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Art on the North Coast 05


designing a destiny 20

INSPIRED BY A mentor: culinary success 28

big thinking for small business 34





Welcome to shine



Welcome to Shine

North Coast of NSW is a fast T he growing, diverse and increasingly



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Art on the North Coast

12 20

Single minded Sally finds her true vocation


Aboriginal Learning Circle gives Paris a flying start


Big thinking for small business

Shine is a new publication designed to capture some of those stories, and to share the privilege we feel in North Coast TAFE to be part of them.

Published by North Coast TAFE. All information and content accurate at time of publication. The views and opinions expressed by individuals in this publication have been published with their permission and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TAFE NSW-North Coast Institute.

Is the North Coast ready for the boom in Chinese tourism?


With its much envied lifestyle, expanding businesses and eclectic mix of talented people, it is home to inspiring stories about communities, businesses and people who shine at what they do.

Designing a Destiny: from Diploma to Degree

Civil - Get ready for the infrastructure explosion

Inspired by a Mentor: Culinary Success

sophisticated part of Australia.

© January 2016 TAFE NSW-North Coast Institute Copyright of this material is reserved to the Crown in the right of the State of New South Wales. Reproduction or transmittal in whole, or in part, of this material, other than in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act, is prohibited without the written permission of TAFE NSW-North Coast Institute.


In this first edition, we celebrate the North Coast’s contribution to the nation’s much-touted “With its much infrastructure economy envied lifestyle, the and explore what the phrase ‘upgrading North Coast of NSW simple the Pacific Highway’ is home to inspiring actually represents to our and our state. We stories about people region tell the story of the Pacific who shine at what Highway upgrade through the eyes of a civil they do.” construction apprentice and uncover an Australian innovation in civil construction training. We also shine a light on the thriving creative hubs on the North Coast and showcase the extraordinary talents and successes of local artists and designers. TAFE NSW has worked with generation after generation of creative Australians, and, as you’ll see, that heritage is alive in the North Coast of NSW.


With the North Coast growing in popularity in domestic and international tourism, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the challenges and benchmarks of the tourism and hospitality industry up and down the coast. We also discover that Chinese tourists are jumping into cars in their thousands and travelling the 1,000 kilometre road trip that is the Legendary Pacific Coast to sample some of the best-kept secrets of relaxed, regional Australia. And talking about best-kept secrets, the learning and career experiences of two Aboriginal people on the North Coast provide a unique insight into how North Coast TAFE’s Aboriginal Learning Circle is the quiet revolution for engagement with education and training among Aboriginal communities in our region. We hope you enjoy reading this first edition of Shine - please let us know your thoughts and feedback by email to:

Elizabeth McGregor Institute Director TAFE NSW North Coast Institute



ART on the NortH Coast

Byron Bay artist’s record setting journey inspired by nature North Coast’s natural beauty inspires thriving creative hubs Local artist takes flight





Byron Bay artist’s record setting journey inspired by nature BY SUE L APPEMAN


he majestic mountains and pristine lochs of subarctic Scotland and the subtropical rainforest and waterfalls of the Byron Bay hinterland may at first appear to have little in common.

Leif says studying graphic design at Kingscliff TAFE had been the ideal training ground to send him on his artistic journey, exploring themes of connectedness, the relevance of nature and the psychedelic experience.

But for internationally-acclaimed artist and creative director Leif Podhajsky a fascination with the wild has taken him from the NSW North Coast, where he grew up, to Scotland where his latest collaboration is making headlines.

“It really set the foundation in my career as an artist and creative director, not only in the technical know-how but also from an ideas perspective,” Leif says.

In October, one of the world’s most prestigious whiskey makers, Ballantine’s, announced a collaboration with the London-based designer to create three limited edition gift packs ahead of Christmas 2015.

“My work is inspired by nature and being able to surround myself in the natural environment of the Kingscliff area really helped me form a unique view on where I wanted to take my practice.”

Born and bred in Byron Bay and returning regularly to reacquaint himself with the local landscape he loves so much, Leif similarly immersed himself in the breathtaking Scottish wilderness where the images for the project started to form organically.

Graduating from North Coast TAFE in 2006 and after a stint as a graphic designer, Leif quit his day job to launch his creative career internationally.

The gorgeous, kaleidoscopic designs mimic the fire and water used in the whisky making process and provide an abstract interpretation of Scotland’s stunning natural landscapes.

His distinctive, sonically-inspired designs and haunting photography quickly became sought after by brands, record labels and musicians including Nike, Sony Music, Wired Magazine, Warner Records, Of Monsters and Men, Tame Impala, Foals, the Vines, Kelis and Bonobo.


The success of the musicians he collaborated with saw the CDs his artwork adorned held up by iconic US talk show hosts such as David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres. Leif has also been featured in Huffington Post, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire and has had acclaimed exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Berlin, Paris and London. “North Coast TAFE really was the perfect place to study, especially in the creative industries,” Leif says. “The staff have such a wealth of knowledge in varying backgrounds and a passion and openness to share and help their students. “I’m actually still friends with nearly all my teachers to this day.”

97%* 7

of North Coast TAFE students were satisfied with the quality of their trainers, support and assessment in 2015. ISSUE 1 | SUMMER 2016


North Coast’s natural beauty inspires thriving creative hubs BY SUE L APPEMAN


earching for the ‘sublime’ could be the mantra of many of the artists who are drawn to the north coast of NSW. The spectacular coastal stretch from the Great Lakes to the Queensland border and its scenic hinterland and rural areas have always been a lure for artists, designers, musicians, film makers and photographers. Many are enticed by the natural beauty and laid back, alternative lifestyles of the small towns and villages and stay to become part of their supportive and creative communities. “They have become stimulating, creative hubs of art and culture and have a youthful vibe which attracts major music festivals like Splendour in the Grass and the Byron Bay Blues Festival,” artist Sandra Guy says. The alternative and sustainable lifestyle draws creative people to the area. “Together they have created dynamic centres such as the Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate and networks such as Arts Northern Rivers that promote the wonderful work being created in the Region.”

