Young and inspirational students achieve state recognition

The achievements of three young Bendigo TAFE graduates were in spotlight at the 2024 7News Victorian Young Achiever Awards on Friday 14 June.  

The trio were recognised as finalists for the Inspirational TAFE Student Award, which celebrates go-getters under 30 who have overcome challenge to achieve success in their field.

Bendigo TAFE finalists include:

·         Taylah Firmer, nursing graduate

·         Desirae Kilduff, training and assessment, leadership and management, and human resources graduate

·         Shee Lay Bell Po, pathology collection graduate 

(Finalists Shee Lay Bell Po and Desirae Kilduff with Bendigo TAFE executives and educators.)

A proud Noongar woman, finalist Desirae Kilduff is fuelled by a passion for helping others and has steadily worked towards this goal.

Not one to shy away from challenges, Desirae turned to education to achieve her ambition, graduating from Bendigo TAFE’s Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40122) earlier this year in an addition to her dual diploma in Leadership and Management and Human Resources achieved in previous years.

Desirae is now using her vocational skills to drive impact in First Peoples' employment and leadership, with her work guided by a holistic approach that prioritises wellbeing and connection to Country, culture, community, traditions, and customs.

“My teaching and assessment qualification was tough but I am so pleased to have completed the course. The course has improved my confidence and has opened doors for me in my career,” Desirae shared.

“I hope to inspire other young people to challenge themselves and have a go stepping out of your comfort zone. Exciting things happen here!”

(Desirae Kilduff)

Currently pursuing a Masters of Indigenous Business Leadership, Desirae already has numerous accolades under her belt, including the 2022 Victorian Koorie Student of the Year Award and the 2023 World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics Awards of Excellence Outstanding Student Achievement Award (Bronze).

She was recently named recipient of the First Nations Economics and First Nations Foundation inaugural Leah Armstrong Scholarship to support her further studies.

Desirae was also a finalist for the 2024 7News Victorian Young Achiever Awards Yarn Strong Sista Indigenous Achievement Award.

“TAFE has been such an important part of my education and career journey and has even created an opportunity for me to attend university. There are so many possibilities with TAFE!” Desirae said.

Finalist Shee Lay Bell Po went from living in a refugee camp to landing her dream job in pathology after completing the Certificate III in Pathology Collection (HLT37215) at Bendigo TAFE.

Moving to Australia at age 11, she tackled learning English while making a leap from secondary school to vocational training. Becoming a young mother fuelled her drive further, with Shee Lay persevering to complete her studies and ultimately securing full-time employment. 

(Shee Lay)

“I feel very pleased and honoured for everyone who supported me and believed in me,” Shee Lay said of her recognition.

Also awarded Bendigo TAFE’s Inspirational Student of the Year 2023, Shee Lay also supports her local community while working as a pathology collector, bridging language gaps for those in need.

“I hope to inspire other young people to follow their dreams and believe in themselves. Anything you put your mind to can become a reality and anything is possible,” she said.

For Shee Lay, Bendigo TAFE was the platform through which she defined her aspirations and achieved her goals.

“TAFE was a big part of my journey because it has helped me pursue my dream career in the health sector where I get the chance to help many people,” Shee Lay said.

“I find (TAFE) important so that young people can find a career that they love, help them increase self-confidence, develop their work ethic and also build perseverance.”

Currently an endorsed enrolled nurse at Echuca Regional Health, finalist Taylah Firmer pursued the Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121) at Bendigo TAFE while supporting her younger sibling as a full-time guardian and navigating the challenges of the Victorian flood crisis in 2022.

“It’s still bit of a shock I have been nominated at all. It’s definitely an honour. I am standing alongside some amazing and inspiring young people who are very deserving of winning,” Taylah said.

“I hope to show other young people that it doesn’t matter what background you come from. You can break any barrier or cycle and chase your goals if you put your mind to it!”

(Taylah Firmer)

Also named Bendigo TAFE’s 2023 Student of the Year, Taylah’s commitment to education and her career continues as she pursues her Bachelor of Nursing university.

“I truly believe that if I didn’t gain my Diploma of Nursing at TAFE, I wouldn’t be in a position to say I’m halfway through the Bachelor of Nursing,” Taylah shared.

“TAFE taught me so many skills transferrable into every aspect of my life. It gave me the clinical confidence and skills to be able to commence further study. This was incredibly important to my journey as it allowed me to break the cycle and chase my nursing dream (which) I always thought was unattainable.”

The young nurse encourages other young people to consider TAFE as a stepping stone to achieving their goals.

“Education is so important for any young person. It can lead the trajectory of your life,” Taylah said.

“If you are feeling lost and not sure what direction you want to go, I would strongly recommend exploring TAFE study options and you may break the cycle just like I did!”

More than 40 young achievers were recognised at this year’s 7News Victorian Young Achiever Awards across individual and group categories. The Inspirational TAFE Student Award, sponsored by Kangan Institute, saw five finalists contending for the top spot which ultimately went to Rebecca Hope, a young advocate for disability inclusion in workplaces.

Full details of winners and finalists are available via the Victorian Young Achiever Awards website.

Quotes attributable to Bendigo TAFE CEO Sally Curtain:

“Bendigo TAFE is incredibly proud of Desirae, Shee Lay and Taylah, and we feel privileged to have been a part of their incredible journeys.

“Their unwavering determination to overcome challenges and achieve educational and professional success is truly inspiring.

“It exemplifies the core mission of Bendigo TAFE: equipping our students with the skills and confidence to build bright futures, while meeting critical skill needs in the region.”

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