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NMIT teachers unlock gold panning win

02 Apr 2012

NMIT locksmithing teachers Max Cherry and Paul VandeWetering, along with Max's brother Tom, have won the teams event at the 2012 Australian National Gold Panning Championships. The event, held on 12 March 2012 at Lake Wendouree, Ballarat, attracted contestants from across Australia and New Zealand.

The team event required teams of three to wash three buckets of gold-bearing gravel - one large, one medium, one small - containing an unknown number of gold flakes. Fourteen teams raced against the clock to pan the buckets and find the flakes - with a five minute penalty for each flake missed. Max and Paul's team found all their gold - 24 flakes in each bucket. “I thought we'd done pretty well,” says Max, “but was surprised when I found out we'd won. You never sure if you've found all the gold.” Unfortunately the team didn't get to keep the valuable gold, and had to be satisfied with the title and a medal instead.

A locksmith for over 40 years, Max's prospecting experience extends even longer - with Max and Tom working their own claims at Warrendyte and Jamerson as ten-year-olds. Max and his brother grew up in a family of prospectors, stretching back to their great-great-grandfather who arrived in Victoria from Ireland in 1855 and tried his luck around Bright.
When not wielding a pan Max is NMIT's Locksmithing Coordinator, specialising in teaching students how to open a safe, while Paul teaches the Certificate III in Locksmithing.

Congratulations to Max, Paul and Tom on their win.


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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.

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