From homemaker to educator

The 2016 Premier’s Award for Victorian Senior of the Year has been awarded to Gwen Smith, president of Learn Local organisation Echuca Neighbourhood House, in acknowledgement of over 30 years’ work in adult community education.

Gwen is tireless in her passion for community education, and is making the most of winning this Award to get her message across: “The winning of the award has given me a wonderful opportunity to be able to promote the importance of adult learning. The place to start for those who are hesitant is your Learn Local provider, often found in Neighbourhood Houses. They are there to support anyone of any age who wishes to learn.”

Gwen has been a passionate supporter of adult education and is an integral part of Echuca Neighbourhood House’s day-to-day operations. Centre Manager, Shandel Keele who nominated Gwen for the Award, said: “There are many reasons I nominated Gwen. The obvious is that she is amazing as everyone who meets her will agree, but also because she encourages everyone she meets to do their best and to always keep learning; she’s forever saying you always keep learning. On a personal note Gwen and I work closely together and I am continually learning from Gwen. I am truly blessed to have such an inspirational woman as a committee president, mentor and friend.”

Gwen was a homemaker for decades, until she reengaged with education in her 50s, which eventually led her to Echuca Neighbourhood House. Gwen has been involved with other Learn Local organisations in the Loddon Mallee region including Campaspe College of Adult Education and the Tongala Education Centre (Golden Cow Dairy Industry Training Centre) and has been a member of the Loddon Mallee ACFE Regional Council counting multiple terms served as Chairperson. Gwen also helped establish Learn Local provider Mirrimbeena Aboriginal Education Group in Echuca 16 years ago, which provides pathways support to Aboriginal youths looking to get into training, further education and employment.

The 2016 Award was presented by Victorian Governor, Linda Dessau, at a ceremony at Government  House on Tuesday 4 October. Gwen is now a national finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year Award, which will be presented at the Australia Day public event in Canberra in January 2017.

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