TAFE Stories

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Your TAFE stories

Soliel White, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the year 2018

TAFE leads to many opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and really does change your life. ​Soliel White, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the year 2018

— Soliel White, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the year 2018

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Michael Edwards, Australian Apprentice of the Year 2018

"The opportunities TAFE has afforded me have been beyond my wildest dreams."

— Michael Edwards, Australian Apprentice of the Year 2018

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Maxine Sharkey, AEU Federal TAFE Secretary

"A strong and vibrant TAFE sector must be a vital part of Australia’s VET response to the economic challenges we face, particularly in a post COVID-19 environment."

— Maxine Sharkey, AEU Federal TAFE Secretary

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Caitlan Noble, Vocational Student of the Year 2018

"TAFE gave me the transferable skills, the relationships and connections that helped me break into the industry." Caitlan Noble, Vocational Student of the Year 2018

— Caitlan Noble, Vocational Student of the Year 2018

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Michael Mansell, Chair, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania

"TAFE fills a vital gap in the lives of Aboriginal people seeking to better themselves and desiring to make a greater contribution to their community." Michael Mansell, Chair, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania

— Michael Mansell, Chair, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania

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Sally McManus, Secretary of the ACTU

"TAFE must be rebuilt. It must be rebuilt because our country needs it and our young people deserve it." Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions

— Sally McManus, Secretary of the ACTU

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Heetham Hekmat, Vocational Student of the Year 2020

Today I am working with amazing young people, supporting the community because of the education I got from TAFE. Heetham Hekmat, Vocational Student of the Year 2020

— Heetham Hekmat, Vocational Student of the Year 2020

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Correna Haythorpe, AEU Federal President

"TAFE must be the centrepiece of government policy to rebuild Australia’s economy once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed." Correna Haythorpe, AEU Federal President

— Correna Haythorpe, AEU Federal President

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Tanya Cameron OAM, National President, Country Women’s Association of Australia

"If governments are serious about improving the liveability of rural, regional and remote communities then they MUST include the opportunities that a publicly funded TAFE system can offer." Tanya Cameron OAM, National President, Country Women’s Association of Australia

— Tanya Cameron OAM, National President, Country Women’s Association of Australia

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TAFE bios

Kaiit

Kaiit is a Melbourne-based singer. While she "started going to TAFE... just trying to find out what I did and didn't like" it seems inevitable that music will be her career path. She is definitely a rising star on the neo-soul scene. You can check out her music here.

— Kaiit

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Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes is an Indigenous Australian AFL star, who has won 2 Brownlow medals throughout his career. Adam studied Indigenous Studies at Eora TAFE, Adam said “I learned so much about my people and my culture in a broader sense. It made me so proud of my Aboriginality and our history in this country, which dates back over 40,000 years.”

— Adam Goodes

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Adam Moore

Adam Moore is a chef and television personality - "TAFE gave me a thirst for learning...it unlocked my creativeness and really got me passionate about what I am doing right now. And if it wasn't for TAFE, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in; I wouldn't have had the experiences I've had. TAFE offers so much."

— Adam Moore

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Akira Isogawa

Akira studied at East Sydney College. Of his fashion head teacher Nicholas Huxley, Akira commented "When I first met Nicholas, he told me I had talent and kept insisting it was a fact. His belief in me meant a lot." Akira's advice: "Don't give up. Keep going. Take the appropriate courses you need. Learn your craft!"

— Akira Isogawa

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Alick Tipoli

Alick Tipoti is a world renowned professional artist from Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Alick completed an Advanced Diploma at TAFE on Thursday Island, before continuing his studies on the mainland. Check out his amazing rooftop installation in Morocco here.

— Alick Tipoli

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Amy Sheppard

Whilst studying music at Southbank Institute of TAFE, Amy wrote a song and recruited her brother George for harmonies - and the band "Sheppard" was born. Now with 6 members they enjoyed 3 weeks at number one on the ARIA charts with their 2014 single "Geronimo".

— Amy Sheppard

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Andrew Abood

Andrew Abood, who appears on 'Bondi Vet', studied Veterinary Nursing at TAFE NSW, South Western Sydney in 2013.

— Andrew Abood

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Anh Do

Anh Do scored 98 in the HSC and enrolled to study law at university… but he also signed up to study fine arts at TAFE. “I ended up skipping just about all my law classes so that I could attend my art classes,” he says. “It wasn’t even a close contest.” Anh then focused on his comedy career. He has since twice been a finalist in the Archibald Prize, and has been involved in the TV series “Anh’s Brush With Fame” where he simultaneously paints and interviews celebrities.

