2020 Learn Local Awards Winners and Finalists

Thank you to everyone who nominated and the judges who participated in the shortlisting process.

Learner Categories

The Ro Allen Award- Recognising Pre-accredited Learner Excellence


Colleen Forbes

Colleen Forbes, an indigenous woman of the Kurnai clan, grew up in an idyllic traditional environment with her people on Lake Tyers. In 2019, with courage and determination, she undertook a Learn Local Kickstart in Hospitality and Retail course at Community College Gippsland.

In the beginning of the six-week program of pre-accredited and accredited learning, Colleen's confidence was low. However, welcoming staff made her feel at home and she soon transformed into a confident, motivated student.

Now she's happily employed and flourishing at the checkout at Woolworths. Colleen loves being part of a team that helps people and is exploring leadership opportunities within the company. The positive learning experience also ignited a long-term goal of becoming a Koorie educator and advocate, and leader of her people.


Jason Barbour

Long term unemployment, a lack of self-worth and depression left Jason Barbour feeling directionless and hopeless, to the point where he rarely left his house. However, in 2019, everything changed. Through the caring, support and programs delivered at Bridge Darebin Neighbourhood House (BDNH), he gained new skills and the confidence to move forward in an unexpected new vocation.

Pre-accredited courses at BDNH upskilled him in Microsoft Office suite and prepared him for the world of work. Energized with renewed confidence, Jason has proven himself to be a wonderful teacher and mentor. Opportunities were created for him to assume the role of teaching aide. In 2015, Jason was told by an employment trainer that he would never get a job. Now his focus is clearly set on the accredited Certificate III in Education Support.

Haylee Mackintosh

Haylee Mackintosh's story is one of resilience and triumph. Traumatic experiences during childhood led to psychological issues and drug abuse. To aid her recovery, Haylee approached Cire Service's Tech Hub in 2019. This would facilitate her return to education, and connection with community.

Determined to get her life back on track, Haylee disciplined herself to attend classes regularly and on time. She embraced the pre-accredited program, Future4Me, which focuses on general technology as well as literacy and work ready skills.

Haylee's an inspirational woman who's immensely proud of what she's achieved. She's living a happy life, free of substance abuse, employed in a meaningful full-time job at a bakery, which she loves, and has a strong sense of belonging to the small Yarra Junction community.

Victorian Learn Local Young Pre-accredited Learner Award


Bryanna Paynter-Harvie

Taking the Noweyung Kick Start Your Career in Health course was a big step for Bryanna Paynter-Harvie, but the effort paid off big time. It helped her overcome difficult trauma and health issues and she developed the confidence to work towards her ultimate goal of becoming a primary school teacher.

Bryanna blossomed from a quiet learner into a confident, enthusiastic student who could work effectively in a team. On the final day of the program she wowed her trainers when she spoke at a public forum about her experiences, and the skills she'd gained from the course. Everyone was impressed by her mature, confident presentation.

The future is looking rosy for Bryanna as she embarks on a Certificate III in Education Support through TAFE Gippsland. However, what's also outstanding is that Bryanna no longer views her mental health issues as a barrier to education and personal growth.


Rebecca Cupitt

Young mum, Rebecca Cupitt left high school at 15 and ended up in a troubled and violent relationship. At 17 she was pregnant, alone and at risk of homelessness. When she was referred to Zoe Support her life transformed.

Aiming to develop a wide range of knowledge and skills, Rebecca worked diligently to complete pre-accredited literacy, numeracy and financial literacy programs and gained the confidence in her own academic abilities to enter formal education. She has achieved a Certificate IV in Community Services, and a Certificate IV in Mental Health under her belt, and in 2019 she completed her first year of a Bachelor of Human Services and Masters in Social Work.

Rebecca's been an inspiration to fellow students and enthusiastically assists other who are beginning the journey of re-engagement in education.

