Macleay Vocational College (MVC) principal and a founding member of CEF Macleay Valley, Mark Morrison was awarded with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the recent Australia Day Awards for his contribution to vocational education and community.
Mark’s primary belief is that education fosters growth and change. Through his work in vocational education, he’s seen positive changes within Macleay Valley family units that’s led to a shift in community thinking and a drive towards aspiration.
Australian Story featured MVC last November, showcasing the unpredictable campus life and Mark’s efforts to help students achieve.
Kempsey is a mix of disadvantaged backgrounds where violence, crime, alcohol abuse and drugs are norms that students have grown up with. Mark goes above and beyond to help his students break the cycle of generational unemployment. MVC students are often the first in family to get their Higher School Certificate.
Mark was a founding member of CEF Macleay Valley, which was an idea born from a local education forum. “It was Terry Witchard who gave it a solid push to begin with and I was there to support him from the side. We’re still in touch and I watch how CEF Macleay Valley supports students gain a further education,” he said.
He is currently focused on inspiring MVC students to be at a level where they can take the next step themselves and aspire to gain a further education.
“The unfortunate thing in life is we often get told what we’re not good at from a very young age. We live in a competitive world where skills in a particular area are exemplified over others,” he said.
Two main themes of Mark’s work in Macleay Valley are ‘belonging’ and ‘trust’. He aims to help students feel that they belong in their community and believes trust is vital in any relationship with students to ensure they’re communicating on the same level. “To teach kids, you need to think like kids. For students, a bad day should be when there have been lessons to learn. A good day should be celebrating an achievement,” he says.
Mark and his family have called Macleay Valley home since moving there in 1992. “I like life in country Australia because of the community values – its resilience, its strength. We have all come together to help those struggling with the bushfires in New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria no matter what area we come from, because we’re country Australians and have the same values,” he said.
“A community bands together in its understandings of each other. Achievements don’t just belong to ourselves solely; they belong to something bigger for the community.”
Humbled to be awarded an OAM, Mark said he accepts it on behalf of his community, especially the college’s staff and students. “I feel honoured to accept this award on behalf of my family, college and colleagues. I feel validated that people who don’t think they are worthy of these awards, like me, are actually are making a difference in the lives of others and working together for a positive change,” he said.
“It hasn’t changed me because I get energy from what I do. I’m not big on personal things for myself. My heartfelt passion comes from students’ successes and attendance.”