— Anh Do

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Anna Howard

Anna studied cinematography at North Sydney TAFE. She has gone on to work in films and television in both Australia and internationally. Anna's work includes Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger; South Solitary; Girl in a Mirror; and several episodes of ABC's Rake.

— Anna Howard

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Augie March

Indie darlings Augie March formed when Adam Donovan, Edmondo Ammendola and David Williams met at NMIT (now Melbourne Polytechnic) and joined forces with university students Glenn Richards and Kiernan Box. 

— Augie March

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Barry Patenaude

Barry completed a Diploma of Architectural Technology at TAFE and worked as an architectural draftsman for the best part of a decade. He is now pursuing a career in illustration. His first exhibition in 2011 explored mundane household objects and rituals. This has been echoed in his Beers in The Sun series.

— Barry Patenaude

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Beastman

Brad Eastman (Beastman) is a multi-disciplinary artist who studied Graphic Design at Hornsby TAFE. "I was always into art and drawing from a young age, so it was a natural progression for me to study graphic design at TAFE straight out of high school."

— Beastman

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Bill Henson

Bill Henson studied design, visual arts and photography at Prahran College of Advanced Education in the early 1970s. He has gone on to be one of Australia's most controversial artists. Henson represented Australia at the 46th Biennale of Venice and has exhibited in galleries around the world and Australia.

— Bill Henson

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Brett Graham

Brett Graham began his cooking career at the Hunter Institute of TAFE in Newcastle. He is now Head Chef at The Ledbury in London. The Ledbury has been awarded two Michelin stars and is ranked number 10 in the world’s top 50 restaurants.

— Brett Graham

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Catherine O'Donnell

Catherine O'Donnell is a visual artist whose practice is "about the beauty of the uncelebrated and ordinary." Initially she worked as a lab technician, but after her youngest child went to school she went to TAFE and completed a Certificate IV and Diploma of Fine Arts. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and was selected for Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial in 2016.

— Catherine O'Donnell

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Chantelle Ford

Chantelle is probably most familliar to the general public as co-winner of the TV show The Block in 2014. Chantelle is also a milliner, who studied at Holmesglen TAFE in Victoria.

— Chantelle Ford

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Chris Cheney

Chris Cheney studied jazz at the Box Hill Institute of TAFE in the early 90s. He went on to front the successful Australian band The Living End. Career highlights have included an APRA Award in 2009 for song of the year, as well as a string of Top 20 hits in the 90s and 00s.

— Chris Cheney

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Chris Ebeling

Former student and current teacher at Sydney TAFE's Design Centre, Chris was one of a clutch of TAFE graduates who worked on 2014's The Lego Movie. Chris is obviously a proud product of the TAFE system, encouraging young animators to study at "a respected school" and teaching at TAFE "to pass my knowledge on".

— Chris Ebeling

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Claire Atkin

Claire Atkin is the ceramic artist behind Pinky & Maurice Ceramics. "My lecturer, Peter Travis, told me that if I was serious about clay, I had to go to TAFE. That's where all the serious potters were. Ever since I have continued to study ceramics and pottery at a TAFE wherever I have lived."

— Claire Atkin

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 Deng Thiak Adut, lawyer & author

Deng came to national prominence after featuring in an ad for Western Sydney University. The ad told Deng's remarkable story from a child soldier in Sudan to a law student at Western Sydney University. Prior to studying law, Deng completed his HSC and then an Advanced Diploma in Accounting at TAFE. Deng now works as a lawyer. He has written his biography Songs of a War Boy and was awarded the 2017 NSW Australian of the Year.

— Deng Thiak Adut, lawyer & author

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Dion Lee, fashion designer

Dion Lee is a New York based fashion designer. Dion studied at the Fashion Design Studio at Sydney TAFE. In 2017 he won the highest accolade of the Australian fashion industry being names the Australian Fashion Laureate for 2017. Check out this video to hear from Dion about his experience at TAFE.

— Dion Lee, fashion designer

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Donna Hay, chef

Food stylist, author and magazine editor Donna Hay kicked off her varied career path with a home economics course at TAFE. She went on to work in the test kitchen at the Australian Women's Weekly and is now one of the most recognised names in Australian cookery.