Georgia Benham

Mother of two young children, Georgia Benham, became a champion learner at Zoe Support and built a strong foundation to achieve success in future academic studies.

Georgia demonstrated a high level of engagement with her learning through regular and punctual attendance at programs. The wrap around support she received helped her tackle tasks and embrace learning new skills that she could apply in her personal, academic and professional life.

Her commitment to pre-accredited literacy and numeracy courses enabled her to complete her Certificate IV and Diploma in Community Service and she recently gained employment in disability assistance at the local TAFE campus. Georgia plans to continue learning and engaging with Zoe Support Australia services while she tackles the new challenges of her career.

Practitioner or volunteer categories

Victorian Learn Local Practitioner Award


Vivian Della Valle - CAE

Creative, warm and patient is how Vivian Della Valle's colleagues describe her teaching style. Vivian goes well beyond teaching the nuts and bolts of Information Communication Technology at the Centre for Adult Education, which is why students flock to her classes.

In her pre-accredited courses, 'Computers for Work - The Modern Office' and 'Introduction to Computers-Bridging the Gap', Vivian begins by working with students to plot a clear path towards further pre-accredited and accredited studies, so the endgame is always in sight. Employability skills are embedded in each session.

Through health and personal challenges, Vivian's passion for her work has never wavered and she builds strong relationships with her students. Vivian goes out of her way to create a fun atmosphere where students take ownership of their learning, which makes them inherently engaged.


Susan West – Cire Services

Susan West first approached Cire Services three years ago offering to partner with them to create financial literacy programs for women. Her diverse financial management skills and compassionate mindset were a perfect fit, so she became a valued staff member. Ever since, Sue's provided a vital education for women, many of whom experience family violence, financial disadvantage, abuse and discrimination.

Classes are tailored to student needs and with gentle words and a kind heart, Sue helps them restore their self-confidence. Her classes begin by developing trust and she nurtures them to have faith in their abilities, so they feel confident to make positive changes in their situations.

Sue believes that everyone can understand financial matters if it's taught in straightforward, plain language. This approach has empowered hundreds of women to make better choices and build better lives. Overall, her programs have enabled 621 enrolments, which is testimony to the value, respect, and financial literacy education she provides.

Michelle Harrison - Phillip Island Community & Learning Centre / Women Connect

Phillip Island resident, Michelle Harrison employs her vast experience in teaching digital literacy, employability skills and career development to help disadvantaged women get the best out of life.

In her innovative award-winning Career Sessions workshop, she engaged key local employers, Job Actives and the GippsTAFE Skills and Job Centre, to present insights into the often-hidden job market. Career Sessions is now a flagship pre-accredited training course for Women Connect and was recognised as a finalist in the NHVic Gender Equity Awards in 2020.

Michelle encourages learners to pursue realistic, achievable goals and empowers them with the tools to uncover their potential and the courage to pursue further study or private enterprise. Lives are transformed through Michelle's dedication, caring and wonderful sense of humour. Her learners report feeling supported in every way as they venture towards economic security.

Victorian Learn Local Volunteer Team Award


Rosewall Neighbourhood Centre

The dynamic Rosewall Learning and Creative Team from Rosewall Neighbourhood Centre, are sowing the seeds for a successful life in their English Conversation and Sewing Group. This humble activity is paying big dividends for new arrivals from across the globe.

The six volunteers warmly receive women from places such as Afghanistan, Iran, Cambodia, Africa, Israel and Pakistan. Many of them have been victims of persecution in their home country and are faced with marginalisation in Australia.

As they're taught to sew, they develop their spoken English, literacy and problem-solving skills. Financial literacy comes from exploring moneymaking ventures and developing their long-term career aspirations. With personal attention and care, they've created a robust, enduring program that boosts the confidence, morale and employability of women who might otherwise be disengaged and isolated.  


