Most students just want to tick off their final exams around the time they turn 18. Macinley Butson was able to add accomplished inventor, TEDx talk presenter and winner of numerous awards, including 2018’s NSW Young Australian of the Year.

A scientist at heart, The Illawarra Grammar School student has achieved more than good grades while at school. Her faith in God underpins all she does, with her passion for science leading her to improve the welfare of others.

Her latest invention is a  revolutionary breastplate called Smart Armour, developed for women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment to wear and protect the untreated breast from unnecessary radiation. She has been attempting to get Smart Amour into hospitals and treatment clinics across Australia for two years.

How do you focus on God while you have so much else going on? 

Miss Butson says juggling her schooling, passion for science and faith hasn’t been easy. “There’s never been a point, especially in the last year, where it has been easy sailing,” she says. “But I don’t think that’s what life is about.

“There are times I can admit that, unfortunately, my faith did take a back seat. I wish it hadn’t been like that. What would happen quite often is I’d go to bed and see my Bible, and it would remind me that I can’t go through life with everything else taking priority.”

However, as Miss Butson’s achievements and opportunities have grown, she has aimed to keep her faith central.

“I found it difficult to adjust to the attention I was now getting,” she says. “But I’ve said, ‘I’m going to put my fears aside for a moment. How can I use this to shine God’s light?’ That was always at the forefront of my mind.”

One word has been pivotal to her approach. “As a family, we each decided on one word that we wanted to guide our year. I didn’t know what was in store, but I chose my word to be ‘light’. I wanted to be a light for people. I asked, ‘How can I use this award/opportunity/interview to make people aware of the issue that’s the reason why I’ve done what I’ve done?’”

"I’d go to bed and see my Bible, and it would remind me that I can’t go through life with everything else taking priority.”

Miss Butson’s desire is to use her opportunities for God and others, regardless of any nervousness she might feel. “God gives us these gifts, and it’s important for everyone to use that to help others and to show the light of God to everyone,” she says.

"It’s having faith to know God does have a plan"

Now on the other side of her exams, Miss Butson plans to enjoy time with family and friends before pursuing a double degree in science and arts at the University of Wollongong – and she will continue to campaign for the introduction of Smart Armour to hospitals and treatment clinics.

“I thought it would be a few months and it would be in hospitals,” she says. “My prayers used to be around getting into hospitals and helping people, but we’ve realised that it’s less about what our plan is and more about what his [God’s] plan is. My prayers have turned into ‘His will be done’.

“It’s hard to be so reliant on God when you don’t have the whole picture, but it’s having faith to know he does have a plan and nothing will stop it when the right time comes.”