Career change leads to dream job in Koorie support

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 and this year’s theme #BreakTheBias, Bendigo TAFE reflects on how an education at TAFE has enabled many women to transform their lives, explore unchartered turf and redefine success. 

This includes 41-year-old Koorie Liaison Officer Caroline Tarran, who is one of many Bendigo TAFE graduates proving that it’s never too late to gain new skills and set life in a new direction.

“I came back to study after years of work. For me, it’s grabbing every opportunity that presents itself and seeing where that pathway leads,” said Ms Tarran. 

“Being adopted I was always told to be proud of my Aboriginal heritage as my birth mother was Aboriginal. It wasn’t until I was older that I began my journey to piece together my own story and I am looking forward to finding who I am and where I am from.”

Growing up in Bendigo, Caroline moved to Melbourne after secondary school, initially pursuing customer service roles and music studies, before settling into a career in hospitality. But after many years of working up the ranks to become manager, Caroline realised it was not what she wanted in life – it was time for a change. 

“When my father passed away, I took a step back and thought about what I was doing in my life. It was very busy, stressful and I was not really enjoying it. It was then that my partner and I made the decision to move back to Bendigo,” she said. 

Re-establishing her career in another city was initially challenging and Ms Tarran approached Bendigo TAFE’s Skills and Jobs Centre for support. There, she discovered more than just inspiration; she secured a pathway to a meaningful new career.   

“Hospitality was a hard area to get back into so I thought of a career change and talked to the people at the Skills and Jobs Centre. I went to the info session for Community Services and started the Diploma of Community Services,” she said.

“During my work placement, I followed a Koorie liaison officer at Bendigo TAFE’s Indigenous Education Centre and was lucky enough that a job opportunity came up, which is my current role.”

Within months in her new role, Ms Tarran embraced a new opportunity to pursue professional development – this time with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment​ at Bendigo TAFE, a new program tailored specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners. 

“It was recommended that I do the training and assessment course to strengthen my understanding of TAFE and how units make up a qualification. At the time it was all a bit overwhelming, but getting into it and being surrounded by such a nice group of people in a culturally safe environment was one of the best things I did,” she said.

Upon graduating from the Certificate IV program in December 2021, Ms Tarran is thriving in her role as a Koorie liaison officer in supporting other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners who are pursuing their own TAFE journeys.  

“I love giving my community the opportunity to study, and breaking down the barriers and questions. I love seeing the students succeed and being part of their journey,” she said.

“Having that person in their corner to believe and trust in them, guide them along the way and support them when needed – that’s the best part of my job.”

Bendigo TAFE is celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022 through a virtual panel discussion themed #BreakTheBias for students and staff. 

Led by Bendigo TAFE’s Chief Executive Officer Sally Curtain and Chief of Industry Engagement and Education Delivery Janelle Arena, the panel will also include the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Community Representative Commissioner Abiola Akinbiyi and the 2021 7News Young Achievers Awards’ Inspirational Student of the Year Diyana Habeeb.

Ms Curtain said International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate success, inspire students and staff, and reflect on the vital role of education in supporting women to achieve new heights.

“International Women’s Day is chance for us to recognise the achievements of our staff and students who are breaking the bias and exceeding expectations every day,” she said.

“As an organisation with many female leaders within our Board and Executive Team, Bendigo TAFE is passionate about inspiring women to be anywhere they’d like to be in their life and career. 

“In 2021, Bendigo TAFE supported more than 2,100 female students to improve their lives and pursue success through education. Of these, more than 180 female students chose to study courses within our trades and automotive disciplines – a 65% increase compared to five years ago – and challenging any gender bias or stereotypes that may still exist about these traditionally male-dominated industries.

“Bendigo TAFE is proud of the key role that it plays – and continues to play – in empowering women with the qualifications, skills and confidence to thrive in their chosen path.”


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