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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2653

Ms BURKE (9:25 PM) —Tonight, I do not want to grieve. Having watched the news tonight, I think we need to be speaking about some wonderful things in our community as opposed to all the traumas that are happening out there. I do put on the record, though, my sympathies for the people of Japan and New Zealand. Again, having watched the news tonight, it is a devastating situation.

I want to talk about some great things that are happening in my electorate at this time. My electorate is home to a lot of higher education institutions: Monash University, Deakin University and Box Hill Institute of TAFE. I specifically want to speak about Box Hill Institute of TAFE tonight. TAFE does not get a lot of praise and it certainly does not get mentioned much. I think in a lot of people’s minds TAFE is a secondary thing, where tradies go and get their skills and all of the rest of it. Box Hill TAFE is a phenomenal institution—and it certainly does teach tradies, which is a fantastic thing.

I am sad this week that I am not at the presentation of the trade training student of the year award at Box Hill TAFE. I did get to attend last week’s vocational presentation awards ceremony, including the Outstanding Student of the Year award. There are a raft of certificate courses and degrees offered at Box Hill TAFE. Overall, the amazing part of the evening was the continued praise for the institution, about how it differentiated itself in its teaching style and its ability to nurture students who had fallen through the cracks everywhere else. If it were not for this wonderful institution, these students would not have been able to do all that they have been able to do. Students spoke of the amazing support from the staff, the small class sizes where they can have easy interaction with their teachers, the relevance of the courses and, most importantly, the hands-on experience. All the participants, the nominees and the winners of the evening, spoke about their great hands-on experience—their ability to go out and do vocational training and have quite a high degree of interaction with the industries they would go on to be employed in. By virtue of that, most of the people who are doing these courses already have paid employment lined up for when they finish their vocational training—something that I can tell you as a university graduate was not forthcoming when most of us finished our graduate courses.

The night started in fantastic fashion. Emma Roberts, the previous winner in 2010, spoke of her experience, which echoed many of the others’ experiences. She had had difficulty studying in a normal setting, she could not achieve and she had missed a lot of school through illness and other reasons, but she decided she wanted to learn. So she went to TAFE, she did her certificate course and she did so well that she was invited to the University of Melbourne to go on and do a degree there. She started at Melbourne; she lasted a couple of weeks. It was not for her. The environment was not right. She has returned to Box Hill TAFE and is doing her degree there. She is assured of a terrific career in the future.

Box Hill Institute has an international reputation for developing best practice, customer focused, innovative education and training services. Graduates go on to many areas. There are 30,000 students enrolled at Box Hill TAFE. The awards night was to recognise very specific award recipients. The awards are sponsored by the Rotary Club of Box Hill, who give a nice cash donation to some of these kids, which is a nice way to end the evening! Not all of them are kids. Most of the stories were about people who had returned to education because, even though they had found it difficult previously, they had a desire to do better and to educate themselves.

Debbie Andrews received the achievement award. Debbie is a single mum who wanted to do better for herself and for her kids. She loves animals, and for years she had been volunteering at the Myuna animal farm in Doveton and she absolutely loved it. But she knew that, to get a job there, to get paid employment and do better for her kids, she needed her certificate. She had always struggled with reading and writing, so to ensure she could do this course she enrolled in adult education so she could get her certificates I, II and III to enhance her reading and writing skills. She then did her accompanying animal studies as an animal attendant at Myuna Farm. She is now working at that farm where she volunteered. She is an inspiration to everybody but particularly to her two children. She has been able to demonstrate that you can do it.

Serena got the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning, a VCAL. Serena was recognised by the CEO for outstanding achievements. Again her story was of struggling with school and an inability to learn. Her teachers in school kept telling her, ‘School’s not for everybody,’ but it should be for everybody, particularly somebody desirous of learning. Still only 17, she has now chosen, after successfully battling all the odds, with the support of the staff and the students, to get through this. She achieved her year 11 equivalent and has gone on to do her hairdressing apprentice course at Box Hill TAFE and is now guaranteed of going on to get further employment.

The wonderful thing about the evening is that all these people are so confident now about what they are doing. They all got up and spoke in front of a room full of dignitaries, members of the academia and their parents. It was an inspirational night. Hailey McKenzie was the overall winner on the night. She got an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design. Hailey left home and was living independently at the age of 17. She wanted to go on to study and she got through this challenging and testing time. She said, ‘Initially I started out wanting to study multimedia as I had always been interested in visual art but graphic design won me over. Design is such an amazing field and studying at Box Hill has given me the ultimate head start in my career.’ Again she spoke of the practical hands-on experience and the actual going into the workplace and seeing her work in action. Those experiences have led to her getting a full-time position when she walked out with her advanced diploma.

Another astounding person who was a nominee but did not win on the night was Jessica Duncan. Jessica is working in the hospitality area. She now has a full-time job at the Sebel Heritage Yarra Valley. Jessica spoke of the amazing experience she had working at the TAFE. Box Hill TAFE has Fountains restaurants where all the students get to have hands-on experience. On the night of the awards presentation and many nights I have been there, we were served by the students, we were fed by the students, the students had done the flower display and the students played the music. It was a great experience. Jessica spoke of her wonderful abilities in this course. Not only did she get to work in some amazing places here that gave her excellent opportunities but she also got to travel to Broome as an intern participating in the hospitality industry within Broome. She also got to go to Dubai as part of a global exchange that Box Hill TAFE has with an international resort in Dubai. She said it was a mind-blowing experience and if she had gone anywhere else she would not have had that opportunity. How many 18- and 19-year-olds studying hospitality get sponsored to go to Dubai? It was a fantastic night and these are outstanding kids. Box Hill Institute is an amazing place and I want to commend them for their support, their dedication and the awards night.

Higher education is an amazing thing within my electorate. Last week I also got to visit the Monash Sustainability Institute. While we are talking about climate change we need to realise that we must be adapting to the lifestyle that we are now generating by our use of the environment. Believe or not in climate change, a lot is happening around us and we need to be more sustainable. If you do not believe it, we are still using up all our resources. The Monash Sustainability Institute has a drive focused on three main areas: research, education and action. They talk about sustainability. The most common way to define sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet their own needs. Let’s not waste the future for our children by using up all the resources today. Let’s learn how to use them well and use them into the future. One of the terrific programs they are running in education and research is the Green Steps program, where they get students to learn how to live and work in a sustainable environment. The students voluntarily do an intensive course and then go into a business in an internship and develop a plan for that business. It may be National Australia Bank, it may be an energy company, it may be a hotel. They develop ways for that company and that business to become sustainable. This is a tremendous program that is now reaching out to many more students and many other universities and it is going global. I really want to commend the Monash Sustainability Institute for their foresight and thank Monash University for hosting it, and hopefully we will have a sustainable future for future generations.