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Rising from the ashes: TAFE NSW delivers hope, skills to Nowra family


Rising from the ashes: TAFE NSW delivers hope, skills to Nowra family

RECOVERY SKILLS: Learning the art of espresso making at TAFE NSW Nowra are (front row, from left) Ryan Tolley, Amanda Maynard and Cherie Frazer and (back) Carolyn Katon and Richard Katon. 

25 May, 2020 

A Nowra family financially devastated by the triple blow of bush fires, floods and COVID-19 has been thrown a lifeline by TAFE NSW to help them get back on their feet. 

Carolyn, Richard and Samantha Katon recently completed two fee-free bushfire recovery courses to get the skills they need to pursue employment opportunities after not earning an income for six months after a series of back-to-back disasters crippled their business.  

The family is well known in the region’s hospitality circles, operating the popular Gabby’s at Berry function centre for more than a decade before selling up and taking over the catering contract at Shoalhaven City Turf Club late last year. 

In a cruel series of events, their catering business and income was decimated when the Black Summer bushfires forced the cancellation of a series of race meetings followed by freak floods saw the February meeting abandoned. 

The family completed the Statement of Attainment in Espresso Coffee Making Skills and Statement of Attainment in First Aid at TAFE NSW Nowra. 

“We really wanted to sharpen our barista skills in the hope we can get a job in a local cafe, even if it’s only two days a week,” Mrs Katon said. “And my husband and I were both thinking of trying to pick up some NDIS work and a First Aid Certificate is required to apply for those jobs. 

“We couldn’t afford to have completed these courses if they weren’t offered fee-free by TAFE NSW and we are just so grateful. 

“I lost my father amid all this and it took a huge financial and mental health toll on the family,” Carolyn Katon said. “We’ve had no income since November and we didn’t qualify for JobKeeper because we didn’t have the business long enough,” Mrs Katon said. 

TAFE NSW Nowra Hospitality Teacher Amanda Maynard said TAFE NSW was proud to be providing fee-free courses in conjunction with the NSW Government to arm the community with the right skills to help in the rebuilding effort. 

“Our South Coast communities have been hit with the one-two punch of bushfires and COVID-19 and it’s great TAFE NSW is able to play such a critical role in the recovery effort,” Ms Maynard said. 

“TAFE NSW consulted with local government, businesses and the community to ensure locals can upskill in areas that will best help our towns get back on their feet.” 

To find out more about studying a fee-free bushfire recovery course 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.