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Articles and stories about the RAS Foundations and its grant and scholarship recipients

Articles and stories about the RAS Foundations and its  grant and scholarship recipients

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An experience of a lifetime - winning the JB Fairfax Award

27 Jun 2017

There are small choices we make in our day to days lives that can change the course of things to come. Some are as simple as purchasing a latte to get you through the next two hours of your lecture, and others are far more monumental. One of these choices was the decision to apply for the JB Fairfax Award for Rural Journalism. I submitted my application thinking there may not be much of chance of winning the scholarship but at least I’d given it my best shot. It was this small decision that quickly turned into one of the best experiences of my life to date.  As a part of the scholarship, I travelled down to Sydney to participate in the Sydney Royal Easter Show internship program - a fast paced two-week glimpse into the world of media. With a healthy dose of nerves, I braved the city transport and found my way to Sydney Olympic Park, where I would spend the next fortnight working in and amongst the Show. As a third and final year journalism student, the opportunities the internship program offered were unlike any other work placement I could have dreamed of. Not only did the program enable me to complete a whole unit of my degree in just two weeks, it also encouraged me to create networks that will be invaluable for an entry level journalist like myself looking to apply for jobs in the coming year. Meeting John Fairfax was definitely one of the most valuable and defining moments of my time in Sydney. Working with an array of media outlets, from television and radio to print media, I was also able to gain immeasurable experience in the journalism field as well as enhance my writing and organisation skills through mentoring. The Royal Agricultural Society and the Cox Inall staff involved in the program were knowledgeable, patient, friendly and eager to get me involved in every aspect of the job. Each and every day at the Sydney Royal Easter Show brought something new, challenging and exciting, whether it was being a part of a live television broadcast or assisting in a photoshoot. Every morning I was eager to see what the day would bring, what skills I would learn and who I would meet. During my first week of interning, I was lucky enough to be assigned to work with the GWS Giants AFL team and help the team film for their online content. This was definitely a fun night of work, watching the players battle it out on the giant slide before braving the horror house. Hanging out with the team was something I never imagined would be on my job criteria, so I was absolutely stoked to have done it as a part of my internship. Another stand out moment was starring on Sunrise with my fellow intern, Cara who was in Australia as a part of her American study abroad program. This was her claim to Australian fame, and mine I should add, even if we were in the background. But my most memorable experience of the two weeks was definitely assisting the ABC crew film an episode of Australia Wide, a television program I have long adored. I was able to see how an episode was scripted, produced, filmed and presented. On top of this, I was able to meet the wonderful host, Yassmin Abdel-Magied. As a student from the regional town of Singleton, these experiences would never have been available in my hometown which is why the program was so valuable for me. If I hadn’t participated in the program, I would never have been able to gain such a significant level of experience in so many different fields of media at such an early stage in my career. Aside from the professional benefits of the program, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people who share similar aspirations and goals. Through interning I have made life-long friendships with people from all across the state, and even as far as New York City. Having these friends definitely made the experience, and the long train trips, all the more memorable. The whole internship was an experience I will cherish for a long time, and I couldn’t recommend it enough to other university students considering work placement. I give my appreciation and thanks to everyone who played a part in making the JB Fairfax scholarship and Sydney Royal Easter Show internship program possible.  Read more

Budding Viticulturist Hannah McKay Awarded 2017 Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship

