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VCAL Achievement Awards

The VCAL Achievement Awards celebrate outstanding achievements of young people who participate in and complete a VCAL qualification. The awards also recognise the exceptional efforts of committed teachers and community partners who have played significant roles within the VCAL program. The VCAL Achievement Awards take place in Term 2 each year.

The students, schools and their community partners are living examples of excellence in applied learning. They demonstrate that we can and must find diverse ways of challenging, extending and promoting learning for the full range of young people.

Celebrating the Class of 2020

The VCAL Achievement Awards were presented in a ceremony at the Edge, Fed Square on Friday 23 April 2021.

The Acting Premier, Minister for Education and Minister for Mental Health, the Hon James Merlino participated in the ceremony, praising students for their resilience throughout the pandemic.

Suzy Chandler, Executive Director of Curriculum at VCAA hosted the ceremony with guest speakers Chris Wardlaw, Chair of the VCAA Board and Rosemarie Slattery, Narre Warren South P-12 College, Intermediate Outstanding Achievement Award recipient.

Read the student speech by Rosemarie Slattery

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the Land on which we are gathered here today and pay my respects to Elders, past and present. I would like to extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gathered here today.

Hello everyone; my name is Rosie.

I am currently attending Narre Warren South P–12 College as a Year 12 student and I am also School Captain. VCAL has helped me to achieve many things and open new opportunities for me. I have gained many experiences and developed new skills. I have conducted work placement at a gym, an outdoor education camp, and working with little kids. I have gained many certificates along my journey in VCAL including Certificate lll in Fitness, Level 2 first aid and I am currently completing Certificate lI in Community Services.

Last year was a year like no other. At the beginning of the year, I enrolled with the VFA and work placement was in the gym. I was a senior member of the Student Voice and had been elected class captain. 2020 was going to be great! When we went into lockdown everything changed – work placement was cancelled, VFA and classes were now online and I couldn’t go camping with my family. However, I was determined to keep a positive attitude and encourage my peers to do the same.

The teachers on the VCAL program are amazing. They are really passionate about VCAL and this motivates us students to work harder and stride for greater things. They have high expectations and do everything they can to ensure students succeed. And this didn’t stop during lockdown. My teachers were in contact with me and my classmates over the holidays and made sure we were ready to go. Every morning I logged on to see my classmates and my teachers. This was so important to maintaining the health and wellbeing of myself and my peers.

One of the things I was looking forward to was planning a major VCAL Project. I had already begun planning the 48km City Walk in memory of teachers that had passed and to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation, but this was not to be. I knew it was important to change my focus and help others who were doing it harder than me. It was important to participate and encourage my peers to do something else. We organised to connect, write letters and video chat with the residents at Casey Manor Retirement Village and we created a video to thank the frontline workers. I really enjoyed doing this.

As we know, lockdown at times became pretty boring, so when the opportunity came to have some fun – we did! From TikTok challenges to catwalk fashion shows in our houses, I participated in it all. We even had a virtual Race Around the World, jumping in and out of meets. Keeping our team together was challenging, particularly if your wi-fi dropped out. By the end of lockdown, I was affectionately named ‘Swifty’ as I sometimes forgot my camera was on rocking out to some tunes. I participated in these activities because I found them enjoyable and I found it to boost my mental health and wellbeing.

Student Voice continued as well, I found talking in my student voice meetings helped me and my peers when things got tough. We decided to help others across the entire school and boost their moods by organising things such as PJ Day, Wellbeing Day, Multicultural Day and many more.

Throughout high school I have been involved in leadership and making our school a better place for all, running and helping with BBQ fundraisers, the World’s Greatest Shave and other charity events. I have also been involved in the running of other school events such as cross country, swimming carnival, athletics day and celebrating different cultures and our differences within our school. Being a part of the student leadership team means I also aim to complete and finish all my work. I believe a strong work ethic and being a positive role model is important in leadership. I joined the congress program last year in which we talked about some important issues that were faced within our school and many other Victoria schools. Being part of this program was a great experience, as I was able to strength my communication and decision making skills.

VCAL has been the best pathway option for me. Without the VCAL program I wouldn't have gained the skills and experiences I have now. I have had many pathways open up for me, so that I can have success not only at school, but in the future as well. When I finish Year 12 at the end of this year, I am hoping to continue learning and conduct more study into Outdoor Education or Emergency Services.

Thank you to my Mum and Dad who have supported me through my journey. I would also like to thank everyone else who has believed in me and helped me become the person I am today.

Thank you for listening.


Recipients of the 2020 VCAL Achievement Awards

Award recipients

Student Awards

Foundation Outstanding Achievement

Sabrina Bondy – Melbourne Polytechnic

Sabrina enrolled in the Foundation program at Melbourne Polytechnic in 2020 after her family moved to Melbourne. She had decided she wanted to seek out a better educational option for herself after experiencing difficulties in a mainstream school.

Sabrina is an articulate, mature young woman, who takes responsibility for her own learning and completes all tasks to a high standard. She is also organised and extremely hard-working, juggling her studies with working weekly shifts in a fast food outlet.

Over the course of the year, Sabrina grew in confidence and ability. She talked to her teachers in a professional and respectful manner and exhibited an impressive commitment to her studies in all subject areas, playing a leadership role in both remote and face-to-face classroom settings. She brought her workplace knowledge to the classroom, revealing a sound understanding of workplace health and safety and career pathways.

Sabrina demonstrated her commitment to excellence throughout the year in her Numeracy classes. She developed strong Numeracy skills, which she linked to everyday situations, for example, when reading and drawing maps during a visit to the Grand Prix, and in her workplace.

