronting, but a truly worthwhile experience for both the students and the leaders.
I'm enjoying being a panellist, there is a huge variety of topics and it is really interesting reading different ideas and styles. I'm looking forward to getting to know these young writers better as time goes on. Some are amazingly mature in their outlook.
Aira Chilcott with a school tour group in India
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html