Student Stories Byron Community College

Student Stories

Student Stories

Over the years we have had many students achieve certifications allowing them to progress in their chosen field.

Below are some of their stories:

Zachiary Holt - Certificate III & IV in Permaculture

Zachiary Holt

I grew up in Perth and then travelled to the UK for a couple of years, followed by a few in Melbourne and then a year in Africa. This is where I started my studies, completely my Permaculture Design Course. I spent the year travelling and volunteering in South Africa before making my way to Mullumbimby, Northern Rivers

When I finally moved to Mullum and found out that Byron College ran the Permaculture Certificate III and Certificate IV courses I was thrilled. Even better, the courses were offered funded, and fee-free via the VET program, about the only place in the area to offer this. A big decision maker for me!

The ongoing practical experience in the course, and the awesome trainers who gave heaps of their time and energy made it such a fantastic experience! Completing the Certificate course was a huge achievement for me, the workload is massive, and to make things more challenging I had a new baby at the start of the course, and were also dealing with the Covid lockdowns!

Over the years I worked as a Youth Worker, Hospitality Manager, the Logistics Manager for OzHarvest, and in bush regeneration and as a gardener. But the training has allowed me to shift my work towards Permaculture projects, slowly slowly. Giving me the knowledge and confidence to dive into this sort of work. Now I am teaching Permaculture, at the College! And developing my own little property and community as a Permaculture farm. SO everything feels like it’s coming together, and the dream is becoming a reality.

For anyone thinking about studying at the Colleg, or Permaculture….Go for it! Work less and spend more time just focussed on the learning while you have the opportunity. Really value and prioritise the learning time and opportunity, don’t let life get in the way

Stephanie Nedosyko - Certificate III in Horticulture and Certificate III in Permaculture<

Stephanie Nedosyko

Having grown up in Adelaide, at the age of 24 I made the decision to leave, in search of the subtropics, sunshine and a new way of life. I luckily ended up in the Byron Shire.

I studied Certificate III in Commercial Cookery back in 2015, and since been working as a Chef. But the fast paced, high pressure Cheffing lifestyle has definitely taken its toll on my body and my mental health. Sadly making me lose interest in cooking. Fortunately throughout the Covid lockdown, I was able to spend more time in the garden and found my passion for growing high quality, nutritious, organic foods and living more self-sufficiently, not relying on the big chain stores.

Originally tossing up between studying Permaculture and Horticulture, I knew I wanted to learn about plant identification and plant physiology, so I’m glad I chose Certificate III in Horticulture. Best decision of my life to go back to studying as an adult. The fact that the course was fully funded by the government was a big motivation to study this course.

I went from working fulltime, down to 3 days a week, studying 2 days a week and I really struggled juggling work life and the school load.The biggest highlight of the course was the connections and lifelong friends I have made. We had so many laughs over the year. Going through the floods together definitely made us closer as a group. The teachers were absolutely FANATSTIC! Each being so unique and individual, and brought with them a different style of teaching/learning. After completion I actually really missed my teachers. Studying started to bring back my passion for cooking and I realised I can incorporate cooking and gardening/ Horticulture into my future.

The dream is to have a paddock-to-plate situation, incorporating locally grown organic produce, local wines and ethical meats. Bringing the community together for beautiful feasts.My greatest achievement would be just completing the course! I thought I wouldn’t make it at many stages along the way. Reaching out to Kat in Student Support eased so much of my stress and anxiety. If you feel overwhelmed or that you are falling behind, reach out. Kat and Di are fantastic! They really want you to succeed :) After completing Horticulture I was very eager to continue my studies, so I decided to enroll in Certificate III in Permaculture with Byron College.

To those thinking about studying this course or any at Byron Community College, DO IT! Best decision of my life.

Tillie Angel De Wilde - Certificate III in Horticulture and Certificate III in Permaculture<

Tillie De Wilde

After years of working in an office environment and not feeling like it was the right fit for her, Tillie met someone with permaculture experience who planted a seed that resulted in gardening and permaculture becoming her big passions. Later, upon hearing about the courses at Byron Region Community College, Tillie decided to take that passion and turn it into something more, a meaningful career.

The journey began in 2021 with a Certificate III in Horticulture to make the dream into a reality. Not having done any study since leaving school, she was a bit nervous, but quickly established herself as a hardworking student with a sunny outlook. In 2022, the learning journey continued with a Certificate III in Permaculture and Tillie knuckled down again to gain a second qualification. The fact that she managed this given what 2022 brought our community is worth a mention.

In the days following the 2022 floods, the College was in the process of contacting its Certificate course students to see if they were safe when, scrolling through some media photos of flood evacuees, out popped a familiar face. Wet, tired, holding a beloved pooch and newly rescued by boat – was a face that despite everything was still smiling. It was Tillie!

The photo prompted an immediate call from Student Support, and this was Tillie’s response: “Thank you so much for your message. We lost our home in the Lismore flood, but we are fine and feeling so loved and supported by out amazing community! I cannot wait to get back to the College for a bit of normality and to be surrounded by people and a subject I absolutely love. Please let me know if there is any way I can help the College get back on its feet.”

Fast forward another year and Tillie is even closer to her career dreams being actualised; she's now enjoying the challenge of a Certificate IV in Permaculture. She says “Lauren (her trainer) is amazing and I’m learning so much from her. What I love about studying at Byron College is that the teachers are super passionate; they live what they teach. The personal attention they give students and knowing I can go up to a trainer with any questions makes all the difference.”

We feel very blessed to have students like Tillie studying with us at the College

Garry Allen - Certificate IV in Community Services

Garry Allen

Before commencing my Community Services Cert IV course at Byron Community College I was a Tradie, working as a Handyman. I had been for my entire career! As I thought about heading into semi-retirement, the idea of going back to study was pretty difficult and daunting at first

I’d not been a student or studied since high school! Plus being a tradesman means working on your own a lot, and working with tools. So the challenges of technology, group interaction and being in a classroom was all very new and a lot of change for me. I had to change my whole mindset and go into a student mode.

Community Services was not what I thought it would be either! Studying full time was a big commitment. It’s a big course that covers a lot of information like laws, policies, procedures. youth, aged care, mental health and homelessness. There’s also a lot of group interaction, sharing and talking. It really pushed my boundaries and was really good for me! I was a bit scared looking back. I learnt a lot from the other students too, which you don’t realise at the time. This ended up being one of the most valuable things for me actually.