It took some time but Sandra, who is also Head Teacher of Information Technology and Creative Industries at North Coast TAFE, eventually found the ‘sublime’ she was searching for. With her artwork principally being inspired by the wild, vast, awe inspiring natural landscapes which embodied the 19th century Romantic movement, the US-born, Sydney-raised painter at first struggled to find inspiration in the rural surroundings when she moved to the Northern Rivers region eight years ago. The working farms, grazing cattle and bitumen roads she found during her forays into the countryside held little interest or power. But like so many of the talented artists who have made the north coast home, Sandra eventually found what she was looking for in the disparate, overlapping landscapes and eclectic lifestyles of the region. “Over time, what was initially rejected as subject matter became familiar, inspiring, surprising, intriguing and, contrary to previous thought, powerful and often ‘sublime’,” Sandra says.


“Contemplation of these landscapes led me to re-examine the aesthetic notions of the Romantic painters, separating the natural world into categories, and to search for something more parallel to my newly inspired experiences of a predominately rural landscape.” Celebrated artists like realist Robyn Sweaney, painter Michael Cusack and two-time Archibald Prize winner William Robinson are among those who have also been inspired by the region’s many natural and man made offerings. With their teaching roster of renowned artists, diverse and vocational courses and successful former students - the six North Coast TAFE campuses offering creative programs are likewise contributing to the creative culture in their local areas. “Our teachers are practising artists who are very prominent in their individual fields like painters Wendy Stokes and Hobie Porter, Rochelle Summerfield who creates unique and quirky collages, ceramic artist Catherine Lane and David Rousell, a hand blown glass artist,” Sandra says.

“We have also produced a lot of outstanding students including artists Kasane Low, papermaker Heather Matthew and London-based graphic designer Leif Podhajsky. “Several have moved interstate and overseas to pursue highly successful careers.” Sandra recently showcased her journey through the complexities of the region’s landscapes in a collection of oil paintings in her latest exhibition, ‘Two-thirds Sky: Searching for the Sublime in the Northern Rivers’. Her paintings, featuring prominent road signs coupled with two-thirds ‘sublime’ sky, hint at the often prickly juxtaposition of the natural and rural environment typical of the area and reflects the environmental tensions of land use versus land preservation. The sky, ominous and dominant above a landscape jolted by humans, can be seen as a warning of mankind’s complacency about their surroundings. “How I view the landscape of the Northern Rivers is a very personal

experience,” Sandra says. “My depiction of the landscape is not necessarily a typical or comfortable one.

In its first 12 months, the MOAC attracted more than 135,000 visitors, doubling the gallery’s annual attendance figures.

“Through my work I hope to elicit a response generating the recognition of a ‘sublime’ moment experienced, and an appreciation for the beauty or picturesque nature of the Northern Rivers landscapes, but also the promotion of thought about further impact to this environment.

“The Margaret Olley Art Centre and permanent exhibition has become an enormous drawcard that has boosted numbers at galleries in the area and provided additional patronage for local artists,” Sandra says.

“Ultimately these works reflect the search for a fusion of contemporary experience with Romantic notions.”

“There are several galleries from the Byron Shire to the Gold Coast and many of the art lovers who go to the Olley exhibition are also visiting those other attractions.”

Sandra’s exhibition was held at the Tweed Regional Gallery, which is also home to the new Margaret Olley Art Centre (MOAC), a gloriously chaotic recreation of her Sydney home described by her friends as ‘sublimely cluttered’. The permanent tribute to the Lismoreborn Olley has propelled the regional gallery into the national spotlight and created a mini tourism boom all of its own. Busloads of art enthusiasts have been making a pilgrimage to the $4 million centre since it opened in March 2014.




Local artist takes flight BY SUE L APPEMAN

erched high upon a handrail P overlooking Bondi Beach, the effigies of 22 mutton birds were supposed to weather dramatically to represent the sad plight of the pollutionthreatened bird. But what Coffs Harbour-based sculptor Jeremy Sheehan, and his 100strong team of local and international collaborators, did not foresee was the compassion of the half a million visitors to the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. “People adopted the birds and turned up each day to see how they had weathered,” says the North Coast TAFE Visual Arts teacher. “They looked after the birds, making sure they were okay and propping them up if they fell. “It was incredible. It really restored our faith in humanity.

“The breakdown of the work was supposed to be a metaphor for the destruction of these birds by marine pollution so, if anything, they probably lasted too well.”

The overwhelming local reaction to the Improbable Gluttony exhibition prompted Jeremy to start thinking about the migratory, rubbish-strewn path of the birds.

The Trans Migration installation in the 2015 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition had originated from a classroom discussion a year earlier.

“We thought we needed to go further, that there was a lot more to this project,” Jeremy says.

A group of Mr Sheehan’s students at North Coast TAFE in Coffs Harbour wanted to bring attention to the thousands of mutton birds that had washed up on local beaches, killed by plastic waste ingested during their annual migration. They modelled bird skeletons from plastic refuse, adorned them with steel wool and installed them at the base of nearby Muttonbird Island so they could degrade and reveal the plastic within.


“We made up a new lot of wire frames and sent them to 22 Pacific islands, including Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Kiribati, where the mutton birds land during their migration. “Artists from those islands were invited to create the body of the birds themselves using local materials meaningful to them. “Some of the islands went to great lengths to ensure the birds were returned to us, passing them via boats to other islands and facing challenges to get them through immigration.

“The birds have so much spirit and each has a story behind them. “The people who make them put so much work into them and, although they look incredibly fragile, they stood up to everything put at them from the very stormy weather to playful kids.” NCI TAFE Creative Arts Head Teacher Phil Greed says the project was a wonderful illustration of the value of TAFE’s creative courses for the North Coast community. “Art and creativity can be a catalyst for change, a very effective way of communicating a message to people. This project is a fine example of how you can do that,” Phil says. “This is about the synergy of education, engagement with communities and bringing attention to environmental issues that are important.”

