Making a difference: Teacher, mother and mayor

Published: Monday 23rd May 2016

Super mum: Tanya is married to Bernard who runs the family sheep, cropping and Farmstay property. They have four children: Annie, Tom, Max and Jack and are looking forward to their new baby due in July

Campus Pastoral Associate Tanya Kehoe has a passion for community engagement and was recently the mayor of her local town in rural Victoria. The former ACU student has been a school teacher, lecturer and now a PhD candidate. Tanya shares her ACU story.

"I was fortunate to start my ACU story in 1999 as an Arts/ Teaching undergraduate. I missed my first O-week camp that was run in those days as I was part of the first “Heywire” cohort to Canberra – an ABC / Triple J initiative for rural youth to “Have a Voice” amongst politicians in Canberra – it was a truly amazing experience and set me up for a number of leadership roles within ACU in the following years. I was fortunate to also have received an academic scholarship to study at ACU and then received funding through the Dean’s List scholarship program also during my time at ACU.

In my first year of study I was our Student Association representative for our year level and thoroughly enjoyed becoming involved in this way in campus life on our then small but vibrant Ballarat Campus. I then went on to become the ASA president in my second and third years of study and then I become the ACUNSA President and ACU Student Senator in my fourth year of study (at that time Student Senator took on both roles and was representative on Academic Board!). Again the opportunity to represent the student body was an amazing privilege and to be heard at the University’s Senate and Academic Board level shows the importance the University places on listening to students.

Early in my undergraduate studies I was very keen to start up a Young Vinnie’s group on campus having been involved recently on a Kid’s Camp run by the state Young Vinnie’s team in Melbourne. With the assistance of some like-minded peers and our Campus Minister at the time Suzanne Dooley we were able to start up our own Aquinas Young Vinnie’s group on campus. We then wanted a Kid’s camp for Ballarat children to be our first project and the overwhelming support we received from not only the university but very much from the wider Ballarat community made the event possible and a great success – I have since run into children who have participated in these camps that have gone on to successful careers but have gone out of their way to thank camp leaders for the opportunity afforded them many years earlier! Since 1999 the Aquinas Young Vinnie’s group on ACU Ballarat campus has continued to have a strong membership and each year run two Kids Camps and two Kids Days Out!

My passion for Social Justice has continued during my teaching career having been part of mission trips to remote Thailand working with Burma refugees, Fiji working with remote communities and also Central Australia running children’s programs at Santa Teresa mission close to Alice Springs. At Notre Dame College in Shepparton, where I taught for a short time and was also working in a new youth ministry role, myself and a colleague also started up immersion trips for students to remote Fiji that have continued to build a relationship with that area over the past 11 years.

After teaching out in the field in both Primary and Secondary Schools and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it, I then came back to study at ACU to complete my Masters in Educational Leadership. I found this a great way to build on my undergraduate degree and could focus on my passion at this stage which was the pastoral care aspect of leadership. Finding the study for my masters a great experience (even studying between having my first two children) I then took on sessional lecturing roles in the Education faculty over a couple of years and again loved the opportunity to then give back to the institution that gave me the opportunity to teach!

During my time as a sessional academic at ACU I was asked by one of my previous lecturers if I was keen to look into completing a higher degree. I again wanted to following my passion for pastoral care but now I was reading more about character and moral development in children and also was interested in the area of children’s spirituality so henceforth my PhD research and study began. I am currently writing up my findings on my topic of nurturing moral development in children in Australian Catholic schools and have since studying my PhD had two more children!

In following my passion for Pastoral Care and Ministry work I am now, since July last year, the Campus Ministry Pastoral Associate at ACU Ballarat Campus. I find this an incredibly rewarding role! I am able to connect with staff and students on our campus on an everyday basis to build community and to be there in a pastoral role during good times and bad. I have the privilege of working with our Campus Chaplain Fr James Kerr in making prayer and reflection times available for our campus community which gives people an opportunity for time out to reflect during the busyness of life or to come together during times of grief or celebration.

Since studying at ACU I have had two more siblings (out of the eight of us) graduate as teachers from ACU Ballarat, I currently have another sister in her second year of her teaching degree at ACU Ballarat and my youngest sister is looking to studying at ACU Ballarat in 2018! Another sister has also just moved from teaching into a professional role at ACU Ballarat – it is quite a family affair!

I have recently taken up leadership roles in local government being a ward councillor for the Pyrenees Shire Council for the past three and a half years and also had the privilege of being the Mayor of the Pyrenees Shire for 2014 and 2015. I continue to be a member of local community and parish groups in my local area of Mt Emu and in Ballarat also.

I am married to Bernard who runs our sheep, cropping and Farmstay property and we have four children Annie, Tom, Max and Jack and are currently looking forward to a new baby due to arrive in July!  I am also an alumni of ACU - I love being a part of ACU and am sure it will be part of my ACU story for many years to come!"