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“A Profound Impact”: CEF Celebrates 30 Years of Helping Country Youth

By November 15, 2023January 31st, 2024No Comments

Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEF) CEO, Juliet Petersen, with founders Nick and Julia Burton Taylor at CEF's head office in Orange, NSW.

Our 2021 'Founders Video', featuring Country Education Foundation of Australia founders Nick Burton Taylor AM and Julia Burton Taylor OAM.

Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEF) Chairman Nick Burton Taylor, AM, has described CEF as having “a profound impact” on regional and rural youth over the last 30 years, as it prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary this month.

CEF’s first local foundation, CEF Boorowa, was established in 1993 by a group of like-minded community members, including Mr Burton Taylor and his wife, Julia Burton Taylor, OAM.

The community saw a great need for country youth to access funding and support to assist them in travelling away from home for further education – one of the major barriers they face compared with their metropolitan counterparts.

CEF Boorowa awarded $5,000 in local grants in its first year, with five students receiving $1000 each to put towards their further education. The idea quickly spread with Yass, NSW, becoming the next town to form a local CEF foundation in 1998 headed by Katie Walker, who would also become a founding Director of the national foundation.

Country Education Foundation of Australia founders Julia and Nick Burton Taylor with a herd of cattle.

Former CEO Jocellin Jansson with incoming CEO Nik Fominas in 2006.

Former CEO Jocellin Jansson with incoming CEO Nik Fominas in 2006.

Several other local foundations across regional NSW formed in the early 2000s and in 2003, Country Education Foundation of Australia incorporated as a national charitable entity to support the growing network of local foundations. This development was led by the Burton Taylors, Katie Walker, Stuart Black, David Smithers, AM, and Rick Hutchinson as the inaugural Board; the Hon. Tim Fischer, AC, as Patron, and CEF employing its first staff the same year.

CEF is a national for-purpose, community-driven charity that helps rural and regional youth aged between 16 and 25 access post-school education, training and employment through grants, scholarships, support services and resources.

In 2004, the Foundation participated in a senate inquiry to gain tax deductibility status (DGR1). In documents submitted to the committee Mr Burton Taylor explained: “[We] seek to expand on the community-based principle of investing in and encouraging rural youth to promote their personal development and to help them make the step beyond their schooling.”

Tax deductibility was granted, the wave of community engagement continued, and this sentiment became – and remains – the mission of the Foundation today.

CEF national office staff outside the office in Orange, NSW, last year.

CEF national office staff outside the office in Orange, NSW, last year.

In 2005 CEF expanded outside of NSW for the first time, forming a local foundation in Eudunda, SA. Paroo, Queensland, became the first QLD foundation to form a year later.

The Hon. Tim Fischer, AC, served as CEF Patron for more than 15 years, saying: “CEF has lifted the lives of many and in the process lifted the fabric of rural and regional communities across the nation,” and he held this role with the Foundation until his passing in 2019.

The role of Patron remained unfilled until 2022, when the wife of the late Mr Fischer, Judy Brewer, AO, accepted an invitation to assume this position. Ms Brewer shares her late husband’s dedication to improving educational outcomes and has a passion for rural and regional Australia. She is also an accomplished professional and devoted advocate in her own right.

“He (Tim) loved his involvement with Nick, Julia and the team at CEF, and so it was not a difficult decision for me to continue his role as Patron when honoured with the invitation to do so,” said Ms Brewer.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Tim Fischer, AC, right, at CEF Boorowa function in its early years.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Tim Fischer, AC, right, at CEF Boorowa function in its early years.

Judy Brewer, AO, Tim Fischer's wife, is the current Patron of CEF.

Judy Brewer, AO, Tim Fischer's wife, is the current Patron of CEF.

Today there are 45 local foundations and more that 430 volunteers driving the work of the organisation across NSW, SA, QLD, Victoria and NT. Australia wide, CEF has provided almost 8000 individual grants and scholarships to the value of over $17 million over the last 30 years.

Students that live in or attend school in locations with a CEF local foundation are eligible to apply for grant and scholarship funding they can put towards various expenses related to their education, such as accommodation, living expenses and equipment.

The organisation also offers additional financial assistance through the CEF Extra national scholarships program and a range of support initiatives including an Alumni Program, Student Support Assistance Program, peer support and mentoring; and The CEF Scholarships Guide and ‘Make it Possible’ inspiration hub free online resources.

Mr Burton Taylor said there had been “no greater reward” than witnessing “the individual stories of triumph” by CEF grant and scholarship recipients.

CEF Chairman Nick Burton Taylor AM.

Reflecting on our 30 years of activities at Country Education Foundation of Australia, one can’t help be taken by the profound impact that we have achieved at a community and regional level.

– CEF Chairman Nick Burton Taylor AM

“It has at so many levels become a team of volunteers and now alumni, who appreciate that small contributions of both a financial and community encouragement at a key time in young lives has a disproportionately positive outcome.”

“Education, whether in a trade or at university, opens the opportunities for the lives of young Australians living in rural areas and goes some way to redressing some of the disadvantages imposed by distance and lack of educational facilities.”

Julia Burton Taylor, said it was very exciting to make it to 30 years and she looked forward to seeing CEF continue to grow its footprint and impact. “The excitement we get out of every student that we’re able to help is extraordinary,” she said.

CEF co-founder Julia Burton Taylor.

All our communities, all our volunteers are amazing. They just keep doing what they’re doing because they believe in the cause of what we’re able to do for rural youth. We just want it to keep going.

– CEF Co-Founder Julia Burton Taylor

CEF celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala cocktail party at Printhie Wines, Orange, NSW, on Saturday 18th November. To view some images from this memorable occasion, click HERE.

CEF CEO Juliet Petersen said CEF had so much to celebrate.

“Thirty years of grant giving has resulted in thousands of stories of student success and extraordinary collective impacts for our regions. Thank you to everyone who has helped make it happen,” she said.

Joshua Matic

Author Joshua Matic

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