— Donna Hay, chef

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Dr James Charles, academic

Dr James Charles is an academic at Charles Sturt University and was awarded 2017 Scholar of the Year at the NAIDOC awards. Dr Charles has been conducting research on foot health. He left high school early, and was almost illiterate. After having kids, he decided to go to TAFE and redo high school. This led to University where he ended up studying podiatry. He has since completed a Masters and a PhD.

— Dr James Charles, academic

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Emma Mulholland, fashion designer

Emma studied fashion design at Ultimo TAFE. The young designer's label has blossomed with stockists around Australia and in New York, and rave reviews for her SS13/14 collection. Her bold, bright designs have been championed by the likes of Kanye West, Azealia Banks, Grimes, M.I.A. and Kimbra.

— Emma Mulholland, fashion designer

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George Gittoes, artist and filmmaker

George Gittoes is an artist and film maker who has worked around the world. He was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2015 for "for enlivening the creative spirit to promote tolerance, respect and peace with justice." George studied at the St George School of Fine Art, part of Sydney TAFE.

— George Gittoes, artist and filmmaker

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Giovanni Pilu, chef

Giovanni arrived in Australia at age 20 from Sardinia. By 22 he was studying at Brookvale TAFE. His restaurant Pilu at Freshwater has been serving up Sardinian and regional Italian food for over 10 years, and has been awarded 2 hats by the Good Food Guide. Giovanni puts his success down to his studies at Brookvale: "If it wasn't for TAFE... maybe I wouldn't have made it."

— Giovanni Pilu, chef

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Guy Grossi, chef

Guy is a famous Australian chef, media personality and author of several cookbooks. Guy has owned and operated Grossi Florentino one of Melbourne's most loved Italian restaurants since 1999. Guy completed his apprenticeship in commercial cookery at Box Hill TAFE in 1984.

— Guy Grossi, chef

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Howard Arkley, artist

Howard Arkley was an Australian artist best known for his airbrushed paintings of houses, architecture and suburbia. Arkley studied at Prahran College of Advanced Education (which became part of Prahran College of TAFE).

— Howard Arkley, artist

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Ian Kiernan, Clean Up Australia Day Founder

Ian Kiernan is the Australian environmentalist behind the Clean Up Australia campaign which started in Sydney in 1989. Ian originally trained as a builder at Sydney Technical College.

— Ian Kiernan, Clean Up Australia Day Founder

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Jamie Durie, gardener

Jamie studied CIV in Horticulture & Landscape Design at TAFE. Since then he has become a TV presenter, and won a number of awards including at the Chelsea Flower Show. "Ryde TAFE has produced some of Australia's top horticulturalists, and their reputation speaks for itself...no regrets and nothing but positive memories of my time at Ryde TAFE."

— Jamie Durie, gardener

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Jan Daisley, disability advocate

Jan was a disability advocate and a founding member of People With Disability Australia. After 30 years in an institution, Jan enrolled at TAFE and completed a Certificate IV in Disability. She went onto University ultimately completing a Masters of Education.

— Jan Daisley, disability advocate

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Jandamarra Cadd, artist

Jandamarra is of Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warung descendent. He undertook both an Indigenous Art traineeship and a Fine Arts Certificate at TAFE. He blends traditional aboriginal art techniques along with his own signature contemporary portraiture. He has been an Archibald Prize finalist, and has exhibited extensively around Australia.

— Jandamarra Cadd, artist

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Jason Hodges, TV presenter and landscaper

Jason Hodges is a TV presenter and landscaper on the popular lifestyle show Better Homes and Gardens. Jason studied Landscape Horticulture and Construction at Ryde TAFE, NSW, which he enjoyed so much, he later taught the course at the very same TAFE.

— Jason Hodges, TV presenter and landscaper

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J'Aton Couture, fashion house

J'Aton Couture is a Melbourne-based couture house established by Jacpb Luppino and Anthony Pittorino. Both are graduates of the Melbourne College of Textiles which was subsumed into RMIT. J'Aton has been worn by celebrities like Rebecca Judd right through to Beyonce.

— J'Aton Couture, fashion house

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Jess Wootten

After initially working in industrial design for General Motors, Jess is now a second generation shoemaker, and owner and head cobbler of Wootten - a small studio and shop specialising in bespoke shoes and leather goods. Jess studied at NMIT and RMIT.