Having lived in Byron Bay for 27 years, I knew I wanted to go back to helping and giving back to this incredible community, A long long time ago I volunteered at the Byron Community Centre which I really enjoyed, and as a handyman I had a lot of older clients and was always interested in the interaction that I had with them.So when choosing where to do my work placement I decided on Diversional Therapy in Aged Care (at RSL Lifecare in Suffolk Park). You take them on bus trips, go for lunch, spend time together getting them doing different things. It’s really inspiring!

This is where I started to get interested in men’s groups and particularly the ‘Men’s Shed’ and the brilliant work they do there. My final year presentation was on what it would take to start a Men’s Shed from scratch. As part of this I met the President of the Bangalow Shed who is very involved in outreach programs and connected with the Lions Club. I ended up being so inspired by him that I joined that Men’s Shed group.

The work they do is called ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, it’s about being there, not necessarily talking. Unless it comes up! We come together and build things, paint, exercise as a group, play ping pong, just have fun…if the men feel like they want to share or open up they can, in a safe and supportive space. It’s lovely, I’m loving it! After only a short time, I’m now on the Wellbeing Committee for that Men’s Shed. I feel HONOURED to be a part of it all.

We are soon to launch a ground breaking new initiative called Shed Mates, which will be rolled out Australia wide across all 1200+ Sheds. We bring inspiring people into the Shed to give talks and tell their stories. And it started here in the Byron Shire! I feel like I’ve definitely found my calling! And a great blend of my two passions and skills.

If you are thinking about going back to study GO FOT IT! At first its challenging, but in the end it’s rewarding. You’ll definitely transform through it.

Eva Sigley - Certificate III in Individual Support

Eva Sigley My interest in caring for others started with my family. I have a brother with autism and a sister with brain damage. Seeing my siblings go through primary school, and the way society is not structured for them, has been a massive part of my life. I always wanted to help make the world a better place for them. My mum (a support worker who was also a teacher’s aide) suggested this course while I was thinking about what to do after high school. Originally I thought about primary school teaching, but realised I had much more interest in a carers role, helping people live a better life.

While some think this job is simply about taking people to do their shopping, it’s much bigger than that, which is really rewarding for everyone. We don’t prioritise time with elderly people but they have so much to offer, even far into dementia. The connection we make and what they talk about enrich my life because there is so much knowledge there and I love working with our five residents sharing a beautiful home environment.

I loved studying at the College, which was much different to school. The course is only two days a week over six months so it’s not long in the scheme of things. I had the rest of the week to work and reflect on what I’d learnt at the beautiful Mullumbimby campus just a minute from the centre of town.

Hands-on teaching meant the classes was very real. During first aid, learning what to do if someone has a seizure was challenging at first but when I was faced with this at work, I was able to centre myself and do exactly what was needed. One of my favourite things was that the teachers actually work in the field. It’s not just some course you do online. There is lots of connection with the tutors who teach curriculum and what they know we need to do on the job every day.

If anyone is thinking about studying Individual Support at the College, just do it. It’s a great career option that’s also an excellent pathway into many other industries like nursing, mental health, or even just figuring out what you want to do.

In the future I aim to work with younger people living with disabilities and am thinking about training in music therapy, which has had some amazing results. One day, a resident who typically only says a few words, started singing, dancing and clapping during music therapy. There are so many stories like this and this is the change I want to be a part of.

Alice Hoffman-Ross - Certificate III & IV in Permaculture

Alice Hoffman-Ross It’s absolutely amazing that I have ended up finding this passion and studying permaculture because up until that time, I had never even really spent any time looking at the ground! But, when an accident put me out of action for 10 months, I had the opportunity to reassess my life and think about what would actually make me happy that would also put some good into the world. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful that also enabled me to work outside so the puzzle was to work out what could encompass both of these things that was also a career I could make money from.

As it turns out, I had heard about permaculture just a year before the accident. I now know that was the planting of a seed that I returned to while recovering. As perfect timing would have it, I was recovered from my accident just in time for the Certificate III in Permaculture to start.

I am still blown away that this is subsidised, accredited, Austudy approved training (which is what made it possible for me to meet my living costs). It is incredible to have had the opportunity to learn about how to live a better life and on a social and emotional level, I have made some really close friends through the course. Our tutors Jules, Sharon and Lauren are absolutely amazing, and Di and Kat have been divine in their support.

I have been exposed to so many people and it’s incredible how they are popping up in other areas of my life, leading me onto fantastic things. I am working as part of an all-female landscape gardening team and have new part-time work in hospitality to further support me as I now complete the Certificate IV in Permaculture. I would love to consult one day about how people can create sustainable systems as we continue to build a community of self-sufficiency. I am now part of a community where we support each other so you feel really held, and this continues on, even after completing the course.

If you are thinking about studying at Bryon Community College, I’d just say give it a go if you feel a passion for a course. They provide an amazing way of learning because of the location, the hands-on teaching and being able to talk to the tutors and support team. It’s so accessible and you don’t feel immense pressure. It really has changed my life.

Audrey Harnett - Visual Arts

Audrey Harnett Growing up in Adelaide, I spent 30 years wanting to come up and live on the east coast. I did finally move here and while there have been some incredibly difficult and unexpected challenges with the passing of my husband and the recent floods, the opportunity I had to study art has changed the course of my life.

I had already completed an Arts degree in 2012 as a print maker and jeweller, but I wanted to paint and didn’t have the confidence to start. I came across Byron Community College as I was researching different things to do in the area. I wanted to find a connection with like-minded people who love creating art and the College was perfect.

I started with introductory courses and workshops. I didn’t know anyone in the area at all so the community aspect was amazing. The College was so welcoming and inclusive, beginning with our tutor Virginia and emulated by all the students.

This acceptance, encouragement and support was so positive and totally non-competitive. I started making friends, which really settled me into the area and over time I grew to love it more and more. I loved the equality amongst the different ages and genders, you’re just there with ideas as an individual.

Virginia boosted my confidence so much, teaching me to just to have a go. Her encouragement, support and feedback helped me to see how much I was developing and this really grew my love for painting.

