In 1987 I attended the new TAFE college located in Broadmeadows, a northern suburb of Melbourne. I was approaching 30 years of age and had been out of the education system for 15 years after being expelled from high school as a teenager. I had a thirst for learning and welcomed a second opportunity to study.
I enrolled in the Year 12 program (then known as HSC) and studied English, Legal Studies and Politics. The students I studied with came from a range of backgrounds, from 'check-out chicks', to factory workers and parents of young children. They were all wonderful people, dedicated to learning while working and caring for family. The teaching staff were passionate and dedicated. I owe my second chance at education to the incredible support I was given from both staff and students. I was encouraged to continue study after Year 12 and I went on to study for an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, where I eventually completed both a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). I eventually taught in the Arts Faculty at Melbourne University before being awarded a Professorial Fellowship at Victoria University in Melbourne's western suburbs. I have also been fortunate to have a career as a writer.
My books have won major literary awards and in 2017 I was awarded the Patrick White prize for my contribution to Australian literature.
Whatever I have achieved in education, teaching and writing I owe to my time as a TAFE student. I will forever be in gratitude to those who offered their knowledge and generosity.
Tony Birch is an Australian author, academic and activist. tony-birch.com