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From despair to hope: How TAFE NSW helped Lisa find her calling

TAFE NSW Deniliquin

From despair to hope: How TAFE NSW helped Lisa find her calling

1 September, 2020

A former Deni woman whose life was upended when her young daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia has used her time as a carer to inspire her to pursue a career in aged care – with the help of TAFE NSW.

In April 2016, Deni couple Michael and Lisa Byrne received an agonising phone call from their local GP following a routine blood test for their daughter Elisabeth, then 6.

“She said: ‘we’ve got the results, she has leukaemia’,” Ms Byrne recalled. “It was a moment I’ll never forget; it felt like all these white dots started forming around me and I went into shock.”

What followed was a mammoth fundraising effort to support the family from the Deni community and months of intensive treatment for Elisabeth at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

After her daughter was declared cancer-free, Ms Byrne spent the next seven months living near the hospital with Elisabeth so the family could be on standby in a medical emergency.

To support hospital staff, Ms Byrne was taught how to administer injections and other chemotherapy treatments to her daughter in their rented apartment.

“That taste of caring really propelled me to pursue a career in nursing,” Ms Byrne said. “It changed the course of my life in more ways than one.”

Last February, Ms Byrne commenced a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) at TAFE NSW Finley and just two weeks after starting, was offered a job as an aged carer at Navorina Nursing Home.

In October, the family moved to Melbourne for Mr Byrne’s work and TAFE NSW afforded her the flexibility to complete the last two months of her course through connected learning.

Ms Byrne soon secured a job at Homestyle Aged Care in Melbourne and the family recently moved to Traralgon, where she again quickly found work in aged care.


“I’m so grateful to TAFE NSW for giving me the hands-on skills to work in the industry I wanted,” she said. “The teachers were so experienced and any time you needed something they were on call.”

The family has kept their house in Deni and intend to return to their home town in the future, forever grateful of the support the community showed during their darkest hour.

TAFE NSW Finley aged care teacher Alison Luelf said the aged care sector was “crying out” for skilled workers.

“There are just so many jobs out there and it’s a career that really suits people who are caring by nature and willing to spend time to talk to older people,” she said.

Ms Luelf said the Certificate III Individual Support (Ageing) was a one-year course that offered a blend of face-to-face and online learning, with students attending classes in person one or two days a week.

To find out more about studying aged care at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.