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After becoming a qualified welder and panel-beater, Neil worked for Christian’s and McConnell’s before running his own panel-beating business. His teaching career began at North Tech in Geelong and also Barwon Prison, while completing his teaching qualifications. Neil treasured a chess table and Essendon Bombers framed glasswork that were given to him by inmates. Upon moving to Warrnambool, he began his long tenure at Brauer College and partnering with industry members became a constant feature of his teaching practice, much to the benefit of everyone. He encouraged students to pursue their interests while at school and to enter professions that matched their interests and strengths upon leaving. Neil assisted many students to transition from school into rewarding jobs. He didn’t rate any profession above another and when one student confided to him that he wanted to be a tradesperson rather than fulfil his parent’s wishes to attend university, Neil responded, ‘They need someone to build the university.’ Throughout his lifetime, if a person demonstrated they were passionate and would give something their all, Neil would do his utmost to help them.

Neil was instrumental in setting up the Vocational Training Program, which later became VCAL, in our region. This program enables students to gain experience and develop skills in their chosen industry. It also provides employers with the opportunity to work with students and possibly offer them an apprenticeship, traineeship or other form of employment. Neil’s work led to him being recognised at the Vocational Education and Training Network Australia Awards for Excellence in Schools in 2002. He won the state award for his ‘visionary and exemplary work in implementing vocational education and training’. Mr Paul Isbel of Western Victoria Group Training stated, ‘What Neil Porter has done is nothing short of a miracle. On his own initiative he’s done what industry, training organisations, unions and governments have been talking about for years. A similar project in Geelong, with 2.5 staff and a hefty budget, found placements for 18 students. Neil has organised placements for 60 students during one spare lesson a week and in his spare time.’ Many of Neil’s VCAL graduates secured apprenticeships and went on to run their own businesses and, in-turn, employed apprentices from Neil and Brauer College.

Neil was also heavily involved in the creation and running of the Warrnambool campus of the Australian Technical College. Built in Caramut Road, the ATC was equipped with the latest equipment, staffed by experienced and passionate teachers and forward-thinking industry members making it an ideal training facility for the region’s youth. Neil thoroughly enjoyed working at the ATC and, dispute his best efforts to keep it running, was disappointed with its closure due to a change of government.

Family and Hobbies

Growing up in Warrnambool, Neil met the love of his life, Heather, at the Cally Hotel. They would continue to meet there on a Saturday night, Neil having played footy and travelling home on the bus having a good time with his teammates. Neil and Heather were married in Ballarat on October 20, 1973. After the wedding they lived in Mortlake. At this time he was playing coach of the Hexham Football Club and Heather was secretary at Mortlake High School.

Two years later they shifted back to Warrnambool and their first child, Jason, was born not long after, in March 1975. He was a sporty kid, not wanting toys and instead playing with any type of ball he could get his hands on.

1977 was a busy year with Neil playing coach of Bushfield Football Club and the couple’s first daughter, Jacinta, being born in August. Three weeks after her birth, Bushfield won the premiership. In 1979 the growing family moved to Leopold.

Matt, their youngest child, was born in 1980. When he was seven, Heather and Neil moved back to Warrnambool. They rented a house in St James Crescent while building the family home in Boronia Court.

When his playing career was finished, Neil coached football teams at South Warrnambool, North Warrnambool and Merrivale. He took a great interest in his players’ lives after he finished coaching them and would always do anything to help them. He was caring husband, father of three and grandfather of eleven.

Neil loved fishing and could often be seen out in his tinny on the Hopkins River winding in a bream. He spent many hours watching his grandchildren play sport or other pursuits and was a constant and positive presence in all of his family members’ lives. Neil passed away suddenly on June 17, 2018 at the age of 66.

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