LET me tell you my story. I’m a single mum with a five-year-old daughter. I moved from Queensland to Victoria with nothing but a suitcase, a car seat and a child on my hips. I came to Inverloch, where my mum lived, and then to Wonthaggi. This was a very welcoming community, there were services to help and I was able to rebuild my life.
At that point I realised that all my experience and 10 years of farming didn’t mean much unless I had a certificate. I needed to further my education to target some of the jobs I was looking at for next year. So I went through my job search provider and they got me on to Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL). I loved the idea of getting my Certificate II in horticulture because it opens a lot of doors in landscaping, gardening and nursery work.
At first I thought I could never afford this course, but BCAL had a payment program. It was easy to pay off, minimum payments - $30 a week – which made my life easier. I could actually do it. It was a six-month course, a full day of practical on Tuesday and a half day of theory on Wednesday, which was really easy to fit in the week.
Our teacher Adrian James – ‘AJ’ – had a wealth of knowledge. We learnt about irrigation, feeding plants, pruning, looking after the soil. I had years of experience with plants and farming beforehand, but we learnt so much more. The practical activities were always different, always thorough. They really excelled in the teaching.
I was just amazed at the support, the flexibility, the empathy for students. I’m a single mum juggling lots of things. If I was running late for a class while I got my daughter off to day care, AJ was really understanding. I couldn’t do much homework at home because of my daughter. He used to help me by staying back with me on the Wednesday and helping me with my homework. He did that with a lot of people. They’re a fantastic bunch of people. You wouldn’t get that at a big college.
Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL)
Based in Wonthaggi, BCAL is a a community-run college with an emphasis on programs for disadvantaged, families, immigrants, and people with a disability. As an education and training provider, it delivers nationally accredited training in a range of industries, pathway courses to employment and TAFE, and hobby and lifestyle courses.
With a downturn in government funding and student numbers, BCAL is seeking emergency help to keep operating next year. On Wednesday Bass Coast Shire councilors voted to provide a grant of $50,000 and to advocate for State Government support.
I used to really look forward to going to class. Catching up with people, having a few laughs and learning new things. I finished the course with a satisfactory mark and 100 per cent attendance. It’s really opened a lot of doors for me. My daughter starts school at the start of next year and I’ll be looking for work. I’d like to get onto the council garden crew. That would be my dream job.
In the meantime, a group of us new graduates were talking and wondering what to do with our time before the new year when we can start looking for jobs. We decided to use our new knowledge to grow fresh produce that we can put back into the community. BCAL has let us use the big back garden block, which wasn’t being used.
It’s a little not for profit to bring people through the doors and show them what you can learn at BCAL. They helped us and we want to see BCAL grow stronger and stronger. It’s a very important part of this community.
Facebook BCAL garden project for photos and information about the garden.