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This Is Northern New South Wales


A revolutionary man once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That man was Nelson Mandela.

We have a deeply ingrained belief that education finishes the second we step out of academia, that somehow, once lectures and assignments are a thing of the past, that we are, quote-unquote, educated.


But in reality, when we reflect on our lives a decade or two post-graduation, we often find that everything we learned back in those hallowed halls bear little or no relevance to what we have become. Life has moulded us and mapped our path, often taking us far away from the projected future of our teenage selves.

Byron Community College, as with its nationwide peers, offers us the opportunity to fill the gap that our schooling has left. As young students, we really don’t know where we’ll end up and, with technological, social and spiritual evolution an ever-steepening exponential, it is almost inevitable that we’ll find ourselves in a place where we are lacking knowledge.


The Byron Shire is a unique collection of individuals, many of whom have learned their way through life, across the planet, in and out of business and deep into their heart and soul. From business advisors to slide guitarists, IT experts to Ayurvedic practitioners, we have so many creative, knowledgeable, experienced individuals right under our noses, and the Byron Community College (BCC) allows us to tap this wonderfully rich resource.

Established 27 years ago, the BCC has weaved it’s way into the region, it’s course program so indicative of the community that has created it.

“It’s very hard to know which courses will run and which won’t,” shares course coordinator, Vicki Walker. “We run psychic wellbeing courses, cob oven building courses, courses on permaculture and planting by the moon…there are certain things that run very well here that might not run if you were in, say, Casino… We’re so lucky in this area; we’ve got such a diverse population that has so many interests in different things, and a melting pot of awesome tutors that can teach them.”


This diversity has inspired a rich melange of courses, a schedule that sparks inspiration and offers a deeping of knowledge to compliment any subject, from hobby to career. Last year, a 92-year-old lady enrolled in an IT course so she could better communicate with her family members around the world. Teenagers and young adults joined a course in permaculture, some for personal interest, others using the Certificate III qualification as a launchpad into a career. Small businesses benefitted from lessons in social media and online marketing. Languages were learned, ebooks were published, art was created, souls were searched and veggies were planted.

Chris Wood is the college’s educator in permaculture. Utilising Mullumbimby’s community gardens, Chris takes students into a living, working model of the course’s subject matter.


“We’ve modeled this on an average back yard,’ says Chris, standing amongst the fruits, and vegetables at the garden “we try to talk about all different scales, from urban permaculture, even for just a balcony, on to a rural permaculture setting and how you can manage the land in a sustainable way and get results.”

Chris is just one of the talented and experienced educators at the college. With a ten year history in permaculture, Chris has had much education of his own in the field, even creating his own permaculture business, connecting with local farmers and managing properties in the area, as well as nationally and internationally.

“There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from creating something like this,” he offers. “When you can actually take the power back and grow your own food it gives you a really good feeling of providing for yourself and gives you a connection back to the land, which I think a lot of people are searching for. The course caters for a broad range of people. It’s a certificate course, so it’s accredited and at a trade level, providing you the qualification for a commercial level”.


BCC provides courses that, while open to any and everyone, provide participants with a valid, accredited qualification to advance their career of choice while strengthening and expanding their resumés. But it doesn’t have to be so formal, many students joining courses just to learn something new, follow a passion or feed a curiosity. But there are unexpected results too that spring from BCC’s classrooms and connections.

“One big thing that people get out of joining the college is that they get a connection or an involvement with other people in the area,” shares Vicki. “Sometimes they have just moved to an area and will enroll in two or three courses, just to meet people. It’s a great way to make friends. But there’s also this whole network happening.


“In our small business management course, you’ve got all these different people who have got business ideas that they want to set up and run and they get to interact with each other, find out what’s worked for one another and so on.”

It would be naive to think that we can live out our adult years never having to learn anything ever again. The Byron Community College brings that education to your doorstep – and makes it fun. It lacks the stuffy formality of school or university and brings like-minded people together, nurturing passions rather than dictating lectures. There really is something for everyone at Byron Community College.

For more information on this term’s courses, enrollment, becoming a student or tutor or for future courses, visit the BCC website at or pick up a copy of their program at news agencies and campuses.


Photography by Kirra Pendergast