Learn Local Awards

‘You never know where an opportunity will come from. It might not be what you envisaged or planned, but you never know where that path will take you.'

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

Fast forward a few years and Christie not only has his life back on track, he’s one of 25 finalists in this year’s Learn Local Awards.

He is being recognised alongside other learners, practitioners and training providers for inspiring efforts in the Learn Local education and training network.

The Awards

The Learn Local Awards are held every year to recognise the outstanding efforts of learners, practitioners and training providers in the Learn Local education and training network.

There are more than 300 government-registered Learn Local organisations across Victoria.

Embedded in local communities, these organisations provide skills and educational training for people who may be looking to improve their literacy, learn a skill, return to work or study or develop their English-language abilities.
The awards demonstrate the power of education and training to change lives, no matter their age or background.

The Ro Allen Award

Mr Sinclair has been nominated for the Ro Allen Award in recognition of his work helping others as part of the Workskills/Get Set to Work program at Banksia Gardens Community Services. As part of the program, the group took part in a workplace experience project refurbishing a classroom for disengaged kids.

Mr Sinclair rediscovered lost skills, learnt new ones and began to feel positive about being part of a project that was making a difference. With his renewed self esteem and confidence, Mr Sinclair started working for a landscaping company and is now in fulltime work. He also helps teach the program and plans to enrol in a Master of Business Management.

‘Halfway through the program, I realised the real building was going on inside me,’ Mr Sinclair says.

 ‘I was quite overwhelmed and excited,’ Mr Sinclair says of his nomination. ‘It was completely unexpected. I know the changes I‘ve made in my life — for someone else to recognise that was special.’

Another Ro Allen Award finalist is Michelle Hood, who says she is ‘overwhelmed and ecstatic’ about being recognised.

Ms Hood was a part of Mums ‘n’ Bubs, a visual arts pre-accredited program held at Dandenong Neighbourhood House (DNH) for people on Community Service Orders.

Program participants create and donate quilts to brighten the cots of premature and sick babies at Dandenong Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital. Ms Hood says participating in the short course during a very difficult time in her life gave her routine and structure and encouraged her to ‘show up’.

‘Being an arty thing, it was very therapeutic,’ she says.

After finishing her Community Service Order, Ms Hood returned to DNH as a volunteer, helping with hospitality skills development programs and, later, in programs for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Ms Hood now teaches cooking skills to seniors with a disability at DNH and is studying a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs at RMIT. She said participating in pre-accredited training was definitely ‘worth a go’.

“There are so many opportunities. It’s a starting point and you don’t know where it could lead you,” she said.

‘If I look back, I see how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve changed, how much better my life is. I’m thankful.’

For third finalist Brandylee Muscat, just summoning up the courage to enrol in a program was a huge step. When she started the World of Work program at Berry Street in Morwell, she had been living in a youth refuge.

At the time, she was introverted, lacked confidence and a sense of purpose. She thought her dreams of one day being a beauty therapist would be just that — dreams.

Only months later she was speaking publicly, presenting the views of young people at the Latrobe City’s Youth Choices Committee’s ‘Just One Thing’ breakfast forum. She so impressed participants, she received job offers.

Ms Muscat is now studying a Certificate III in Beauty Therapy at Federation Training, has plans to enrol in a Diploma of Beauty Therapy and hopes one day to own her own beauty salon.

Approximately 25,000 people across Victoria participate in pre-accredited training each year —opening up a world of opportunities.

As Ms Sinclair says: ‘You never know where an opportunity will come from. It might not be what you envisaged or planned, but you never know where that path will take you.

‘Put your heart and soul into it — you never know what will come out of it.’

There are six other Learn Local award categories and you can read more about them and the nominees here: Learn Local Awards

To find out more, see: Find a Learn Local program in your community