Although the transition to remote learning had its challenges, Sabrina ensured she attended all remote lessons and completed all tasks. During this time she was able to prioritise and complete her work to a high standard with minimal teacher intervention. She was engaged with her studies and able to think beyond the questions and topics and to apply the learning to her own circumstances.

In the classroom, Sabrina provided support and encouragement to those around her, mentoring several students over the year. She took part in an investigation into the social issue of homelessness in Australia in Literacy and Personal Development Skill studies, taking on a leadership role in the project. She helped others to understand the complexities of the issue and presented mature ideas on bringing about change and awareness.

Sabrina produced a range of texts, revealing her depth of understanding and insight into the complexity of the issue, and a willingness to challenge her own ideas and prejudices. Sabrina encouraged the class to create a social media awareness campaign for their Personal Development Skills project.

Sabrina’s outstanding efforts have resulted in great academic success, and she continues her VCAL studies in 2021 at Intermediate level, aspiring to have a career in real estate.

Foundation Personal Development Skills

Thomas Mogford – Eastern Ranges School

In 2019 Thomas began his VCAL journey in Foundation VCAL, which continued into 2020.

Thomas is a gregarious, friendly young man who loves to help. In 2020 he was School Captain and proved to be a wonderful role model to the other students. Last year was challenging for all students, especially when it was combined with the challenges of Year 12 and a school-based traineeship. Thomas undertook a Certificate III in Individual Support (Aged Care), with classes beginning six weeks into the school year. He began his studies in face-to-face classes with a new group of students and an unfamiliar trainer, then training changed to online studies with COVID-19 restrictions. Thomas demonstrated impressive resilience as he continued his training online while also juggling the demands of his VCAL studies.

During the 21 weeks of remote learning, Thomas was able to keep up to date with all four VCAL strands, completing projects for Personal Development Skills and Work Related Skills, as well as tackling Literacy and Numeracy work via video conference. His teachers were impressed by his ability to cope with this new and challenging environment without their direct support, and his demonstration of excellent organisational skills. The other challenge faced by Thomas was the shutdown of workplace training for the majority of the year. It is exceedingly difficult to learn about caring for the elderly when you are unable to demonstrate your understanding and knowledge in the workplace. He was delighted with starting his placement at Martin Luther Homes in November.

Thomas has shown outstanding achievement in all areas of VCAL under extreme adversity. Not only has he gained his Foundation VCAL certificate, but he has demonstrated his compassion, empathy and skills in a demanding environment. When he interacts with the elderly residents Martin Luther Homes, he demonstrates compassion, patience and care, and a maturity beyond his years.

Intermediate Outstanding Achievement

Rosemarie Slattery – Narre Warren South P–12 College

Rosie embodies all things VCAL. She is enthusiastic, hard-working and incredibly committed to the program. She leads by example and is the first to volunteer her time to organise events, and assist peers and teachers. During remote learning, her enthusiasm and happiness were infectious. She played an integral part in maintaining the health and wellbeing of her peers through student voice, organising and participating in online challenges and projects. She also encouraged others to participate and be involved. These achievements include:

  • being awarded VCAL Student of the Year 2020
  • receiving multiple excellence awards in Literacy, Numeracy and Personal Development
  • being VCAL student representative for Student Voice
  • completing a Certificate III in Fitness at the Victorian Fitness Academy
  • organising Year 11 students to participate in the Year 11 VCAL Catwalk Challenge during remote learning
  • taking part in the ‘Thanking The Frontline Workers’ video
  • being Return to School Activity Team Building Leader
  • producing the Student Voice Advocate Video
  • taking part in a COVID-19 Advertising Campaign that connected to peers.

Rosie was appointed one of four College Captains for 2021 as she continues to pursue her Senior VCAL and ultimately a career in the outdoor education industry. She is an outstanding role model and has made a significant contribution to the college, the community and to the positive reputation of the VCAL program.

William Garbelotto – Mentone Grammar

Will demonstrated resilience and leadership during a very challenging year. As a new VCAL student, he mentored three Indigenous students from a small community in Western Australia, taking them under his wing, helping them with their classroom learning, ensuring they got to know other students, and encouraging their participation in the Athletics Carnival and School Formal.

This example of leadership is not a singular one. Will also led his house in various school events, assisting others in the classroom, modelling appropriate learning behaviours, and proudly representing the school’s VCAL program. He was ultimately awarded the position of Applied Learning Captain.

Will was keen to develop his leadership skills, regularly seeking out opportunities to improve and develop by talking to different groups in the school about applied learning and Structured Workplace Learning, including at the virtual subject information evening. Will helped to plan the annual ‘VCAL for a Day’ program, where Year 10 students get to experience the VCAL program, and also mentored a small group of students.

He made significant contributions to various VCAL community projects, demonstrating interest and empathy towards those he was helping, including constructing nesting boxes for animals affected by the bushfires, and working with the Food Security Network, growing vegetables for donation to Fare Share.

This led to his most significant achievement. When students decided to implement a community project that would have a positive impact on a community group or organisation impacted by COVID-19, Will thought it would be good to host Mentone Grammar’s inaugural Ice-Bucket Challenge in support of research into motor neurone disease (MND). He wanted to raise awareness of MND and support the work of MND Australia by running a fun school event, especially as the annual Big Freeze event at the MCG was cancelled. He went about meticulously planning, liaising with the fundraising team and leading a small group of students to create promotional posters, make beanies to sell and organise a free dress day. He spoke about MND at various year-level and house assemblies, and encouraged students and staff to get on board.

On a chilly winter’s day, more than 40 staff and students from Years 9 to 12 braved the cold to be splashed with icy water in front of a cheering socially distanced crowd. The event went smoothly and Will raised more than $3000 for MND, inaugurating what is now a significant annual fundraiser at the school.

