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Northern Beaches students top TAFE NSW awards

Northern Beaches students top TAFE NSW awards

Three TAFE NSW students from the Northern Beaches have been recognised for their academic achievements and positive work ethic at the TAFE NSW Excellence Awards in Ryde yesterday.

Valeska Dominguez from Balgowlah, Marcello Polifrone-Occelli from Narraweena and TAFE Digital student Rebecca Bowyer from Cromer were all announced as the winners at a gala awards ceremony held at TAFE NSW Ryde.

Valeska Dominguez, completed a Bachelor of Fashion Design at TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio, and was announced as winner of the Creative and Design Ideation Student of the Year. Marcello Polifrone-Occelli, completed a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW Northern Beaches, and was announced as winner of the Tourism and Experience Services Student of the Year. Rebecca Bowyer, completed a Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation via TAFE Digital, and was announced as winner of the Career Pathways Aboriginal Languages and Employability Student of the Year.

“These awards recognise our most passionate, industrious and skillful students, and demonstrates the commitment of TAFE NSW to train the workforce leaders of the future when, where and how it suits them,” Ms Wood said.

“We are confident that the exciting learning opportunities we created for these winners helped them to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their career.

“TAFE NSW is proud to equip our students with practical skills and work experience so they’re ready to hit the ground running in their chosen field.

“It’s incredibly rewarding for TAFE NSW teachers to watch students like Valeska, Marcello and Rebecca grow in the knowledge that the skills and talents they learn with us have the potential to transform their lives,” Ms Wood concluded.

Ms Dominguez’s costume jewellery collection started out as a hobby but turned into a global company making its way onto the necks of Hollywood stars such as Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and Portia de Rossi before her collection was licensed to an online distribution company. After this exciting venture, Ms Dominguez was eager to find another creative outlet to keep her feeling inspired.

The Balgowlah-based entrepreneur and mother-of-two is now on a mission to design bespoke couture fashion designs using natural fibres and sustainable practices thanks to TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio.

“I started out designing and making a few jewellery pieces, when my children were young, for a friend who worked in the fashion industry. To my surprise, magazine editors wanted my pieces for overseas shoots and runways and my business just took off,” Ms Dominguez said.

“I’ve always loved wearing the latest fashion and I needed to keep my creativity in-check so I enrolled in a Bachelor of Fashion Design at TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio.

“Studying at TAFE NSW has been the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learnt hands-on practical skills on how to design and make couture garments, and travelled to India to experience the processes involved when working with manufacturers and buyers. It has also pushed my creative boundaries and challenged me to think outside the box.”

Marcello Polifrone-Occelli is now working at the renowned two-hatted, Pilu at Freshwater under the mentorship of Head Chef Jason Saxby. Over the last 18 months Marcello has developed exceptional practical skills by relishing the opportunities and time spent in the practical classroom environment whilst being supported by the quality work environment Giovanni Pilu creates.

“During my time at Pilu at Freshwater, I’ve been involved in multiple charity events. These include events for the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia and St Edmund’s College for students with vision impairment and other special needs. 

“I was part of the team that provided the catering service for the 80 person Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia fundraising event, and the feedback received from patrons was outstanding. In addition, I visited St Edmund’s College to demonstrate to hospitality students’ how to use specific commercial cookery equipment, and taught them basic cooking techniques and skills as their kitchens had just been refurbished,” said Mr Polifrone-Occelli.

Rebecca Bowyer studied the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (TPC), an intensive year-long course, through TAFE Digital. Rebecca enrolled in this course as she wanted to make a career change and become a midwife. Rebecca achieved outstanding results in the course achieving a Tertiary Entrance Score of 292/300.

Rebecca says studying the TPC has significantly improved her skill-set in terms of her learning, studying techniques and both her written and oral communication skills.

“One of my proudest moments was to achieve perfect scores in all my assessments for English (Standard) and English (Advanced), Human Rights, Biology and Legal Studies. I always had the mindset that I was “bad at maths”, however through hard work and preparation I was able to score the highest score for online students in both the major assessment test and final exam.”

TAFE Digital General Manager, Megan Aitken said, “I have no doubt these students will go on to forge highly successful careers and will be wonderful ambassadors for online learning and TAFE NSW. As a TAFE Digital student, our students all study online, at a time convenient to them, through their mobile or laptop, anytime during the day. Students can access teacher support or complete the studies on their own, at their own pace, which gives them great flexibility in their training and education.”

Media contact: Laura Kelly, Media and Communications Business Partner,, mobile: 0411 777 676