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The 2022 Learn Local Awards were held on Friday 24 February 2023 at Zinc, Federation Square. This annual event is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the resilience and life-changing work of the Learn Local sector.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners of the 2022 Learn Local Awards!


  • Winner

    Callum Lydiard - Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre

    Callum has a work ethic to match his star ambitions. He recently completed the pre-accredited Creative Industries course at Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre, which set him on the road to becoming a film maker, artist and animator. Callum has a learning disability and is on the autism spectrum, but these issues won’t impede his ambitions.

    Learning from a professional producer gave him great insights into production processes both in performance and film making. He was immersed in a broad range of technical and creative activities and these experiences helped him determine his direction.

    The Creative Industries course gave Callum the resources and opportunity to sharpen his newfound creative and technical skills on his own productions including a film called ‘My Working Life’ for the International Day of Disability 2021. Callum is excited to bring his visions to life in a new chapter, where he’ll hone his filmmaking skills at JCM Academy.


    Maria Vassilopoulos - Cire Training

    When Maria came to Cire Training, she had been a stay-at-home mum who years before had suffered personal trauma that affected her ability to trust. Her future seemed purposeless and her confidence was lost. She participated in the Women’s Warehouse program and First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) during 2021, and discovered her strength, initiative and creativity.

    On arrival at Cire, Maria was nervous and introverted but determined. After 18 months of studies in literacy, language and digital literacy, her confidence and personal growth was outstanding. She demonstrated initiative in the FICE retail training space where she contributed to retail displays, processes and procedures, as well as mentoring other vulnerable women.

    Maria is currently employed with Cire and is looking forward to expanding her horizons to further support women and children once she completes a Diploma of Community Services. She knows that anything is possible if you have the will and determination to succeed.

    Zhen Liang - Pines Learning

    Zhen came to Pines Learning newly arrived from China. Other than her child and husband, she knew no one in Australia. Zhen felt helpless, lonely and isolated. Enrolling in the Moving on with English class gave her the tools to adapt to life in Australia.

    The class focused on reading, writing, speaking and listening and the ability to understand and interact meaningfully with current news events. It addressed the topics relevant to their lives so they could engage with society. A keenness to understand cultural idioms and social mores, led Zhen to be highly engaged with learning and an active participant in class. This changed her outlook and enabled her to understand the new culture and western ways of thinking.

    Now Zhen participates fully in Melbourne life and has completed further studies in psychology. She volunteers at the Chinese Community Social Service Centre where she acts as a bridge between cultures and supporting new emigrants.

    Christina Li - Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre

    Christina enrolled in English language and Transitions to Employment classes at Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre to improve her English skills and develop an understanding of Australian culture. She arrived with low spirits and anxiety due to a series of personal issues. But with quiet determination, she became a valuable, enthusiastic participant who shared her own difficulties to help others.

    Having already withdrawn from a university course, Christina was resolute about reconnecting with education and the wider community. Studying in a small class and supportive environment enabled her to develop her social skills and recover as she honed her speaking, reading and writing competencies.

    The Australian cultural content within the course enabled Christina to learn appropriate responses to personal and study situations. She triumphed over her difficulties and gained the confidence to resume higher education. With two scholarships, she embarked on a Master’s Degree in Information Technology at Melbourne University, and commenced in 2022.

  • Winner

    Felimon Asel - Prace

    Felimon is a leader in his community and a strong advocate for education. Being one of the first Sudanese people to arrive in Melbourne as a refugee, he helped many new arrivals set up life in Australia. To improve his work options, he completed several English certificate courses at Prace.

    Recently, Felimon enrolled in Prace’s Civil Construction Labourer course, codesigned with Winslow Constructors to develop employability skills for work in civil construction. This was a turning point in his life, bringing the opportunity for employment growth and fulfilment.

    Felimon’s commitment was exceptional and his dedication to learning made him an outstanding role model for the class. As a result, he was offered employment with Winslow.