96%* 11

of North Coast TAFE students agreed that they had developed the skills and knowledge that they had expected from their training in 2015. ISSUE 1 | SUMMER 2016



When Sally Avery happened to see a small ad in her local newspaper about scholarships for a nursing course, she had a hunch it could be the start of a rewarding new vocation. Although already working in hospitality, Sally, a member of Port Macquarie’s Biripi Aboriginal Community, envisaged a career that would allow her to help Aboriginal people, and inspire her own four children to reach their dreams. “I think my kids motivated me to embark on a nursing career because I wanted better for them,” Sally says. “I wanted to get a good job and be able to provide for them. So I sat the test,

took part in the interview process and was lucky enough to receive a position in the course.” Sally, 28, was one of seven – out of 50 original applicants – granted a New South Wales Health funded scholarship to complete a Diploma of Nursing at North Coast TAFE’s Port Macquarie Campus. Although convinced she was on the right track after the first practical placement revealed the scope of enrolled nursing pathways, Sally knew she would need herculean stamina to go the distance. Juggling studies with three young children and pregnant with her fourth child, Sally was also holding down a hospitality job at the Panthers RSL Club and volunteering weekly at Birpai Aboriginal Land Council, imparting healthy life skills to the youth group. Just when it seemed like her schedule couldn’t get any busier, Sally’s partner, professional footballer Sam Wara, was lured to France for six months on a rugby union Super 14’s contract. “Towards the end of the pregnancy I couldn’t sleep anyway and with Sam not being home I was quite lonely at night, so I just studied the night away,” laughs Sally. “My level of self-reliance and resilience was certainly tested, but it was empowering. You never know how much you can achieve until you really want something. It proves that we can all accomplish anything we wish.”

“My kids motivated me to embark on a nursing career, because I wanted better for them.”

True to her word, Sally was the epitome of grace under pressure, capping off her hectic year of study with a swag of student awards and honours. The nursing graduate received the two top North Coast TAFE awards: Student of the Year and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year; as well as the North Coast TAFE Student Recognition Award in the Community Services and Health category. She was then named NSW Training Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year for the North Coast Region. “I was overwhelmed. I didn’t really think that I deserved the awards,” Sally says. “It was a little bit humbling I think. I was happy enough just to get the scholarship in the first place, but choosing the nursing path has turned out to be such a big thing in my life.”

health. We have a clinic as well as inpatient liaison with the Aboriginal mental health patients,” Sally explains. In another learning milestone, Sally has completed the first year of a Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) through Charles Sturt University, thanks to a scholarship from her employer. “I wouldn’t have ever been able to get to university with all the kids and everything if I hadn’t done that TAFE course.” “I’m really loving it,” says Sally, of her new career. “Learning about mental health helps with every aspect of your life. This year, we’ve been learning about how different traumas can affect someone’s life over the long term, which is particularly relevant to Aboriginal people who still experience the effects of transgenerational trauma.”

Now living in Wyong on the New South Wales Central Coast, Sally has a landed fulltime traineeship with Central Coast Local Health District employed as an “ I wouldn’t have Aboriginal mental health ever been able to worker at Wyong Hospital. “I’m getting get to university hands-on experience with all the kids every day in mental

North Coast TAFE’S Sharen Marshall Head Teacher of Health, Aged Care and Nursing at the Port Macquarie, and everything if I K e m p s e y a n d hadn’t done that W a u c h o p e Campuses - believes TAFE course.” Sally’s success is testament to her dedication as a student. “It’s outstanding that Sally was able to pursue her course goal while juggling such a big family commitment, a job and volunteer work,” she says. “Sally is a very mindful person who embraces every opportunity. She’s resilient, very personable, a real team player and highly regarded by other teachers and students here at TAFE.”

97%* 12


Sally says her desire to make a difference in the community and inspire her children - aged 11, six, five and one – provide the impetus to keep aiming high. “I had my daughter when I was 16 and I was always told that I would never amount to anything, so it’s nice to have finally accomplished something in my life,” Sally says. “I’d like to think that I’ve showed my daughter that you can make something of yourself no matter what. She’s seen how much hard work I put in and all of the awards that resulted.” Going forward, Sally has even bigger dreams… hoping to work in a remote Aboriginal community one day and, down the track, secure a leadership role to steer strategies that achieve positive wellbeing for Aboriginal people.

of North Coast TAFE students in 2015 would recommend North Coast TAFE to others.




GET READY FOR THE INFRASTRUCTURE EXPLOSION Building a legacy Not your typical classroom





Building a legacy BY MAT T MULLENS

W hen Brad Stokley looks up from

his work on one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects in a century, the hair stands up on the back of his neck as he considers the legacy he is helping to create. That’s when the North Coast TAFE graduate and worker on the Pacific Highway Upgrade thinks about telling his children and grandchildren how he helped build something great for Australia. “Every day when I come to work I look at something huge that used to be nothing and think ‘I helped build that’,” Brad, a Stuarts Point local says. “I worked on the whole southern section and my Mum and family are really proud because it is just so important for everyone around here. All the little towns around Macksville will benefit which is great because it’s such a nice place to live.” But for Brad, the 25-year project to deliver a four-lane divided road from

Hexham in NSW to the Queensland border will also have another longlasting impact - an opportunity to set himself up for a career in civil construction. Brad is one of the first graduates of an innovative training partnership between North Coast TAFE, labour hire company Skilled/Waycon and construction giant Lendlease that is opening doors for a new generation of civil construction workers by tackling an age old problem in the industry: need experience to get a job, but need a job to get experience. “It’s very hard to get into the industry if you’re new,” Lendlease Superintendent, Damien O’Connor says. “The unique machinery needed for constructing a 650-plus kilometre highway requires a specific skill-set that can only really be learned on the equipment itself. “On top of that, industry health and safety regulations are as stringent as you can get. Essentially, employers and fellow crew members must have


