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NMIT student Suzanne Waghorn gets the feel of success

22 Mar 2013

Suzanne Waghorn, a blind NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) student, has been awarded the Whittlesea Community Connections International Women's Day Award for Personal Achievement.

Suzanne, 35, gained eight high distinctions in completing NMIT's Certificate IV of Massage Therapy Practice. She is now enrolled in the Certificate IV in Aromatherapy and the Diploma of Reflexology while awaiting the start of her Diploma of Remedial Massage course in June. Despite being busy with her studies, she also volunteers each Thursday at Medina Manor aged care facility in Thornbury where her 95-year-old grandmother lives. “I give the residents hand massages. They obviously love it - they just relax.” Suzanne's Labrador, Jikara, is also popular at the centre. “I take her off her harness so everyone can pat her. Everyone loves Jikara.”

Suzanne was nominated for the award by a City of Whittlesea councillor. With 47 nominations for the six awards Suzanne says she was thrilled just to be nominated. “To win the award was completely unexpected. I received a certificate, a plaque and flowers - it was all pretty exciting.”

Suzanne, who lost her vision to diabetes 11 years ago, decided to study to broaden her horizons. Her success with her studies and catching public transport to NMIT's Preston Campus from her Lalor home have helped build her self-confidence. “When some of my Certificate IV friends were enrolling in aromatherapy and reflexology I thought 'why not, I'll study those too'.” It's a challenge Suzanne's enjoying. “Reflexology is really interesting, learning how different pressure points on the feet correspond to different organs in the body. You can treat things like asthma and blood sugar levels, it ties in with massage.”

Kerri Coates, Personal Services Program Coordinator, wasn't surprised by Suzanne's Whittlesea Community Connections Award. “Suzanne's a great person - she completed the Certificate IV of Massage Therapy Practice course with flying colours, which is a great achievement, especially with the extra challenge of having a disability. It's always wonderful to hear that our students have put the skills learnt at NMIT into practice, and volunteering at the aged care facility is a great way to become known as a therapist within your area.”

Kerri says having Suzanne as a student is a good experience for NMIT teachers. “We like to accommodate everyone, so it's interesting working out teaching techniques that suit Suzanne. It's been wonderful to see her grow in confidence and pursue further studies.”

Suzanne is equally complimentary about NMIT's teachers. “Barbara Swiatkiwsky, my anatomy teacher, was great. She put a skeleton in the seat next to me so I could feel the bones and get a real understanding of the position of everything. Also Sharyn Douglas, my massage teacher, was good too - she took her time to make sure I understood each massage sequence.”

After finishing her diplomas, Suzanne hopes to continue her work at Medina Manor, or a similar aged care facility. “It's a good place to work. I find helping people really satisfying.”

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.