    Dedicated to his family and community, Felimon encourages other Sudanese people to get involved in learning. He reminds them of the importance of education as a means of obtaining stable employment to build a better life in Australia.


    Adrian Santucci - WCIG

    Learning difficulties made it hard for Adrian to grasp tasks and find employment. He undertook the Stepping Forward For Work program at WCIG Disability Employment Services, which is focused on the needs of long-term unemployed with mental or physical health barriers. He entered the course reserved and unsure of himself and his abilities, but hopeful and willing to learn.

    Adrian’s unwavering determination saw him arrive to class early and staying late to complete tasks. After several weeks of striving hard to focus and learn, he gained the ability to plan, write a resume and cover letter, and achieved the confidence to further his quest for employment. Such was his success that he went on to guide other struggling students.

    His goal of full-time employment became a reality and Adrian secured an apprenticeship in horticulture. He loves his job and is committed to sticking to it.

    Thomas Rayment - WCIG

    Before embarking on a specialised job skills program, Tom struggled to gain or retain a job due to health issues. His interest was in working in environment and conservation, but he was frustrated with his inability to fulfill his goals. By the end of the course, his confidence was renewed and his achievements were greater than expected.

    Initially, Tom was reserved in the class and would rarely participate in activities. With enormous effort he rose above his difficulties, his communications improved and he would speak up in class and help others who were struggling with the work.

    Tom’s successes were incremental. He obtained a casual position as a pick packer and took on a leadership role helping to train new staff. His employer praised him highly for being proactive, organised and reliable, and in the next 12 months he plans to embark on a course in environment and conservation.

    Caleb Flint-Seymour - Workforce Plus

    By taking the initiative to embark on the ‘Independent You’ pre-accredited work and life-skills course, Caleb transformed his world from being social isolated to one that is rich with opportunity and friendship.

    Initially, Caleb lacked the confidence and skills to progress in his chosen path of web design. He faced several challenges and was reluctant to engage in activities outside his home. He had a background in 'back-end' digital skills but had limited knowledge of basic technology to support employability. By engaging fully in every aspect of the course Caleb’s communication skills grew and he became responsible for his own future.

    Now that his barriers to community participation and employment are down, he’s utilising his problem-solving ability and enhanced positive thinking to benefit staff and learners in his fulltime role as Business Administration trainee at Workforce Plus. Caleb’s new enthusiasm for learning made him a great model of what a pro-active learner can achieve.

Trainers and leaders

  • Winner

    Joneen Rattray - The Basin Community House

    Joneen started her working life as an apprentice gold and silversmith and went on to work in retail. Looking to work in the community sector, it seemed her creativity and training made her a perfect choice to work with offenders. She teaches Employment Skills Pathways at The Basin Community House to people undertaking community work orders from the Department of Justice & Community Safety – Corrections.

    It takes an outstanding trainer to connect with and deliver quality education to vulnerable and challenging learners. Joneen has a nose for barriers and opportunities and has the ability to identify and engage supportive external partners such as JobCo. Employment Services, who attend classes and offer employment opportunities, which gives offenders confidence and hope.

    Due to the support and opportunities Joneen offers, she has earnt the trust and respect of her students. The Basin Manager, Heather McTaggart, recognises her passion, ability and commitment as outstanding, ‘something to behold’.


    Dr Janice Schmidt-Loeliger - Centre for Participation

    Janice is passionate about supporting migrant families to settle in Australia and was Chair of the local branch of the Rural Australians for Refugees support group. She’s taught the Intermediate English Language Program at the Centre for Participation in Horsham since 2011, assisting students to develop language skills to gain employment, progress to further studies, communicate more effectively and expand connections in their communities.

    A Doctor of Philosophy, Janice has several degrees in education and language. Her talents extend to making students feel at home in her friendly, inclusive classes. Janice empowers students to feel comfortable enough to move beyond their comfort zones and learn more difficult words, subjects and topics.