Intermediate Team Achievement

Grace Demarte, Charlotte Large, Alessia Lauretta, Sarah Mason – Marymede Catholic College

The Intermediate VCAL team, Mini Me Sustainable Crafts (Sarah Mason, Alessia Lauretta, Charlotte Large and Grace Demarte) noticed that some Year 4 students were more unsettled during lunchtime. As part of their Mini Me Teach It Sustainability Task, the VCAL students decided to create some engaging activities for the Year 4 students on Friday afternoons.

The VCAL students came up with four activity ideas using recycled materials, and wrote a proposal for each one. These included full occupational health and safety plans, schedules, teaching instructions and models.

The girls surveyed the Year 4 staff about which activities might work best, the best day and time, and any issues they needed to be aware of. They then surveyed the Year 4 students to find out which activities they would like to do from a range of options, including Mini Olympics, Real World Among Us, Gardening and Sustainable Crafts.

The VCAL students created a dossier on each Year 4 student, noting their choice of design and thread colour, and any issues that arose. They also kept a record of the Year 4 students’ progress, with photos and interviews. The VCAL students took steps to help those who needed more assistance, even working out the necessary lengths of thread required. They also created multiple models to copy or use as inspiration.

Using a shared document, the girls kept track of all the work and were able to share the load equally among them. When there were problems, they would rally each other to ensure everything stayed on track while it was completed to the highest possible standard.

Another purpose of the task was to show their peers that VCAL is a viable option and career pathway. In this they were successful, as more students wanted to take part.

During the activities the girls would explain the task to each Year 4 group, while engaging them and discussing how small changes in behaviour would demonstrate to the school how mature they were becoming. The Year 4 students raved about the tasks, and how much they wanted to be like the girls and do VCAL when they were older.

Positive reviews from the students and teachers involved in the project meant that the girls’ confidence grew. The team managed occupational health and safety, sourced the required materials, scouted for locations and sought permission as needed. They demonstrated diligence, commitment, organisation, creativity, resilience, communication and leadership as they planned, organised, completed and reviewed all their work to an almost faultless standard.

Anastasia Alexander, Bailey Caldow, Jessica Chapman, Jocelyn Doyle, Olivia Eastwood, Kaitlyn Gibbons, Morgan Godfrey, Keeley Morris, Mikayla Porteous, Roselee Schnell, Grace Smedley, Bethany Tipping – Mater Christi College

As part of Personal Development, students at Mater Christi College worked closely with the St Vincent de Paul Society to help raise awareness and provide support for the issue of poverty within the local community. After talking to a St Vincent de Paul volunteer, the students became aware of a need for nutritional dessert options that St Vincent de Paul volunteers distribute from their soup vans to rough sleepers. Another issue they were keen to address was reducing the number of plastic bags that were being used by the volunteers when they handed out the food.

The students worked as a team throughout Term 1 and 2, coming up with ideas to combat the two problems by creating healthy dessert products and producing sustainable recyclable bags. The students also contacted Spotlight to source fabric that could be donated for the project. Throughout the unit the students worked on a range of recipes that would be suitable to transport from Belgrave to the city, as well as considering food products that lasted for longer than a day and did not have to be refrigerated.

Unfortunately during this project COVID-19 restrictions prevented the students from undertaking many of the tasks they had planned to do. They were no longer able to donate food products to St Vincent de Paul, which meant they had to re-evaluate what to do with their project.

The VCAL students understood first-hand the effects of the stress caused by the pandemic and were determined to continue their work to help the people in need. The students decided they would instead hold a bake sale within their school community and raise money to purchase $500 worth of food vouchers for the Society. The students also learnt how to make cloth face masks and sold them to school staff and in the local community. The money raised contributed to the purchase of food vouchers for St Vincent de Paul.

The students also created a list of questions about the charity and interviewed a volunteer from its soup kitchen. This was an excellent opportunity for the students to develop a deeper understanding of the need for community support.

Intermediate Work Related Skills

Adam Napier – St Augustine’s College Kyabram

Over the course of his VCAL journey, Adam has developed from being a shy student who was unsure of his skills, into a young adult who is fully prepared for employment. He has shown a mature understanding of the importance of developing employability skills, along with the knowledge and attributes valued within his community and work environments. Adam committed himself to working in several vocational contexts, gaining experience in Structured Workplace Learning (SWL) at Kyabram Paint, Panel & Restorations, the AFL High Performance Community Umpiring Talent Academy, the school’s VCAL Cafe business and the Kyabram Bakery, where he has provided exceptional support and service to his peers and customers alike.

Adam’s acceptance into the AFL High Performance Community Umpiring Talent Academy reflected his efforts in previous seasons and potential to further his umpiring career. At the academy, Adam was trained in technical areas critical to the success of an umpire at State League level by AFL-listed umpires.

Adam was fondly known as the ‘go-to’ for most things VCAL Cafe–related, and students and staff would frequently call on him for his advice. Adam is helpful, caring, resourceful and happy to offer service no matter what the task. His quick wit, attention to detail and loyalty to the College and community have endeared him to his peers, teachers and employers.

Adam has provided mentoring within the VCAL cohort, showing students how to juggle the ups and downs of life and inspiring his peers to never stop trying. He has developed his interpersonal skills through Work Related Skills and associated placements demonstrating leadership qualities and inspiring others to work collaboratively.

During the lockdowns of 2020, Adam maximised his potential, taking on a large project of fully restoring a Volkswagen Beetle at Kyabram Paint, Panel & Restorations. He fully applied himself on a steep learning curve to ensure he met the needs of his customer. This dedicated work secured Adam an apprenticeship with the business in 2021.

