Monday 13 December 2021

On Friday 10 December, the 2021 Learn Local Awards Gala Luncheon took place at the Pullman Hotel in East Melbourne, celebrating outstanding achievement in adult community education. 

Celebrating its 15 year anniversary this year, the Learn Local Awards are presented by the Adult, Community and Further Education Board to shine a spotlight on the industry and its learners, trainers and leaders. The prize money totals $77,000, with organisation award category winners receiving $10,000, individual category winners awarded $5,000 and category finalists given $1,000.

Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said, “The Victorian Learn Local Awards are a celebration of the extraordinary work of the hundreds of organisations that provide vital training and job opportunities within their communities across the state.

“Congratulations to the winners of this year’s awards and to the fantastic finalists whose nominations recognise the invaluable work they do to change lives.”

Around one-third of neighbourhood houses are Learn Local providers, offering a unique, community-based learning option, with a focus on the individual needs of learners. They are particularly suited to adult learners of all ages looking to develop their digital, literacy, numeracy and employability skills for study, work and life.

Of the eight categories, three were won by neighbourhood houses: Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre, Banksia Gardens Community Services and The Basin Community House. Special mention to our other members who were finalists this year: Cire Services, Reynard Street Neighbourhood House, Williamstown Community and Education Centre, Prahran Community Learning Centre, Kensington Neighbourhood House, Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre, Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre, Centre For Participation, Bridge Darebin and Wellsprings for Women.

Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (Skills for work) Award

Winner: Mariam Yacoub Ibrahim – Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Mariam arrived in Australia in 2015 after 8 years living in a refugee camp in Sudan. She always had a dream of pursuing education because she loves learning but saw it as a gradual journey – and one that she has only just begun. This is why she initially studied a breadth of courses through Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre, including improving her skills in numeracy, listening, and speaking, and reading and writing English.

In 2020, Mariam undertook three Learn Local courses in conversation, fluency in reading, and the Pathways program that helped her to identify her learning goals and design a plan on how to achieve them. She has shown incredible devotion to her studies by taking on additional classes, including a second conversation class each week and working one-on-one with a mentor.

This year, she enrolled in English language courses incorporating digital literacy as well as the Skills for Work and Study Community Services course. These targeted skills were instrumental in Mariam securing a job as a Health Concierge with Cohealth, a not-for-profit organisation that has been crucial in providing information, advice and direct care for Melbourne residents in order to keep them safe from COVID-19. Mariam has helped culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Melbourne’s north-west throughout the pandemic, particularly in ensuring that they have the most up-to-date information about health guidelines available in their native languages.

Learn Local Leadership Award

Winner: Rana Tbaileh – Banksia Gardens Community Services
(Pictured above: Banksia Gardens CEO Gina Dougall accepted this award on Rana's behalf)

Despite moving to Australia in 2009 as a skilled migrant and having an impressive career in her native Palestine working in government and as a university lecturer in Chemical Engineering, Rana initially struggled to adapt to life and find work in her new country. She applied to work at Banksia Gardens Community Services (BGCS) and soon thrived in roles in which she could use her experiences in teaching, her passion for lifelong learning and her desire to help new parents with young children like her own.

Rana is currently the Training and Employment Manager at BGCS, which runs 17 Learn Local courses. She also maintains a teaching role in BGCS’s English as Another Language course, enjoying helping her class, which tailors learning for unemployed, underemployed and newly arrived migrants.

As Training Manager, she has played a significant role in expanding the number and variety of courses as well as the number of learners accessing them at BGCS. From 1,200 student contact hours a decade ago, BGCS had 55,000 student contact hours in 2021. At the same time, Rana has sought to improve the quality of courses by introducing evaluation measures for each course and by focusing on team-building exercises to create a tight-knit group of teachers.

Learn Local Pre-accredited Program (Large Providers) Award

Winner: Catering for Success – The Basin Community House

The Catering for Success course at The Basin Community House is a gateway to a career in the hospitality industry. The course trains adults living with a disability in preliminary skills related to cooking, catering, and coffee and customer service. By the end of the course, the hope is that learners are trained to begin working at the associated ‘Tasty Az’ catering social enterprise.

Learners receive training in a cooking school commercial kitchen at Tasty Az and a café within a local arts centre. The program also infuses literacy and numeracy skills into technical lessons. For the first time this year, students have catered for community events and corporate functions at the Community House. This opportunity was daunting at first, but being able to work through the catering, food service and customer service requirements at these events gave learners a sense of achievement and newfound confidence.

Learners who have completed the course this year have gained employment in Tasty Az’s new café at Burrinja Cultural Arts Centre and other local hospitality businesses, and one other has gone on to complete an accredited Certificate IV in Disability.

For a complete list of winners and finalists, visit the Victorian Government website.