Victorian Learn Local Awards

The Victorian Learn Local Awards recognise the inspirational efforts of learners, practitioners and training providers in the Learn Local education and training network.

The Victorian Learn Local Awards recognise the inspirational efforts of learners, practitioners and training providers in the Learn Local education and training network.

The Victorian Learn Local Awards are held annually by the Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board.

The Learn Local education and training network plays a major role in the development of local individuals, local businesses and local communities throughout Victoria. It delivers the skills that support our economy and underpin the inclusiveness of our communities. The Awards are an opportunity to showcase this valuable work. Through the Awards we acknowledge the network’s many contributions and celebrate the success of learners, practitioners and training providers across the State.

Winners for the 2017 Awards

The Minister for Training and Skills, the Hon Gayle Tierney MP and the Deputy Chair of the ACFE Board, Ron Wilson announced the winners of the 2017 Victorian Learn Local Awards at a celebration of the sector at the Malvern Town Hall on Thursday 31 August 2017.

The awards recognise excellence in the Learn Local sector across five award and two acknowledgement categories with winners sharing in a total prize pool of $66,000.

This year's winners were:

The Ro Allen Award: Recognising Pre-accredited Learner Excellence

Christie Sinclair, Banksia Gardens Community Services

Christie felt he had reached rock bottom – but it was helping others as part of the Workskills/Get Set to Work program at Banksia Gardens Community Services that ultimately turned his life around.

Unemployed and in his late 50s, he thought any hope of working again – especially in the IT industry he was once in – was lost. He was struggling emotionally and financially, and his self-esteem and confidence had taken a nosedive.

He felt sure the Workskills program couldn't help. Christie's view changed when his group participated in workplace experience refurbishing a classroom for disengaged kids. Being part of a project that was making a difference was making him feel positive. He also rediscovered skills he had learned as a younger man fixing locks, and started learning new skills and how to use different tools. He enjoyed working in a team and his confidence and self-esteem grew. He started working for a landscaping company and is now in fulltime work, and planning to enrol in a Master of Business Management.

"Halfway through the program, I realised the real building was going on inside me," he says.

Outstanding Practitioner

Lachlan McKenzie, Jesuit Community College

It's more than the smell of great coffee and a perfectly made latte complete with leaf motif that ensures Lachlan has no shortage of learners enrolled in his barista courses at Jesuit Community College.

In almost four years, Lachlan has trained more than 660 students in the college's pre-accredited barista courses, and of those 310 have gone on to enrol in the accredited training unit – Hygienic Practices for Food Safety – also delivered by Lachlan.

Graduates of his courses are not only learning how to operate a commercial espresso machine and how to make a range of coffees, they are gaining confidence and self-esteem and learning there are pathways to further training and employment.

Lachlan's students are mainly refugees and asylum seekers, at-risk youth, involved in the justice system, have disabilities or long-term unemployed.

In 2004, Lachlan – who had a career in hospitality – enrolled in a computer course at his local Learn Local after an accident, and there began his appreciation of the power of Learn Locals in people's lives and a new career as a hospitality trainer.

Outstanding Pathways Program

Try a Trade, Diversitat

What's it going to be like being a carpenter or a mechanic, a spray painter or a panel beater? Will I like it? Will I be good at it? Will I stick at it? Is it the right choice for me? These are the kind of age-old questions young people thinking about their futures have often pondered.

For many young people who have become disengaged from education and training, these questions can be a stumbling block in their pathway back into training.

But what if you could actually try it in a realistic environment and be given a taste test of trades?

Diversitat's Try a Trade program is doing just that.  The program offers disengaged young people in Geelong hands-on experience, where they have the opportunity to develop carpentry, mechanical, spray painting and panel beating skills in a realistic environment. They are introduced to workplace health and safety principles and a variety of trades to assist them in selecting their pathway into further education and training and ultimately employment.

And of the 17 learners that participated in the program, 16 of them have gone onto further education and four have gotten a job.

Excellence in Creating Local Solutions

Linking Learning to the Land, Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre

It was a problem that needed a creative solution. Although many East Gippsland growers wanted to employ locals, they said they didn't have the time to train unemployed or young people and looked to 457 visa workers to address their labour shortages.  On the other side, many job seekers carried negative perceptions of working in the agri-business sector, perceptions in some cases built on myth.

Enter – Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre (PNC) and an innovative connection between training and the local food industry.

PNC found that farmers were open to explore ideas on how people's lives could be improved through work and learning, and growers were willing to form partnerships to work on the problems associated with entrenched unemployment, skills and labour shortages.

PNC partnered with East Gippsland Food Cluster, Federation Training, Moe Neighbourhood House, Traralgon Neighbourhood House, East Gippsland Shire Council, Landcare groups, farmers and industry representatives to design a pre-accredited education and training course to build pathways from unemployment to jobs on farms.

The resulting Linking Learning to the Land course is providing local solutions to local training needs and will play a significant role in helping to generate the economy in East Gippsland.

AMES Diversity Innovation Award

Paw Po Products Community Enterprise, Nhill Learning Centre

In the Karen language, Paw Po means little flower – a fitting name for an innovative community enterprise program for refugees that is blossoming in a little shop in the main street of Nhill, in the Wimmera.

In partnership with the Nhill Learning Centre the Karen women, who now call Nhill home, have come together to make and sell their beautiful handcrafted pieces in a retail craft space. The Karen women who are refugees from Burma, and had been stay-at-home mums since arriving in Nhill in 2009, chose the name for Paw Po Enterprises. They learned to sew at Nhill Learning Centre and it grew from there.

The program is helping the women sew new futures in Nhill building their confidence and community connections, improving their English speaking and providing education, training and employment pathways.

The women weave their own textiles using traditional looms and design and make a range of products, including aprons, cushion covers and bags. The shop is full of conversation as the women weave, sew and work on their ever-expanding range.

Learn Local Volunteer Champions:

  • Harry Ashton, Rushworth Community House
  • Joy Ferguson, Diamond Valley Learning Centre
  • Melinda Hamilton, Springvale Neighbourhood House

Learn Local Legends:

  • ACFE North Western Metropolitan Regional Council - Banksia Gardens Community Services  
  • ACFE Loddon Mallee Regional Council - Echuca Neighbourhood House
  • ACFE Southern Metropolitan Regional Council - Dandenong Neighbourhood House      
  • ACFE Gippsland Regional Council - Milpara Community House  
  • ACFE Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council - Mountain District Learning Centre          
  • ACFE Hume Regional Council - The Centre for Continuing Education     
  • ACFE Grampians Regional Council - Wendouree Neighbourhood Centre
  • ACFE Barwon South Western Regional Council - Rosewall Neighbourhood Centre        

Congratulations to all of this year's winners!

To read more about this year's winners and finalists see:

Previous Award winners

To read about previous winners see: Previous Learn Local Award Winners.  

Contact us

For more information, please contact the Victorian Learn Local Awards team at: or 9637 2473.

For more information, see: