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

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The White Stuff

1 Aug 2017

According to a study jointly conducted by the CSIRO and University of Adelaide, one in six Australians have stopped drinking milk and consuming other dairy products – often in the misguided belief that dairy is bad for their health. Of the 1184 adults surveyed, it was found that the majority of those avoiding dairy (74 per cent) were doing so because they were keen to relieve gastrointestinal problems such as cramping, bloating and wind, while fewer participants admitted avoiding dairy because they believed it was fattening. It’s concerning, but the figures all come down to misinformation, says Blake Robinson, Accredited Practising Dietitian at Dairy Australia (dairyaustralia.com.au), who adds many of those limiting dairy for health reasons are self-diagnosed. “There’s clearly a lot of noise and confusion out there because we know that only one in ten Australians is meeting the daily dairy serve recommendations,” he says. “However I don’t know that there’s any reason to panic about what this study means for our dairy industry – fresh milk consumption has been stable over the last few years and we’re proud to be able to say we’re the only market globally to maintain that.” While dietitians are concerned about what a decrease in dairy consumption could do to our health, what does the CSIRO study mean for our $13 billion dollar dairy industry? At first glance, the figures look great. According to Dairy Australia, Australian milk production increased by nearly 360 million litres (or 3.8 per cent) in 2014/15, and a paper by the Department of Primary Industries recently showed that global demand for Australian dairy products is steadily increasing and expected to grow, driven by demand in China, South East Asia and the Middle East. “Dairy farmers supply a 40/60 split to domestic and export so domestic consumption really is half the story,” says Robinson. One person who is certainly not worried is Country Valley (countrydairy.com.au) dairy farmer, John Fairley whose family has been in the industry on and off for over 160 years. While alternative milk and juices have enjoyed what Fairley calls ‘stealth marketing’, they’ve failed to make a dent in the market nation-wide, and it’s been his experience that the numbers of those who enjoy conventional dairy products are only continuing to grow. “From my personal experience, I can tell you Country Valley continues to do well, and nationally we know the fresh milk market goes up by an average of 1.5 per cent each year,” he says. Similarly, South Coast Dairy (southcoastdairy.com.au) has recently reported a 54 per cent jump in demand for local milk over a one-month period, after social media campaigns demanded a boycott of cheaper milk. But what of the figures released by research company IBIS, which showed that the growth rates for alternative milk such as soy and almond at an average of 5.9 per cent are eclipsing that of traditional dairy? What do we make of new milk products such as Made by Cow (madebycow.com.au) Cold Pressed Milk (a happy medium between totally raw and pasteurised milk), which has just hit the market at $5 for a 750ml bottle? Happily, a 2011 report for Soy Australia Ltd shows Australians, on average, only drink three litres of soy milk per capita, per year – a far cry from the 106.8 litres of cow’s milk we consume. And as for the new milk products, there’s every chance they’ll take those turning their backs on dairy to come back to moo, says Made by Cow’s founder, Saxon Joye. “Since we hit Harris Farm shelves in June, we’ve been told that the volume in their milk category has actually increased,” he confides. “And it’s not that our product is cannibalising others, but that our presence is perhaps pointing to other products on the shelves and increasing those figures – it’s really quite exciting.” Read more

A tale of four Scholars

20 Jul 2017

RAS Foundation Scholarships provide a financial helping hand to assist students achieve their education goals. Students with a passion for rural issues and a commitment to playing a part in shaping the future of rural and regional NSW are encouraged to apply. Scholarships are open to students of any age and embrace a diverse range of tertiary or vocation, education and training studies. Amongst the 64 Rural Scholarship recipients for 2017 are the following students… Ryley Wickham, 17-years-old, has travelled 240kms from his hometown of Goonoo Goonoo to study a Certificate IV Agriculture at Tocal College. Ryley believes the future of farming and the ability to maximise the potential of the land lies in innovative technology. Kelsea Boots, 23-years-old, has relocated from Camden to Orange in order to complete her Bachelor of Dental Science at Charles Sturt University. The urgent need for rural health practitioners drives Kelsea’s goal of establishing a flying dental service to provide essential oral care to remote areas of Australia. Samuel Scarlett, 20-years-old, has moved from Cooma to Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga in order to study a Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours). Samuel wants to keep the merino industry thriving by investigating the role of genetics and nutrition in wool. Anne Johnston, 21-years-old, has transferred 400kms from home in Moree to study at the University of New England, Armidale. Anne hopes her Bachelor of Education (K-12) will enable her to teach in a rural community and help to keep youth thriving in rural towns.   Read more