Painting is a real ‘in the moment’ place to be. You lose yourself in it and learn how to be present in a whole new way to appreciate things. For anyone who has had their creativity dashed out, or feels too busy in life to even try it, I would advise trying to find a way where you can go for it. Drop expectations of the outcome and enjoy the process. The College is the place to go in terms of support for that.

After 10 painting courses and much private practise, I am creating work for exhibitions and commissions in Australia and overseas and it all began and grew from studying at the College. Encouragement, community and confidence are the big things that I came away with and I now love supporting and encouraging other artists, seeing the ripples go out to having a better life because they are focussing on the creativity they want to express.

Heiki Schimmelpfeng - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy

Heiki Schimmelpfeng I learnt from the College…it’s all about what we can offer to the world.

I lost everything in my house during the recent floods. I managed to evacuate with my girls at 6am on the Monday but we couldn’t find my 77-year old neighbour and I was worried. She was not in her unit and we had to leave without her. Later we found out that she got rescued by a boat as she was too fragile to climb on her roof like her younger neighbours.

On day five, back at home, she was bent over and couldn’t handle her back pain anymore after throwing all her belongings on the street and sleeping on a couch at a friend’s place. My house was still dripping wet. The inside had an awful smell of toxic floodwater. Like all rooms, my treatment room was empty with all the furniture, including my hydraulic treatment table, piled up in front of my house. It was a bizarre moment but we puzzled all essentials together…massage oil, essential oil and tools to set up the portable massage table. Some of our wet clothes had been washed by volunteers and had just been dropped off at my front door. I decided to use them as cushions and bolsters under her shoulders, chest and legs. The next moment the room was filled with beauty and care.

I just did what I’m good at and followed my intuition. My neighbour relaxed. Her muscles had been in spasm. I was able to give, to help and to make the world a better place…in a small way. It meant healing for both of us. What an honour it was for me to treat her in my dirty muddy house. We had everything we needed. It was a time of deep connection in the middle of chaos. It had so much beauty and humanity!

The Certificate IV in Massage Therapy course I did with Laura had given me the strength to believe in my skills again and the ability to give support. Thank you to Laura, to all the students in my course, to Student Support and the entire Byron Community College!

Anne Fenwick - Certificate III in Individual Support

Anne Fenwick After spending most of my working career in retail, including 15 years at Dolphin Office Choice in Mullumbimby and Byron, my husband was badly hurt in a work accident, life came into sharp focus and our priorities quickly changed.

As I began to wonder what changes I needed, or could even make, I eventually decided to take long service leave and study the Certificate III in Individual Support. This pathway to a new career would also teach me how to support myself and my husband through his head injury and provide me with something I could focus on that played into my natural love for customer service.

I was absolutely terrified when I started the qualification because I hadn’t done any study since 1983 in high school and did not grow up in an environment where academia was a priority. However, I very quickly learned that there was nothing to be afraid of and so much to gain.

The class atmosphere was fantastic and so fulfilling. The teachers were so approachable and all the students connected so well. We worked together as a team and Di was amazing providing learning support. I learnt so much both in the course and from things I had to teach myself how to do along the way. The training was very hands on so when I graduated I felt very ready to find work because I had confidence in my abilities.

There were challenges I had to face but my fellow students, the tutors and learning support were there to help me any time I needed it. I would recommend studying at the College for anyone who wants a change in career or a new learning path. Don’t feel paralysed by the fear of the unknown. Getting out of your comfort zone and changing your routine, doing something different, shows you can accomplish a lot more than you think you can.

Once I graduated, I put in an application for a job and got it straight away because having the hands-on experience and certified training in this industry is what people are looking for. There are many new possible doorways for me from having completed this certification, but for now I’m still learning on the job and getting to know the industry more in-depth. I now have three private clients and it’s amazing to be able to make positive changes in people’s lives.

Laia Sal Mola - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy

Laia Sal Mola After running my cleaning business for 12 years and going through the stages of becoming a single mother, I needed something more from life that I would feel inspired to do every day and would show my children that you can still develop yourself professionally when you are older.

I had not studied for 18 years, since living in my birth country, Spain. With English as my second language and being away from my country of origin, it did feel daunting at first to study in Australia. I had doubts about whether my English was good enough to write essays and do the homework. I also didn’t know if I was going to be able to run my business, study, do work placement and raise my children all at the same time. But I knew that my love of community and desire to help people was driving me to do something more.

So, 4 years ago I enrolled to study Individual Support in Age Care and Disability, and this reignited my love of learning in the classroom environment. My teacher Bridget was a very inspiring woman, doing so much to improve the wellbeing of people with a disability in the community.

After graduating and in 2020, I was thinking about what I could do to improve on my qualifications and Introduction to Massage came up so I decided to enrol in that and see how it went. Again, I had another amazing teacher and Laura was the main reason I went on to study the Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. I then went one step further and completed Level 1 and 2 of Lomi Lomi Massage Training with Tina Featherheart, another incredible inspiration as a woman and therapist.

In every course I did, the teachers were amazing and there was so much support from student services. There was never any pressure and lots of flexibility made sure I could meet my responsibilities in my daily life and still gain my qualifications.

There were challenges along the way but being so supported and knowing there would be a great reward at the end meant these challenges were worth doing and they helped me to grow as a person. Now that I am qualified and able to help people, it feels empowering to have achieved what I have. I am able to work in a career that I love so much, which now includes running a small private practise and working in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

It doesn’t feel like work because I’m being paid to do something that gives me so much joy. I have met so many new people and made so many new friends who I continue to network with as we now try to develop community massage clinics.

The government subsidies that covered my course fees meant I was financially able to study at the College and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. You will be completely supported by the college and can look forward to new friendships, connections and qualifications that will only enhance and benefit your life.

In the year prior to the Covid mayhem I was working as a volunteer in Thailand at a community wellness retreat. Then the pandemic hit and I had to come home.

I had previously completed two and a half years of a Bachelor of Education at university. I did well but found it very challenging, and decided to postpone my studies.

Before I went to Thailand I suffered from pretty severe depression. During my time there I thought I could start a new career and have a new beginning. Now that I was back in Australia, I wanted to continue my journey and give back to the community.

My partner saw an ad for this course. I thought “What have I got to lose?” I didn’t know much about it, but I committed to it.