absolute trust in your skills, temperament and commitment to safety – that’s non-negotiable.” These issues aren’t something that can be addressed in a typical classroom. Fortunately, under the TAFE, Skilled/ Waycon and Lendlease training partnership, the classroom is a 23 kilometre section of the highway upgrade from Nambucca Heads to Urunga and the students are involved in completing earthworks, concreting and constructing bridges, culverts and drainage lines. All this is possible because North Coast TAFE trainees are treated like Lendlease employees. They work onsite and TAFE brings the training to them. North Coast TAFE Resources and Infrastructure Program Manager Andy Irvine says the onsite focus is the key reason behind the program’s success. “Industry are strong on the need for the practical nous you get from learning on the job,” Andy says, “so they naturally

gravitate to either people with experience or those they train in-house.” “That’s why our model works. Trainees are taught theory in demountables onsite, but also have exposure to the rigours of a full-scale project. They not only learn how to complete tasks, they also learn why specific approaches are used over others, particularly in terms of safety and efficiency. In this way the two learning methods complement and reinforce each other. “Onsite training also provides the least disruption for Lendlease, with trainees being kept away from their jobs for a minimal amount of time. We have twelve students currently placed and we expect the vast majority of them to retain their positions when they graduate.” Andy says it’s important to recognise that infrastructure projects of the scale of the Pacific Highway Upgrade provided rare opportunities to set up people, communities and entire industries for the future.

“Projects of this scale don’t come along too often,” Andy says. “Training organisations, governments and builders have an obligation to use them to provide long-lasting economic benefits locally and nationally; to think to the future and develop our national skills base as much as we can. “There is also the chance to lift communities. Jobs mean so much more than just employment. They provide a source of self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Jobs help young people recognise the importance of structure and routine. And, with projects like this, people get to be part of something so much bigger than themselves.

opened up, albeit on a more personal level. Having secured a full-time job with Lendlease, he is now looking to the next phase of his career – one that seemed out of reach just 18 months ago. “I want to stay working for Lendlease for as long as I can. After the Upgrade is finished I will move on to work on other Lendlease projects. I also want to keep studying and building on what I have done so I can be a foreman one day.”

“By helping more people get their foot in the door of civil construction, we believe the program is an industry benchmark for training in the sector.” With a Certificate III in Civil Construction in his pocket, Brad feels the same way about the opportunities the project has




Not your typical classroom

Sydney Harbour Bridge. The T he Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric

Scheme. The Adelaide to Darwin Railway. These iconic nation-building projects helped define Australia.

They represented our growing independence and industriousness and, in their time, each thrust our country onto the world stage. The civil construction sector was the industry principally responsible for these towering achievements and it continues to play a similarly vital role today. It lays the foundations for our nation’s future by building roads, railways, airports, tunnels and dams. The industry also provides employment for more than 70,000 workers – around seven per cent of Australia’s building and construction workforce.


But for those wanting to be a part of it all, civil construction is a notoriously tough nut to crack. As North Coast TAFE Resources and Infrastructure Program Manager Andy Irvine explains: “Civil construction sites are not your typical workplaces, even among construction sites.”

So you’re left with an industry where skilled workers pretty much exclusively fill vacancies and newcomers face that incredibly frustrating and all too common problem: need experience to get a job; need a job to get experience. So what do you do when there just aren’t enough spots to go round? “North Coast TAFE, in partnership with All Excavations training, created a discrete workplace, the Terranora Walls Road Quarry,” Andy says. “It has access to all the plant machinery and tools found on civil construction projects, such as excavators, loaders, trucks and pumps. It’s also run by one of the most experienced, broadly-skilled and passionate set of trainers assembled on the East Coast. “To keep it as authentic as possible, we’ve built ‘classrooms’ from modified shipping containers that sit onsite, just as you would find similar offices on mines and construction projects. Any work that trainees complete in these relates directly to the day-to-day jobs they undertake in the quarry itself.”

All these aspects ensure the quarry has a genuine worksite feel from the moment trainees put a steel-cap on the dirt. Andy says it is also run like a legitimate construction job. “WHS standards are sky-high. There are steadfast knock-on and knock-off times, and trainees work as a team. It’s not a matter of finish your tasks and go home. The job’s not done until the last member of the crew is – just like real-life.” Meanwhile, just next door is the largest roadworks project undertaken on the East Coast this century: the Pacific Highway upgrade. But, perhaps most importantly, trainees don’t leave with just a piece of paper. Just like a real job they walk away with the core skills, values, work ethic and team-focus found in a job-hardened civil construction worker. And a solid foot in the door of an industry that’s responsible for the nation’s infrastructure future.

“For example, they are filled with unusual, often unique machinery and that requires on-site training to master. To make it even harder, employers are traditionally sceptical about offsite training because they don’t believe it provides the practical nous you get from learning on the job.”

“Civil construction sites are not your typical work places, even among construction sites.”


NC TAFE offers 600+ courses to 50,000+ students over 16 state of the art campuses. 19




Design) at Charles Sturt University, the TAFE qualifications cutting 12 months off the degree. “It will cut a whole year off my HECS fees which is great,” says 22-year-old Merinda. “I’m enjoying uni, but I absolutely loved the way of learning at TAFE. It was so hands-on; the teachers were amazing.


Merinda Ramage is on track to achieve her dream, turning her life-long love of art into a career in graphic design. “I’ve always wanted to do something creative – that’s who I am. When I learned more about graphic design, I couldn’t believe that you could get paid for doing something you love,” Merinda says. After leaving school in Year 11, Merinda completed a Certificate III and IV in Tertiary Preparation at Taree TAFE Campus, achieving an outstanding tertiary entrance score equivalent to an ATAR of 97.6. That paved the way for a Certificate IV and Diploma of Graphic Design at Port Macquarie TAFE Campus. The talented student won numerous design awards, and after finishing her diploma, was accepted into a Bachelor of Creative Arts and, Design (Graphic

“They would give us a detailed brief based on the type of graphic design projects they were doing with clients. It was definitely good to do that year of vocational training and get that oneon-one feedback from people in the industry.” Throughout the certificate and diploma courses, Merinda had the opportunity to design posters, magazines, logos, branding, packaging, clothing and an array of related merchandise. “I was able to utilise industry-standard computer design programs including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, as well as experiment with illustration on graphics tablets in order to digitalise my own hand drawn designs,” Merinda says.