— Jess Wootten

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Jon Faine, broadcaster

Faine is best known as an ABC radio broadcaster. When off air he is a car enthusiast and in 2005 he undertook study in mechanical engineering technology at NMIT to be able to machine parts for the old cars he works on in his spare time.

— Jon Faine, broadcaster

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Jordan Askill

— Jordan Askill

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Karla Spetic, fashion designer

Karla is one of a growing list of ultra-cool alumni from the Fashion Design Studio at Ultimo TAFE. She moved from Queensland to attend TAFE in Sydney noting “I was so excited but it didn’t dawn on me until I went into my first class just how lucky I was."

— Karla Spetic, fashion designer

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Katheryn Leopoldseder, jeweller

Katheryn is an internationally recognised contemporary jeweller, artist and designer. She works from the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne creating handmade jewellery. You can check out her work here. Katheryn studied gold and silversmithing at RMIT.

— Katheryn Leopoldseder, jeweller

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Kurt Gidley, NRL player

Kurt is best known for his sporting prowess as a Newcastle Knight, but has also studied butchery at TAFE. Just another example of TAFE providing education and skills throughout a person's life and career changes!

— Kurt Gidley, NRL player

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Kym Ellery, fashion designer

Kim Ellery is the designer behind the label Ellery. Kym completed a one year fashion certificate qualification at TAFE before heading to summer school in London to study fashion illustration. Her label launched in 2007.

— Kym Ellery, fashion designer

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Lidia Thorpe, politician

Lidia Thorpe made history when she won the Victorian state by-election in the division of Northcote and has been a Senator for Victoria since 2020. She is a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman and the first Aboriginal woman elected to Victorian state parliament. Lidia studied at Preston TAFE, now part of Melbourne Polytechnic.

— Lidia Thorpe, politician

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Lisa Ho, fashion designer

The Fashion Design Studio at Sydney TAFE is recognised as one of the premier design studios in Australia and around the world. It's alumni looks like a who's who list of Australian fashion, and includes the acclaimed designer, Lisa Ho.

— Lisa Ho, fashion designer

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Matthew Clarke, artist

Matthew studied visual arts at South West TAFE in Victoria. He was selected to be one of 8 artists involved in the 2017 Melbourne Art Trams project. To learn a bit more about Matthew and see his gorgeous tram design “Lost in Melbourne” check out this video.

— Matthew Clarke, artist

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Paul Keating

After leaving school at 15, Paul Keating later went back to complete his HSC at TAFE. He went on to become an MP, Treasurer and then Prime Minister of Australia.

— Paul Keating

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Paul Livingston, writer & comedian

"TAFE trained arts students are an eclectic lot, a classless community who not only add colour and entertainment to our mix, but ideas and innovation as well, with most going on to pull their weight and earn their own modest ekes."

— Paul Livingston, writer & comedian

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Robert Woodward, architect

Robert (Bob) Woodward studied manual arts at Sydney Technical High school and took lessons at East Sydney Tech while doing an apprenticeship in metallurgy. He is best known for the design of several fountains, including the El Alamein Memorial fountain in Kingscross, the Canberra Times Fountain, and a cascade at the High Court. He also competed in the 440 yard hurdles at the 1950 Empire.

— Robert Woodward, architect

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Romance Was Born, fashion label

Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, the team behind cult fashion label Romance Was Born, met at TAFE while they were both studying fashion design at Ultimo's Fashion Design Studio. Their designs are stocked internationally and have been seen on the likes of Tavi Gevinson and Cate Blanchett.

— Romance Was Born, fashion label

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Rone, street artist

Rone studied at TAFE for two years before commencing at RMIT. Originally working mostly with posters and stencils, Rone is now mostly focused on large scale paintings. His biggest work to date is the 8 storey mural at pop up restaurant Rue and Co in Collins Street, Melbourne.

— Rone, street artist

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Shaun Edwards, fashion designer

Shaun belongs to the Kokoberrin people of the Cape York peninsula and studied visual arts at the Far North Queensland Institute of TAFE. Shaun's most recent project is the new swimwear brand Wild Barra. You can read more about Shaun here.

— Shaun Edwards, fashion designer

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Sian Prior, writer and broadcaster

Sian has both studied and taught at TAFE. Of TAFE she says "TAFE courses are not a luxuty to be tirmmed out of existence when you're in belt-tightening mode. TAFE courses are a vital part of our education system, our economy and our culture."