The thing that surprised me about the Byron Community College is that you aren’t in a race to beat anyone but yourself. If you don’t achieve a pass, you can try again later. It’s an incredibly rewarding way of learning.

Going to class was a highlight. It was a cycle: every week I was so excited, then the studies and role plays would start and then the overwhelm! But, by the next week I couldn’t wait to go to class again. I really enjoyed it.

The course was really informative. It related to everyday life and to relationships with your family and friends.

Each person in the course was different but the common thing we all shared was that we had some degree of life experience. People in the course could connect to some form of suffering. They want to help others because of personal things that have helped them.

I see things in a different way now. Interactions and communication. Struggles. Things we all go through. The course, in essence, teaches you how to help people and that includes yourself. You are learning life skills.

Samuel Witham - Certificate IV in Community Services

Samuel Witham In the year prior to the Covid mayhem I was working as a volunteer in Thailand at a community wellness retreat. Then the pandemic hit and I had to come home.

I had previously completed two and a half years of a Bachelor of Education at university. I did well but found it very challenging, and decided to postpone my studies.

Before I went to Thailand I suffered from pretty severe depression. During my time there I thought I could start a new career and have a new beginning. Now that I was back in Australia, I wanted to continue my journey and give back to the community.

My partner saw an ad for this course. I thought “What have I got to lose?” I didn’t know much about it, but I committed to it.

The thing that surprised me about the Byron Community College is that you aren’t in a race to beat anyone but yourself. If you don’t achieve a pass, you can try again later. It’s an incredibly rewarding way of learning.

Going to class was a highlight. It was a cycle: every week I was so excited, then the studies and role plays would start and then the overwhelm! But, by the next week I couldn’t wait to go to class again. I really enjoyed it.

The course was really informative. It related to everyday life and to relationships with your family and friends.

Each person in the course was different but the common thing we all shared was that we had some degree of life experience. People in the course could connect to some form of suffering. They want to help others because of personal things that have helped them.

I see things in a different way now. Interactions and communication. Struggles. Things we all go through. The course, in essence, teaches you how to help people and that includes yourself. You are learning life skills.

Treena Lenthall - Certificate IV in Community Services

Treena Lenthall I felt like a bit of a sham doing a Certificate IV as I already have a degree in social work. I’ve previously worked in child protection and domestic violence in Brisbane and in homeless shelters overseas.

But, after over a decade of working with my partner making social justice documentaries and raising our son, I had no recent experience and wasn’t even getting to interview stage of job applications.

I was feeling insecure about my abilities so felt like I needed a refresher and a way to develop contacts in this region.

I was quite strategic when I started the course. After becoming disillusioned with statutory government organisations, I knew I wanted to work in a community organisation, like the Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre.

The course was daunting at first. It involved a lot of group work, presentation and role playing – things that are not my natural strengths. At times I’d feel apprehensive, yet I liked the challenge and learned to step up.

The formal learning was good but it was what happened in the spaces that I found exciting. We were such a diverse group of people but it was a small group and we developed real trust and respect. Not that it was all smooth – people held different opinions and there were moments of tension. I admire the skills of our tutor, who managed all of this so well.

My work placement was at the Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre – exactly where I had hoped for. Forty hours isn’t long but I did further hours on a voluntary basis and now, a couple of months after finishing the course, I work there on a casual basis and hope something more substantial comes up. I also work as a receptionist at Mullumbimby Psychology.

The course was such a great experience for me. It offered me the chance to say to myself: “I can do this.”

Marcus Irwin - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy

Marcus Irwin I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for thirty years. I was a fitness presenter, travelling the world presenting at conferences. It was a high energy, high profile, high impact lifestyle that was amazing but it took its toll.

Moving to Byron was part of a need to calibrate how I operate in the world and to find a more age-appropriate way to stay in health and fitness.

I started looking at other massage courses but they were cost prohibitive. I then heard about the Certificate IV offered by the College. It made perfect financial sense as, because I was on Centrelink benefits at the time, the course was essentially free. But I had a pre-conceived idea that a community college course couldn’t be good.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. My perception changed as soon as I saw the depth of knowledge and level of experience that our tutor had. Starting hands-on experience on the second day suited me perfectly as a practical learner.

The group of students were a quirky, kooky crew from all different walks of life. I didn’t think we’d get along but we ended up close. We felt like we were part of a team, with people in your corner.

We learned massage on each other and gave constant feedback. On those first days, it was awkward taking our clothes off. But a lot of care was taken and we now understand that anyone coming into a clinic for a massage might feel the same way, so we put effort into respecting modesty.

It wasn’t all easy. There were some mind-numbingly tedious topics that made me want to poke my eyes out but that was offset by a lot of really cool, practical hands-on work.

I have just finished my last clinic session so am just waiting on my piece of paper. Personally, that’s huge as I’ve never completed a course. I usually get half-way through and head out to put what I’ve learned into practice. So finishing this was a matter of self-esteem.

I’m working at a massage clinic already. I’m enjoying it but my aim is to be an independent sole trader, offering massage combined with personal training and other modalities both from home and on a mobile basis.

With this course, I’ve learned that it’s not too late to try a new career and challenge old beliefs. The environment and care within the College was marvellous. I always felt included, cared for and heard.

Peter Critch - Certificate III in Permaculture

Peter Critch As a co-founder and compost expert for Subpod, the Byron-based composting system start-up, I help people easily understand composting and gardening. The permaculture course I finished three years ago at the Byron Community College was the springboard to this role.

After finishing high school, I completed an Environmental Science degree and came out wanting to save the world. But I was naïve.

So, I started looking into permaculture. I moved from Melbourne within two weeks of being accepted into the course. Knowing I’d be secure with Centrelink during the year allowed me to sink my teeth into something I’d been craving.

I admit I struggled for the first couple of months thinking: “I’m not learning enough” but what was really happening is that I was unlearning some of what I’d been taught. I was getting into my body rather than my mind.

I was expecting it to be like university – heaps of homework and no direct guidance but the teachers showed so much care and the practical lessons at the community gardens were so great.

One of the best parts of the course were the other students, who had so much zest and life. Overall, there was a sense of tight community, guidance and care. One of the key things I learned was a sense of building connections.

This fits perfectly with permaculture, as the term is a big umbrella connecting water, soil, air, design and more. I decided to focus on soil.