“To gain that year of work experience before starting university, gave me so much confidence and I was able to apply the practical skills I had learned. It really convinced me that this is the industry I want to join in the future.” Merinda’s successful TAFE journey reflects latest research showing that diploma graduates have the winning edge in a competitive employment market.

“The graphic design industry is competitive,” Merinda explains. “Hopefully by the end of next year when I’m going for jobs, it’s going to look a lot better to employers having both the degree and the portfolio that I’ve been building since I’ve been at TAFE. “I’m really glad that I took this pathway with my studies.”

Around 85 per cent of students who complete a diploma are employed within six months of finishing their course, and are earning an average fulltime salary of $63,500, according to the 2014 Graduate Outcomes Survey by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research. But it’s the diploma to degree pathway reaping rewards for students like Merinda, the vocational experience from TAFE providing the perfect foundation for higher degree studies.

Not only did the diploma help Merinda qualify for her degree course, it led to an invaluable 12-month position as assistant to the graphic designer and multimedia desktop publisher for TAFEnow, North Coast TAFE’s online channel.

“Turning a lifelong love of art into a career in graphic design.”

87%** 20


of North Coast TAFE graduates were employed or in further study after their training in 2015.



TOURISM ON THE NORTH COAST Is the North Coast ready for the boom in Chinese tourism?





Is the North Coast ready for the boom in Chinese tourism? BY MAT T MULLENS

he red dragon has landed. Drawn by T the North Coast’s spectacular coastlines

and lush river valley hinterlands; attracted by its vibrant wildlife and diverse fauna; and captivated by its sumptuous produce and laid-back lifestyle, the long-predicted boom in Chinese tourism has hit the region. This boom in Chinese tourists is no accident. It didn’t happen overnight. The seeds were planted more than 15 years ago when, in 1999, Australia became one of the first Western countries to be granted Approved Destination Status by the Chinese Government. This gave Australia the official green light to target mainland China as a source of international tourists. Flash forward to 2016: China is now the country’s most valuable tourism export market, worth up to $13 billion to the economy according to Tourism Australia. The world’s most populous nation is also the main source of visitors to New South Wales, with around half a million visiting last year. In the early days, inbound Chinese concentrated in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne; for no reason other than that’s where they landed. But this initial penchant for our state capitals is slowly being replaced by a desire for a more authentic Australian experience. This experience encompasses our

breathtaking natural scenery and unique wildlife, rather than gigantic bridges and odd-shaped opera houses. Chinese tourists are becoming more adventurous, keen to travel further afield and take the road less travelled. According to Cameron Arnold – co-chair of the North Coast Destination Network, the region’s premier tourism body – it’s this change in preference from fast-paced urban to relaxed, regional Australia that is driving the influx of visitors from China to the North Coast. Although, he says, they’re doing a pretty good job at driving themselves. “From what I’ve seen Chinese tourists stand out in their willingness to jump in a hire car or van with the whole family and see the real Australia,” Cameron says. “This is great for the North Coast, because we have the country’s best road trip – the 1,000km stretch between the Gold Coast and Sydney is a perfect fit. “It’s an exciting time for the region, and it’s up to us to make the most of Chinese visitors who are no longer interested in big city shopping; people who want a more nature-based experience. “They’re after natural beauty and wildlife, fresh air and open spaces. They want to meet people in regional and rural towns. See how ‘salt of the earth’ Australians live. In particular, they want to see and sample local produce.


Food is something that most Chinese tourists see as a central part of their ideal holiday experience. To me those things typify the North Coast.” The North Coast Destination Network has recognised the region is perfectly placed – and paced – to meet this change in perspective, and duly responded by recently making Chinese tourists a key focus in their marketing campaigns. But one of the biggest challenges in looking to capture this market of unprecedented promise is addressing the cultural divide. While Chinese tourists are looking for an authentic experience, they still want certain cultural practices of their own to be respected. Some of the region’s businesses are already on the front foot in this respect. Big4 Sunshine South West Rocks uses a website developed by its parent company, Big4, that is written entirely in Mandarin. And we’re not talking about a clumsy Google Translate patch-up job. A Chinese copywriter was contracted to develop text that specifically met the linguistic nuances of their target market. Park owner Tony Mayne says the goal is to develop materials written by the market, for the market: one that would reflect exactly what Chinese tourists need and want.

“It’s an emerging market, we understand its size and potential and we’re trying to be first to market in this way,” Tony says. But Tony also sees getting visitors to his park as only half the challenge. Equally important is to ensure they have an unforgettable experience once they arrive. For this he is overseeing the development of translated in-house collateral, such as maps of local attractions, eateries and where to get supplies. “We can get them down here, but there also has to be a significant amount of in-house collateral, which is what we are starting to develop,” Tony says. “For example, all of our team members have audio translator apps on their mobile phones. The apps translate audio or text from English to other languages and vice-versa.” As a member of the local South West Rocks Chamber of Commerce and the executive committee of the Macleay Valley Tourism Association, Tony says he’s also working to encourage other businesses to develop similar collateral. “Competition for the Asian market is intense in Australia – everyone is trying to get on the bandwagon.

“From what I’ve seen, Chinese tourists want free, independent travel through natural environments. They’ve got enough cities at home. This gives our region a natural advantage. “So we can certainly give them a grass roots experience – that’s our bread and butter – but by educating ourselves about their cultural nuances, we can put the little things in place, particularly in customer service areas, that will separate us from the competition. “The first tourists coming through now are the early adopters. It’s vital that – as a region – we impress them with our understanding of their culture so they go back home and talk about us. Things like language, social norms, respect and group hierarchies are important. This will help us develop a reputation as the go-to destination for their compatriots.” This growing sensitivity to the Chinese way of life is also being reflected in regional training programs. Cameron says he has already taken part in workshops specifically designed to help businesses bridge the cultural gap between our two countries. It is also apparent in the Vocational Education and Training sector. North Coast TAFE Head of Hospitality Gillian Bruce says cultural training has been absorbed into a range of programs, such as aviation, events management, hospitality, cookery and travel consultancy.


