Russell Freeburn, from Gibbo's Auto Spares, after winning the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year category in the 2010 NSW Training Awards.
Russell Freeburn, from Gibbo's Auto Spares, after winning the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year category in the 2010 NSW Training Awards. Jacklyn Wagner

Award winner leads by example

RUSSELL Freeburn hopes winning the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year category of the 2010 NSW Training Awards ‘will open doors' for other indigenous people.

“I'm over the moon. To get to the regionals was a big thing for me, then to get to State and win was amazing,” Mr Freeburn, who works at Gibbo's Auto Spares in Lismore, said.

“But I wasn't content to go into these awards if it wasn't going to open doors and help other indigenous people develop a career – that's the hard bit.

“It's difficult enough trying to get a job, but building a career is in another league.”

Mr Freeburn, 34, is one of two North Coast high achievers who won their categories at the NSW awards and are now vying for the nat-ional title to be decided in November.

Although he was previously manager of Gibbo's Kyogle outlet, Mr Freeburn decided to complete a Certificate 4 course in Retail Management, gaining a distinction, and now says he will probably continue to study for the rest of his life.

Still, he played down his chances of taking out the national gong.

“I'm not real confident, but I don't know,” he said.

Joining Mr Freeburn at the national awards will be Alex Jones, who took out the NSW School Based Apprentice of the Year award.

Eighteen-year-old Ms Jones, who attends Richmond River High School in Lismore, said the experience was ‘nerve-wracking, but a great experience”.

She has competed Certificate 3 in Aged Care, which will count towards her HSC, and works part-time at Car-oona Marima Nursing Home.

Both winners won the praise of the North Coast Vocational Education and Training Promotional and Advisory Committee (Netpac).

“The strong contingent of North Coast finalists and State winners continues the ongoing success rate the region has had at the State level,” Netpac chairwoman Ingrid Hughes said.


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