Paint Me Happy

Many women find it difficult to return to the workforce after having taken time off to raise children.

Illawarra TAFE is assisting women with this transition and encouraging them to learn new skills through its Outreach program.

One of the most successful Outreach programmes for women has been the Painting and Decorating course which is taught by Fiona Shewring.

As well as training women in Painting and Decorating the course works on projects that improve the local community.

Students from the course have created murals for the local pool, hospital, birthing centre and painted cubby houses to sell for charity.

These projects have not only beautified local areas but being pivotal in combating vandalism of community facilities.

Background Information

Fi Shewring - Painting and Decorating Teacher
As a former artist, Fi picked up the commercial paintbrush after having five children 14 years ago. Her partner was a Painter & Decorator and she assisted him with his jobs whilst the children were in childcare. In 2000, TAFE approached Fi to become a qualified painter & decorator so that she might teach and inspire other women. Fi's prior work experience with her partner enabled her to fast track apprenticeship. She commenced full time teaching approximately 5 years ago. Her teaching revolves around inspiring and motivating women to study and pick up a career. Many of her students have not even ever picked up a brush so her teaching is more about increasing self-esteem

Outreach programs ensure a TAFE NSW education is accessible to people who face barriers to learning. Barriers to learning include geographical and social isolation, language and cultural factors, financial hardship, lack of educational confidence, being unaware of opportunities to learn, a disability or family commitments. Outreach Coordinators talk with communities, government and industry to determine the location, length, time and type of course needed. Courses may include units/modules from a range of vocational courses, depending on the needs of local groups

Outreach at Wollongong TAFE
At Wollongong TAFE, the Outreach is a program co-ordinated by Jenny Vulatha. The purpose of the project is to give women a taste of the painting & decorating trade. There are a mix of young and mature women participating in the Wollongong course which runs for 6 months. After completing the program, some of the students continue into a formal certification course to become qualified tradespeople (and receive credits for the study undertaken during the Outreach program). As part of the program, Fi's students paint murals for the community. They have painted murals for the birthing centre and cancer wards of hospitals as well as for public facilities.

VJ Emma Sampson