“It’s vital that as markets change, we adapt our skills and knowledge,” Gillian says. “Aspects such as religion, food and legal systems - visa regulations and passport requirements, for example – can vary vastly from country to country and particularly between the East and West. “These can really affect whether someone enjoys their holiday or not, so in tourism and hospitality-based industries it’s important that we research and profile markets extensively and undertake training that will help us become more capable of meeting their needs. “The rise in the Asian market is fundamentally changing the tourism and hospitality industry and we’re seeing employers up and down the North Coast looking specifically for people who have the skills and expertise in these areas.” But amidst all this change one thing remains the same. “The underlying factor is really good oldfashioned customer service,” Tony says. “They may be coming from different home countries when compared to 20 years ago, but tourists by and large want the same thing: respectful, courteous and knowledgeable service.”



aboriginal LEARNING CIRCLE GIVES paris a flying start

Every school leaver deserves a future full of choices and opportunities, and for many Aboriginal people it’s important to have education options that affirm cultural values and perspectives. Culturally safe courses can be a valuable step towards employment opportunities.


Customised training and support options for Aboriginal people and communities is the key focus of a suite of services that embrace Aboriginal cultures, celebrate diversity and provide solutions for Aboriginal people, communities and employers. Services known as Aboriginal Learning Circle - North Coast TAFE can be a springboard to success for many students, including 30 year old Paris Robinson of Tweed Heads. Aboriginal education specialists work with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal teaching teams to provide customised vocational education and training and workplace development that is culturally appropriate and above all, supportive. So when Paris completed a Certificate IV and Diploma in Community Services at North Coast TAFE – Murwillumbah, she relished the support she received from Aboriginal teachers on her learning journey.

“It’s a dream come true to come this far,” Paris says. “Studying at TAFE broadened my horizons.”


“I hadn’t been to TAFE before and I really loved the experience,” Paris says. “The Indigenous staff members were great. You could always talk to them and relate to them, because being Indigenous themselves, they’re aware of certain things. You just find it much easier to express what’s going on and you know that they’ll do their best to help you.” Paris revelled in her TAFE studies, her first practical placement with community services organisation New Horizons leaving no doubt she was on the right career path. “My placement just cemented my passion for the field of community services,” Paris explains. “It convinced me that I wanted to help Indigenous people in their communities.” After completing her certificate, Paris achieved distinctions in her diploma studies, and was ultimately rewarded with TAFE NSW’s Gili Award for Academic Excellence. Since leaving TAFE, Paris has gone from strength to strength. She’s now employed as a trainee case manager with Tweed Shire Council’s Community Options Program (COPS) and is studying for a degree in social welfare. She was recently named Young Achiever of the Year at a NSW conference for Aboriginal People in local government.

Director of Aboriginal Learning Circle – North Coast TAFE, Heather McGregor says graduates like Paris Robinson epitomise the success of the Aboriginal Learning Circle - North Coast TAFE.

“So it’s not just about addressing disadvantage. It’s acknowledging that Aboriginal approaches to teaching and learning can be equally as important and effective as other methods.”

“It’s wonderful to see students like Paris achieving their goals,” Heather says. “Aboriginal Learning Circle is all about practical outcomes. The first thing we ask when designing any course is: who is it going to make a difference to and how?

And at the end of the learning journey, staff proudly stand beside students and celebrate their achievements.

“We don’t want to just provide Aboriginal people with another certificate that takes them nowhere. “That’s the key to Aboriginal Learning Circle: training that leads to a definite outcome for Aboriginal people. That is either a job, another course or, in some cases, a community or cultural outcome.” Each course delivered through Aboriginal Learning Circle - North Coast TAFE is designed with Aboriginal students in mind. We value having Aboriginal people involved in delivering our programs and including an Aboriginal perspective on subject matter.

“We have graduations at the end of every program,” Heather explains. “You get a lot of hugs and emotion amongst students and their teachers. Real relationships are established that continue long after the course.” Paris is one graduate who has become a shining role model to others in her community, her wisdom and contagious positivity inspiring everyone she meets. “I’m inspired by just having a heartbeat,” Paris says. “Anyone can make change; anyone can do one little thing to help one person. They say if you smile at one person, that smile is going to travel … I don’t think it’s too hard to help people and create change and it only takes one person to do that.”

“It’s a dream come true to come this far,” Paris says. “Studying at TAFE broadened my horizons. It taught me to think about things in more depth. Because I’m working in community services, I think about why people are where they are in life and I try to assist them to change, to better themselves.” Paris aspires to become an Indigenous Community Development Officer or Community Capacity Building Officer, but says her primary goal is to be a positive role model for her young son. “My main goal was to gain a good job, have a good house and a nice car so that my son can see - as he grows up – that education is the pathway to rewarding work and success in life,” Paris says.





CULINARY SUCCESS Young chef tastes success after Masters Apprenticeship Master stirs culinary passion in chefs of the future






Passionate about food and a stickler for perfection, newlyqualified chef Michelle Roderick is already showing her flair in the competitive hospitality world just a year after graduating from North Coast TAFE – Kingscliff Campus. Michelle, 25, is a commis chef at the busy Twin Towns Clubs and Resorts at Tweed Heads, gaining invaluable experience in several of the club’s dining venues, and running the kitchen at the popular tapas bar, Horizons. “I didn’t think that a year after my apprenticeship I’d be running one of the restaurants at Twin Towns,” Michelle says. “I get to do all my own tapas specials, which includes two mains and two

“To learn so many different techniques in food gastronomy from world-leading chefs was an absolutely amazing experience,” Michelle says.