Zoe Support Australia

Childcare volunteers at Zoe Support provide a vital service that enables the organisation to meet the unique needs of young, disadvantaged mothers in the Sunraysia community. High levels of attendance would be impossible without volunteer childcare because many of these mothers are without family support and cannot afford regular childcare.

Zoe Support programs give young mothers the confidence and skill to continue on to accredited study or employment. In 2019, 16 clients completed the food handler's certificate. This was facilitated not only by the volunteer teams' provision of childcare, but also through providing mother's with transport.

Their flexibility and a willingness to do whatever is needed has an impact across the organisation. The volunteers venture beyond the childcare centre to support Zoe employees.

Program categories

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Pathway Program Award


The Centre for Continuing Education – Getting There

For people experiencing alcohol and drug dependence, mental health issues, a criminal history, and trauma, the experience of getting there can be a pie in the sky concept. However, the Getting There program at The Centre for Continuing Education (The Centre) in Wangaratta is breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

Learners who attend The Centre may not have completed their early years of high school, yet many continue into Certificate III or higher industry qualifications at either The Centre or TAFE. Getting There elevates the spirit of each individual so they can realise their potential and develop the skills and confidence to become valuable, contributing members of their communities.


Sandybeach Centre – Mentoring

A sky's the limit approach is taken in The Mentoring program developed by Sandybeach Centre. Their goal is to empower adults with a disability to find employment or volunteering opportunities.

Mentees have a range of abilities and literacy levels - from limited written and verbal communication to intellectual disabilities including Downs Syndrome. Some have never worked, and some have worked in supported workshops. Mentors, come from an array of backgrounds and industries such as building, trades, aged care, engineering and mental health. Their enthusiasm and genuine desire to share their knowledge led to every mentee reaching their goal.

Everyone involved in the program has continued into further training, employment or volunteering, proving that given the right environment, people with disability can grow and thrive.

PRACE - Carpentry Trade Taster

The Carpentry Trade Taster course created by Preston Reservoir Adult Community Education (PRACE) is providing intensive support to disengaged learners. The 50-hour program is designed to enable culturally and linguistically diverse learners and those experiencing issues such as learning difficulties, mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, and low language and literacy skills, with the confidence to pursue work and accredited training.

Learners demonstrate a tangible sense of accomplishment and pride on completing a project. They report that their improved numeracy, problem-solving and communication skills are making a difference to all aspects of their lives. The outcomes are significant with 60 percent of participants enrolling in the Carpentry/Joinery pre-apprenticeship qualification at Melbourne Polytechnic in 2019.

Victorian Learn Local Creating Local Solutions Award


Heyfield Community Resource Centre – Kick Start your Career in the Health Industry

Gippsland's allied health services are getting much-needed stimulus from the Kick Start your Career in the Health Industry program. Kickstart grew out of a collaboration between Heyfield Community Resource Centre (HCRC), Central Gippsland Health Service (CGHS), and TAFE Gippsland's Skills and Job Centre.

The Kick Start Your Career in the Health Industry program feeds directly into local TAFE courses where there's a strong focus on health including further studies in aged care, allied health, nursing and massage. CGHS has identified that learners who come through the course are better equipped for success in their roles, especially those who have entered employment for the first time.


Wyndham Neighbourhood Hubs

A partnership program between Wyndham City Council and Wyndham Community & Education Centre called, The Wyndham Neighbourhood Hubs - Meeting Diverse Needs, is addressing significant gaps in the provision of adult learning in the highly diverse region.

Meeting the education needs of such a diverse community is not without its challenges. A critical component is strengthening foundation skills including language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy. Place-based, flexible pre-accredited programs are tailored and delivered to the needs of people across the seven Wyndham neighbourhoods.

So far, almost 3,000 people have participated in programs across fast growing communities. Through innovative approaches involving communities working together, they've overcome complex local issues facing new settlers in Australia.

