Gong for Donna

Forbes’ Donna Fitzgerald has been crowned TAFE NSW Western RTO’s Outstanding Graduating Student of the Year for 2016.

Ms Fitzgerald, who lives in Forbes but studied in Orange, accepted TAFE Western’s highest honour at a special presentation at Orange’s Highland Heritage Estate.

Twenty four hours later, she was still astounded by the prize.

“All I have done is go and do something that I love and that I have always wanted to do,” Ms Fitzgerald told the Advocate.

“I would work in a kitchen 26 hours a day if I could.”

TAFE NSW Regional General Manager Kate Baxter said teachers nominate their most passionate, dedicated, industrious and skilful students for the award.

“Donna excelled in and out of the classroom during her time studying in Orange and working as an apprentice at Tonic Restaurant in Millthorpe,” she said.

“She is well respected by her peers, is an exceptionally talented student and chef and a very deserving winner of our most prestigious award.”

Ms Fitzgerald, who grew up on a farm at Burcher and went to Red Bend, loves food and the way it brings people together. 

She is delighted to be based back in Forbes with her children and grandchildren, working at the Vandenberg and dreaming about the opportunities available with the amazing produce available locally.

Ms Fitzgerald was nominated for the award by TAFE NSW Orange Tourism and Hospitality Teacher John Olewicz, who was delighted she took home the top award as well as the Vocational Student of the Year award.

“Donna has undertaken Commercial Cookery at TAFE following a successful career in law and during her studies at TAFE she was a very positive and influential member of her class,” Mr Olewicz said.

“Donna is an excellent example of a mature-aged person with a previous and successful career following her passion and dreams in a totally new direction.”