desserts… I pretty much have free run to do what I want in the kitchen. “I love everything about the industry, even the stress, believe it or not,” Michelle reveals. “Being able to present something that customers are enjoying is rewarding: you’ve taken it from start to finish, and you’re giving the customer that ultimate food experience.” For two-and-a-half years, Michelle attended North Coast TAFE one day a week to complete her Certificate III Commercial Cookery Trade while spending four days working as an apprentice chef at Twin Towns. Michelle became skilled in everything from cake decorating to butchery techniques, and found an inspirational mentor in Kingscliff Campus commercial cookery teacher Garry Smith - an award-winning former international chef. “Garry’s absolutely exceptional; an awesome teacher – I couldn’t have asked for more,” Michelle says. “He’s a very traditional chef, so to learn that classical European style and how to do everything by hand without always using machines was invaluable. “For example, when we make a cake, normally we make it with an electric mixer. Garry taught us how to make it using the basic ingredients, using a

“I learned so much about cheese, about wine, everything that is a key component of what we do in the cheffing industry.” whisk instead of a mixer and getting it to that point where you can create something a lot better quality rather than using something that’s standard and makes things faster. “Garry also encouraged me to go into competitions and go further than most students would. He just pushed me to go beyond the limits and to keep progressing. That’s what makes him an excellent teacher.”

Michelle has also excelled in the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Awards, placing third in New South Wales in 2014 and second in Queensland in 2015. Now living her dream as a qualified chef, Michelle is in no doubt North Coast TAFE gave her the skills she needed to make a successful entrée into the hospitality industry.

“I’d recommend the course to any With Garry’s encouragement, Michelle students in the Tweed Valley and south entered the annual Fonterra Proud to of that area,” Michelle says. be a Chef Mentorship program in her “All of the teachers in final TAFE year, and was the commercial one of the 31 talented cookery course are apprentice chefs from exceptional – they across Australia and work together to New Zealand chosen to attend four days of “Ongoing support make the experience master classes in after completing worthwhile. Melbourne. the course.” “Garry still phones me to let me know about master classes and competitions he thinks would benefit my career. He still takes the time to mentor, even though I’ve now left TAFE.”

As for future goals, Michelle is completing a food and beverage management certificate in her spare time and aims to one day manage a restaurant or hotel venue. “There are so many different paths you can take in hospitality from the starting point of being a chef. I want to climb the ranks by learning from my executive chef. I’m just letting it take me where it’s going to take me. I’m striving to get to the top but I don’t have a time limit on when I get there.”

“A year after completing an apprenticeship, I’m running one of the restaurants in Twin Towns.”

95%* 30


of North Coast TAFE students were satisfied with their overall training in 2015.



master stirs culinary passion in chefs of the future

As commercial cookery teacher in Tourism, Hospitality and Events at North Coast TAFE-Kingscliff, Garry combines a love of teaching with years of industry experience including executive chef posts at top hotels in London, Scotland and Sydney.


Garry is also the current world champion salon culinaire Master Chef, a prestigious industry ranking conferred on chefs who have exceptional culinary arts knowledge.

After 30 years as a teacher, celebrated chef Garry Smith has produced an extraordinary culinary legacy, training generations of hospitality industry staff for careers in Melbourne, London and New South Wales. “I don’t think there would be a restaurant in the north coast region that would not have one of my students employed in them,” Garry says. “We’re now up to fourth and fifth generations, so I’m now teaching the apprentices employed by students I first taught 15 years ago. “Some former students own their own restaurants; they’ve moved to Melbourne. I still keep in touch with them and meet them every so often.”

With credentials like these, it is little wonder Garry’s students are rising to the top – the master chef teaching everything from knife technique, butchery skills and menu planning to desserts, sauces and pastries, and finessing crocodile and emu. “Of course they also learn all of the theory as well: how to coach other cooks, culinary etiquette, codes of practice and how to manage staff. “The hospitality industry is one of the largest employers on the New South Wales north coast, so we certainly feel like we are laying the foundation for the chefs of the future here at Kingscliff TAFE,” Garry says. One of those rising chefs is apprentice Michelle Roderick, who impressed North Coast TAFE teachers with her potential as soon as she began her Certificate III in Commercial Cookery.

hospitality really have to have a love of food and a love of the industry, and I saw all of that in Michelle.”

Michelle was just exemplary in the “kitchen,” Garry says. “She’s one of the best chef students I’ve trained. She was polite, she was always on campus when required and she spent so much time trying to help other students as well.” Garry says that whether students are training to be a baker or wine producer, they need nerves of steel to cope with the often pressure-cooker environment of a busy restaurant or café. “Because hospitality is a demanding industry and the hours can be erratic, you need to have real discipline and commitment. “We’ll always have cooks that can cook, but people who excel in

Garry says Michelle proved her allround capabilities during a gruelling assessment project held at Kingscliff TAFE’s Caldera Restaurant. “Michelle had to write and fully cost a three-course dinner menu and run the kitchen using other students as her brigade. We stood in the background,” he explains. “She catered for 70 people that night, including her employers and Twin Towns colleagues. “Michelle’s restaurant was extremely successful. She’s a very calm young lady. She didn’t get stressed or overawed by what was demanded of her, which is a good trait for a cook to have.”

“Working in the hospitality industry needs real discipline and commitment.”

Michelle is one of three students Garry has taught in recent years who have made the finals of the Fonterra Proud to be a Chef mentorship program, further cementing both his and Kingscliff TAFE’s reputation as a leader in hospitality training.

Even though Michelle is now forging her own path, Garry still encourages his former protégé to enter master classes and other competitions to add new techniques to her resume. “It’s very rewarding to see students like Michelle following their dreams after they’ve studied commercial cookery at North Coast TAFE,” Garry says. “I can see Michelle definitely running her own establishment. I have absolute confidence: she has the common sense, she has ability, she has the drive – the world’s her oyster.”

“We are laying the foundation for the chefs of the future here at Kingscliff TAFE.”

NC TAFE has the widest range of subsidised courses in NSW with flexible delivery and supportive services offering more options. 32



“I would highly recommend the Certificate II, III and IV courses as well as the Diploma in Retail management course … [to] develop the competencies needed to excel in the retail world.”