At the gardens, I met Joel Orchard, and he introduced me to the Soil Food Institute, where I did a course and internship. Then I went to Renew Fest. I was screaming ‘soil’ from the rooftop and Andrew Hayim De Vries, the inventor of Subpod, heard me. I followed him to Santos, where Subpod prototypes were set up. Since then, we’ve had two successful crowd funding campaigns and are very close to our goal of getting 20,000 people composting by 2020.

Adult education gives people hope and, like it has for me, can change lives. If you are thinking of enrolling in a course, I’d encourage you to pick up the phone to have a first conversation, as it’s not only about education but the people you meet along the way.

The college is like a web – the students, the teachers and the relationships. In life, that’s what gets work done. It’s from the sense of building connections that I developed during my permaculture course that I have this job now.

Hannah Gordon - Certificate III in Children's Services

Hannah Gordon A few years ago I completed a Certificate III in Children’s Services and enjoyed the next couple of years happily working in childcare.

The skills I learned in this course and in my work in combination with caring for my Grandfather Hymie in his journey through dementia led me to a career in disability support.

I now have my own disability support business and feel pure joy every day on my way to work.

After the recent passing of my dear Hymie it has become my greatest wish to volunteer supporting people through the end stage of their life; my first step being to complete the Last Aid course you provide.

As an early school leaver, completing the Cert III was one of the first times I felt proud of myself and gave me the sense of purpose that has led me to where I am today so thank you.

Elizabeth Disson – Certificate III in Aged Care and Disability

Elizabeth Disson In 2012 I studied for around 9 months to achieve my accreditation in Certificate 3 & 4 Aged & Disability Care.

Since finishing this course I have now been employed for the last 7 years in this industry which I love.

The Byron Community College assisted in helping me to pay my fees in installments to afford these amazing courses, without this help I possibly would not have been able to afford to do them.

Also colleges of this type would not be able to survive without the array of magnificent teachers employed by Byron Community College.

The assistance from teaches and office staff alike was amazing ,since doing these 2 coures i have undertaken alot of courses since and all have been very rewarding to me with my job working as a carer in the Byron Shire.

I always try to undertake at least 1 course at the College each year if not more, the next course I hope to do is for enjoyment is 'Learning to make your own paper'with Sue Wright hopefully before the year is finished.

Oliver Roberts (Ollie) – Visual Arts

Oliver Roberts While many of us may take the opportunity to learn for granted, for Ollie and his family it’s a blessing and a necessity.

Ollie who has autism has studied three of the Visual Arts courses offered by the College. Enrolled as a student he attends with his carer or his mum. Ollie studied art at school and is a keen art student with a creative eye and unique interpretation. In the class tutor Virginia Reid gives instructions for the day, which Ollie’s carer then relays to him, helps with the preparation of the paints and the materials and works alongside him as Ollie creates his painting or drawing. The results are amazing, with students and tutor all talking about his latest ‘Matisse masterpiece’.

Ollie came to the College through his mum Belinda who has previously done courses at the College over the years. “It’s really important for him to be in a mainstream inclusive learning environment. The College has been wonderful in facilitating this for him, his carers and our family’ says Belinda.

Byron Community College welcomes and supports all students on their learning journey. If you or anyone you know would like to attend a class with your support worker or carer please let us know when you enrol – there is no extra cost for them to attend with you.

Catherine Hollis – Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care

Catherine Hollis Catherine came to Byron Community College somewhat terrified of returning to study. She had always thought about working with children and some friends had encouraged her to take the leap. “Enrolling in the course was a major first step for me in perusing this dream. It was big!”

There were challenging times throughout the course when she questioned her commitment to continue. However, with the support of tutor Jude King and the admin staff Catherine successfully completed her studies. “I felt that I could talk openly with the staff about what was going on. They were really cool with being understanding and supportive”.

The highlight of the course was the comradery with the class and tutor. “The experience was really fun and I can’t talk highly enough about Jude. She is fun and funny, very supportive and has great ideas. She really knows her stuff!”

Catherine has gone on to be offered permanent employment at Buzykids in Byron where she undertook her work placement as part of the course. “Kids are crazy” she says, “I love it!” Her experience of studying with Byron College exceeded her expectations. “I loved coming to class. There is something so positive about this community. It’s a great little college and I would recommend it to everyone!”

h3. Edwina Bevan – Certificate III in Permaculture

Edwina Bevan I have been a full-time mother to my beautiful daughter for 7 years and when she began school last year I knew it was time for me to do something new too. I thought the best course for me would be the Cert III in Permaculture because I knew that the knowledge gained through the course would be precious information for now and also the future.

I loved the hands on aspect and looking after the Permaculture Backyard at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens. Being in a class of very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, fun and loving people of all ages and working together to create a gorgeous garden and grow food was fantastic.

Getting my brain back into an "academic" way of thinking to do the various assessments was challenging at first, but the Student Support team and our various tutors at BCC were invaluable to me. They helped me through some rather stressful moments. Often, all it took was an email from me to Student Support and the tutors advising what help I needed and it was given.

Daniella Lawall – Certificate IV in Permaculture

Daniella Lawall Prior to studying at Byron College I ran a clothing shop in Coolangatta selling natural fabrics and plants. Then I started thinking about farming, inspired by a desire to work more with plants.

Following the courses I have teamed up with a friend to start a business called HOLOS which offers Regenerative Design, implementation and education services. We have rented a farm in Brunswick Heads for 4 years and are planting a food forest using syntropic farming principles. We’ll be running courses there and using it as a demonstration site.

Doing the course changed my life. My family is very happy and have learnt how to grow food. I’ve converted my garden and those of some friends into edible gardens. I’ve planted lots of food trees and vegetables, even though I’m renting. I’m happy that I can leave this for the next person who rents the house. My children get to pick their food from the garden and they love it! They are making healthy choices on their own having seen the transition in me.

David Willison – Certificate III in Individual Support

David Wilson After several different careers that created stability but little stimulation toward my desire to be of service to others I came across the Byron Community College course program. My eyes fell upon Certificate 3 in Individual Support and I walked over to the college to sign up – a week later I was sitting in the classroom.

Kellie and Bridget have been taking us through the world of creating a better life for those incapable of supporting themselves. Their extensive experience, patience and wisdom have created a strong foundation for our class to go out and ease the suffering of others.