Adam focuses on the best outcome for the group rather than himself, and has continually reflected on the progression of his skills, knowledge and attributes related to work. Through his development and enthusiastic engagement in Work Related Skills, Adam now excels in problem-solving, planning and organisational skills at the very highest Intermediate level.

Koorie Student Achievement

Steven Finn – The Grange P–12 College

Steven comes from a proud Koorie tradition with strong ties to his culture, attending Indigenous boys’ camps and working alongside his uncle to foster Koorie relationships in regional settings as he was growing up. He eventually wants to work in an industry that promotes Koorie culture. However, he found school a challenging environment and has struggled at times to build trusting relationships with his teachers.

The local Australia Post outlet offered Steven a position through its Indigenous School Based Traineeship (SBAT) pathway. This allowed him to remain at school until Year 12, maintaining his school studies while participating in a program he found worthwhile.

It did not take long for Steven to fit into his new role. His new role gave him the confidence to succeed. Both his academic performance and attendance improved once he had the opportunity to engage in applied learning and meaningful work. His supervisor praised his ability to work closely with team members and customers to provide an excellent service experience. She noted how mature Steven was when responding to the needs of customer of all ages and from a range of backgrounds. Steven attended Australia Post NAIDOC Week event alongside regional managers, presenting the Welcome to Country for the event. He also attended other divisional operations of Australia Post and was able to network with other Indigenous employees.

Steven has attended his SBAT weekly, despite facing considerable personal challenges along the way. Australia Post provided Steven with pastoral support when he returned to work after the sudden death of his father. In 2020, many workplaces had COVID-19 restrictions; Australia Post classified Steven as an essential worker, so he was offered employment throughout the pandemic. He took great pride in being authorised to attend work, adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols and offering guidance to customers facing anxiety during this time.

While Steven is still deciding where his career with Australia Post will take him, he is excited to be offered a full-time position on completing school.

Steven successfully completed his VCAL certificate in Year 12. His story has inspired his siblings, as well as other Indigenous students at his school, to overcome personal challenges and work towards achieving their dream. He has helped reinforce the benefits of continuing education, and having a meaningful career that supports his community.

Maddison Moorby – Heathmont College

Maddy mentors and advocates for the students in her school, because she wants young people in communities to have a dream and follow their passions. Maddy encourages her peers to believe in themselves and to give things a go, and that sometimes, the first go at something will not necessarily be what they thought it would be, but that is okay.

She is proud of what she has been able to achieve as an Indigenous youth, through the opportunities presented to her, where she has shown that hard work, passion and dedication can reap rewards. As a VCAL student undertaking an SBAT, her leadership roles have provided many forums to speak of her journey, career choice and benefits of vocational training.

As School Captain in 2020 Maddy had the opportunity to promote vocational learning. This role has also given her a platform to share the culture and history of her Indigenous people. As a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC)in 2020, Maddy was able to represent other students, on a platform of equality and inclusion.

In 2020, Maddy was invited to speak to the College about what NAIDOC week means to her as an Indigenous youth. She led many of the NAIDOC activities with drawing footprints to form a mural of the Aboriginal flag, and wrote pledges to tie in with the year’s NAIDOC theme of Always Was, Always Will Be.

As part of the Journey Tracks working group, Maddy had a say in tailoring the Welcome to Country to make it specific and meaningful to her school community.

Maddy worked remotely for Victoria Police throughout the lockdowns in 2020. Her supervisors have been very happy with her progress and her ability to work remotely on assigned tasks with very limited supervision. Maddy completed her Certificate III in Business in 2020.

Maroondah City Council invited Maddy to be part of ‘We Know Your Name But Not Your Story’, a mini-documentary in which Maddy discussed diversity, school, work and hardships experienced in 2020.

Maddy want to be an example of how educational pathways have given her the opportunity to follow her dream.

School-based Apprentice/Trainee

Aisha Ashby - VCAL Provider – Cranbourne East Secondary College

Aisha has shown herself to be a dedicated and extremely hard-working student with a great commitment to her studies. She is also driven to help her school community, becoming an advocate for encouraging other female students to consider male-dominated careers. In her final year she successfully balanced the demands of her role as a Student Representative Council leader and School Captain, while also navigating her Head Start apprenticeship, TAFE and Senior VCAL studies.

Aisha excelled in her VCAL studies despite spending three days at work and TAFE, where she studied a Certificate II in Plumbing, and attending school for the other two days. During 2019, as part of an Aiming Higher Mentoring Program, Aisha and a small group of other female students chose a project to work on throughout Terms 2 and 3, which also linked to Aisha’s Personal Development Skills Outcomes. The project involved an all-female discussion panel aimed at girls in Years 9 and 10 so they could hear from females working in, or training to work in, careers that were traditionally male-dominated.

As a female student completing a Certificate II in Plumbing, Aisha was the driving force behind this project because she is passionate about empowering young girls to choose whatever career interests them.

The project was totally student-driven, requiring Aisha and her team to submit a project plan, develop promotional material, run whole-year-level assemblies for Year 9 and 10 girls, and organise the discussion panel.

Aisha and her team ran a highly successful event with an all-female discussion panel made up of Aisha, a software engineer, an Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) player and apprentice landscaper, a lawyer, the Headstart school representative and a mixed-martial arts fighter.

One of the organisations approached by the students was so impressed by their work that they sponsored the event, featuring an article about the project and the girls on their blog, social media and national employee newsletter.

Aisha has been an outstanding VCAL student, leader and role model. She has displayed a strong work ethic, a great attitude and amazing success in her school-based apprenticeship.

