It takes commitment, dedication and an all encompassing enthusiasm for your career choice to work for one business for 40 years. Jill Woodlands’ passion for fashion has helped her to carve out a rewarding career at TAFE…
Please give us a little bit of your background …
I grew up on a grazing property at Bonalbo, west of Casino. My mother’s family owned a tailoring business in Brisbane, and that is where I first developed my love of clothes and fashion. I met my husband in Wauchope, and we have a daughter who lives in Sydney.
How and when did you first become associated with TAFE?
I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion, and consequently after leaving school enrolled as a full-time student at Lismore Technical College, undertaking the first 2 years of study. I then moved to Sydney, where I completed the final 2 years of my course. I was employed as a full-time fashion teacher upon completion of my course the following year at East Sydney college. I was then transferred to Wauchope, to complete my 3 years of country service.
What positions/campuses have you worked at since you joined the TAFE team?
When I first arrived at Wauchope, I was the only fashion teacher. Wauchope College serviced circuit centres at Ellenborough, Kendall and the then very small fishing village of Port Macquarie. Each week I would head off to the different towns for the afternoon and evening classes.
Later I became Head Teacher at Wauchope, acted for a period as the Campus Manager; however, teaching was my first love. For the past 14 years, I have been Head Teacher of Fashion Design and Furnishings at Port Macquarie and Kempsey.
How long have you worked for TAFE?
Forty years. I have been one of the very fortunate people who can say that they love their job. I have worked with fantastic and inspiring people at all levels of the organisation and have educated and mentored many very talented students over the years. Due to my love of fashion and design, it is second nature for me to keep up to date with the latest trends, techniques and future concepts.
What has been the most rewarding thing for you about your career?
I would have to say the end of each year’s Showcase/fashion parade. In February, the students come along hesitant and often not fully understanding what they can achieve – the journey that we take them on and their achievements over the next 12 months and beyond is unbelievable and rewarding to both teacher and student.
What’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you while you were at work?
I think it would have to be the hospitality I received when I first came to the Hastings. The old saying of taking an apple for the teacher didn’t work – my students would bring the most unbelievable sponge cakes and slices, that we would consume for afternoon tea.
How has the industry sector you’ve helped students prepare for changed over the years?
I have seen huge changes. When I first started teaching in TAFE, almost every town had a sewing class – clothes were expensive, and good fashion in chain stores basically didn’t exist. A large proportion of today’s fashion is mass produced offshore. Australia now has a much smaller select industry, where quality, creativity and lifestyle provides a point of difference. The Australian industry now requires highly skilled designers, pattern makers and quality sample machinists in large companies. The remainder of the production can then be taken offshore.
Technology is now playing a huge role, allowing designers to research overseas trends and communicate internationally, both internally and externally of their business.
How have you ensured that your knowledge is passed on?
When we employ new staff, we know that they are current in their industry; however, not always experienced in every aspect of the job. As manager, I have found the best approach is to buddy up the new teacher with an appropriate section specialist. They then work together as a team, researching, planning, delivering and supporting one another.
Julianne Petterson is a great example. She has been shadowing different staff members for a couple of years. Earlier in the year, she took on the course co-ordination role at Kempsey and then organised and was the MC of the Glasshouse fashion parade.
Who would you like to acknowledge for helping to make your work life such a joy?
I would like to thank my colleagues; they have been very generous sharing their fantastic ideas, listening in times of need and at the end of the day, enjoying a good laugh. The students have provided many exciting and unknown challenges. My staff have been incredible, and I know that Julie Johnson, my replacement, will have a ball. It will be hectic – however, fantastic!
We hear you’re enjoying long service leave now and have made the decision to retire from full-time work with TAFE. How hard was this decision?
Yes, I have been enjoying my long service with a trip to central Qld and overseas visiting Italy, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I was very nervous about how I was going to occupy myself; however, I now know it was time to hand over the reins.
It has been exciting for me to see what Julie Johnson, my replacement, has achieved in the past months. She has been successful in obtaining funding for the very first Diploma in Fashion Technology at the Port Macquarie Campus. This will have a pathway to Charles Sturt University, requiring only 1 year of study to complete a Degree in Creative Industries.
Previously, students have left Port Macquarie to complete their studies; however, Julie is very confident that Port Macquarie now provides the diversity required to offer this qualification. So to all those students out there who have not completed their Diploma in Fashion Technology – contact Julie.
What are your plans for retirement?
We made a sea change 10 years ago and moved to Bonny Hills, so now I will have time to enjoy my local community. My husband retired 2 years ago, and he took on the voluntary role of Bar Manager at the new Wauchope/Bonny Hills Surf Club Function Centre. I have been helping him out on the odd occasion.
I plan to do a photography course and get back into expressing myself creatively (not sure exactly how yet)! Travel is certainly on my list.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
Photo: Jill Woodlands (seated), Julie Johnson (L) and Julianne Petterson (R).