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Macka’s dyslexia was an obstacle in school, but it also made him an astute problem solver

Macka plumbing student
Macka is a third year Plumbing Apprentice who struggled to complete high school due to his learning difficulties, he is now learning how to excel in his exams and theory thanks to support from CDU TAFE.

Gabriel “Macka” Morris never thought he would be able to learn a trade and complete a VET course, because his learning difficulties kept throwing obstacles at him throughout his school years.

More than 30 years after his dyslexia diagnosis when in Year 8, the third-year apprentice is completing his coursework to become a qualified plumber.  

Macka said some of his first memories of school was him getting frustrated that he was being left behind or always finishing his work last or not at all. 

He said that his parents were a constant support growing up and they tried many different avenues to help him live with his learning disability and complete his education. 

After what seemed as though all avenues had been exhausted and feeling defeated in Year 10 Macka was told maybe it would be best if he found a job. 

“I remember one of my teachers telling me the best thing I could do for my future was find a job,” Macka said.

“I quit school and began working as a labourer. When I was 19, I moved to the Northern Territory and began working on a station, from there I ended up working on heavy machinery in the mines in Western Australia, I had a family and learned how to live without properly reading or writing,” he said.

When the mine Macka was working in shutdown and he was laid off, his family moved back to the NT. 

“Luckily, I was hired by my current employers. After about a year, they asked if I would be keen to undergo an apprenticeship, I said yes however doubted that a 49-year-old with dyslexia could do it.” 

That was almost four years ago. 

By the end of 2024 Macka will be a Certified plumber and believes he would have not made it this far without the support and dedication he has received from the CDU TAFE team. 

“I know I would not be this far in this journey if it hadn’t been for the constant support and dedication I have received from the CDU team, classmates and my family,” he said. 

“From day dot the team worked with me to ensure I had the correct recourses and support I needed to succeed.”

CDU TAFE Plumbing lecturer Luke Johns said many students face different challenges when learning, but there are always ways to work around challenges. 

“In trade school you find you get many different types of students who come from a range of backgrounds, so the team is equipped to deal with learning difficulties or English as a second language,” Mr Johns said. 

“Some cases can be a bit more complex and require additional resources as well as time, however if the student is willing to put in the work so are we, and Macka is more than willing to put in the work he does not let his dyslexia hold him back, he has a can-do attitude.”

Macka said he hopes his story can help others who have also been diagnosed with dyslexia know that they can accomplish anything.

“It won’t be easy, and it can be overwhelming at times, but I now see my dyslexia as a strength because it has made me become a great problem solver, which helps me in any situation I now find myself in, whether that be a job site, classroom or at home.”

Macka worked closely with CDU’s Language and Learning Advisors to help him complete his coursework.

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