    Her students describe her as big hearted. They applaud her dedication as she celebrates their cultures by including personal stories of their home countries into the learning materials, while giving them a strong sense of belonging to Australia through songs and nature.

    Katrina Lambert - WCIG (Westgate Community Initiatives Award)

    Katrina’s teaching career evolved from devising and delivering a modelling and performing arts TAFE course, to a career with Mission Australia. More recently, she’s been applying her vast teaching experience to training jobseekers at Westgate Community Initiatives Group.

    To begin with, she builds a strong rapport with each student by discovering their interests and goals. From there she develops individual learning plans and activities that help learners stay on track and allows them to fully appreciate their achievements. She teaches the fundamentals of digital literacy, including how to job search on the internet and use Microsoft Word to type cover letters and resumes. Katrina adapts the work to each individual’s learning style and evolves her resources and strategies to enable everyone to achieve their best.

    Sustaining connections with employers across different industries keeps Katrina abreast of labour market needs, which feeds into ensuring her students are work-ready when employment opportunities arise.

    Guldane Sluga - Cultura

    Guldane is an enthusiastic language teacher at Cultura who works to discover the strengths of each learner. She identifies her students’ goals and needs so she can build their capacity around them and open up avenues for employment or further study.

    She started with a pilot program of a cohort of 15 CALD women from the Hazara minority in Afghanistan with refugee backgrounds including a group of 15 learners from Burma. Of the 30 disadvantageous learners in the first two classes-after 12 months transitioned back into accredited English classes.

    Two learners entered the Australian workforce for the first time. Another example is that Guldane helped a seamstress enrolled in the sewing program to find a job as a sewing teacher within this year. She has been continuously strengthening the program since it started.

    To provide experiential learning, Guldane organises excursions to educational venues such as libraries, museums, wildlife sanctuaries, and encourages creativity by setting projects like producing theatre, sharing traditional dishes, and presenting information about their cultures.

    Students are at the centre of her teaching process, and she tailors the courses according to their individual learning styles. She also keeps a close eye out for challenges such as trauma or learning difficulties, and seeks out the relevant supports.

  • Winner

    Danielle Hren - Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council

    As a second-generation refugee, Danielle’s Polish grandparents and father experienced the horrors of WW2, she deeply understands the issues surrounding the diverse backgrounds of her students, who are mainly refugees and asylum seekers. She devotes herself to her student’s goals at Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC). Whether their dream is to attend TAFE, university or get a job, she will help them get there.

    As SMECC’s Cultural Competency Coordinator and Education English Program Manager, Danielle developed one of their most successful programs, the Conversation and Reading Cafe class, which fast tracks English language development. To cater for a diverse group, including those so traumatised from their refugee experience that they have memory and learning difficulties, she creates specialised learning packs to inform volunteer conversationalists.

    The course has helped over 80 students over the past two years and given them the confidence, life-skills and vocabulary to apply for jobs or study. e.


    Shruti Malavde - Olympic Adult Education

    When it comes to technology, there’s little that Shruti can’t turn her hand to. She delivers courses in English as Another Language, computers, and a Skills for Work and Study-Aged Care course. When the pandemic began, she was worried about the exit of talented teachers from her school, Olympic Adult Education. Swiftly, Shruti assumed a leadership role and developed strategies to guide students and trainers to thrive through the switch to online learning.

    Shruti delivered professional development for all staff, created written and videoed instruction manuals and established Google Classroom to ensure continued learning for vulnerable and isolated students.

    Establishing close relationships with students, she creatively guides them to achieve their goals. Her Student Ambassador Program trains learner-leaders to teach low literacy students. As a result of her many initiatives, the centre’s student retention rate was 90%. The seeds Shruti planted in 2020 meant they could deliver training online into the futur

    Cathy Connop - Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre

    It’s not unusual for Cathy to be recognised in parliament for her tireless and outstanding community work. She’s the manager of Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre and nothing stops her from achieving the best for the people she serves.

