The Principal – Sue Collins

From operating room nurse to beauty therapist – Sue Collins’ career took a quantum leap more than 30 years ago.

“I was on call so often and needed a break so I took a year off nursing,” Sue explains. ”It was one of those crazy thoughts, a mistake maybe. I hadn’t planned it. I ended up buying a really tiny beauty salon hidden up an alley.”

Eight months later, Sue opened the Cairns Beauty Academy. While Sue was on her break, she also started a Bachelor of Education (secondary) but decided she really didn’t like it after doing a few practical teaching stints.

However this study inspired her to start the school at the Cairns Beauty Academy. “After I bought the salon I found it was an exciting job and I enjoyed learning the different treatments and trying beautiful products,” Sue says.

“When I opened the school I loved the interaction with the students it was very different to the salon. It started with just 6 students and I decided I never wanted to get out of it.” Sue says she still remembers her first students and clearly recalls the one-on-one interaction she had with them.

She says the programs are now more concentrated and specialized which is good thing because it helps the students select which direction in beauty they want to follow as the pathways have developed so much in the past 20 years.

Now graduates of the Diploma of Beauty Therapy can articulate directly to a university degree such as health science with the equivalence of an OP9 entrance score or they can travel within Australia or overseas working in the many facets of the beauty industry.

Cairns Beauty Academy now boasts five salon staff and four instructors, as well as Sue in the school, offering everything from the Diploma to short refresher programs. “We are totally face-to-face in our school – whether for the day or night programs,” Sue adds.

If organizing hundreds of students and clients is not enough, Sue was also the Australian Chief Judge for beauty in the Worldskills Australia Organisation for 14 years. WSA is a non-profit organization giving young Australians (22 years and younger) the opportunity to gain new skills and compete against their peers in their industry on a regional, national and international level.

All Australian apprentices, trainees and VET students, Sue explains, have the opportunity to compete, and if eligible, medalists can contest the international Skill Olympics.

“One of my students, Tamara Jones won gold in the Australian competition in 2002 then went on to take out the bronze medal in the world contest in Switzerland the following year, then Jessie-lee Gladwell won the gold medal for Australia and then went on to win the gold medal for the International Beauty Competition in Canada competing against 22 other countries around the world”, Sue is happy to boast. “they have been offered jobs all around the world.” Tamara opened a very successful salon in Cairns and Jessie went onto work in many salons and schools gaining experience and is now teaching in a very successful school in Melbourne.

Our next Student who represented Queensland in the National Competition won the gold, Hannah Colquhoun who then went onto Sydney to win the National Australian Gold Medal and then went to Germany to compete in the International Worldskills Beauty Therapy Competition 2013 and won a medal of excellence, We were very excited. 3 Cairns Beauty Academy students have represented Australia in the Worldskills International Beauty Therapy competition out of 5 competition and they are Australia’s only medal winners, so we are leading the way in Beauty Therapy Training up here in Cairns.

Sue also had very rewarding achievements in Canada taking out the Sustainability Gold medal for the Beauty Category for setting up the competition arena with the least financial burden and in the greenest approach to support environment safety. Sue also took out the “Expert of the Year” award.

“I was overwhelmed with the outcome of this competition I had no idea we would come home with such a successful grasp, Jessie and I are pinching ourselves every day.”

One of the major tasks of this position is to write test projects current to industry that are workable in a competition arena. Obviously we don’t ask the competitors to do a Brazilian,” Sue laughs. “I align the test projects to the international standards and focus on a more audience friendly viewing such as body treatments, facials, nails and make-up. We have an open competition arena so the public can view the competitors at work, which also helps promote our industry.”