Senior Outstanding Achievement

Mikaela Doherty – Montmorency Secondary College

Mikaela excelled in all areas of her Senior VCAL program, remaining positive and self-driven despite the year’s challenges. She motivated her peers to collaborate and create final products for all four strands of VCAL, modelling excellent communication skills and resolving group conflicts when they arose. She was an active participant in group discussions, expressing her opinions appropriately in all of her VCAL subjects.

Mikaela successfully completed her VET studies in Certificate III Early Childhood Care and Education, as well as a Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement, while also working at an early learning centre.

As part of her studies, Mikaela:

  • designed a ‘Schoolies Road Trip’ in her Numeracy Skills unit
  • worked out a balanced diet and exercise program for students to use during lockdown
  • led team-building activities with younger students in Personal Development Skills
  • initiated several activities for a whole-school RUOK? week, including writing haiku poems and constructing a Spoonville (a village of decorated wooden spoons)
  • organised students in the VCAL program to send care parcels to a person who is special in their lives
  • worked with her classmates to design and sew fabric face masks.

In addition to her studies Mikaela was involved with the following projects:

  • taking part in Montmorency Secondary College’s ‘Dress to Impress’ mock job interviews online
  • organising a ‘Footy Colours Day’ as part of her Work Related Skills strand, setting up a class Action Team online
  • participating in a couch choir project in Personal Development Skills
  • photographing each VCAL student to contribute to a Yearbook
  • creating an end-of-year video to share with her VCAL peers at the end of Senior year
  • initiating installation of a fishpond and a native garden bed
  • maintaining the school’s vegetable garden
  • installing two worm farms for the Food Technology area and the canteen.

In Term 4, Mikaela and her friends participated in a virtual baby program over three nights. Despite being exhausted from a crying ‘baby’, Mikaela worked with two school staff to coordinate 25 senior students in meeting their VCAL and VCE outcomes. She collated student data and created an Excel spreadsheet on the program.

Throughout the year Mikaela maintained immaculate workbooks and visual journals, demonstrating a flair for design when presenting her written work.

Mikaela has been an uplifting ambassador for VCAL in the school community and inspired other students to strive to reach their full potential. Recognised by her school for her consistent and energetic contribution to whole-school activities, Mikaela received a ‘Personal Best’ Achievement award at the school’s Senior School Graduation Day.

Senior Personal Development Skills

Tia Kirby – Monbulk College

Tia has demonstrated great community spirit throughout her years at Monbulk College. As a senior student she worked with Year 7 students adjusting to secondary school, helped set up displays for Japanese and Art, conducted school tours on Open Night, assisted with badge ceremony morning teas and volunteered in the canteen. Tia has also been involved with the choir, the school band and the cheerleading team, participating in competitions, concerts and displays within the College and in the community.

For her Senior Personal Development Skills project, Tia set out to make sure no one felt alone in 2020 and ran many events to engage a wide variety of people. She began her Senior Personal Development Skills year with a project on homelessness, identifying strong links between homelessness and isolation. Tia started a program of writing to vulnerable people who may have been experiencing loneliness. These letters were widely appreciated and started a trend that Tia hopes will continue.

Outside school, Tia is very active in her youth and Scouts groups, working with children on projects at Puffing Billy, gardening and painting projects at stations. As a Venturer Scout Leader, Tia started an online origami program during lockdown.

This led Tia to think about artists suffering during the lockdown period, so as part of her Personal Development Skills project she set out to interview as many artists as possible to investigate how she could help them. She created online profiles and a display of local artists and started a ‘re-create art form’ project, where people in the community can re-create an artwork in their home.

Tia has also completed two school-based traineeships, one in companion animals and one in hospitality, putting these skills to good use in her Senior Personal Development Skills project, which highlighted the importance of pets for those on their own and cooking food for those who are homeless or in need of support.

While Tia was not able to hold a major event for her Senior Personal Development Skills unit, her efforts in trying to connect with those struggling during 2020 were courageous, adventurous, inclusive, determined, and continuous.

Tia’s excellence and efforts have been recognised at school with academic subject awards, the Caltex All-Rounder award, and the atEAST Most Outstanding School Based Trainee award. At the school valedictory night Tia received the Rotary Citizen of the Year Award.

Tia’s activities and endeavours have brought a smile to so many, a testament to her efforts in achieving her Senior Personal Development Skills unit goal for 2020 – to make sure no one felt alone.

Senior Team Achievement

Khkoley Amin, Jocelyn Heather, Janisha Lameko, Juliet Leaegailesolo, Violet Mapuilesua, Jastehana Ngatokoa, Susan Reza – Narre Warren South P–12 College

With 2020’s first lockdown looming and concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of Year 11 and 12 students, School Captain Jastehana Ngatokoa came up with an idea. It was brainstormed at a team meeting and named P–12 Stay Connected. Year 12 students were worried about the isolation, missing out on rites of passage, and that the year would pass by without acknowledgement of their achievements. Year 11 students were equally distressed by the situation.

The P–12 Stay Connected Team swung into action, devising numerous platforms to keep students connected. A peer support network where students to support one another helped them avoid feelings of isolation and despair. Year 11 and 12 students were surveyed to establish friendship groups, with a teacher allocated to each group. They would check in regularly with two members online to chat about schoolwork, home, stresses, how their friends were coping and if they required any help.

Students would text one another to see how they were and if they needed human interaction. The team members were aligned with specific mentor groups to communicate areas of need to support students. The program had a huge impact, with Year 11 and 12 students reporting how supported they felt from this group mentoring – more so than other year groups at the school.

During the first lockdown, the team devised a ‘TikTok challenge’, asking teachers to film themselves doing something silly. The students loved it and responded with dance challenges for the staff to match.

The team planned and prepared for an online Multicultural Day, but students were able to celebrate it at school. Khkoley and Susan organised COVID-safe food, competitions and activities. All Year 12 students had a COVID-safe blast!