    In 2021 she restructured the organisation to maximise programs to better match learner needs, many of whom are immigrant women juggling families, part-time work and coping with life in a new country. She also steered the successful rollout of two Skills for Work and Study pilot programs in aged care and community services for learners with low levels of literacy and numeracy.

    Cathy does whatever it takes to help people who attend the centre. She accompanies them to job interviews, or to court, minds their children, arranges food parcels, or locates beds in homeless shelters. She’s led the centre to fulfil a vital community role, insisting that Farnham Street’s front door is always open.

    Sara Ganderton-Spencer - Cheltenham Community Centre

    Sara is Adult Education Coordinator at Cheltenham Community Centre, which runs 23 Learn Local courses mainly English and digital literacy. Sara gets involved in all of them to ensure that learners develop the skills they need for study, work and life.

    During lockdowns, Sara’s leadership skills were critical. She worked to help staff, learners and volunteers adapt to a new learning and engagement strategy to ensure that no students were left behind. She supported staff to become experts in online learning, and established a laptop loan program for learners. She also collaborates with the centre’s other projects and programs to integrate learners into activities that enhance their learning experience such as the customer service, food services and childcare.

    Her endeavours in 2021 secured the growth and sustainability of service and the centre delivered 19,092 hours to 224 students. This was an increase of 14.8% in hours and a 100% increase in student numbers.

Programs and partnerships

  • Winnner

    Bass Coast Adult Learning - Practical Music

    Often the practical side of managing a business or enterprise is not a strength of creative people. The Practical Music program was developed by Bass Coast Adult Learning in consultation with music industry professionals to provide a broader experience of the music industry.

    Participants bring their particular interest to the course and are connected with professional sound engineers, musicians, orchestras, choirs, social media experts, radio presenters and promoters. Across 12-weeks they cover every avenue of the music business, and have the opportunity to head into further education to study certificates III and IV in Music, with scope to specialise in performance, composition, sound production and business.

    On completion, the musos will have gained broad and practical insights into the industry, which enhances their likelihood of finding ongoing employment, or developing their own music micro-business. Practical Music provides invaluable encouragement, mentoring, networking, skill building and the confidence to make the connections to explore their chosen path.


    Adult Literacy for Adults with a Disability - Emerald Community House Inc.

    A keen focus on seeing the ability not the disability drives Emerald Community House’s pre-accredited course, Adult Literacy for Adults with a Disability. Developed to provide basic skills and competencies for early school leavers with special needs, it provides every opportunity for them to achieve their potential.

    Improving basic reading, writing and numeracy skills are crucial course components to ensure that all students have the best chance to succeed in their studies and everyday life. The mix of learning styles is supported through using fun and interactive learning strategies, and technology for independent research.

    Learners gain work or volunteer roles in community organisations and businesses or go on to further education in pre-accredited courses such as a Certificate 111 in Children's Services and cooking for hospitality opportunities. Course facilitators enjoy watching the learners grow in confidence and gain the knowledge to be able to complete accredited training.

  • Winner

    Cultural Cuisines Hospitality Course - Wellsprings for Women

    Wellsprings for Women operates in Greater Dandenong; the most culturally diverse locality in Australia. Their Cultural Cuisines course was developed as a pathway to further training and employment in the catering and hospitality industry. In a cohort where limited English skills are a barrier to mainstream employment, it proved a great way to initiate their own social enterprises.

    In partnership with William Angliss Institute (WAI), they co-designed a bespoke program. Wellsprings took care of the contextualised language, literacy and numeracy content, and WAI chefs focused on cooking and catering skills. On completion, students could choose further accredited study, or obtain entry level work while studying.

    Learners thrived through the training program and 9 out of 10 participants went on to further studies, volunteering or catering. This dynamic collaboration led to real catering opportunities such as feeding 400 workers on the Level Crossing Removal Project, and providing weekly food relief to over 100 families during the pandemic. Cultural Cuisines revenue increased 872% in the past four months.