… e s oo h c u o y h t a p r e v e t a Wh ! y wa e h t ll a u o y h t wi e ’r e w

Thomas Flowers Certificate IV and Diploma in Retail Management

High School

TAFE at School

If you’re a student in Year 11 or 12, you can take up TAFE-delivered vocational education and training (TVET) and gain nationally recognised qualifications as part of your HSC.

Certificate I and II

Aimed at building foundation skills and preparing you for further study or work in an industry area of your choice.

Entry-level qualification to work in a range of related industries.

Graduate Diploma or Bachelor Degree

A TAFENSW Higher Education qualification such as a Graduate Diploma or Bachelor Degree will give you all the benefits of university study. + Industry ready practical skills TAFE qualifications are known for.

Certificate III and IV These courses build expertise and capability in your chosen industry area. (May involve undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship.)


Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and Credit Transfer Have the skills and knowledge that you have gained previously in work, study and life recognised. This may reduce your study time and course fees.


Industry ready qua lifications

Required qualifications to work in a range of related industries.

Diploma and Advanced Diploma Higher level qualifications will develop specialised knowledge and expertise in an industry area. Build on existing knowledge, work experience or a career at management or para-professional levels.


TAFE 2 University

Did you know that a TAFE NSW Certificate IV or Diploma could give you up to 50% advanced standing in a university degree? Get practical ‘job ready’ skills and then gain entry to a university at an advanced stage.



SINESS BUchallenges

and opportunities Big thinking for small business





Big thinking for small business BY SUE L APPEMAN

T he laid back, small town lifestyle of the North Coast of NSW is about to face one of its biggest challenges yet – it’s about to boom. It won’t be just any boom but a huge jobs boom with the population boom that naturally follows. From sea and tree changers to financially-stretched Sydney-siders escaping the hyper-ridiculous housing market, the Grafton to Coffs Harbour region will need to find almost 10,000 skilled and unskilled workers over the next five years. A Department of Employment report recently predicted job growth of 13.2 per cent for the region. For the Richmond to Tweed area, one of the fastest growing regions in NSW, the forecast is for 6000 new jobs over the same five-year period. Such rapid growth brings a number of challenges and opportunities for the ‘engine room’ of these regions - the small business sector.

Like much of regional NSW, small businesses on the North Coast employ the majority of locals.

and liquor staff, TAFE took it on, massaged it and got some great trainers in.

But, also like much of regional NSW, they are faced with a skills shortage that will only be exasperated by jobs growth.

“The feedback from staff was so good we are now putting every one of our 270 staff members through this important safety course, from the casual check out operators to management.”

For Hastings Co-op CEO Allan Gordon, building a partnership with the local North Coast TAFE campuses around Port Macquarie has been critical to ensuring his highly valued staff can be retained and new staff trained. Working together they have developed a range of innovative workplace training courses that cover everything from mystery shopping to how to respond during an armed robbery. “We have had an association with TAFE going on 18 months and the intention from the outset was to provide a level of training to staff we’ve never had before,” Allan says. “When we asked for an armed hold up course for our high risk service station


The Co-op, which will celebrate its 100th year in operation in 2016, has 13 businesses in the Hastings area covering supermarkets, bottle shops, service stations, bulk fuel, hardware, rural supplies, and department stores. “TAFE has been very flexible, accommodating and cost effective, tailoring courses to our specific requirements,” Allan says.

“Recently we asked for a sales course but we didn’t want a theory course. “We wanted a hands on, in-store training program for department store staff so they could enhance their customer service skills. “That course will be ready for us early in the new year. That is how flexible TAFE has been for us.” TAFE has also set up a Moodle – an online study platform – specifically for Hastings Co-op staff with core modules essential for the business. “Staff are able to log on and run through the courses when it is convenient,” Allan says.

“When we need to develop a new course, the response from TAFE is immediate.

“TAFE has been very in tune with what we are trying to achieve and they understand that the more we can partner together the better outcome there is for both parties.”

‘’We get an instant return on our investment in training as you can see the changes very quickly in our staff.

For current North Coast TAFE student and salon owner Sandra Lane keeping up with the latest cutting-edge

techniques and products and most up-to-date health and safety training is vital for her budding beauty therapy business. A ‘mid-life crisis’ saw her toss in a fulltime job in the medical sector after 25 years to find a new, more familyfriendly career. “It is the best thing I ever did,” Sandra says. “I started a beauty therapy course and absolutely loved it so went on to do the Diploma in Salon Management. “I’ve already started my own business while I am still studying, my income has doubled in the last year and I can fit my work around my family. “I have got a salon at home and everything I learnt at TAFE, I implemented in my salon from council inspections, to best practice and the latest health and safety regulations.”

Coast TAFE Kingscliff/Wollongbar Campus, says the Salon Management and other business courses focus on the unique conditions facing North Coast small business owners. “Often they rely on the tourist market which brings different challenges such as staffing,” Carol says. “We also focus heavily on marketing via social media which, for our hairdressing and beauty students, is very beneficial. “We show them how to design flyers and advertising to use on Facebook and Instagram which is very successful for a lot of these types of businesses with very little outlay. “Some business owners are sending all their staff to business courses like Salon Management and their businesses are growing from it.”

Carol Robinson, Sandra’s Head Teacher in the Business Faculty at the North



Our north coast locations kingscliff





casino bundjalung



grafton gumbaynggirr

coffs harbour education campus

coffs harbour

macksville dunghutti

KEMPSEY port macquarie

wauchope Biripi

taree worimi

great lakes

*Source: North Coast TAFE’s Learner Engagement Survey 2015. **Source: The Social Research Centre 2015, Australian vocational education and training statistics: government-funded student outcomes: 2015 TAFE NSW - North Coast ISSUE 1 | SUMMER 2016 Institute report, The Social Research Centre, Melbourne.

Profile for North Coast TAFE

Shine Issue 1 Summer 2016  

Welcome to the first ever edition of Shine, a magazine revealing inspiring stories of North Coast people who 'shine' when doing what they do

Shine Issue 1 Summer 2016  

Welcome to the first ever edition of Shine, a magazine revealing inspiring stories of North Coast people who 'shine' when doing what they do