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Champions for lifelong learning make a difference

Image Elma Khan, a Community Learning Champion

Tapping into the wealth of informal and formal learning opportunities available in the community.

North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL)’s peer support program, Community Learning Champions, has featured in a recent article in Quest, Adult Learning Australia’s magazine.

In the article, Tara Willersdorf, the program’s Coordinator, explains how unscrupulous marketing practices by private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and the resulting community disenchantment inspired NMLL to implement the program which encourages lifelong learning.

Funded by HMSTrust over three years through its Social Impact Grants, the Community Learning Champions program operates in inner Melbourne’s culturally and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods and has gone from strength to strength. Local people are trained to become Community Learning Champions to support and encourage friends, neighbours and peers to take up quality learning and employment opportunities.

As Tara explained, “We wanted to provide the community with information on how to choose a reputable RTO and how to identify pathways so they could make informed choices about their education… The work Champions do with communities ranges from providing information about good quality courses to working one-on-one with people to help them identify their interests, priorities and long-term barriers to learning or work. They are often talking to people with negative experiences of learning or who regard themselves as too old, or who say ‘learning’s not for me’.”

Elma Khan was selected and trained as a Champion in February this year: “For people my age, I let people know about lectures or talks related to things like mental health. For older people, I let them know about opportunities to learn more about what they’re interested in which is usually healthcare, nutrition and dealing with physical problems.”

NMLL’s Community Learning Champions program also features as a case study on the HMSTrust website.