    The Crew is looking forward to starting their Cultural Cuisines Mobile Kiosk due late this year.


    JiT "Big Skills for Big Build" Program - JobCo. Training

    The “Just in Time, Big Skills for Big Build" program set 26 disadvantaged learners on the road to employment with Major Road Projects Victoria. The bespoke training was industry specific to prepare participants for employment in the traffic management and construction industries.

    The focus was on getting long term unemployed people, ex-offenders, single parents, migrants, people with a disability, female, jobseekers with a mental illness, mature aged and indigenous learners into life-changing employment.

    The program delivered by JobCo. Training, taught employability skills including realistic workplace expectations and cultural awareness. Participants explored potential career pathways and opportunities and were offered sustainable employment opportunities in areas including traffic control, site administrator, covid marshall and assistant foreman roles.

    The increased confidence and feelings of self-worth that learners gained, coupled with employment, caused a dramatic shift in both theirs and their family’s lives through improved financial circumstances, breaking the cycle of unemployment and increasing their motivation to be positive contributors to society.

    Be a Rockstar Call Centre Agent - Foundation Learning Centre

    Foundation Learning Centre in Narre Warren offered jobseekers the opportunity to be call centre rockstars during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The 4-week course, ‘Be a Rockstar Call Centre Agent’, led directly into customer service and call centre employment.

    The trainers were small business owners who shared real challenges and solutions. Strong relationships formed with local employers including Aussie Broadband and Star News Group saw them become an integral part of the program giving trainees first-hand experience of worksites. Aussie Broadband had opened a new site in Lynbrook so there were many vacancies for entry level roles.

    Developing a resume took learners on a journey of self-discovery as they focused on the strengths they could bring to an employer. This, and their newly defined career objectives and job skills, helped them present confidently at interviews. Learners were offered interviews for entry level positions with clearly defined opportunities to pursue other roles within participating businesses.

  • Winner

    Conversation Reading Cafe class - Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council

    The education team at Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council in Mildura understand the importance of a good old-fashioned chat for people who are new to Australia. They began their innovative Conversation Reading Cafe class in 2020. It’s so popular, there’s a waiting list.

    Their cohort are mainly refugees and asylum seekers; many arriving from traumatic experiences who rarely have the opportunity to speak English. Current academic research shows that to become fluent in a language, one should be immersed in the culture and speak as much as possible.

    The classroom’s set up like a café and participants engage in one-on-one verbal language learning conversation and activities. It enhances all aspects of the students’ lives and in a short time they develop the confidence to apply for jobs or study. Danielle Hren, Training Program Lead, says that the learning outcomes are the best she’s seen in all her years of teaching.


    Digital Skills Initiative - Laverton Community Education Centre

    As the pandemic triggered a rush to digitise all our interactions across social, civic and economic domains, the need to address the digital skills gap became more urgent for people with English as Another Language (EAL). In response, Laverton Community Education Centre launched the Laverton Digital Literacy Initiative mid-2021 to boost participation in remote learning.

    Teachers too were significantly challenged by the swift lockdowns and needed to upskill in digital classroom tools. They were engaged in an EAL Digital Skills Community of Practice focusing on videoconferencing and group messaging as teaching tools.

    Addressing this skills gap for learners meant they could participate all aspects of social and economic life such as online job searches and community events. It also built the foundation for lifelong learning in the evolving digital environment. Approximately 80 learners participated in the program where they developed the confidence to succeed in their studies and become empowered Australian citizens.

    Jump Start for Jobs - Cire Training

    The Shire of Yarra Ranges encompasses popular tourist sites including Healesville, the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. Hospitality employees are in high demand but the local employment pool was lacking the skills to support local restaurants, wineries and cafes. In response, a collaborative partnership was formed between Yarra Ranges Council, Box Hill Institute (BHI) and Skills and Jobs Centre, to create the ‘Jump Start for Jobs’ program to train a skilled hospitality workforce.

