Meet the team: Ballina

In this installment of our ‘Meet the team' series, we head to the Ballina group of schools to hear from School Administrative Officers, Kerrie Olson and Tracey Richter, SBAT Engagement Officer, Toni Bellos and Head Teacher Careers, Vanessa Perrin.

Within the Ballina group of schools, the Educational Pathways Program supports students attending Alstonville High School, Ballina Coast High School, Mullumbimby High School, Murwillumbah High School, Tweed River High School, and Wollumbin High School. This group of schools have been with the Educational Pathways Program since the pilot stage.

We spoke with the dedicated school-based staff from Ballina - School Administrative Officers Kerrie Olson and Tracey Richter, SBAT Engagement Officer Toni Bellos, and Head Teacher Careers Vanessa Perrin - about what makes their school group unique, why they chose to take on these roles, and what makes them feel supported in their day-to-day work.

What experience do you bring to the team?

Kerrie: Having come from an Executive Assistant background, I bring along some great administrative and organisational skills to the team. I am always looking at ways to simplify my own processes to make things run more effectively.

Toni: I bring with me experience managing youth employment programs with a vocational education and training (VET) focus.

Tracey: I have 15 years experience working in fast paced team environments, providing a high standard of administrative support. I've also been involved in EPP as a SAO since the program launched as a pilot in 2020.

Vanessa: I have been employed in various educational roles for more than 25 years. This has included roles as a Careers Advisor at Mullumbimby High School, a School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeship Advisor, and Teacher and Education Officer/VET for Schools Coordinator at TAFE NSW.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Kerrie: The thing I enjoy most about my role is seeing the growth in some of our disengaged students. With the opportunities they have been provided through the EPP they are able to find a passion for learning that assists them on the pathway for their future – it is very rewarding! I really enjoy the variety of the role, no two weeks are the same.

Toni: Collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure young people have a positive employment and training experience.

Tracey: I love how busy and varied the role is. I appreciate being able to work on the broad range of initiatives that the EPP provides students, and being able to meet a range of stakeholders and amazing people.

Vanessa: I absolutely love the variety of the role, like getting to work with students, staff and schools, and offering activities, experiences and opportunities. I love seeing and hearing that we are making a difference and being a first hand witness to young people’s experiences and successful outcomes. I feel privileged to be part of the journey and particularly enjoy the coordination and strategic, higher-level opportunities of the role.

Are there any opportunities or challenges that are unique to the schools and communities you are working in?

Kerrie: A challenge that the schools in our region face is the distance to some training facilities such as TAFE NSW, so transport can be a major hurdle on occasions.

Toni: Transportation to training and employment in this region is an ongoing challenge.

Tracey: Ballina School Group region has the challenge of a huge distance between schools.

Vanessa: Most definitely, there are both huge opportunities and challenges in the North Coast.

What is your proudest achievement in the role so far?

Kerrie: My proudest achievement in the role so far is assisting in implementing our IPP Event – ‘Be Our Guest and Beyond’ Hospitality & Service Industry Showcase. It was a great opportunity for students to see the multiple pathways possible in hospitality, tourism, retail and service industries. Students were able to listen to guest speakers who told their stories of where they started out in their careers to where they are now, it was very inspirational.

Toni: Supporting our VET Ambassador Chelsea McInnes with her winning Training Services Award application, and watching her growth and success.

Tracey: Being involved in some amazing new events from start to finish, for example, the Aviation Careers Expo at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, which has now become a yearly event.

Vanessa: Being able to coordinate the 2023 Ballina Byron Gateway Aviation Expo, now in its third year - the concept came from me, when I was Careers Adviser at Mullumbimby High School. Also, the IPP event ‘Be Our Guest and Beyond’ Hospitality and Service Industry Showcase. It is an important initiative and highly successful start to address our local skills shortages, employment crisis and multiple misconceptions of the hospitality, retail and service industries. It is the flip side of strengthening ongoing partnerships and building new ones to combat the above.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Kerrie: In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. We spend many weekends at the beach and due to the location of kids' weekend sporting activities, we have the opportunity to explore different towns constantly. When I get some downtime, I enjoy reading and being a clean freak. I am always looking for something to clean or fix around the house.

Toni: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, particularly my adorable grandsons.

Tracey: I enjoy going to the beach, spending time with my family, doing little getaways down the Coast and anything that involves good food, wine, people.

Vanessa: I am a mum of four daughters and seven (almost 8) grandchildren, so I don’t get a lot of spare time. Anything with family or friends pretty much consumes me! I love music, concerts, travel, photography, the beach, walking and swimming.

Where is your favourite place? This could be anywhere! A holiday spot, special restaurant or the patch in the backyard that gets just the right amount of sun!

Kerrie: My favourite place may seem a little boring, but it is actually my home town – Cabarita Beach in the Northern NSW region. I am fortunate to live within a short walk to the beach where we spend many weekends. Although I am in NSW it is only a short drive to the Gold Coast.Daylight saving time can be a bit tricky to deal with but sometimes we get to celebrate New Years Eve twice!

Toni: I love Bali and all it has to offer. I also love watching the sunset on my deck with good company.

Tracey: It's difficult to choose one... but if I have to it would be Pottsville, my home.

Vanessa: Seven Mile Beach – Lennox Head (home for me) and plenty of other places.

For our binge watchers, or book readers... any recommendations of TV shows, movies or books?

Kerrie: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but love to read. Have just started a new book series called The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. I am only half way through the first book but so far am finding it hard to put down!

Toni: The TV show, 'After Life'.

Tracey: Outlander, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones.

Vanessa: I watch/read very little. But I can highly recommend live theatre – Moulin Rouge and the Tina Turner Musical, which I saw in London’s West End in July. It has been sold out for 5 years, which I think speaks for itself. I can also recommend music like the Bluesfest in Byron. Add it to your bucket list if you love music.

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top