During the second lockdown, the team organised weekly online events: a Catwalk Fashion Parade with student or teacher models, with the school community voting to select a winner, and The Masked Singer, featuring vocal performances from five teachers and students.

The Stay Connected team also created the first-ever Narre Warren South P–12 College Year Book, a pictorial record of the year for the students and the school community. Just prior to exams the team presented all graduating students with a memento of the year – a coronavirus teddy bear, a P–12 face mask and a ‘congratulations’ sash for each student.

Mathew Connell, Peregrine Jenkin, Madison Murphy, Bailley O’Connor – Lorne P–12 College

Lorne VCAL students decided to document the experiences of 2020 to inform future generations about the events of the year, and bring the community together. Students created a 2020 time-capsule that was both a digital record and a physical photographic/document trail to be presented as a photographic exhibition. The students partnered with the Lorne Historical Society and received assistance from organisations and committees in the local area.

The Tales of a Local Lockdown (TALL) project was carried out remotely with appropriate social-distancing measures. Much of the planning took place via video conference, emails, phone calls and letter writing – a novel experience for many students. This was an opportunity for VCAL students to think laterally, and to use their leadership skills within strict occupational health and safety guidelines to successfully complete the project. The students’ outcomes were met in a meaningful way with a focus on community.

The students began by interviewing people in their own town before making their way around the country to gather information on other people’s experiences of 2020. An Arizona-based project called ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’, invited the students to be a part of their information-gathering team. The VCAL students presented their time capsule to Professor Andy Way, University of Melbourne, the Australian connection to the project.

VCAL students wanted to acknowledge that the pandemic was affecting all generations and cultures, from the younger members of the community to students and people on working visas who became unemployed and were stranded in the town. They wanted the town to know that they were ‘all in this together’ and to capture the best and worst of the global epidemic, sharing and recording how people dealt with it, how businesses coped and how people felt about the future.

The students worked with community experts, setting up a platform to gather information. With the Lorne Historical Society, they have created a legacy that will not only continue the global connection this pandemic has started, but foster empathy and compassion from the current and future generations.

An exhibition (in both digital and analogue form) showcased the stories, both local and Australia-wide, of hardships and celebrations. It included photographic, written, posters and artwork. A printed copy, and the digital record of the community’s response profiles, will be displayed at the Lorne Historical Society.

Senior Work Related Skills

Ella Brebner – St Columba’s College

Ella has demonstrated maturity and commitment to all aspects of her VCAL program. In Year 11 she completed a school-based apprenticeship and traineeship in early childhood education and care and received glowing feedback from both her trainers and employer at Good Start Early Learning.

In her final year, Ella studied Certificate III Allied Health Assistance auspiced by Australian Catholic University (ACU) as part of her VCAL program. She secured a work placement at the Royal Women’s Hospital and was able to continue her placement for the entire year, despite Stage 3 and Stage 4 lockdown restrictions. The staff at the Royal Women’s Hospital valued Ella’s contributions so much that she was deemed an essential worker by the hospital and given permission to continue her placement, with the employer signing off on necessary paperwork to permit her to work during Stage 4 lockdowns.

Ella has always been dedicated to a pathway into nursing and has taken every opportunity to create networks within the health industry. She received outstanding feedback from the assessors at ACU who visited her during the placement and noted that she answered questions and demonstrated initiative beyond her age (17 years).

Within weeks of finishing Year 12, Ella had interviewed for and secured a part-time position at the Royal Women’s Hospital. She is now working at the hospital three days a week.

Ella is applying to study for a Diploma of Nursing at ACU with the hope of eventually studying for a Bachelor of Nursing.

Despite the events of 2020, Ella took every opportunity to learn new skills and jumped at the opportunity to study units from the Certificate III Business Administration offered by Business Integrity College, in partnership with the St Columba’s College. Ella managed her VCAL studies, work placement requirements, Allied Health VET studies and completed six units of the Business course during remote learning.

Ella’s achievements demonstrate the many benefits of VCAL and the pathways it can offer young people.

Teacher Awards

VCAL Teacher Achievement Award – Integrated Program

Marco Nicolazzo – Peter Lalor Vocational College

Marco Nicolazzo’s integrated elective program for Year 10 (Foundation) students in engineering was designed to introduce students to the trade, including its many roles and responsibilities.

Students were to establish enough knowledge to weld a structure for use in the school’s new maker space – six welding bays were to be engineered and constructed. This was a major challenge for a group of Foundation students.

The challenge became even greater when students were required to learn remotely. Marco was able to modify the program by getting students to analyse the engineering requirements of a bird building a nest. Students researched the techniques used by birds before replicating the nest construction of a chosen bird, while remaining true to its construction and engineering techniques.

Next, using the science of energy and motion, students created a roller coaster from recycled paper. They had to ensure a marble could travel uninterrupted from a set destination to a finishing point a considerable distance away. Students were encouraged to build resilience and efficacy into the design. The aim of this project was to improve self-esteem.

With improved self-esteem, students were then required to complete a home project. This was the first time students were offered an opportunity to complete a task without teacher scaffolding.

On their return to the classroom students learnt to weld with metal inert gas (MIG). They gave each other constant positive reinforcement as they learnt the techniques to successfully construct the six welding bays.

Marco’s class was filled with engaged and dedicated students wanting to learn a new skill, while completing their final outcomes and achieving their certificates.

The success of the program encouraged other students to participate, and in Term 4 Marco continued the welding component of the integrated program with students who required assistance completing Work Related Skills Unit 2 outcomes.

Marco’s determination and persistence motivated students to contribute to the maker space. All this was achieved while Marco performed the role of VET coordinator at one of the largest host schools in the cluster. He is one of the most popular teachers at the school, confirmed by his recent award for Staff Member of the Year.

