Swinburne graduate Samantha Daly has been named the Vocational Student of the Year in the 2021 Victorian Training Awards and Australian Training Awards. She had been singled out for her dedication to making a difference in the mental health industry.
The award recognises and celebrates outstanding achievements in Victoria and Australia's vocational education and training sector. Ms Daly was selected as one of three finalists in the state and won at the state then national level following an extensive application and interview process.
After suffering a major and spontaneous bleed in her brain at the age of 24, Ms Daly was in a coma and has since spent seven years recovering. She underwent lifesaving brain surgeries, relearnt almost every function and battled mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
‘This traumatic experience greatly affected my confidence and mental health, but my second chance at life was never lost on me,’ she says.
When presenting as a survivor for Brain Injury Australia and hosting conversations with trauma support service GenYus Network, Ms Daly was inspired to be part of a greater change and provide genuine hope for others in a more practical way.
‘Having been touched by trauma and personal challenges, I have experienced first-hand some of the complex barriers to recovery. I am living proof however, that recovery is possible with the right support. I wanted to learn how offer that support.’
Now 31, Ms Daly graduated from the dual Certificate IV in Mental Health and Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work in July 2021.
During her studies, Ms Daly gained employment as a mental health support worked at Glady and Co Mental Health Support and was able to complete her placement requirements there.
Swinburne’s unique simulations with skilled actors prepared Ms Daly for the reality of being a mental health worker, as she could ‘practice the work in a safe and supported team environment and receive immediate and constructive feedback’.
Ms Daly says Swinburne’s staff gave her the courage to complete her studies. She says she found assistance from the university’s AccessAbility services to be ‘invaluable’.
‘Swinburne prepared me for the workforce by teaching me how to adapt to challenging environments, prioritise self-care and manage my time and workload,’ she says. ‘My teachers made clear efforts to recognise the individual needs of students and encouraged us to communicate with them from the very beginning of the course.’
Lead Teacher of Certificate IV in Mental Health and Acting Mental Health Course Coordinator, Nadine Hantke, says despite going through struggles that are ‘unimaginable for many of us’, Ms Daly is an ‘outstanding persona and student who has proven herself in ways that are unique and different from other students.’
‘Living with the impacts of an acquired brain Injury, battling through rehabilitation and - only some years after - succeeding in studies, are just some of the incredible achievements she can account for. I couldn’t vouch more for someone like Samantha to be the winner of this award. Her story touches so many people and is empowering at the same time.’
Ms Daly says the recognition is already ‘surreal’.
‘I hope that winning this award might give me a platform to contribute authentically and positively to greater conversations about our shared humanity and mental health.’