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Scholarship helps Nicola pursue her passion for fashion

Sunshine Coast resident Nicola Hatfield is in the process of turning her lifelong passion for fashion into a career after receiving a scholarship from TAFE Queensland.

Up to 100 Queenslanders will be given the support to create a better future for themselves through education and training, with applications for TAFE Queensland’s scholarships now open.

Scholarship recipients will receive up to $5,000 to study a TAFE Queensland qualification from any study area in 2022, from a certificate III through to an advanced diploma or bachelor degree.

There are two types of scholarships available – merit scholarships, which are aimed at supporting people who have demonstrated strong levels of achievement to advance their careers, and access and equity scholarships, which are designed to help students battling social or financial hardship.

Sunshine Coast resident Nicola Hatfield, 22, is among the the list of Queenslanders who are pursuing their career goals in 2021, after receiving a merit scholarship last year.

Nicola discovered her passion for sewing and fashion early on in life, with her family supporting her along the way.

“When I was little, I was always cutting out magazine pictures, and later mum bought me a book with fashion template models where I drew and designed clothes and outfits,” Nicola recalled.

“I filled the whole book in a matter of months. Soon my family members started giving me all their sewing equipment and machines to use.”

Nicola finished at the top of her class for her year level three times in her high school fashion and OP home economics classes — so when it came time to choose a career path, her decision was clear.

Although she was accepted to study fashion at a university in Brisbane, Nicola decided to hold off on study and started working in retail in order to save money. During this time, she began making and upcycling her own clothes at home and started an Instagram page showcasing her process and the finished garments.

“Usually everything I design is created with recycled items because I don’t see the necessity to buy new fabric,” Nicola said.

“That’s why my Instagram page (@lionessnilafashion), is about showing people how easy it is to mend clothes, alter the size of a garment, or turn something old into something completely new."

“During high school I always said, ‘I want a clothing label and I want to be as famous as Gucci one day’,” she laughs. “But through studying this course, I have seen the unsustainable side of the fashion industry and I know now that I don't want to contribute to the world’s pollution."

“Reflecting on my designs, I realised I didn’t have the proper skills and knowledge to make everything I imagined. Ultimately, this was why I chose to study fashion at TAFE Queensland – because the units seemed more practical and hands-on than other university courses. I have now learnt how to make patterns from scratch and bring my designs to life.”

Upon enrolling in the Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising/Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising (MST50119/MST60119) at TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus, Nicola heard about the TAFE Queensland scholarship program and immediately jumped at the chance to apply. It was a decision that has seen her efforts rewarded.

“This scholarship has taken some of the expense off my VET loan, which is greatly appreciated. But on top of that, the application process helped me figure out what my end goal is, because I had to really consider everything for the questions,” she said.

Nicola is currently working on the designs for her final assessment, which will be showcased at TAFE Queensland’s end-of-year fashion show in November. Her dream is to eventually run workshops for the community to enable individuals to unleash their creativity through producing quality upcycled clothing for themselves.

“I want to inspire people to change their throwaway fast fashion lifestyle to be sustainable and re-establish preloved items into something they can reuse,” Nicola said.

TAFE Queensland's scholarship program first launched in 2015 and has since awarded over $1.8million, helping more than 390 Queenslanders pursue their careers goals.

This year RACQ and CPL have also partnered with the program, with RACQ’s funding supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to study in the Townsville region, and CPL's funding supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.