Christina Paizes – Melbourne Polytechnic

Christina Paizes organised and delivered an outstanding Senior VCAL program that explored the themes of power, justice and equity.

The program’s goal was to raise awareness of respectful relationships and identify healthy attitudes and behaviours grounded in respect and equity, and those that were unhealthy and about power and control. To achieve this, Christina created a program about domestic violence primary prevention (DVPP) strategies and respectful relationships, following the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015.

Senior VCAL students evaluated their own value system and responsibility as individuals to build self-awareness and resilience to support personal growth. They reflected on current policy and the importance of recognising respectful relationships across society, including industry sectors and community. Particular focus was placed on the ‘bystander effect’ and ‘calling it out’.

The program consisted of two phases:

  • Phase 1 was a targeted youth attitude survey: ‘Who’s in the Man Box: What does it mean to be a young man growing up in Melbourne in 2020?’
  • Phase 2 was a learning resource prototype to facilitate classroom discussion about respectful relationships for young people aged 16–20 years.

Christina worked collaboratively with the Family Violence Prevention Officer from Melbourne Polytechnic to integrate these issues into the Senior VCAL program.

She also collaborated with the Senior VCAL Numeracy teacher to create content aligned to key learning outcomes, for example, conducting a survey and analysing the data, drawing conclusions from qualitative and quantitative research, reporting findings as percentages of those polled.

The VCAL tasks Christina developed were provided as evidence for the Victorian Government’s DVPP Strategy. This work was periodically reported to government throughout 2020 and has been shared with other TAFEs and advocacy groups (especially the Man Box and Our Watch).

Christina ensured assessment tasks were linked and co-assessed to provide a seamless learning experience that was holistic, timely and relevant. These were continuously negotiated with students and reviewed for validity and relevance to current issues.

Remote delivery presented particular challenges, and Christina worked closely with her Numeracy counterpart to develop a new online delivery model. Many students did not have a reliable internet connection or enough data to work remotely, so Christina worked through school breaks to visit the students and provide one-on-one support.

Despite these challenges the senior class produced work and outcomes reflecting academic integrity and rigour. Christina delivered a curriculum, that was a unique experience for all the students.

Benjamin Smith – Melbourne Polytechnic

Ben is an Intermediate VCAL Teacher at Melbourne Polytechnic (Heidelberg campus) who undertook integrated community-based project work throughout 2020. He created a social enterprise/integrated project called Bikes4Life, with the aim of collecting, recycling and restoring second-hand bicycles for donation to disadvantaged young people, especially refugees.

Ben began the project by putting up community advertisements for second-hand bike donations and then drove around Melbourne to pick them up. COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult for Ben to continue this work. However, he then contacted Lucy Arthur from Youth Foundations (Banyule Community Health), who worked with students during remote delivery. They were successful in gaining a community grant through Youth Foundations to assist with the project costs. Funds were used to purchase bikes parts, helmets, locks, spray paint and printing costs for logo stickers.

The project assisted disadvantaged young people, in particular refugees, with transport needs, giving them access to a degree of mobility that they would otherwise not be able to afford. This also increased their employment opportunities. The project involved staff and students across multiple campuses and was linked to outcomes from Personal Development Skills Unit 2, Work Related Skills Unit 1, and the Numeracy and Literacy Skills strands.

Ben and his students began working with the Inner North Local Learning and Enterprise Networks (INLLEN) Youth Enterprise Hub and a social enterprise called Good Cycles. They investigated a business model based on doing bike repairs for community members and then using those funds to not only donate bikes, but to host tours on bike tracks, connecting young refugees with others to build up their social connections.

The project featured in the STAMP newsletter and ended with a presentation day where the young refugees attended Melbourne Polytechnic’s VCAL campus. Youth Foundations and other community members also attended. Ben was on track to deliver the bikes to each recipient’s addresses in time for Christmas at his own time and expense.

VCAL Teacher Achievement Award – Program Development

Mitch Coombs – Kyabram P–12 College

Kyabram P–12 College has developed an outstanding VCAL program for Year 11 and 12 students. This innovative, integrated program has a studio approach, allowing students to work on any one of 19 different subjects. This gives students massive scope to choose subjects they find engaging and motivating.

VCAL leader Mitch Coombs saw a need for a similar program to begin at Year 10 level, so evolved the existing program from one made up of individual classes of different subject areas, to a fully integrated model.

The new program is designed to align seamlessly with the established senior secondary VCAL program, allowing Year 10 students to immediately involve themselves in projects based on student interest and not determined solely by certificate level. Therefore, a project such as building a deck for the local kindergarten can be done by all students who have an interest, for example, three Foundation students, four Intermediate students and two seniors, all with varying levels of responsibility and work requirements, consistent with their respective levels.

As well as designing the program, Mitch has been integral to identifying staff to be specialist teachers. The studio nature of the program allows for staff to move about the college with teams of students, while other staff remain in the class to support other areas of the students’ program.

This flexible studio delivery also means that all students are able to select Year 10 mainstream, VCE or VET subjects within the traditional timetable without the restriction of them clashing with their VCAL subjects. This innovative approach also means that students are not restricted to certain days for work placement, allowing them greater opportunities in a rural location with fewer employers.

The program encourages community connection and meaningful projects through partnerships formed with Warramunda Village Aged Care, Tongala Primary School and Kyabram Fauna Park.

Students are also prepared for work through presentations from organisations such as Campaspe Cohuna Local Learning and Employment Network, the Victorian Electoral Commission and Anglicare, and work placement opportunities.

A significant number of students have already chosen this pathway, and the regional office has officially recognised its design with presentations to be made to other regional colleges catering for students in Years 7 to 10.

