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TAFE NSW helps mum honour late son with nursing diploma

TAFE NSW Kingswood

TAFE NSW helps mum honour late son with nursing diploma

Image: Kerrie Whitby (fourth from left) at the Western Sydney Training Awards with her daughter Arabela (front) and colleagues from the St John of God Hawkesbury District Health Service (l-r) Deb Upton, Melissa Jory, Fiona Montford, Toni Harrison, Kerrie Hopping and Martin Tulan.

Kerrie Whitby’s life changed forever in 2019 when her son Harrison tragically lost his life in a motor vehicle accident.

Harrison was only 17 and just 10 days shy of collecting his HSC. Instead, his 14-year-old sister Arabela bravely stood beside his Hawkesbury High School classmates and collected Harrison’s accolades in his stead.

“I decided at that moment to push myself. I wanted to stand up at the end of 2020 and collect my Diploma of Nursing in his honour,” Kerrie said.

Despite her incredible loss, Kerrie found a measure of solace in study, and with the support of her teachers at TAFE NSW Kingswood, completed her diploma with flying colours.

Earlier this year, she was nominated for 2021 Vocational Student of the Year at the NSW Government’s Western Sydney Training Awards.

“I found studying during COVID-19 rough, but it only made me more determined to succeed and make my teachers proud,” Kerrie said.

“I have gained a better love for myself as a person through this journey. Juggling personal grief and study was hard but it only made me stronger and hungrier for success. Sometimes the pressure felt too much, but the TAFE NSW teachers were always there for me. There was such an amazing network of support.”

Kerrie, who lives in Ebenezer with husband Tony and daughters Arabela and Tilly, now works at the Day Surgery Unit at St John of God Hawkesbury District Health Service.

“I enjoy how in the Day Surgery Unit we form a circle of care, which involves many health care workers, to treat a patient,” Kerrie explained.

“Working and being part of an effective team is vital, and the practical skills and work experience I gained at TAFE NSW are essential in my current role. You need everyone coming together as a team to help save a life.”

Nursing Teacher Mohamed Helmy said Kerrie had impressed her teachers and fellow students at TAFE NSW Kingswood.

“Her support of others despite her own personal hardship reflects her unique character and her great passion for the nursing profession,” Mr Helmy said.

“Kerrie had been an operating theatre assistant and an assistant in nursing, so she had more knowledge than some of her classmates. She took real pride in supporting them whenever she could and won the admiration of both staff and students.”

Kerrie’s daughter Arabela, who is in Year 10, is now determined to follow her mother’s example and undertake a school-based traineeship with TAFE NSW as the first step toward a career as a theatre nurse.

“I needed to show my girls what it meant to keep living,” Kerrie said.

“I’ve already inspired Arabela to pursue further study and I have TAFE NSW to thank for helping me achieve that. I want people to know you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Explore hundreds of courses and pursue your passion with life-changing training at TAFE NSW. For more information visit or phone 131 601.

Media contact: Communications Specialist Terra Sword. Phone: 0437 697 723. Email: