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Lifelong learning for
a fairer Australia

Lifelong learning for
a fairer Australia

Inspiring ALW Scholarship winners

Meet the five outstanding adult learners who are this year’s scholarship winners

Tim Purvis – Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House
Tim Purvis couldn’t wait to leave school at 15, Tim’s excitement about the further study he can now do is very easy to see.

Diagnosed with ADHD and autism as an adult, Tim, 43, spent most of his life after school ‘falling in and out’ of work rather than following a plan. After an apprenticeship, he spent 20 years in the coffee industry, including a decade running his own coffee machine repair business. A stint at Bunnings followed before his diagnoses led to him rethinking possible study.

Tim says that included in his ADHD report was a note saying that he could only focus for more than 20 minutes if the topic was of interest to him. Taking this as his yardstick, Tim decided that he would see if his interest in gardening helped him return to study. And he found that it made all the difference.

Successfully completing a horticulture course at the Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House, Tim has since completed several other related courses and is currently completing a Permaculture Design course. He has joined a local beekeeping group to ‘learn everything before I keep bees myself’ and is keen to play a big role in building a new community garden at the Neighbourhood House.

And as a ‘real foodie’ who loves cooking and is interested in growing food, Tim plans to use his scholarship to move into cookery related courses. His five children are currently the main beneficiaries of his cooking – ‘they love what I cook, so that is really nice’ – but it may be that others get to enjoy his passion and new skills in the future.

Rebecca Symes – 26TEN

Rebecca Symes used to avoid any form of writing because she didn’t want people to be aware how difficult it was for her. However, in her mid-20s and newly engaged, she wanted to do something so that she could be more independent.

Going along with a friend to a 26TEN program, Rebecca started her journey to learning how to read and write – and she has never looked back.

Rebecca was ‘very excited’ when she found out she was a 2023 Scholarship winner and hopes to use her prize to take on a barista course. Rebecca’s scholarship was made available through the Learning Changes Lives Foundation.

A Launceston resident, Rebecca, 28, works on her literacy skills each Wednesday morning with Sharon Wagner from the Northern Suburbs Community Centre. Sharon has become a trusted advisor and Rebecca plans to chat to Sharon about her plans to do a barista course. Rebecca says that Sharon keeps her moving forward, often throwing in a surprise spelling test to keep her on her toes!

Rebecca keeps a written record of her daily activities and appointments. And she has started recording her thoughts and ideas in a journal – an interest she shares with her future mother-in-law.

A much more confident person now, Rebecca has been able to achieve her goals through hard work and perseverance. And she has a wedding to look forward to next year too.

Hayley Drummond – Canberra Institute of Technology

Hayley being congratulated by Minister Brendan O’Connor

Hayley Drummond said she felt ecstatic at the idea of being able to study for a Certificate III in Individual Support.

Hayley’s school education was not a happy experience, with disruptions caused by bullying and changes of school. However, she appreciated the help of a support worker and now hopes to take on such a role herself.

‘Having autism myself, I feel like I could provide a unique perspective and help other people. I also think that sometimes it takes someone who understands what others are going through to make things change’.

After COVID prevented Hayley finishing her Year 10 studies, she enrolled in a Foundation Skills course at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Initially concerned that her literacy and computer skills and previous mental health issues would prevent her being able to cope, not only did Hayley thrive, she also felt confident enough to help other students.

‘I didn’t realise how much better schooling as a young adult would be compared to high school and I didn’t know how good learning could be until I came here.’

Darren Kelly – Read Write Now

Darren Kelly

After leaving school at 17 in his native Ireland and working in construction, repeated back injuries and surgery forced Darren to look for a different working future. A history of alcohol and drug addiction fed a desire to help others in a similar position, so he enrolled to study for a Certificate IV in Community Services.

Realising that he didn’t have the computer skills he needed, however, he sought out such training through Perth’s Read Write Now.

Working in a drug and alcohol detox centre after his course, Darren felt that he wanted to be able to do more to help his clients. So, he took the next step and enrolled in a Bachelor Degree in Counselling.

Early on in the course, Darren succeeded in passing two online reading and writing assessments that he would never have thought possible only a short time before.

From being unsure how to use technology, Darren – through persistence and seeking help – became a student able to complete complex essays and use technology with confidence. Darren has successfully passed every unit he has studied to date and is now in the final weeks of his three year degree.

And while he has decided he is ‘not really an academic kind of guy’, he may go on to do a Masters in the future. In the meantime, his scholarship will enable him to study some shorter, more targeted courses in areas such as mental health and working with young people.

As Darren says, the ‘world is my oyster right now’.

Mikayla Quor – Deniliquin TAFE

Mikayla Quor

In 2019, at age 15, Mikayla started a Certificate II in Career Pathways at Deniliquin TAFE because she felt disconnected from school. Adapting well to the new
environment, she proved to be a good student, and completed several units.

After having her first child in 2020, Mikayla enrolled in a Statement of Attainment in Foundation Skills Support and completed units in digital technology and writing in preparation for completing Year 11 and 12 equivalent courses.

With her second child born in 2022, Mikayla combined a very busy life with completing pathways to further education and preparation for tertiary education.

While Mikayla is taking a gap year now, she remains motivated by her desire to complete a bachelor’s degree in a field in which she can work and provide for her family. Her father is also a motivating factor – he completed Year 11 and 12 equivalent courses at the age of 44 and went on to complete another qualification.

And while Mikayla is a single mother of two very young children with health conditions which require extra time and attention, she is keeping focused on her long term goals.

Mikayla’s scholarship was made available through the Learning Changes Lives Foundation. Visit the Foundation’s website to see more of its impact.

Read Quest Issue 3

Adult Learning Australia

Adult Learning Australia