Learn Local Awards

2015 Award Finalists

We will profile here some of the awesome finalists in various categories of the 2015 Learn Local awards.

Outstanding Practitioner

Julie Giles

“We are teaching more than sewing skills,” explains Julie Giles, whose Stitch sewing program is bringing opportunities to migrant and refugee women in Geelong.

Julie, a former primary school teacher, started as a volunteer five years ago at Diversitat, a not-for-profit in Geelong which supports multicultural communities. Soon she was helping with the Women’s Craft Circle, before setting up Stitch, a pre-accredited sewing program.

“We had six people at the start,” says Julie, who majored in textiles at university. “Now we have 30 women on our sewing list and a very big room with 16 sewing stations.”

Most of the participants in the class are from Afghan or Karen backgrounds and often come with little English and no formal education.

“We are encouraging English language skills and social connections, as well as sewing,” explains Julie, who is supported by more than a dozen volunteers. “It’s an environment where people can grow.”

Women on the program – which now operates three days a week – sell their products at local markets. “We are teaching these women skills to earn an income,” explains Julie.

“It’s my passion,” she adds. “Through this class, I do the three things I love – sewing, meeting people from other cultures, and teaching. I encourage these women to develop confidence so that they can live in our community. They develop cross cultural friendships and celebrate life’s events. It’s wonderful to watch.”

Dani Salvo, arts and events project worker at Diversitat, said, “Julie goes over and beyond in terms of organising her classes and materials. She has the knack of making this group of women – some of whom are fairly isolated with limited English language skills – feel very supported and they have started some wonderful friendships. She’s just created a really comfy space for women to come along and feel connected and learn something practical. Many report that this is the best part of their week.”

Julie is a finalist in the Outstanding Practitioner category of the Learn Local Awards.

Click this link for more details about the 2015 Learn Local Awards.