Learn Local Awards 2021

The 2021 Learn Local Awards were held at an in-person gala on Friday December 10 in East Melbourne. Hosted by Georgie Coughlan at a COVID-Safe event at Pullman on the Park, it was a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the resilience of the adult education sector and the 15th anniversary of the Learn Local Awards.

Congratulations to all of our 2021 winners and finalists!

The Ro Allen Award – Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (Skills for study and life): Omer Ntunzwenimana, Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council

As a refugee arriving in Australia from Burundi 3 years ago, Omer had to face more than leaving his home country, settling in a new one and learning a new language. He also had to overcome a severe leg injury that left him unable to walk.

In March 2020, Omer started attending the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council’s Conversation English and Reading Café Class, where local volunteers talk to learners wanting to practice their English in 10-minute rotations. Learners receive not only English conversation and reading guidance, but an important opportunity to socialise. Omer surprised his trainers in quickly developing from a shy learner with low confidence in his English-speaking skills to a confident speaker and rapidly improving reader.

His journey continues to astound those around him: not only has he been accepted into La Trobe University to study a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Sociology, but through surgery and rehabilitation he has begun to walk again. Omer now proudly talks about his future plans, including the dream he had almost forgotten to one day work for the United Nations and be able to help his fellow countrymen in Burundi.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (Skills for work) Award: Mariam Yacoub Ibrahim, Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Mariam arrived in Australia in 2015 after 8 years living in a refugee camp in Sudan. She always had a dream of pursuing education because she loves learning but saw it as a gradual journey – and one that she has only just begun. This is why she initially studied a breadth of courses through Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre, including improving her skills in numeracy, listening, and speaking, and reading and writing English.

In 2020, Mariam undertook three Learn Local courses in conversation, fluency in reading, and the Pathways program that helped her to identify her learning goals and design a plan on how to achieve them. She has shown incredible devotion to her studies by taking on additional classes, including a second conversation class each week and working one-on-one with a mentor.

This year, she enrolled in English language courses incorporating digital literacy as well as the Skills for Work and Study Community Services course. These targeted skills were instrumental in Mariam securing a job as a Health Concierge with Cohealth, a not-for-profit organisation that has been crucial in providing information, advice and direct care for Melbourne residents in order to keep them safe from COVID-19. Mariam has helped culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Melbourne’s north-west throughout the pandemic, particularly in ensuring that they have the most up-to-date information about health guidelines available in their native languages.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Trainer Award: Robyn Matthews, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

Robyn’s personal experiences of growing up in an ethnically diverse community in Brisbane and working as a migrant in Asia have driven her desire to help people to settle into new communities. She is passionate about giving opportunities to new migrants and refugees in the areas of education and employment.

Having taught English in 6 different countries, Robyn joined Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services in 2019 as their lead English as Another Language teacher. She has developed innovative approaches to adult education with a heavy focus on student-led learning. This includes conversation classes themed to suit the particular interests of the learners, as well as creating flexible learning environments for learners with different needs. Another successful project was the online “Multicultural Storytime”, a series of language exchange sessions where women would read stories in their own languages in order to share their culture and language and promote a sense of pride within the multicultural community.

Perhaps most impressive of all, she designed the pilot Starting Work in Australia – Karen Engineering Studies program. This program provides bilingual support to the Karen community in the Greater Bendigo area to help learners transition to study a Certificate II in Engineering Studies at Bendigo TAFE. The skills that learners were taught included targeted numeracy and conversational English focused on the workplace, as well as how to look for work and organise tax and superannuation.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Leadership Award: Rana Tbaileh, Banksia Gardens Community Services

Despite moving to Australia in 2009 as a skilled migrant and having an impressive career in her native Palestine working in government and as a university lecturer in Chemical Engineering, Rana initially struggled to adapt to life and find work in her new country. She applied to work at Banksia Gardens Community Services (BGCS) and soon thrived in roles in which she could use her experiences in teaching, her passion for lifelong learning and her desire to help new parents with young children like her own.

Rana is currently the Training and Employment Manager at BGCS, which runs 17 Learn Local courses. She also maintains a teaching role in BGCS’s English as Another Language course, enjoying helping her class, which tailors learning for unemployed, underemployed and newly arrived migrants.