As a result and in the midst of my studies I have gained employment supporting people with disabilities and am using learned skills in my day to day work.

Every step of the way the college staff have devoted themselves to student wellbeing and the fee free scholarship associated with this course gave me the financial freedom to focus on study.

Luise Gortz – Certificate III Individual Support (Aged Care)

Luise Gortz Having spent most of my working life as a jewellery designer I retired in 2012 and moved back to rural Mullumbimby. With spare time on my hands I started working as a volunteer in the Aged Care industry and realized that there was a great need for people like me. Staff at the Nursing Home suggested I should do a Certificate III in Aged Care so that my many hours spent at the facility would be financially remunerated and future paid employment was guaranteed.

I looked at several options offered to do such a course and the Byron Community College appealed the most to me. The setting is picturesque and the office staff at the college helped me immensely in choosing the right course. I enrolled and spent seven months with a fantastic group of mature aged students, working and studying together was uplifting and revitalizing. The teachers spent many hours teaching in a calm and captivating manner and learning was more entertainment than actual work.

Since completing this course I have been fully employed and relish my work.

Mac Maderski – Certificate III in Aged Care

Mac Maderski The course not only offers necessary skills and knowledge needed to work in the industry but also provides personal development at a socio-multicultural level. It improves our understanding of what it is to care for our elderly and people with disabilities, teaches humility, compassion and patience which also reflects on the personal, family and community well-being, it is a skill set worth learning regardless of our circumstances or background.

I have to admit that this course kind of landed in my lap without any pre-planning or previous interest in that field, but I can honestly say without a shadow of regret that I'm glad it did, if not for myself than for others, and would recommend it to anyone looking to become a carer or further improve their personal development.

The professional, flexible and friendly approach by the Byron College staff and an amazing group of students made it a pleasant and memorable experience. I never expected such a high standard of education and support from a small Community College.

Liz Winter – Certificate III in Aged Care

LIz Winter

I have always wanted to work in the health industry after briefly being involved in hospital work back in the 1980’s. I had strong doubts being in my early 50’s and out of the workforce for so long, but I decided to do an aged care course and chose the Byron Community College as my place of learning.

I had no idea this choice would transform my life in so many ways. The course was well planned and led by inspiring mentors who had a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience. Whenever I needed extra help or support, the college was incredibly supportive. An added bonus was the fantastic people I met.

Forward 12 months later, I have a permanent part time position at a local facility that I absolutely love and am constantly challenged by in the most positive way. I was offered the job while I was on work experience. I have a greater sense of self-esteem and a consistent income. The whole experience has taught me we can do anything we set out minds too and that it is never too late to achieve your dreams.

Richard Fielder – Certificate III in Aged Care

Richard Fielder Coming from a self-employed career in landscape gardening/horticulture, I realised that I was running out of energy for the physical side that kind of work requires and needed a career change. I was also looking for more interaction with local community and hoping to feel more useful and gain a sense of fulfilment from work.

A friend did the Certificate III in Aged Care course with Byron College a few years ago and recommended that I give it a try, so I enrolled to prepare myself for the start a new career.

I really enjoyed the experience and enjoyed the different teaching styles, through role-play for example, where you get to experience putting yourself in other people’s shoes. I always feel uplifted after class having been with like-minded people learning new skills. I thinks this is a great course to learn acceptance of people and to be less judgmental and would highly recommend it to anyone who feels they want to reach out to others in a meaningful and fulfilling career. Sure, there will be challenges, but they help to keep you on your toes.

Phoebe-Violet - Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care

Phoebe Violet I love working with children. Not only is it a fun and energetic job, but it's rewarding in so many ways. I love teaching children skills they will carry with them for life. Enrolling into the Child Care course was not a hard decision as I wanted to further my understanding of connecting with them so I could really offer them the best teaching.

The college is a sustainable environment with beautiful gardens and a great positive vibe, offering a relaxed learning place. The staff and tutors are all very good at the jobs they do. If you have any questions, problems or need any help or anything at all, you are more than just supported, they build a positive relationship with each student making you feel comfortable and welcomed. It's almost like a family. They believe in you and help you to achieve everything you are capable of. I am truly grateful to the staff who not only helped me become an educator and better teacher but who also accepted me as a person and guided me along to a better future and better understanding of children- a passion of mine.

Danielle Rowland - Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care

Danielle Rowland I am a born and bred Byron Shire teenager who was eager to continue educating myself. However, I was not only reluctant to leave our beautiful environment for further education, it was financially an impossibility. Fortunately, Byron Community College provided a most rewarding option.

I have always loved children and believed they deserve nurturing to develop into all that they can be. Studying the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care has given me the skills and knowledge to implement this belief. I feel very privileged to have shared the company of fellow friendly students and be guided by a caring, and highly educated teacher. I would fully recommend this course to everyone intending to work in child care or for anyone becoming a parent.

Sandi Vaerio - Diploma Early Childhood Education and Care

Sandi Valero I am a mother of 4 with a busy schedule . My passion is early childhood and I have always dreamt of working the the field. Just last year I studied with Byron college and completed a Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care . My teacher Jud King was amazing, after not studying for over 30 years it was a big step to take but it was made easy with her guidance.

I enjoyed the course so much I decided to upgrade my skills and complete my Diploma this year. My teacher Marie was equally supportive and made the study time enjoyable and very rich.

I am moving from the Northern Rivers next year, with my diploma under my belt, a love of children and Steiner education as my underlying passion I feel equipped to pursue a career in Steiner Early childhood.

Thank you Byron College.

Ben Mallison - Certificate IV in Permaculture

Ben Mallison It’s been a long road for me in finding the right permaculture studies. I enjoyed the broad range of skill sets taught from botany to business management to community engagement. These were gaps I had in my existing skill-set as a permaculture professional. My peers were lateral thinkers and passionate.

Mark was the right tutor for me. His invaluable wisdom from his long working career, vision of where permaculture needs to go and flexibility with students circumstances meant I was able to get the most from the course despite my circumstances moving to the area last year.

The qualification gives me the first impression legitimacy with industry professionals in the design & construction industry, where there is great potential for emerging permaculture professionals to be involved in large impact projects Australia wide. Coming from the architecture industry in Sydney as a specialist consultant, I can now demonstrate the benefits and positive cultural impact of moving the ethics and principles of permaculture into the mainstream.

