A WOMAN who unearthed unknown parts of her culture at TAFE has been shortlisted for the Koorie student of the year at the Victorian Training Awards.
Nicole Perkins is among three of the region's students up for awards recognising top apprentices, students, teachers, employers and training providers.
The Junortoun student completed her diploma of community services in Bendigo last year and hopes to return one day for a diploma of nursing.
"I enrolled initially to be a stronger role model for my children," Mrs Perkins said.
Mrs Perkins began her studies knowing little about her culture.
"When I started I identified as being Aboriginal. But I had no cultural background," she said.
"So through Tashara Roberts at the Indigenous Education Centre at TAFE, I learnt about my culture. It actually helped me identify who I was and it gave me a lot of confidence which enabled me to excel."
That was not something Mrs Perkins set out to discover, she said.
"But it ended up being this positive point in my education. I still have a strong bond with Tash," Mrs Perkins said.
While at TAFE, she discovered a passion for work in the alcohol and other drugs field.
She now works full-time at the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-Operative.
"It's about sharing my story, my strength and my challenges to help the younger generation."
The awards will be announced at Melbourne's Crown Palladium on Friday 6 September.
The date coincides with Mrs Perkins and her husband's wedding anniversary and the couple plan to make a weekend of it.
Mrs Perkins is one of three regional Bendigo Kangan Institute students shortlisted for Victorian Training Awards.
Kennington's Maddison Lyall studied a certificate three in business administration and has been shortlisted for Victorian trainee of the year.
Romsey's Daniel Fortune studied a certificate three in parks & gardens in Bendigo and has been shortlisted for Victorian Apprentice of the Year.
"At the moment I am really excited about improving the school grounds at Sacred Heart College (in Kyneton) where I work, but I am also considering doing a diploma course in horticulture in the future," he said.
The students and graduates are among 45 finalists across 16 categories.
Winners will receive $5000 in prize money.
Selected winners will also have the opportunity to represent Victoria at the Australian Training Awards in Brisbane in November.