1 Jun 2017

1 June, 2017 A decision to trade a business career to follow her passion in the Australian wine industry has paid off for Hannah McKay of NSW, with her being awarded the prestigious 2017 Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship. Ms McKay, a part-time Viticulture student studying by distance at Charles Sturt University from her base in Margaret River, Western Australia, will receive $3,500 towards her tertiary studies as well as the opportunity to steward at the 2017 KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show this coming July. Sydney Royal Wine Committee Chair, Sally Evans, commended Ms McKay for her inspiring vision of how she plans to be involved in the future success of the Australian wine industry. “It’s wonderful to be able to offer the opportunity of stewarding at the KPMG Sydney Royal Wine show to Ms McKay, who will benefit greatly from the learnings and networks she will receive access to. She not only impressed us with her passion for viticulture but also her desire to play a leading role in encouraging more young women into the wine industry,” Ms Evans said. Employed by iconic winery Vasse Felix, 28 year old Ms McKay has a passion for plants and wine and is focussed on finding ways to combine traditional farming practices, land management techniques and native species in a vineyard setting. “I’m thrilled to be selected for this amazing scholarship and excited about the opportunities it will bring as I work towards my goal of being a leading female viticulturist. The scholarship has encouraged me to further develop my learning in the field and classroom to reveal more sustainable ways of growing wine grapes in Australia,” said Ms McKay. “My wine journey began when I left an office career and started working in vineyards near my family home in the Southern Highlands wine region. I instantly fell in love with the industry and each day I look forward to what I’m going to learn and then implement in the vineyard.” “I am excited to connect with other like-minded people across Australia at the upcoming wine show and will use this scholarship to strengthen the precision and quality of Australian viticulture and wine,” she said. The judging panel was so impressed with the high quality of applications that for the first time in history, a runner up scholarship was awarded. The 2017 runner-up honour has gone to Nicholas Conolly, a Bachelor of Wine Science student at Charles Sturt University. Originally studying local government in Sydney, Mr Conolly’s passion for the wine industry was sparked while on work experience at a winery in Orange. Mr Conolly has since relocated to South Australia where he works for Kirrihill Wines in the Clare Valley. The Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship honours the memory and contribution of Graham Thorp, Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Committee from 1984 – 1990. RAS Foundation Executive Officer, Kate Ross, said the scholarship offers a welcome financial boost to our next generation of wine industry leaders as they strive to excel in their chosen careers. “The fact that our two 2017 scholarship recipients have chosen to relocate far from home and undertake distance studies while working in the wine industry shows a real commitment,” Ms Ross said. In 2018 the scholarship will increase to $6,000 for full time study or $3,000 towards part time study. Applications for the 2018 award open on 1 August 2017 and can be completed online through the RASF website <Ends> For further information, including high resolution images, please contact: Roger White – Manager, Public Relations M: 0478 092 425 | P: (02) 9704 1453 | E: About the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) Foundation: The RAS Foundation is a charitable foundation that encourages educational opportunities and helps build strong and sustainable rural and regional communities through a range of targeted grants and scholarships. Visit for more information on the RAS Foundation. Read more


16 Apr 2017

Thousands of people will enjoy cooking demonstrations at the 2017 Sydney Royal Easter Show but none will be more excited than the town of Boggabri which will receive a cash prize and a full range of state-of-the-art Euromaid appliances used in The Australian Women's Weekly Theatre Kitchen. Read more


9 Apr 2017

Five motivated rural leaders are a step closer to achieving their goals of advancing their local communities thanks to a share in $96,000 from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RAS Foundation) Community Futures Grant Program. Read more

The Showbag that gives back

8 Apr 2017

Showgoers have an exciting opportunity to make a difference in country NSW by purchasing an Ag Bag at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the only Showbag where 100 per cent of proceeds directly support rural and regional communities. Read more

Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship awarded to Elizabeth Tonge