Terry Gray - Certificate III in Permaculture

Terry Gray I moved to the Bryon Shire about 6 years ago after falling in love with the area on surfing trips from Sydney. What started out as an interest in organic gardening led me to the college as I had discovered Permaculture and the college was offering the Cert III in Permaculture, which, through life circumstances, I was unable to complete the first time. The college gave me the opportunity to come back and give it another go.

I completed my Certificate III in Permaculture and went on to also undertake the Certificate III in Horticulture.

I have had the most incredible learning experiences here at the college. The college staff and trainers have given me all the support that I have needed and I have made some life- long friends. The buildings and the grounds are really inspiring also. One day I would love to be able to teach Permaculture and I believe the college is giving me the opportunity to reach that goal. I am excited to be doing the Certificate IV in Permaculture this year and could not recommend the Cert III in Permaculture and Cert III in Horticulture highly enough.

Mario Plaatsman - Certificate III in Permaculture

Mario Plaatsman “Ralph’ as he is known to his classmates is a mature age student who undertook the Certificate II in Permaculture in 2017. Living on acreage out near Nimbin, Ralph came to the course looking for practical experience to help him manage the land and perhaps derive a livelihood from home. After seeing an ad in the Echo and finding out the fees were heavily subsided under Smart & Skilled, he decided to enrol.

Ralph is coming to realise that the stand out skill gained from the course is more in lateral thinking than the practicalities of permaculture. In terms of the landscape, Ralph see Permaculture as learning the ‘Art of Farming’ and seeing the ‘land as your canvas’. He has begun getting involved in some of his local communities projects and is proving to be a mature and grounding force for the whole class. Ralph appreciates the flexible and accommodating elements of the learning, especially the additional support he has received with IT and using the computers.

Susanne Sweeney - Certificate III in Visual Arts

Susanne Sweeney Coming from more of an academic background, she was drawn to the course as a way of developing her creative side and wanted to see where the journey would take her. With the opportunity to work across a wide array of mediums and be guided by a wonderful group of highly talented and supportive tutors such as Virginia Reid, Suvira McDonald and Dale Rhodes, the low levels of confidence that her and her fellow students initially felt, soon gave way to a freedom to connect with their passions. Whilst the course does give invaluable techniques which can be explored in depth, Susanne found that there was no pressure from the tutors to stick to a structured process and often students guided the learning process with ideas that they wanted to explore.

The course gave Susanne and her classmates the opportunity to connect, both to themselves and with each other through their work. The art journaling proved an invaluable tool through which Susanne continues to workshop her ideas, thoughts and day to day life challenges, and she intends on continuing this process beyond the completion of her studies.

Daniel Hend - Certificate III in Visual Arts & Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Daniel Hend The son of a local artist, Daniel developed his creative talents through his studies and has created a range of screen printed clothing plus multiple artworks over the past few years. These were recently displayed in his exhibition in Mullumbimby. Half the money raised for the exhibition has been donated to Education Care Projects in Kenya, displaying a philanthropic side rarely found in most 19 year olds.

Whilst studying the Small Business Management Certificate, Daniel was introduced through the College to Peter Spill, who became his mentor throughout the course. From relatively shaky foundations between the two, Peter and Daniel developed a mutually respectful relationship. Peter watched as Daniel unfolded from a protective, guarded place to become a young man who was motivated to take his life in positive and creative directions. He remarked on seeing Daniel at his exhibition that he ‘was a changed man – barely recognisable from the person he had met’. Daniel’s story shows how education and the role of a mentor can really help to change people’s lives.

Felix Abercrombie Wood – Certificate IV in Visual Arts

Felix Abercrombie After finishing year 12 at Byron Steiner School last year, Felix decided to stay in Mullumbimby and undertake the Certificate IV in Visual Arts rather than move to Melbourne or take a gap year. He felt that an interstate move and University study was a massive commitment at the time, although this remains an option down the track.

“The vibe at the college is really nice” says Felix. “I like that I can come to class and concentrate on my work with the tutors always there to help and learn from”.

Felix hopes to use his developed artistic talents to produce and sell art. He’s also planning to take time to travel once the course finishes at the end of the year.

Therese Clark – Mosaic for beginners

Therese Clark Mosaic! Mosaic! Piece by piece I created my beautiful wavy Tree. I was new to town when I did this course and it was very lovely having an outlet to express myself every week. Since completing my mosaic course, I have gone on a very inspired journey in creativity and have finally pin-pointed a passion of mine. I enrolled in the Sewing course at the end of last year with the Byron Community College and plan to continue my studies by doing a Certificate 3 in Fashion Design at Wollongbar TAFE. These courses sparked something deep inside of me, almost like they knocked on that door of creativity within!

I’m excited about further study and the journey of opening up to my hidden talents. Adult learning is special and encouraging for us to believe in the power of everything is possible.

Thank you.

Claudia Schick - Bellydancing

Claudia Schick

Here I find myself, once again, in an enlightening course with the Byron Community College ….and the classes are magnificent- as always!!

The belly dance class with Tatiana was an awesome experience - she is a very experienced and super enthusiastic teacher. The dancing reconnected me with my femininity side of life and with nature and earth itself. The combination of warm up and cool down phases with yoga and stretching made you walk away after each class relaxed and revived. Plus you discovered plenty of new muscles you haven't used before :-) Well, there is always something new to learn. All of us in the class had lots of smiles on our faces and plenty of laughs while dancing back into our bodies.

Keep up the good work at the college and I will definitely see you soon again for more. From an ever happy student.

Kylie Mowbray-Allen - Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Kylie Mowbray-Allen I’ve had my business for 6 years now, and outsourced where my own knowledge-base was lacking; however I was frustrated when problems arose and I didn’t have full understanding. So, this year I completed the Cert IV in Small Business with Byron Community College which was a juggle struggle at times but I’m so happy I completed it!

I’ve gained so much in-depth knowledge of the workings of my business, processes, improvements needing to be made and identifying areas for growth. The class workshopped each other’s business issues in various areas throughout the course which was incredibly helpful. The course culminated with each of us writing a comprehensive business and financial plan which was an incredible learning process.