    Designed and delivered in 2021 by Cire Training and Box Hill Institute, the program included a mix of non-accredited, and pre-accredited training. BHI provided kitchen and back of house skills, and Cire front of house training in their pop-up café. It catered for 48 local learners in industry tasters such as barista skills, customer service and food safety.

    Participants described the course as a great stepping stone that enhanced their confidence and inspired them to pursue hospitality careers.

    'I AM' program - The Centre For Continuing Education Inc.

    Research shows that adults entering prison often come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds with low levels of educational attainment. This is a risk factor for incarceration and reoffending. The I AM program was developed by The Centre for Continuing Education as a supportive first step towards basic education for offenders exiting the criminal justice system.

    I AM is innovative and groundbreaking. Learners become self-aware and develop confidence in their capacity and skills to achieve in a supportive environment. They re-enter education and develop skills for life and work. This diminishes the likelihood of recidivism and helps them overcome dispositional barriers, which are often complex, including trauma and undiagnosed learning difficulties.

    Pilot programs ran throughout 2021 engaging 81 learners. Of the 69 who completed, 52 remained connected with The Centre, 15 progressed to further education and 16 gained employment. By mid-2021, people exiting the justice system were requesting a referral to the course.

  • Winner

    East Gippsland Learn Locals Collaboration - Buchan Neighbourhood House, Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre, Orbost Education Centre

    After the 2020 bushfires ripped through East Gippsland communities, Buchan Neighbourhood Centre, Orbost Education Centre and Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre clustered together to enhance their impact on their many small and remote communities. Their vision was to pool their limited resources to promote a common regional Learn Local brand, and become a single point of contact for learners.

    They recruited and shared pre-accredited trainers, and promoted the brand providing learners with access to a broader range of industry relevant expertise in areas such as digital literacy, care & support, and disability. Courses were developed with employment opportunities in mind including the “Get ready for work in the care and support sector”, and “Get ready for work: tourism”.

    Overall, the partnership model created real efficiencies and better resources. Sharing the load, they created best practice for learners. There are still ongoing challenges for the community, but this collaborative model has proved to be one that can be replicated for local community needs.


    Civil Construction Labourer - Prace Inc, Winslow Constructors, Mirvac

    Forecasts show that the demand for labour in the civil construction industry is estimated to skyrocket over the next decade due to major infrastructure projects and population growth. However, there’s a skills shortage. In response, three industry partners, Prace community education provider, Mirvac property group and Winslow Constructors, codesigned a program that safeguards a sustainable workforce. The codesign of the Employability Skills: Civil Construction Labourer course proved to be a highly successful formula.

    Industry partner input was a point of strength in creating the pre-employment program that provided introductory skills and industry knowledge including employability skills. This prepared learners for work in the northern and western growth corridors of metropolitan Melbourne.

    The course leads directly to jobs and further accredited career opportunities or training. Learners also benefit from connecting with industry employers in a supportive environment to gain a true sense of the industry. To date, 100% of graduates have received offers of employment.

    Hungry 4 Success - Training - Glen Park Community Centre Inc., Eastland Shopping Centre, Glad Group, Echo Australia

    Hungry 4 Success – Training was devised in a partnership between Glen Park Community Centre, Eastland Shopping Centre and Glad Group property services. They developed the pre-employment program to change the lives of people with significant emotional and physical barriers to employment such as mental health, substance abuse or moderate intellectual disabilities.

    Participants are offered unique experiences through the, “A day in the life” trade tasters in industries such as cleaning, hospitality and maintenance. The focus is on stopping the cycle of unemployment in its tracks through developing confidence, skills and the attributes to become successful employees. This is underpinned by support services to ensure obstacles are addressed.

    Learners frequently report that their self-esteem has improved and that they feel confident to search for employment. The training has a high completion rate, with most participants going on to further education or jobs, ending what is often a generational cycle of unemployment and welfare dependency.

Reviewed 23 March 2023

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