Opportunity for Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship winner

10 Jul 2017

Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship - applications open 1 August 2017 Established in 1826, the Sydney Royal Wine Show is one of the most prestigious wine shows in Australia. Attracting over 2,200 entries annually from over 300 Exhibitors across Australia, this is the opportunity for producers to have their product benchmarked against a cross-section of key Australian competitors, as well as the opportunity to win a coveted Sydney Royal Medal or Trophy. Along with a judging panel selected by Chair of Judges Samantha Connew and the RAS of NSW Wine Committee, Stewards play a valuable role ensuring each day runs smoothly. Acting as a Steward for the Sydney Royal Wine Show provides unique insight into the wine industry and counts as relevant experience towards an Associate Judge role in the future. The Sydney Royal Wine Show will welcome Viticulture student Hannah McKay from Charles Sturt University as a Steward this year. Employed by the iconic winery Vasse Felix in Margaret River, Western Australia, Ms McKay studies by distance travelling regularly from WA to NSW for her degree. This commitment to her education and her goal of becoming a leading female viticulturist saw Ms McKay awarded the 2017 Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship. The Sydney Royal Wine Committee along with the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) offers an annual tertiary scholarship, which honours the memory and contribution of Graham Thorp, Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Committee from 1984 - 1990. 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. Ms McKay started working in the vineyards near her family home in the Southern Highlands of NSW after walking away from an office job and fell in love with the industry. Her interest lies in combining traditional farming practices with land management techniques and native species and exploring more sustainable ways of growing wine grapes in Australia. “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,” “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. 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 2017 scholarship recipient has chosen to relocate far from home and undertake distance studies while working in the wine industry shows a real commitment,” Ms Ross said. Applications for the 2018 Sydney Royal Wine Scholarship open on 1 August, the scholarship offers $6,000 for full-time study or $3,000 towards part-time education. www.rasnsw.com.au/foundation/scholarships-and-grants/sydney-royal-wine-scholarship/ Read more

Sweet Study for Scholar

3 Jul 2017

A 2016 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) Foundation Rural Scholar is causing a buzz in apiculture with her research on a disease of economic importance to Australian agriculture. Tara Needham, a final year veterinary science student at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga, has undertaken an independent research project on American foulbrood (AFB), the most serious brood disease affecting honey bees in NSW. The bacterial disease kills larvae in their cells within the hive and current treatments exterminate the entire colony; devastating to an industry contributing approximately $36 million annually to the State’s economy. AFB is an infectious disease and can be spread by interchanging apiary equipment or if bees consume contaminated honey. Beekeepers are required to notify an apiary inspector under the Apiaries Act if their colonies are infected, if left unchecked AFB will eventually kill all the hives in an apiary and will spread to other hives within flying distance. “I expect to find AFB exists at subclinical levels in many hives and that while bees are able to manage those levels, environmental factors like stress and human influence such as pesticides can cause the disease to become pathogenic,” Needham said. The research involved collecting more than 1,000 samples over 5 months along with laboratory work to monitor seasonal patterns and AFB prevalence in the Riverina. Needham is now finalising results and aims to finish the report by her July graduation. “The prospect of publishing a scientific article on a subject I’m passionate about makes all the work completely worth it, it’s amazing seeing it come to fruition,” the 23-year-old said. Needham “fell into apiculture” after joining the Wagga Wagga Bee Keeping Club to learn about the only insect that produces food for human consumption. “I thought it would be a great hobby but it turned into a passion,” she said. “Bees are incredibly fascinating creatures with complex lives. Their world is dictated by smells and seeing ultraviolet; it’s so different from ours.” The NSW Department of Primary Industry supported Needham’s project alongside CSU staff including Veterinary Pathology Lecturer, Andrew Peters, who ensured experiments were correctly designed and the scientific process understood.  “Tara’s research is very significant to the future of this area in agriculture and vet science. Bees are economically and agriculturally valuable, the importance of their health should not be underestimated,” Peters said. Roughly 65 per cent of Australian agricultural production depends on pollination by honey bees, seeing their services valued between $4-6 billion. With more than 3,000 registered beekeepers and over 200,000 hives, NSW is Australia’s largest beekeeping state contributing approximately 40-45 per cent of the national honey crop. “It’s great that young vets are supported by programs like the RAS Foundation Rural Scholarship because it gives them the ability to explore emerging and niche needs within agricultural industries, Australian biosecurity and vet health,” Peters said. RAS Foundation Rural Scholarships assist individuals whose career aspirations benefit rural and regional NSW communities. More than 350 scholarships have been awarded since its inception in 2011 totalling over $1.7 million. Needham was one of 58 scholarship recipients in 2016, which covered her textbooks, apiary equipment and study placement travel costs. “The support of the RAS Foundation has been invaluable,” she said. “I’ve networked with other recipients and was able to dedicate myself to finishing my degree to my full potential without financial stress.” Executive Officer of the RAS Foundation, Kate Ross, said the scholarship re an initiative designed to ensure an increased flow of skilled people to rural and regional NSW communities. “Scholarships support our mission to build strong, sustainable communities by providing vital funding to rural-minded students working towards their educational goals,” Ross said. “We choose students who are passionate about their local communities and have the energy, skills and enthusiasm NSW country areas need to remain sustainable,” Ross said. Applications for the 2018 Rural Scholarships open on 1 August and close 30 September 2017 http://www.rasnsw.com.au/foundation/scholarships-and-grants/ras-rural-scholarships/ Read more

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

$96,000 IN GRANTS SUPPORT REGIONAL NSW COMMUNITIES

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

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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