I took away so much from this course, and my office vision board now reminds me of this every day; “Constantly think and reflect on your business. Take time each week to think. How can you improve, what can you do?”

h3. Julia Chant - Certificate IV in New Small Business

Julia Chant Participating in study at the Byron Community College has allowed me to rebuild my self-confidence personally and professionally in a supportive environment, while also encouraging me to develop new skills and to stretch beyond my comfort zone and self imposed barriers. At the beginning of the course, I almost dropped out as I felt I wouldn’t be able to complete the Business Plan. However, I pushed my own boundaries and developed a full Business Plan.

The value of learning has been a way to empower myself. Previously, I held the belief that I had to work for someone else but through the course I learned that I could create and run my own successful business. At times I found myself feeling overwhelmed, but the support and accessibility of the College tutors and staff made for beneficial and effective learning and I was able to work through the tasks. I can see that through education and hard work, I have developed the skills and tools to be able to set new goals, overcome any obstacles and achieve successful outcomes. I believe that this process underpins small business entrepreneurship.

Leah Wright - Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Leah Wright I completed the Certificate IV in Small Business Management with Byron Community College in 2013 to give my Byron Rashie business some traction. I’ve been involved in several start-up businesses over the past 15 years, so loads of ideas, but realised my weakness lay in running the business - which is crucial. I’d reach a point with an idea i.e. concept through to implementation or production, but the next step was always a stumbling block as I didn’t have a point of reference or anyone to guide me. I kept thinking “I really need a business plan”, so decided to do something about it. Now, I constantly refer back to my business plan, particularly for financial updates and keeping online marketing strategies on track.

Our tutors were inspirational and made going to class exciting - I wasn’t expecting to have so much fun! The other surprise was the students. We became a tight knit group - due to some rigorous debates and brainstorming sessions. There was loads of support and it often felt like each business idea had a whole team behind it.

If you are considering enrolling in the Small Business qualification, Just do it.

Merryn Boller – Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Merryn Boller Merryn Boller is a local musician who, along with three other members makes up the pop folk band Potato Potato. They have performed at some of the Shire’s best known festivals such as Splendour in the Grass, The Blues Festival, Mullum Music Festivel and further afield at Woodford. Merryn recognised the need for some clear direction, to ensure that The Taters continue to establish themselves as a successful music business.

Though only completing her HSC last year, Merryn took on the challenge of enrolling in the Certificate IV in Small Business Management. Despite the shock of being back in the swing of regular assignments, Merryn had the support of the Small Business tutors, a tight knit group of students and the College to help her complete it successfully. She found the learning environment to be loving and free from judgement.

As a result of completing her Small Business qualification, her managerial skills have been honed, and she has discovered the inner workings of what is involved in presenting a more professional image for her and her bandmates.

Mango Davis – Certificate IV in Small Business Management

Mango Davis I first started to study with Byron Community College in 1995 when it was ACE, I completed 3 massage workshops and a certificate IV in Remedial Massage, qualifications I have used over the last 8 years working as a remedial and deep tissue therapist.

I have also been building my business ‘Sticky Art’ making high quality art stickers. Looking to expand the business I recently completed a Certificate IV in Small Business Management with the College which has given me the extra confidence to grow a successful business. I’m about to start an adobe illustrator course to learn more skills to apply in my business.

All up I’ve attended at least 10 courses and workshops with BCC including photography, screen print, dream and psychic development workshops. I highly recommend the College for interesting, unique and enjoyable courses and I look forward to continuing to study with the College in the future.

Peter O'Connor - Various Courses

Peter O'Connor The 2 courses I chose both required movement, concentration and social interaction. All good elements to integrate into many learning experiences. The first was Argentinian Tango with Esther who was a very communicative and experienced teacher. While I could dance the traditional ballroom steps and rock and roll, learning the tango was a totally new, different dance with plenty of challenges.

The second was Golf at Ocean Shores with Chris. He is a patient and encouraging teacher with many useful techniques to master this challenging game.

Thanks to the College I am now continuing with both activities and enjoying them very much.

Nathaniel Caldwell - Various Courses

Nathaniel Caldwell I started Caroline Fischer’s photography workshops on the weekends when I was in year 10 at high school. This enabled me to develop skills and build a portfolio. I gained volunteer work as a photographer in workshops and at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival and increased my portfolio. This gained me work experience at Animal Logic, Playstation Mag, ABC 3, Good Game and ABC.

In 2013 I began assisting Caroline Fischer in her workshops and furthered my extra curriculum study with Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. The skills gained from these courses allowed me to gain underage entry straight from year eleven into a Diploma of Screen and Media at SAE. I went on to complete my Bachelor Degree in 3D Animation. I graduated uni at twenty and was head hunted straight by Binyan Studios where I am doing what I love.

Byron Community College allowed me to tailor my path and focus on the skills I wanted to develop. The college always treated me with respect and as an equal and it allowed my creativity to flow. I still use my skills from Caroline and the design courses and am starting my own design and production company Phoenix Cre8ions.

Alexander Booth - Mandy Nolan's Comedy Course

Alex Boothy I love Byron Community College because it encourages us all to challenge our boundaries and be impassioned by the process of learning. I attended Mandy’s Comedy Course and have never looked back. The journey was incredible, by the end everyone had developed their own style and outlook on comedy and life, bringing a light and fun perspective to the everyday.

Life has definitely been changed for the better; as a training doctor I find myself better able to interact and connect with my patients through the funny experiences common to us all, and I can safely say that my 'dad jokes' are now second to none. I still continue to experiment with new material and try it out at open mic nights in the area. I love learning from the courage and wit displayed by all the other participants who get up on stage and turn the ordinary into amazing.

Petra Stark - Various Photography Courses

Petra Stark As an older person, I can't stress enough how important it is to constantly train, retrain and improve your skills.

To take part in photographic workshops is a chance to do just that. I have taken part in a few now and enjoyed every one. You interact with other photographers, exchange knowledge and get inspired with new ideas.

The Tutors are well known professional photographers with excellent tutorial skills, they inspirie and teaching at the same time. Something, you can't take for granted. You are learning in an friendly, relaxed atmosphere and in well equipped modern rooms. There are no more then 10 participants in each workshop, so working around each other is a breeze.

We have very creative communities and can inspire and learn from each other when coming together in a college environment. A win, win situation.