Garry Traynor's OAM Celebration Speech - Sydney Community College

Garry Traynor's OAM Celebration Speech


It is indeed truly gratifying to see so many friends, colleagues and family here today.

Who is in the room today?

In terms of who has come today, I am very grateful for those who have travelled some distance to get here today, and of course all of you who have given up some well-earned leisure time on this Sunday afternoon.

I cannot overlook the many work colleagues here today from Sydney Community College who have worked very hard for this day. In particular can I thank Jennifer Aldred, Jean Janah, Judith Janah and Cherril Amphlett.
I welcome my mother today.

I welcome also my College Board who are your hosts today am I thank you for your generosity and many skills you bring to the College.

There are also teachers in this room with whom I have worked for a very long time. I pay tribute to:

  • Susan Hueburger, ( German, English)
  • Claudio Russino, ( Italian, Drumming and Magic Tricks)
  • Catherine Kelly, (Sewing, Pattern Making and Millinery)
  • Rob McHugh, (Stand-up Comedy and Public Presentation)
  • Kuniko Nukano (Ikebana)
  • Kassandra Bossell (Sculpture and Mould making)
  • Ann Brady ( RTO establishment, computer training)
  • Mellisa Becker (Drawing and Mask making)
  • Ana Cruz (Spanish)
  • Joanna Maxwell (Small and Micro Business establishment and Management.)

These people, like me, have known this place for a long time.

I do also mention and pay great respect to those from whom I learned so much at the University of Technology Sydney, who through their commitment to adult education and their significant thought leadership, we saw growth and policy innovation. In particular I mention, Tony Brown, Roger Morris, Andrew Gonczi, Annie Wilson and Mike Newman.

I also have many personal friends here today with whom I share a variety of interests, food, wine, walking, arguing (or should I in better adult education terminology say discussing) and of course, laughing a lot.

I do mention here my close friends from my cycling club, with whom I share a somewhat deranged passion which consists of riding up very steep hills over and over and over again and then telling each other how much it hurt. I maintain that I am not quite as crazy as most of them, however it is their apparent madness that helped to keep me sane during some consuming times.
My family is also here and I will talk more of them in a moment.

I do welcome you all.

Where have we been?

I will be very brief in discussing where we have been, however I can say that some time ago, I was commissioned to establish the College. I was at that time, a very brash young man in a hurry. At that time I did not see myself as staying longer than a few years. Obviously, I stayed a little longer and if I reflect on why that was, perhaps it was because it was always exciting and remains that way still. There were always things to do, developments to make, frontiers to push against.

From our starting point in 1986, a $5000 grant from the then Board of Adult Education, we enrolled roughly 600 students in that our first year. Just over ten years later in 1997, we enrolled 17,000 students. And we were doing really innovative things with cleverly placed government funding. We were truly at the forefront of a movement. We were the new wave.

In 2018, the swell has dissipated somewhat. We now enrol on average 11,000 students p.a. The great policy and funding work that was implemented in those early days, has either been forgotten or overlooked. Government has other priorities now and when it comes to Adult Education, the focus is on Vocational Education and Training or (VET) as it is known. Don’t worry though, I am not going to stand here on this beautiful day and bemoan the wrong headedness of this direction, rather I will relate a story about my own educational beliefs and how strangely is was asked to champion those in of all places, Taiwan.

In the early part of 2002 I received a strange invitation to speak at a conference in Taiwan. It was from the Community University Movement. I thought that they had the wrong person and assured the group I had no University experience. Undaunted they assured me that I was and that the work I was doing at Adult Learning Australia was what they were interested in hearing about. I agreed to send them a draft of a possible address. I cobbled together some writing or should I say ravings, about my particular passion which was the False Dichotomy of the Vocational versus Non-Vocational skills. Put simply, it remains my belief that there is no such thing as a Non Vocational Skill and that skill development and application is complex and transferrable. What I believed I was doing was sending a thoughts outline to the organisers to ensure that I was indeed the person they wanted. Quickly the response was returned to me, that yes, the proposed paper was what they wanted, and they booked my accommodation and travel.

I then set about writing the actual presentation titled the Vocational/Non-Vocation Education Funding divide.

I arrived in Taiwan to a conference of some 600 enthusiastic delegates and learned that I was the keynote speaker and opening address. I handed my actual paper to the organiser and was told that no, my paper was already published and translated into Mandarin, Cantonese and a local Taiwanese dialect and that I should read from my paper sent earlier while delegates would read from their published papers. Somewhat shocked and embarrassed now by the words that I originally sent, I set about the task. At the end of my address, I took questions which really were not questions but rather long statements in Mandarin, Cantonese or the Dialect, I had no idea which. I left the stage to applause and was very relieved that my duties were over. The conference went for another two days and my host generally tried to keep me informed by saying every now and then, he is talking about this or she said that. During a lunch break on day two, I encountered a Taiwanese English speaker who asked me to clarify for him, one of the key points of my address. He could not understand what I meant by Holiday Education. I was confused. Then it struck me, my theme of Vocational Education versus Non-Vocational Education had been translated into VACATIONAL.

To this day, I remain the champion of Holiday Education in Taiwan.

What does this award mean?

I wear this award with not only great surprise but also great pride. I wear it with no vanity but with great gratitude. And like the surprise of turning back to see from whence it was we started, I’m a little shocked to see the award on my lapel. Clearly, the award is given to one person, however, I wear it for all with whom I have worked and because of whom, the results were made.

Who should be thanked?

I would in particular like to thank those who nominated me and or wrote in support. They are:

  • Sara Pantzer;
  • Anitra Morgana;
  • Ursula Stephens;
  • Roger Morris,
  • Sam Thomas;
  • Tony Brown;
  • Diedre Stein;
  • Andrew Gonczi;
  • Don Perlgut and
  • Mike Newman.


Here I come to my family. This college is not a family owned business. Yet without my family’s efforts and support, I doubt that it would exist as it does. Our sons along with their cousins, from their earliest years were engaged to deliver the College course guides during their school holidays and paid largely in MacDonalds takeaways and ice creams. They ran competitions to see which one could get guides into letterboxes quicker than the other. Our two sons, Louis and Marcus, went on to help coordinate some of the many sites from which the College has operated, during their own university years.

My sister Cherril Amphlett has worked tirelessly with the College and when she once said no more and left, we only allowed her a short respite before harnessing her once again.

Behind every moderately successful man, there is a usually a greater, smarter woman. So it is with me. It is with tremendous gratitude, I turn to Jennifer whose many great skills I have called on over this long road. It is her careful guidance, her selflessness, her mentoring, her hard talking and all the times she told me to get over myself, her dedication and her love that has brought me and many of us here today. Jennifer, I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you everyone.