1 Mar 2023

Supporting Learner Voice at the AONTAS STAR Awards

AONTAS STAR Awards 2023 hashtag STAR Awards 2023

The STAR Awards recognise the very best in adult learning in Ireland. We celebrate and acknowledge the incredible adult learning initiatives going on across the country, in support of learners, as part of the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival.

This year, there are 26 fantastic shortlisted initiatives. We’ll announce the winners at a special ceremony in Dublin on Friday 10th March – an exciting event to finish our 2023 Adult Learners’ Festival!

The shortlist is divided into five categories of adult learning initiatives that support people with:

The STAR Awards is judged by an independent panel of educators, policymakers, adult learners, and other adult learning experts. Let’s take a closer look at the shortlisted initiatives for the category of Learner Voice.

This category, which is sponsored by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), is open to adult learning initiatives is open to adult learning initiatives that have a real impact when they place the voice and experiences of the learner at the heart of their work, and how that can help other learners, communities, and influence education policy.  

To reflect the range and high calibre of the shortlisted groups, we have two awards in this category – one for smaller and one for larger initiatives.


Here are the nominations for the small/medium-sized initiatives:

Learning Ambassadors Initiative

Running since 2019, the Learning Ambassadors initiative brings together a diverse array of Limerick people who want to promote, develop and celebrate all forms of learning throughout Limerick City and County. The Learning Ambassadors are the friendly faces of learning organisations and are proud that Limerick is a UNESCO Learning Region. They promote the idea of lifelong learning in their own communities, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. By sharing their own stories about learning, based on their own experiences and those of their families and communities, the ambassadors help others find new ways to learn. The initiative provides opportunities for people to enhance their self-confidence in learning. As the project evolves, the ambassadors hope to work more on advocacy and outreach.


The Liberties Weavers

The Liberties Weavers is a voluntary community group dedicated to breathing new life into the tradition of one thousand years of weaving and textile production in the Liberties, in the centre of Dublin. Since 2020, the group has woven their way into the hearts and homes of textile and local history enthusiasts in Ireland and abroad. They share their research on the textiles that were produced in the Liberties, and on the lives of the people who made them. Working with over 100 learners, they have encouraged people of all ages and backgrounds to learn the craft of weaving and create new, beautiful handmade textiles that reflect 21st-century lives.


Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) RadioActive Radio Play

A radio play, One Night in Dublin, was created in June 2022 by a collective called RadioActive, a group of adults from the CRC’s Lifeskills programme. Coming together to create the play enabled members of the collective to engage with a creative process from start to finish, while boosting self-esteem and improving confidence in a fun environment. Over time, RadioActive expanded from a handful of adults to fifteen participants who play various characters, create sound effects, write scripts, and enhance their communication skills through voice projection and voice animation. The first episode of the play was released on NearFM, and the third episode is planned as a live event. RadioActive meet weekly to plan, write, direct and record One Night in Dublin.


Here are the nominations for the large initiatives:


Shine's Advocacy programmes

Shine offers training and education programmes to people experiencing mental health difficulties, and to those who support them. Shine ensures that people’s personal experiences shape their work, and that their programmes and digital profiles respond to and help to build the capacity of their service users. In 2022, they established and hosted the National Reference Group for Ireland for the implementation of Ireland’s “Sharing the Vision” national mental health policy. Shine empowers people to articulate their needs in the development of mental health services, the formation of national policy, and the removal of any stigma relating to mental illness.


Tramore Road Campus Furniture Course & Benchspace Cork

Set up in 2017 as a direct response to the needs voiced by graduates in furniture-making and design, Tramore Road Campus Furniture Course & Benchspace Cork is Ireland’s first shared, enterprise-focused, creative manufacturing facility. Teachers at Tramore Road Campus recognised that former students needed access to a wide range of expensive tools and machinery, ongoing skills-based training, and guidance with marketing. Most of all, they needed a suitable place to work and the benefits of sharing that space with other creative craftspeople. And so Benchspace was born. Part of the old Ford manufacturing plant in Cork City became its home, and it is now led by a board of voluntary directors, with a full-time manager and two part-time employees. Benchspace provides vital support for creative entrepreneurs, giving them invaluable opportunities to research, reflect on, and engage with their practice.


DAVINA Project

Through its education programme, DAVINA helps women to identify any abusive behaviour they have experienced and explore its impact on their families, their mental health and their addiction. The programme also helps women heal from the trauma of their experiences and develop the skills to protect themselves from abuse in future relationships. In developing the programme, the training manual was revised and developed using Learner Voice and the experiences of learners, and the same women became learners in the pilot of the revised course. The programme covers topics such as human rights, legal protections, consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships. Learners also develop skills for the workplace, such as communication, computer literacy, interagency work, active citizenship, advocacy, and public speaking and presentation.



Because the STAR Awards ceremony is focussed on the nominees, particularly the learners, it is an invite-only event. But we'll be sharing the ceremony as it happens on our social media, and spotlighting the winners. 

Find us on or on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIN for the latest updates.




About the Festival

The Adult Learners’ Festival, happening this year from 6th to 10th March, is a nationwide celebration of adult learning. It offers organisations and groups the chance to promote the value and benefits of lifelong learning for communities, families and workplaces. It is a chance for groups to reinforce existing partnerships in the community, and to establish new ones. This year’s theme is Create Your World – because life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. Visit this page for more details about the Festival

For more information, contact Charis Hughes, Head of Communications at