Celebrating the outstanding achievements of Bendigo TAFE students

Last night, Bendigo TAFE held its 2022 Industry Excellence Awards in celebration of its students’ outstanding achievements and their ability to overcome challenges to pursue education.

The awards recognised 45 outstanding individuals across all areas of study at Bendigo TAFE, with a newly settled Australian, a return-to-study student and a local fabricator amongst the winners.

Bendigo TAFE Inspirational Young Achiever of the Year, Kwe Kaw was celebrated for his ability to overcome challenges from his past as well as re-settling in a new country. 

With his family originally from Burma, 20-year-old Kwe is of Karen heritage and grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand where his family struggled to access food, electricity, and education.

“I moved here (to Australia) in 2011 to have better access to education, and to live here in peace,” he said. “When I first came here, I had no idea how to speak English.”

Knowing that education would be the key to his new life in Australia, and with a goal to complete further education, Kwe undertook a Preparation for Study Course with Bendigo TAFE in 2021.

“The first day I was a little bit nervous, but the teacher gave me feedback that I did very well. I just kept trying again and again and again and my teacher gave me the inspiration not to give up,” he said.

In addition to his own studies, Kwe also began volunteering as a teacher assistant in English Language classes at Bendigo TAFE, supporting teachers with translating for Karen students.

“I want to help others who need that translation and also to improve my communication,” he said.

Armed with confidence and study know-how, Kwe enrolled the Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Pre-Vocational) in July 2021 and completed the program in November 2021.

“He has taken on all these challenges with courage. It has been a pleasure to be his teacher and to see him succeed through hard work,” said Bendigo TAFE foundation and pathways teacher, Matt Rolfe.

Kwe is inspired to continue guiding others towards the opportunities that Bendigo TAFE has provided for him.

“In the future I want to be an electrician. I want to help people because when I was back in the camp, we used candles and I am inspired to go back and help to install lights.”

Bendigo TAFE’s overall Student of the Year was awarded to nursing student Stephen Wust for his dedication to his study and his career.

After working for several years as a chef, Stephen decided to make the move into the healthcare industry.

“My wife recommended I go into healthcare,” he said. “She said I was a naturally caring person.”

It was then that Stephen made the move from the kitchen back into the classroom, undertaking a Personal Care Assistant course. As he had previously completed his Chef’s training with Bendigo TAFE, he knew it was the right place for him to support a career move.

Stephen worked as a Personal Care Assistant for several years before deciding to undertake a Diploma of Nursing, again choosing Bendigo TAFE as his place of study.

“I always felt like I could do more for people, and I also started to find the processes of the body really interesting,” he said. “A lot of that was out of scope for me as a Personal Care Assistant and that’s when I decided to look into a Diploma of Nursing.

“I realised the more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn.”

Stephen is now set on completing a Bachelor of Nursing to further his education.

“Now that I’ve built this foundation of knowledge as an enrolled nurse, it’s definitely going to make the Bachelor a lot easier,” he said.

“Bendigo TAFE has definitely helped me to grow within myself, (to) be the nurse that cares about what they’re doing, (and to) be the nurse that assesses their patient properly. The sky’s the limit.”

Engineering apprentice, Timothy Heather, was awarded Bendigo TAFE’s Apprentice of the Year 2021 for his achievements whilst undertaking a Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication.

Having grown up on a local farm, Timothy has always had a passion for tinkering with farm machinery. This passion led him to starting his career with a school-based apprenticeship in fabrication with Steelwork Bendigo.

“I made sure I took advantage of every opportunity I had with Bendigo TAFE, I knuckled down and did everything as quickly and as efficient as I could,” he said.

“I loved coming to Bendigo TAFE. All these tools and all this knowledge at your fingertips that you could use to become a better tradesman,” Tim said. “The big motto here is strive for excellence and that’s a big motto of mine, to always try and be the best you can.”

Bendigo TAFE CEO Sally Curtain congratulated all award winners and highlighted the roles played by educators, industry and the Victorian Government in the students’ success.

“Congratulations to all award winners and nominees. It has been an incredible year for students, and I’m proud to celebrate their commitment to education in the face of many challenges.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the role of Bendigo TAFE teachers and staff, who have gone above and beyond to support our award winners to overcome these challenges and arrive at this milestone.

“I also acknowledge the role of our industry partners and the Victorian Government. Their support enables Bendigo TAFE to focus on providing high quality training that is aligned to industry, economic and community needs. Free TAFE has also enabled thousands of students access to training, some of whom are here tonight.”

The full list of Bendigo TAFE Industry Award winners is:


School-based Apprentice and Trainee of the Year

Jay Pickering

Trainee of the Year

Franchesca Morrell

Aunty Melva Johnson Aboriginal & Torres Strait

Islander Student of the Year


Desirae Kilduff-Mourish

Guide Dogs Inclusivity and Accessibility Award

Elaine (Ellie) Gill

VETDSSS Student of the Year: Electrical

Lachlan Harris

VETDSSS Student of the Year: Engineering

Fraser Maconachie

Pre-Apprentice of the Year: Building

Cody Newlan

Pre-Apprentice of the Year: Electrical

Abbey Gibbs

TJB Connor Memorial Award (Engineering)

Andrew Mann

Outstanding Female Apprentice in Construction & Industrial


Olivia Mason

Outstanding Apprentice of the Year: Automotive

Jaymee Avis

Outstanding Computer Systems Technology

Jaxon Rivett



Outstanding Certificate III in Beauty

Nardia Brown

Outstanding Diploma of Beauty Therapy

Jodie Hannan

Runner up - Inspirational Young Achiever Award

Ashley Pertzel

Runner up - Inspirational Young Achiever Award

Taylor Waters

Inspirational Young Achiever Award

Kwe Kaw

Apprentice of the Year: Automotive

David Besgrove

Apprentice of the Year: Bakery

Carolyn Spark

Apprentice of the Year: Barbering

Samuel Pearce

Apprentice of the Year: Bricklaying

Brandan Norton

Apprentice of the Year: Commercial Cookery

Tayne Bollard

Apprentice of the Year: Construction

Evan Dorrinton

Apprentice of the Year: Electrical

Luke Doughty

Apprentice of the Year: Engineering (Fabrication)

Timothy Heather

Apprentice of the Year: Engineering (Mechanical)

/ Jack McPhail Award


Bradley Daly

Apprentice of the Year: Floor and Wall Tiling

Zac Fyffe

Apprentice of the Year: Hairdressing

Natalie Sands

Apprentice of the Year: Landscape Construction

Jack Boldiston

Apprentice of the Year: Machine Repair

Oliver Frantz-Dubaich

Apprentice of the Year: Painting and Decorating

Shana Brand

Apprentice of the Year: Plumbing

Michael Mulholland

Apprentice of the Year: Refrigeration and Air- conditioning


Robert Nicol

Apprentice of the Year: Wall and Ceiling Lining

Brentan Coates

Overall Apprentice of the Year 2021

Timothy Heather

Jan Lorimer Memorial Award

Megan Menhennitt

Outstanding Diploma of Nursing Student

Stephen Wust

Student of the Year: Animal Studies

Rachel Zucca

Student of the Year: Food & Fibre

Naomi Fountain

Student of the Year: Horticulture

Mark Wigley

Student of the Year: Community

Edna Boadi

Student of the Year: Construction & Industrial

Lachlan McKern

Student of the Year: Health

Nathan Swales

Student of the Year: Veterinary Nursing

Allira Gotthart-Besley

Overall Student of the Year 2021

Stephen Wust


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