Horticulture student Tom Lobbe is the winner of the Kangan Institute Inspirational TAFE student award at this year’s Victorian Young Achievers awards.
Mr Lobbe was recognised for his work as a mental health ambassador, his studies and his professional experience in horticulture.
After being diagnosed with stress-induced schizophrenia at the age of 19, Mr Lobbe drew on his own experiences to volunteer as a mental health ambassador, increasing awareness and helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
“Becoming a mental health week ambassador was a bit of a calling,” says Mr Lobbe.
“I can spread the message that you can beat mental illnesses and achieve a good quality of life if you have the right approach and a strong support system.”
The Young Achiever Awards acknowledge, encourage and recognise positive achievements of all young people in the country, and have done just that for Mr Lobbe.
“For me, being nominated was the win. It was a reflection of how things have moved forward positively in the last few years and recognises what I’ve achieved mentally and in my studies. The prize was just a bonus.”
Mr Lobbe chose to study at Swinburne because it was a comfortable place to be around with supportive and passionate people.
“The staff are incredibly passionate and that’s what I’m after because I’m passionate too.”
Having a learning disability, Mr Lobbe sought the support of an accessibility adviser, Sophie Holloway, throughout his studies.
“Basically, if I’m having a rough day I can say to her, ‘I need to go home or, can you help talk me through this, I’ve had a rough moment,’” he says.
“At the beginning of each unit they put a care plan in place to deal with any learning or mental illness challenges I may have."
“I feel supported right across the board. It begins with someone like Sophie and goes right down to the cafeteria staff. Swinburne has a great culture, and I enjoy going there each week.”
A life-changing acknowledgement
Associate Director, Student Equity and AccessAbility Services, Anthony Gartner, commends Mr Lobbe and says this award is a life-changing acknowledgement.
“To receive an award like this a great honour for Tom and a true acknowledgement of the work Tom, his family and support team have put in to maintain his wellbeing.
“When you face significant challenge, to be acknowledged for success is life changing. Tom has struggled through significant adversity and is living proof that despite living with a serious mental illness it is still possible to achieve your dreams. Tom Lobbe is an inspiration.”
Mr Lobbe currently runs his own gardening business, The Village Gardener, while continuing to study the Diploma of Horticulture.