— Sian Prior, writer and broadcaster

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Sidney Nolan, painter

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) is one of Australia's most loved artists. He is best known for his stylised Ned Kelly series. Sidney studied in the Department of Design & Crafts at Prahran Technical College (now part of Swinburne).

— Sidney Nolan, painter

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Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

An Australian icon whose achievements include the first trans-pacific flights between the US and Australia, the first flights between Australia and New Zealand, as well as serving in both the army and airforce in WWI. Sir Kingsford Smith studied at the Sydney Technical College, now the Sydney Institute.

— Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

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Susan Kiefel, Chief Justice

Susan Kiefel was made Australia's first female Chief Justice of the High Court in January 2017. Prior to studying law, Justice Kiefel undertook secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College. She also completed high school at night school whilst working.

— Susan Kiefel, Chief Justice

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Toni Jordan, writer

Toni is a Melbourne-based writer whose novel Our Tiny Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the Voss Literary Prize. "My TAFE course was hands-on, practical and intelligent, and taught by experts in the field. It gave me all the skills I need to be a self-employed author."

— Toni Jordan, writer

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Tony Birch, writer

Tony Birch was expelled from two high schools and worked various jobs before completing his HSC at Broadmeadows TAFE. He went on to get a Masters and PhD at the University of Melbourne, worked as a curator at the Melbourne Museum, taught at universities, and published 3 novels and two short story collections. In 2017, he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

— Tony Birch, writer

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Tracey Moffatt, artist

Tracey is an internationally renowned artist. Her works are held in the collections of many major galleries including the Tate, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, and the National Gallery of Australia. Tracey studied at the Queensland College of Art in the early 80s.

— Tracey Moffatt, artist

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Troy Cassar-Daley, musician

Troy is best known as a musician and songwriter, but before he became a star he studied at TAFE. "I went to TAFE and really appreciated all the help they gave me. I never ended up as a chef, but I always had another choice!"

— Troy Cassar-Daley, musician

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Vernon Ah Kee, artist

Vernon Ah Kee is a member of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr peoples. He is best known for his large-scale drawings of his ancestors. Vernon represented Australia at the 2009 Venice Biennale in the group exhibition Once Removed. He attended TAFE in Cairns.

— Vernon Ah Kee, artist

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Vincent Shin, lawyer

After a disrupted and difficult childhood and adolescence, Vincent Shin had a low ATAR score, but aspirations to be a lawyer. He first completed a Legal Services qualification at TAFE (Victoria University), and then went on to complete his Bachelor of Law. Vincent is now Australia's first school based lawyer, helping students and families in the western suburbs of Melbourne with diverse legal problems from workplace issues, to migration, to family violence.

— Vincent Shin, lawyer

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Wendy Harmer, writer

Wendy's writing career started at the Gordon Institute in Geelong studying a three year course in "Vocational Writing". After a stint at the Geelong Advertiser, Wendy had a career change and became a stand-up comedian. She now curates The Hoopla, a news and opinion website "through the eyes of women".

— Wendy Harmer, writer

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Joan Ross, artist

Joan Ross works across a range of mediums including drawing, painting, installation, photography, sculpture and video. Her bold and experimental practice investigates the legacy of colonialism in Australia, particularly in regard to its effect on Indigenous Australians. In 2017, she won the Sir John Sulman Prize (best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist). Joan went to Liverpool TAFE. Check out this short video where she talks about TAFE.

— Joan Ross, artist

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Bridget Bodenham, ceramicist

Bridget Bodenham is a ceramicist who makes beautiful, earthy pieces - both functional and ornamental. Bridget studies at TAFE in Victoria, and splits her time between teaching and working in her Hepburn Spring studio. 

— Bridget Bodenham, ceramicist

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Lanie Lane, singer/songwriter

Lanie studied music at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney. From TAFE she had gone on to release two critically acclaimed albums, successfully toured internationally, and even opened for Jack White (of The White Stripes) in Sydney.

— Lanie Lane, singer/songwriter

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Matt Moran, chef

Matt Moran is a chef, TV presenter, restaurateur and author. He studied Commerical Cookery at TAFE Northern Sydney Institute. Matt is still a strong supporter of TAFE - "if we're looking for young apprentices, if they're at TAFENSW... it's definitely going to give them the thumbs up."

— Matt Moran, chef

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Mervyn Bishop, photographer

Mervyn studied photography at Sydney Technical College. His career has included many achievements including Australian News Photographer of the year in 1971. He is best known for his iconic photo of Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari.

— Mervyn Bishop, photographer

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