Wellsprings for Women - Cultural Cuisines

The focus of the women's only Cultural Cuisines cooking program is self-empowerment, and ultimately further education and employment. It's conducted at Wellsprings for Women, an organisation that works with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Wellsprings Cultural Cuisines partnered with local agencies to access accredited training and a commercial kitchen for catering. The aspiration of the Cultural Cuisines group is to become a social enterprise offering employment to women who face barriers in accessing mainstream jobs.

As a result, 21 women have successfully completed the food handling certificate. Many of the participants have begun generating incomes, where they would otherwise have struggled to start a business on their own. They've developed wonderful friendships and connected to the community through food

Victorian Learn Local Collaboration Award


Cloverdale Community Centre-The Gordon TAFE Collaboration

Learn Local and TAFE often find ways to work well together. Proof of this is a collaboration between Cloverdale Community Centre and The Gordon Institute of TAFE that demonstrated the benefits of joining forces in the co-design and delivery of courses for vulnerable learners.

The collaboration aimed to develop sustainable working relationships that would provide broader opportunities for those at risk of disengagement. When Free TAFE was introduced in 2019, there was an increased demand for courses at The Gordon. This highlighted numeracy, language and literacy deficits that were not addressed within classes.

Co-designed, pre-accredited Introduction to Horticulture, and Introduction to Community Services programs gave students the foundation skills to move into accredited courses at The Gordon and beyond to jobs or university. The collaboration was the starting point for all parties to develop a sustainable working relationship that's now a lifechanging instrument for growth.


The Centre for Continuing Education and Open Door Neighbourhood House – Pathways 2 Possibilities

The Pathways 2 Possibilities program proves that having disabilities doesn't equal having no ability. It's the product of a collaboration between Wangaratta-based Centre For Continuing Education, Open Door Neighbourhood House, and Villa Maria Catholic Homes. Together they crafted a program that addresses service provision in a sector that's fraught with poor understanding of the needs of people with wide ranging disability.

The focus on life and work skills spans money management, resume creation, online job searches, and workplace interviews. People experiencing Pathways 2 Possibilities achieve self-management skills and the confidence to enter further study, job training and volunteering, or the ability to live independently.

In the true spirit of collaboration, the three organisations have been able to share resources and expertise, and deliver adaptable, responsive training to the disability sector.

Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre and Burke and Beyond

To create greater futures for people with disability, Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre joined forces with disability service provider Burke and Beyond to create complimentary programs with powerful outcomes. 

Burke and Beyond improves the lives of people with disability through social interaction, personal development programs and community participation.

Both organisations inspired each other to go beyond business as usual to help students realise their potential. Learner requests prompted Kew NLC to expand their range of pre-accredited courses, which was a game changer for Burke and Beyond because it added to their program of life skills development.

Everyone involved with the students, including families and teachers, noticed significant personal transformations. Now learners are implementing their newly acquired motivation, confidence, and literacy and numeracy competencies into broader aspects of their lives

People’s Choice Awards

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Pathway Program

Getting There, The Centre for Continuing Education.

Victorian Learn Local Creating Local Solutions

Cultural Cuisines, Wellsprings for Women.

Victorian Learn Local Collaboration

Kew Neighbourhood Learning Centre Inc & Burke and Beyond

Victorian Learn Local Innovation in a time of COVID Acknowledgement Award

The ACFE Board is grateful for the hard work and commitment of the Learn Local sector, particularly as COVID-19 has presented so many challenges.

The 2020 Innovation in a time of COVID Acknowledgement Award was introduced this year to help celebrate innovative programs and the providers and practitioners from the Learn Local sector who have gone above and beyond to deliver innovative solutions, in order to ensure ongoing delivery and ongoing connections with our learners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recipients of this award are

Learn Local practitioner/individual

Leslie Snart - Laverton Community Education Centre

Learn Local program

Digital Matters Program - Phillip Island Community and Learning Centre (PICAL)

Learn Local Providers

Wellsprings for Women

Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre