Sydney grandmothers embrace lifelong learning

Adult and Community Education (ACE) courses are open for people across NSW. Leigh Mabin reports.

Two women sitting at a desk with laptops. Two women sitting at a desk with laptops.
Image: Macarthur Community College students Vanessa Goryachev and Leanne Scorer enjoy their weekly study sessions at the Claymore community centre.

On the south-west fringes of Sydney, a small group of women gather in a community centre for their next vocational education and training lesson under the tutelage of dynamo Lubi Maric.

Amidst lots of chatter, Leanne Scorer and Vanessa Goryachev, mothers of nine children and grandmothers of nine more, find their seats next to each other, set up their laptops, and open their notebooks, ready to start the morning lessons.

“We have a small class and a great teacher, and we’re learning the things that we want to learn to better ourselves for the future and to help our children and grandkids,” Ms Scorer said.

The two young grandmothers jumped at the chance to sharpen their tech skills through an adult and community education course some time ago, keen to keep up with their families and get ahead with their careers.

With their interests piqued, they returned to the Macarthur Community College to enrol in three more courses.

Each term, they study a unit from each of the qualifications.

“Some of the units are the same, so they’ll be getting a credit transfer from one qualification to the next,” Ms Maric said.

Ms Goryachev, who has children at home, is readying herself to return to the workforce. She has a career background in retail and hospitality and has volunteered in aged care.

“I’ve studied quite a few courses, which have helped keep my mind fresh and given me a job to aim for. I'd like to do health administration work in medical centres, doctor’s practices, or hospitals,” she said.

For Ms Scorer, study and work have been constants throughout her life. So much so, that her grandchildren know her as “Nan studies.”

After leaving school, Ms Scorer took up an industrial spray painter trade.

“But back then, there was lead in the paint, and I got sick, so I never went back for health reasons,” she said.

Instead, Ms Scorer had children, travelled around Australia, and qualified as a beauty therapist and a specialist makeup artist for screen and media.

She had her own salon and went to college to stay industry current. Today, she has customers by appointment while also studying.

“I always wanted to go to university, but I just didn’t get the chance. If my health lets me, I would like to study health science and work part-time in a lab or research,” she said.

Both women enjoy getting out of their homes and into a classroom to learn new things each week. The classes run on Thursday mornings.

“It’s a good experience because we have a great teacher who makes learning fun and is helpful, and we help each other,” Ms Scorer said.

And there are the social benefits. Ms Goryachev said the group gets along well and enjoy catching up each week.

“It’s an easy-going, friendly environment. It’s not stressful, and there’s not too much pressure on you,” she said.

There are also educational benefits for their children and grandchildren. Ms Goryachev enjoys helping her family with PowerPoint presentations and assignments.

Ms Scorer and her family help each other out, too.

“If my daughter or grandkids need help, they FaceTime me, but it’s more so that they’re techno-savvy, and they help me instead,” she said.

The women say a zest for continued education is important, as is learning many things throughout life.

“My father told me to get two trades, two qualifications in anything. If you need a break from one, you’ve got the other one. You can change jobs, and you can go back. Education gives you options,” Ms Scorer said.

Training Services NSW and the NSW Department of Education support people to access Adult and Community Education (ACE) courses regardless of age, background, or personal circumstances.

ACE courses can help people acquire new skills, return to work, and boost confidence in job searching.

To learn more and discover the closest NSW ACE community college, visit

Two women sitting at a desk with laptops while another woman standing behind them looks on. Two women sitting at a desk with laptops while another woman standing behind them looks on.
Image: Macarthur Community College teacher Lubi Maric assists Leanne and Vanessa with their course work at the Claymore community centre.
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