The Year 10 VCAL program has been strategically planned to meet the needs of the students, their school and their community and has become an exemplar model of delivery before the first cohort has even begun their first projects.

VCAL Teacher Achievement Award – Team Teaching Innovation in Lockdown

Daniel Brooks, Matthew Burleigh, Anthony Cotton, Kimberley Graham, Katrina King, Christopher Leunig, Hervaye Lobriza, Alex Sheppard, Rohan Spong, Kathleen Tim, Tim Waters – Wantirna College

In 2020 the team of teachers at Wantirna College took up the challenge of transforming their applied learning program into a virtual space. They demonstrated adaptability and tenacity in designing a program that engaged students and looked after their wellbeing, while also providing real-world experiences that met all outcomes during remote learning.

Some of the events that were adapted included:

  • a Winter Sleepout, traditionally held in the school gym. Students were invited to sleep in their backyards, cooking a basic meal and writing about their experience in a diary
  • a Shark Tank–style project, where every Year 11 student could pitch an idea to an online panel of sharks and receive expert feedback, culminating in an Enterprise Evening with an audience of parents
  • an investigation into how working from home changed the way people communicated through interviews of friends and family members
  • the annual MasterChef unit, adapted to cooking for the family and creating a VCAL recipe book
  • planning an online Year 12 graduation dinner, with speeches, awards, a bit of fun and attendance from their parents and the College Principal.

By second lockdown it was clear students needed to spend less time in front of their screens. To achieve this and meet literacy outcomes, students selected a novel from the library to take home and read, responding to prompts and shared discussions with each other.

A Mind, Body and Spirit unit was created to meet some of the Work Related Skills outcomes. Activities included cooking, exercise sessions, meditations and taking the dog for a walk. Getting outside and being active for at least one hour each day was an important component of keeping the students’ minds active.

Back onsite, the team re-created the Year 9 Mock Interview Program. VCAL students were responsible for setting up complex IT requirements and interviewing panel members.

Meanwhile the team continued to work on an existing goal of raising the profile of VCAL within the College by introducing VCAL Captains at Year 11 and 12 levels. The newly elected VCAL Captains took on their roles enthusiastically and were supported by the team to develop their leadership skills.

Despite its challenges, the team of teachers were able to remain connected to their VCAL students through the successful creation of authentic applied learning activities and fun events during lockdown. Also, VCAL classes have increased from one class to four following the profile-raising efforts of the team.

Partner Awards

VCAL Partner Achievement Award – VCAL Partnerships

Autoplex and Castlemaine Secondary College

Over the last 45 years Castlemaine has developed a reputation as the hot rod capital of Australia, with a range of businesses dedicated to building and servicing these speciality vehicles. Autoplex was developed over 12 years by the not-for-profit Castlemaine Hot Rod Centre (CHRC) to encourage the next generation of young people to take part in this speciality industry as business owners approach retirement age. Autoplex Castlemaine provides training in conjunction with Kangan TAFE, Bendigo TAFE and Castlemaine Secondary College (CSC) VCAL.

The Autoplex precinct site was formally signed over in early 2020 to provide training facilities for TAFE and VCAL students. There are also plans for an interpretation centre, a cafe, vehicle inspection services and other facilities. Autoplex representatives worked with CSC VCAL students to create a range of programs that would train the students in speciality automotive skills. The partnership presented a unique opportunity for informal interactions and dialogue.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, a number of activities were developed over the year. In a brainstorming session, VCAL students and Autoplex representatives co-designed a four-session basic car maintenance program. After receiving a youth grant from Mount Alexander Shire Council, the students developed a curriculum and trialled lessons with their peers from the Etty Street campus. The course will be delivered from 2021 to members of the Castlemaine community.

Autoplex employees attended CSC maths classes and talked about ‘car maths’, creating a renewed interest in VCAL Numeracy. Topics included: ratios of mixing colours in spray-painting; increasing and decreasing tyre pressure by percentage, diameter and radius of tyres; changing engine performance; buying and selling car parts on eBay; importing speciality cars and parts with fees and freight; and estimating the volume of concrete needed when building sheds and garages.

Community support has been enhanced with local business connections and a local wrecker has donated cars and parts for workshops with student involvement.

The college was approached by Victoria Police to help design and develop a local road safety campaign. In collaboration, Autoplex, Rotary, CSC VCAL and Victoria Police generated a framework that will involve VCAL students to develop an extended social media campaign about road safety and young drivers.

Other projects in developmental stage include a MotorKarna program supported by local businesses, and training students in the ‘lost art’ of custom pinstriping.

By connecting students with vision, passion and expertise, Autoplex provides an outstanding learning framework opportunity for VCAL students.

VCAA Chair’s Award

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria – Pathways and Transition Team

The VCAA Chair’s Award recognises outstanding achievement by an individual or an organisation in the delivery and promotion of VCAL in their community or region.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority awards recipients of the VCAA Chair’s Award.

The 2020 VCAA Chair’s Award is presented to the Pathways and Transition Team at the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV). The Award recognises the team’s outstanding contribution and support towards the delivery and promotion of the VCAL across the whole of Victoria.

In particular, the Pathways and Transition Team provides ongoing support for Catholic schools to deliver VCAL, including professional development opportunities and individual support for schools across the state and the promotion of VCAL success stories through numerous CECV publications. The Pathways and Transition Team at the CECV collaborates with the VCAA on a regular basis and provides valuable input into the review of curriculum and joint professional development activities. In 2020, CECV actively and comprehensively participated in the Review into Vocational and Applied Learning Pathways in Senior Secondary Schooling.

James Merlino

The Hon James Merlino at the awards ceremony