Passion burns bright for dedicated mentor

Passion burns bright for dedicated mentor

Passion burns bright for dedicated mentor

AFL SportsReady’s Regional Victoria Field Officer Michael Caruso has been in the game for nine years and is passionate as ever about what he does. In his time with AFL SportsReady he has significantly contributed to the future careers of young people in Regional Victoria and has been recongised far and wide for his efforts.

We caught up with Michael to talk about his role and how he keeps the passion burning.

What is the best part about being a Field Officer?

I enjoy the autonomy that I have to be able to plan my days/weeks around working with current trainees and partners and developing further business opportunities in the Northern part of Regional Victoria. I also gain great satisfaction in seeing young people develop in their respective traineeship roles and move on to bigger and better things in their lives.

Why did you choose to be a Field Officer?

Previous to this role, I had been a Secondary Education Teacher and was looking for a change of career to ensure that I remained motivated and inspired. I thought that this would provide me with a great opportunity to integrate the skills that I already had acquired with some new skills in order to assist young people with their career aspirations beyond the classroom. 

Recently AFL SportsReady received the ‘Training Provider Award’ – for providing ‘Innovative Koorie Learner Pathways in the Non-TAFE Sector’ at the Koori Learner Pathways Award (non Tafe) at the VAEAI (Victorian Aboriginal Education Association incorporated) at 2018 Wurreker Awards. Can you please tell us more about this honour?

The award recognises the work that we have done to improve pathways and career employment outcomes for Koorie learners in Victoria. We achieve this by: 

  • Actively engaging with schools and community groups
  • Demonstrating positive outcomes, both in education & employment
  • Demonstrating a positive and sustainable impact and benefit for Koorie participants in the local community
  • Providing leadership in the provision of Mentoring and Training

Sue Bell (Wodonga Senior Secondary College Koorie Support Co-ordinator) nominated us for the award and has been a ‘School champion’ of ours over the past 8 years with her work in helping to recruit, encourage, support and inspire many young Aboriginal students to pursue the various education and employment opportunities.

Do you have any highlights?

Whilst there have been significant awards that several of my trainees have received over the past nine years, the highlights for me are the simple things that occur on a daily basis. Having a sense of social justice underpins the work that I do – therefore when I witness the development in young people who have previously struggled with education, employment and other life challenges, it is these moments that provide me with the greatest highlights in my job. 

Are there any trainees who stand out? Can you tell me a bit about them?

Yes, there have been many standout trainees but more recently Andrew Gillam who has exceeded all expectations. Andrew completed a School-based traineeship with us during 2016-2017, working as a Customer Service Representative at the Albury Post Office. Andrew started as a shy young Indigenous man bereft of confidence and with a chequered history in mainstream secondary education. Andrew was provided with a chance to create a better future for himself by completing his VCAL at Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre and by successfully completing his Certificate II Business School-based Traineeship at Australia Post. He not only thrived in both environments, he was the recipient of the 2018 AFL SportsReady ‘School-based Trainee of the year’ award and is now working permanent part-time as a direct employee at the Albury Post Office.

Where are some of your trainees now?

  • Kira Meeks (NAB Customer Service Business Trainee): NOW: Senior Recruitment Co-ordinator, AFL SportsReady
  • Jamie Ardern (Ovens & Kiewa Concrete Business Trainee): NOW: Principal of Business Development at Kofkin, Bond & Co, Financial Services, Pty Ltd
  • Mathew Campbell (Numurkah Golf & Bowls Club Turf Management Apprentice): NOW: Mat is the Superintendent at ‘Numurkah Golf & Bowls Club’ – Mat has taken on an AFLSR Apprentice
  • Kendall Clarke (Notre Dame College, Shepparton Sport & Recreation Trainee): NOW: Kendall is teaching at ‘The Grange P-12 College’
  • Erin Meeking (Kyabram P-12 College ArtsReady Trainee): NOW: Graduate Lawyer at Aitkens Partners/Editor of Global Change, Peace & Security

Why do you think it is important that we support our young people in getting a job?

Young people are our future leaders. We need to nurture these young people and urge them to take on responsibilities to ensure economic growth and a sustainable future. Through the provision of Employment, Training & Education, AFL SportsReady is one of many organisations who work side by side to inspire young people to take the next step in their careers.

To find out more about the diverse range of rewarding careers available through vocational education and training, and watch the real skills for real careers video, visit


DATE: 24th of September 2018

AUTHOR: Marissa Pagliarello

IMAGE: (From left to right) AFL SportsReady CEO James Montgomery, Andrew Gillam and Michael Caruso at the 2018 Victorian Graduation.