An inspirational vision
Despite the degenerative eye condition that first took hold when she was 12, Griffith University student Lily Mitchell is a young woman of inspiring vision.
You might ask how someone with Cone Rod Dystrophy copes in such a visually based degree as Film and Screen Media Production at the Griffith Film School.
The answer is summed up in her response to all the challenges in her life.
"If you didn't laugh, you'd be a very sad soul," says Lily, 20. "Plus I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. There's so much I want to do."
Finishing her degree and working in film are just two of her ambitions, and bringing them to fruition has been aided this year after Lily received a Griffith Futures Scholarship.
The scholarships are presented to students who are excelling in their studies despite personal or financial hardship.
Raised in Pottsville in northern NSW and now living in student accommodation, Lily chose Griffith because it offered both the course she wanted to pursue and the best support for visually impaired students.
Her textbooks are digitalised and all other resources are online. She also uses an electronic reader to hear written text and has access to a support person.
Lily’s younger sister Hana is similarly affected with Cone Rod Dystrophy and, as a dancer who hopes to be a fashion designer, she clearly shares Lily’s indomitable spirit.
How indomitable? Along with her film studies, Lily teaches gymnastics, plays piano, and works part-time at a supermarket.
Furthermore, after representing Queensland and NSW as a para-athlete runner, she hopes to represent Australia in the 100m and 200m (T13 classification) at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
She calls it her "2020 vision".
As for her actual vision: “If you scrunched up cling wrap and looked through it, that’s what it’s like in one of my eyes,” says Lily.
"Though the condition is stable for the moment, there are problems with night vision, depth perception, clarity and colour.
"The funny thing is, I have memory of colour. I might think someone is wearing a brown shirt but, if I’m told it's actually red, my brain adjusts because I can remember red.
"However, as I get older the memory fades."
Even so, Lily’s optimism and humour remain clear.
Yes, some things get her down, especially the fact that she may never drive a car and so must rely heavily on public transport, which can create its own problems around identifying the right buses, stops and so on.
Yet in terms of her overall attitude to life, dedication to her studies and hopes for the future, Lily is certainly heading in the right direction.
She would love to direct and write, but is also drawn to film design, set dressing, makeup and costume design.
If her eyesight deteriorates too far, she is just as eager to work in film administration, marketing and advertising.
“Film has always been a stress relief for me. It can take you away to another world; take you away from the real,” she says.
“The Griffith Futures Scholarship is stress relief as well. I know what it’s like to fall behind in the rent. I know how hard it’s been for Mum and Dad.
"Thanks to this support, I can focus on my degree knowing that the financial pressure has been lifted. I'm so grateful."