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Community & Business

21 June, 2023

Former Oakey High School captain becomes weekly statewide news anchor

Since receiving a scholarship from Oakey State High School to attend university in Toowoomba, Jessica van Vonderen’s journalistic career has blossomed.

ABOVE: Jessica van Vonderen’s ABC profile photo.

The former Oakey High Captain has taken up a position reading the ABC's  weekly state news bulletins.

"I currently do five days - Sunday to Thursday since March/April," Jessica said.

"Matt Wordsworth, the previous host moved on to start a private business."

Jessica was born in Brisbane, where her parents had a little corner store, near Boggo Road gaol. 

The van Vonderen family spent a little time in Maidenwell, before moving to a farm north of Goombungee.

Jessica attended primary school with her sister Naoami at Haden, a rural school which had around 40 students.

She remembers her childhood fondly, assisting her parents on their farm and attending the annual Goombungee-Haden Show with her school. 

"Growing up on a property, in hindsight you realise how great it was, in the paddock, growing vegetables, and helping on the farm," she said.

It wasn't all plain sailing for a farming family on the Downs in the 1990s however.

"Years of drought, in between and was difficult. Green, rolling hills suddenly transformed into dry, dusty paddocks in the 1990s."

Jessica then attended secondary school at Oakey, which was the nearest high school to Goombungee. 

"We used to bike ride, get onto one bus in town,  then transfer onto another bus from Quinalow," she said

"It seemed enormous."

"I was a pretty nervous and self-conscious kid, but would end up with a nice group of friends."

Jessica's academic abilities meant that an academic scholarship at the University of Southern Queensland was likely.

"I did study hard, and worked hard to get good grades," she said.

"I remember taking German, Accounting, Maths 1, Physics, Biology and English.

Jessica says her principal and German teachers are two figures that stick out. 

"Mr Burns was the principal at the time," 

"He was absolutely so supportive, a firm hand and a friendly face.

"My German teacher was Anita Sedlock.

"She probably also fostered a desire to travel and experience different cultures and languages.

"(Then Mayor) Peter Taylor handed me my school captain's badge.

"Going to ANZAC Day as school captain was big, I think I read a poem."

After working several part time jobs, Jessica took up a cadetship position at ABC News in Toowoomba. 

"I remember doing  sports reporting, and general news  reporting," she said. 

"Certainly the news reporting was my passion and the rush of adrenaline reaching a deadline.

"I enjoyed the Darling Downs and now my kids now also enjoy visiting the Darling Downs when we go there to visit my parents and sister's family."

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