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Indigenous VET ambassadors represent at 2023 Australian Training Awards

David Prestipino -

Australia's leading Indigenous vocational education and training ambassadors were recognised for their excellence, hard work and dedication at the 2023 Australian Training Awards in Hobart on Friday night.

Winners from across the country shared their inspiring stories of achievement, resilience and dedication with 700 guests at the gala event, which was celebrating its 30th year recognising apprentices, trainees, vocational education and training (VET) students, teachers, practitioners, employers and training providers from across Australia.

Western Australia's Amy Hunt won Apprentice of the Year – the only woman and youngest cable jointer at her worksite Western Power, who said she was drawn to the fast-changing environment of the power industry.

Federal Skills and Training Minister Brendan O'Connor said category winners and all 75 finalists were dedicated, passionate and innovative leaders in their respective sectors, and made particular mention of prominent Indigenous representation in the student award categories.

"If we are going to solve one of the country's most severe skills shortages, we need to provide opportunities to people who have traditionally been denied them," he said. 

"That's why it's particularly inspiring to see a woman in a non-traditional role win the Apprentice of the Year award.

"I'm equally inspired to see that, of the five national student awards, three were won by First Nations students.

"Whether you are starting, changing or boosting your career, never before has the VET sector offered such great opportunities ... to make a real difference in local communities and also the broader Australian economy."

First Nations students dominated their categories, including Emma Brown, a proud Ngemba woman awarded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.

Emma joined the Indigenous Apprenticeship Program in the public service and now has a permanent position at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The ceremony also celebrated Holly Gudsell, named VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year, after a teaching position in a remote Aboriginal community in Fitzroy Crossing became the catalyst for a career change and passion for championing Indigenous education.

Holly has used her extensive knowledge of Aboriginal pedagogy to guide her students through face-to-face support, work placement visits, online modules and hub meetings.

"It was my time spent in Fitzroy Crossing that would change the course of my career, as it unveiled my passion for Aboriginal education, with a focus on trauma informed care/practice," she said.

Having previously worked as a teacher and then abroad teaching English in Kenya and China, it was while lecturing in education support at North Metropolitan TAFE that Holly was approached to develop and deliver a new program for WA's Department of Education to upskill First Nations education officers across Perth schools.

ATA finalists this year included students, apprentices, teachers and employers from a diverse range of industries including IT, fashion and healthcare.

The Outstanding Achievement in the VET and Skills Sector Award was awarded to Mary Faraone, a respected leader in the VET sector nationally and abroad.

TAFE Queensland was named Large Training Provider of the Year and the Institute of Skills and Training Australia in the Northern Territory was awarded Small Training Provider of the Year.

The pivotal contribution of VET employers was also recognised with Beaufort and Skipton Health Service in Victoria taking out the Small Employer of the Year Award, while Queensland based All Purpose Transport was named Large Employer of the Year.

More information and the full list of winners and finalists from the 2023 awards is available online.

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