CCA announces Community Education Student of the Year finalists

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has announced the finalists for the 2017 “Community Education Student of the Year”, as part of this year’s Annual Conference.

The official Awards announcement will take place at the CCA Conference “Gala Dinner”, to be held on Wednesday 26 July 2017 at The Windsor Hotel, Melbourne.

The Student of the Year shortlist includes eight students from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, who have studied in metropolitan, regional and rural community colleges.

The final shortlist includes (listed in alphabetical order by surname):

Madhi Akbari, nominated by Macquarie Community College, Carlingford NSW, studied Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways, Certificate III in Individual Support, Certificate IV in Ageing Support and General Education for Adults. A migrant to Australia from Iran along with his wife, Madhi holds a Bachelors and a Masters of Philosophy from his home country. He has overcome the challenges of no local family, not knowing English and requiring re-education, and now works with home care provider “The Cooperative Life”; he has recently won the “employee of the year” award.

Georgia Mary Black, nominated by Western Riverina Community College, Griffith NSW, studies Certificate III in Individual Support (Aged Care). She recently graduated from high school, has a small learning disability, and is supported by Griffith Post School Options (GPSO). Georgia has been a highly assiduous student, committed to her studies and to developing a career and self-sufficiency. Her ability to get along with people makes her a natural fit for her chosen career.

Julia Chant, nominated by Byron Community College, Mullumbimby NSW, studied Certificate IV in New Small Business. A former actor and dancer, Julia has overcome substantial personal, family and health challenges to start a new business, Micro-living Australia, which manufactures expandable, contemporary designed, off grid optional dwellings that are location flexible, easy to install and inexpensive. Her course at Byron rebuilt her confidence and helped her to create a business plan. She has two young adult sons and feels compelled to help them and others achieve the Australian dream of owning their own home.

Anthony (Tony) Dunn, nominated by Port Macquarie Community College, Port Macquarie NSW, studied Certificate III in Individual Support. He has learning difficulties due to dyslexia and two brothers with muscular dystrophy. After losing his job, he decided to change careers and become a qualified carer. With more practice, including support from teachers, trainers and classmates, his reading has improved greatly. Tony is a great raconteur, sharing stories that are enthralling, sometimes riotously funny and sometimes painfully tragic. His own family history means that he understands the challenges of supporting families with disabilities. Tony now works with St Agnes Parish Centacare in Port Macquarie.

Dimitri Galouzis, nominated by The Parramatta College, Parramatta NSW, studied Computers for Beginners and Introduction to Microsoft Word. Growing up in Darwin, Northern Territory, Dimitri’s primary year schooling taught him little. Following Cyclone Tracy in 1974, his family moved to Sydney and he had no clothes. He has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years as bar attendant, waiter, cook and hotel receptionist, and owned his own takeaway shop for 16 years. His further study in computers has helped to advance his career as a Security Officer at the University of NSW, and he looks forward to entering management and extending his leadership skills.

Jolie Kaja, nominated by Coffs Coast Community College, Coffs Harbour NSW, studied Certificate III in Individual Support (Aged Care). Originally from the Congo, Jolie fled to a Zambian refugee camp for seven years before arriving in Australia. Jolie is a single mother with four children who could speak Swahili, French and eight other African languages – but not English – when she first arrived. After earning a Certificate III in English, she decided that aged care was important after seeing the suffering of her people in Congo and Zambia. She works at St Joseph’s Aged Care in Coffs Harbour as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN).

Marcelle Orfali, nominated by Lalor Learning and Living Centre (LLLC), Lalor VIC, studied Certificate I in General Education for Adults. Marcelle arrived in Australia from Egypt in 1968 with her husband and young son. She first lived in a Housing Commission flat in South Melbourne, then purchased a home in St Albans and now lives in Mill Park. She worked for Telecom (later Telstra) for more than 20 years and raised 2 children, with little time to study. Because of how LLLC helped her life, she has joined the Committee of Management and provides a role model for others to study.

Benjamin (Ben) Simpson, nominated by ACE Community Colleges, Burleigh Heads QLD, studied Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing), Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability) and Introduction to Leisure and Health. Born in Melbourne, Ben moved with his family to country Victoria and most recently to the Tweed. His original career in air-conditioning systems brought him in contact with elderly people, and he decided to change careers to work in aged care. His exemplary performance on vocational placements resulted in his gaining employment prior to even completing the placements. He currently works as a disability support worker at Lifebridge.


Nominations were open to students who had recently studied at Australian not-for-profit community education organisations. Judging criteria included career and study achievements, such as personal or career gains,  understanding of the value of learning and training, and integration of training with work; communication, team and leadership skills, such as oral and written communication, self-reliance and resilience in times of challenge, effective participation in teams, taking a leadership role in training, study or industry, and capacity to be an effective ambassador for their organisation or community; and other activities including community, such as personal achievements in areas other than study and work, community involvement, community service activities, clubs or organisations and awareness of current social, economic and political issues.

For more information about the awards, contact CCA.

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