23 Mar 2017

Elizabeth Tonge, a veterinary student from Casino, will help shape the future of the NSW dairy industry as the winner of the 2017 Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship awarded by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF). The scholarship supports tertiary students who are passionate about pursuing a career in the dairy industry and fosters the development of future NSW agricultural leaders. Ms Tonge received the $5,000 scholarship awarded in partnership with the Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Committee to support her career aspirations in the NSW dairy industry. She is studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology and Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and is looking forward to assisting farmers in optimising herd health. “I plan to move back to a rural area at the end of my studies to support dairy farmers in disease management and prevention. I want to help improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms,” the third-year student said. Dairy is the third largest rural industry in Australia valued at more than $13 billion and directly employs around 38,000 people. “The dairy industry is exciting and multi-faceted, offering a lot of educational opportunities. If you’re prepared to jump in it can really take you anywhere,” Ms Tonge said. Growing up on a northern NSW dairy farm ignited the 21-year-old’s passion for the industry and the people in it. Included in the scholarship was the opportunity to steward at the 2017 Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Produce Show earlier this month where world-class producers benchmarked their product against competitors. “It was an eye-opening opportunity to learn about the end products of milk and the link from farm management to what the consumer receives,” Ms Tonge said. RAS Foundation Executive Officer, Kate Ross, said the calibre of applicants was exceptional and applications were received from students representing a variety of educational pursuits. “Elizabeth came up against some very tough competition but impressed us with her passion for the industry not only at a local level but much more broadly in terms of her overall involvement. "Elizabeth showed us that she really is a future leader who is actively and enthusiastically striving for a career which will contribute to the positive future of our dairy industry,” Ross said. The Sydney Royal Dairy Produce Scholarship is made possible by a donation from Country Valley, a long-time Sydney Royal award-winning producer. The RAS Foundation is a charitable foundation that encourages educational opportunities and helps build strong and sustainable rural and regional communities through a range of targeted community grants and scholarships. Visit to learn more about the charitable RAS Foundation. Read more

Community Cattle call

13 Jan 2017

A 19-year-old university student is seeing her hard work come to fruition after being awarded a Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant in 2015. Read more

Space to grow

12 Jan 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016 Two years ago a teacher had a vision to create a natural play space for her rural community and thanks to funding from an RAS Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant in 2015 her goal has been achieved. School teacher Katie Rowe was inspired to create a play area for young children at her local café, Two Eight Two Eight, in her adopted home of Gulargambone in the central west plains of NSW. The building was purchased by the local community in 2002 and has been renovated slowly over the years, evolving to encompass a visitor’s centre and café. “As the building took shape, I felt it needed something to engage the school children and help them feel proud of their community, and that’s where the idea for a natural play space came about,” Katie explains. The RASF Community Futures Grants encourage rural youth leadership by providing financial assistance for community projects. The program has been running for three years, and in that time, 23 grants have been awarded, with a total sum of $510,000 in funds distributed to help community projects come to life. When Katie learned about the Community Future Grant, she felt it was the perfect fit for her project. She put together a very detailed proposal but says the hardest part of the process was keeping it a secret once she knew the application had been successful. “I knew about it for three weeks before the announcement at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show, it was hard to stay quiet!” On receipt of the grant, volunteers spent five months building the new play area, which includes a herb garden that provides for the café kitchen, and an interactive leisure and learning space for local kids aged up to seven years. “There was a lot of work to do,” Katie says. “We cut down trees, replaced the shed and put in a new drainage system – and you’d be amazed and how much dirt it takes to fill a space like this too,” she laughs. Local school children helped out by creating beautiful handmade stepping stones for the space. “It was a lot of work, but when it all fell into place it was worth every second. In April we had a launch party and Kate Ross from the RASF came down for it. The place looks amazing now – it’s so colourful, with plenty of shade and a beautiful garden.” Katie had only been living in Gulargambone for a few years when her vision for the play space began to take shape, but she had a strong desire to give back to her local community. “It’s so nice to be able to do something significant and it’s lovely that the kids have somewhere safe to play,” she says. “I love rural living for the sense of community, the fresh air and open spaces. But it’s also a beautiful environment for kids. Country living also gives them a lot of resilience and teaches them that when people work together, that’s how things get done. “The Community Futures Grant is a great initiative because even going through the process of application gets you thinking about what you would like for your community and the skills you would like to learn. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their community and themselves.” In 2015 David Ryan and Helen DeCosta were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities. Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants . Read more
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