As Training Manager, she has played a significant role in expanding the number and variety of courses as well as the number of learners accessing them at BGCS. From 1,200 student contact hours a decade ago, BGCS had 55,000 student contact hours in 2021. At the same time, Rana has sought to improve the quality of courses by introducing evaluation measures for each course and by focusing on team-building exercises to create a tight-knit group of teachers.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Program Award (For small providers): Starting Work in Australia – Karen Engineering Studies, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

The Starting Work in Australia – Karen Engineering Studies course provides bilingual support and industry-focused language and numeracy training to students from the Karen community undertaking their Certificate II in Engineering studies at Bendigo TAFE, with the goal to help learners transition to job-specific further education and training or employment.

The program was inspired by leaders at Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) noticing a strong desire among youth in the Karen community to learn more about studying a trade. They also leveraged their strong community and industry links to uncover the areas of greatest skills shortage in the Bendigo area – welding and sheet metal engineering.

Trainers were amazed to see that providing comprehensive support tailored to the cultural and language needs of learners resulted in many discovering an aptitude for the mathematics component of the course and quickly absorbing the lessons on employment skills.

In this inaugural year of the program, LCMS also smoothly transitioned students to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic by quickly providing online support, providing worksheets and digital literacy training.

Now, with increasing demand among both Karen youth and older adults in Bendigo’s Karen community, a second year of the program is being organised.

The program’s success saw 10 of the 12 students gain employment in related fields after the course, with five of them commencing apprenticeships and 2 school-aged students being encouraged to return to study after previously dropping out of school. Many of the graduates currently in employment and training aspire to progress enough to join their classmates in studying a Certificate III apprenticeship in Engineering Studies at Bendigo TAFE.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Program Award (For large providers): Catering for Success, The Basin Community House Inc.

The Catering for Success course at The Basin Community House is a gateway to a career in the hospitality industry. The course trains adults living with a disability in preliminary skills related to cooking, catering, and coffee and customer service. By the end of the course, the hope is that learners are trained to begin working at the associated ‘Tasty Az’ catering social enterprise.

Learners receive training in a cooking school commercial kitchen at Tasty Az and a café within a local arts centre. The program also infuses literacy and numeracy skills into technical lessons. For the first time this year, students have catered for community events and corporate functions at the Community House. This opportunity was daunting at first, but being able to work through the catering, food service and customer service requirements at these events gave learners a sense of achievement and newfound confidence.

Learners who have completed the course this year have gained employment in Tasty Az’s new café at Burrinja Cultural Arts Centre and other local hospitality businesses, and one other has gone on to complete an accredited Certificate IV in Disability.

Victorian Learn Local Innovation Award: Starting Work in Australia – Karen Engineering Studies, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

The program was inspired by leaders at Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) noticing a strong desire among youth in the Karen community to learn more about studying a trade. They drew on research that showed the economic and social benefits that migrants and refugees bring to regional areas and leveraged their strong community and industry links to uncover the areas of greatest skills shortage in the Bendigo area – welding and sheet metal engineering.

Realising that low English language literacy was a barrier to learning for many of the Karen community members interested in studying a trade, LCMS collaborated with Bendigo TAFE and local JobActive centres to design a course that combined bilingual support and targeted numeracy and employment skills to support participants as they studied a Certificate II in Engineering Studies at Bendigo TAFE. The course also provided support for students beyond the program, to prepare for work, and to pursue further vocational education or employment opportunities.

Victorian Learn Local Partnership Award: Starting Work in Australia – Karen Engineering Studies, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

The program was a partnership between the Learn Local provider Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, Bendigo Jobs and Skills Centre, the Matchworks and Peoples Plus Job Active centres, Bendigo Senior Secondary College, and the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The course ran between February 2020 and December 2020 and the partnership operated as a remote working group during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bendigo TAFE and LCMS collaborated to ensure that teaching material was tailored for the class cohort. The 2 local JobActive providers provided funding for at-home learning packs and scholarships, while LCMS compiled the content of the packs. LCMS also provided in-class bilingual support workers with funding support from DPC.