It has been a year of exciting growth at The George Alexander Foundation. Over $1.5 million was distributed in George Alexander Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship Programs around Australia. Two new Scholarship Programs at the University of Wollongong and Australian National University brought the total number of current programs to 12, and we welcomed 85 new scholars and fellows to the George Alexander Foundation community, which now exceeds 1,000 members!
This year, Mairead Phillips took on the role of Program Coordinator. In this capacity Mairead has worked closely with Program Manager Nicole Bortone in managing the Foundation’s programs, and she has done an excellent job overseeing the work of the Foundation since Nicole went on maternity leave in October.
Along with other members of the GAF team, Mairead has travelled to Townsville, Brisbane, Wollongong, Canberra, Hobart and Launceston to visit new and established interstate partners and meet with scholars. A highlight from one of these visits was hearing the story of Hollie Wornes, one of our inaugural University of Wollongong scholarship recipients, and the role a GAF scholarship played in her decision to stay at university. Moving from Albury to study in Wollongong had proved particularly challenging, and Hollie was convinced that university life was not for her. A GAF scholarship was the encouragement she needed to persevere with the transition to independent living, and the financial assistance has freed up time to focus on her studies, volunteer and explore many exciting aspects of life on campus. Hollie’s story is an inspiring testament to the Foundation’s mission to assist talented young people from regional and remote Australia in overcoming the challenges involved with relocating to study.
I also had the pleasure of accompanying Mairead to Calperum Station for an Earthwatch Student Challenge expedition. Ten year 10 and 11 students from Victoria, WA, Queensland and NSW came together to explore the ecosystems of the Murray river and Mallee, planting seedlings, learning about pitfall traps and species identification methods, and examining vegetation and seedling dispersal. Notably, one of the field ecologists who worked with the students was a previous GAF Earthwatch participant herself in 2011, which attests to the value of the program and its effectiveness in motivating young science students to consider professional pathways in environmental science.
Craig Connelly, CEO
Increasingly, the Foundation is focused on providing members of the GAF community with opportunities to participate in alumni events. This is in line with George’s vision for, in his words, ‘this diverse group of students to network between each other, across disciplines, across states and across years. I sense this could be where the real value of their scholarships may ultimately lie.’ In August we held a GAF trivia night in Melbourne, which was well attended by scholars, fellows and alumni from a number of universities. Early next year we will hold an alumni event at Murdoch University. We look forward to seeing the ways in which this talented alumni network evolves over time.
We were also gladdened this year to learn of a GAF alumnus, Michael Dal Zotto, funding a fellowship opportunity through the ISS Institute. The Dal Zotto Wines International Fellowship for Social and Economic Innovation in Regional Victoria saw the successful fellow, Matt Pfahlert, travel to Edinburgh in September to co-produce the world’s first Social Enterprise Rural Symposium, a three-day event to coincide with the 10th Anniversary of the Social Enterprise World Forum. The event brought together the world's best policy makers and practitioners to learn from each other on how social enterprise models are rejuvenating rural communities. This one-off fellowship is a fantastic example of the ISSI GAF fellowship program going full circle, which is very much the spirit in which George Alexander established the Foundation.
We extend our thanks to all our Foundation staff, especially Program Coordinator Mairead Phillips and Program Manager Nicole Bortone, on an outstanding job overseeing the Foundation’s work, and we wish Nicole all the best as she embarks on an exciting new chapter in her life.
This year 85 new scholars and fellows and 30 new Earthwatch Student Challenge participants joined the GAF community. We look forward to following the journeys of these latest GAF recipients, and seeing what the seed of a GAF scholarship or fellowship yields for their futures and that of the broader community.
Charles Goode AC
Chief Executive Officer