In 1993, a group of individuals from a cross section of the Boorowa community in New South Wales established the Boorowa Education Foundation.
The Foundation’s purpose was to support and encourage school leavers within the Boorowa community to pursue their new careers or studies. Through a membership and subscription system, the Boorowa Education Foundation set about raising funds that it could use to provide financial assistance to students who, without this assistance, may not go on to achieve their goals.
Mr Nick Burton Taylor, the inaugural and current President of the Boorowa Education Foundation said, "It was a very powerful message we wanted to give our young people: that their community was supportive of them taking that next step. We wanted to help minimise the stresses that may be involved."
In the first year the Boorowa Education Foundation raised $5,000 and provided ‘Community Scholarships’ to five students leaving school to start their careers or continue with their studies.
It was not long before similar Foundations were operating in the surrounding towns of Yass, Cowra and Harden. Mr Burton Taylor, who is now the Chairman of the Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEFA) recalled, "Very early on it became evident that what we’d done in Boorowa had attracted interest in surrounding communities who had similar needs. So we designed a very simple program that was adaptable to each of the individual communities. And in 1998 we set up the Country Education Foundation of Australia to act as an umbrella organisation to help those communities get started and, once they were started, to help sustain the resources and enthusiasm for continuing the work. In 2003 we became an Australian company and we now have 45 regional Foundations and Groups located in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory."
In communities where Foundations have been operating for some years, there is a real understanding and appreciation of their purpose and the results they achieve. Sarah Taylor, CEFA's Executive Officer pointed out, "As each year passes, the understanding of what we do, what we are about and what we have achieved for the community increases."
Jonathan Forrest from the Monaro Education Foundation commented on the need for a regional foundation, “I think that particularly for an area like this where there is not a university close by an Education Foundation is critical because the students have costs that people in the metropolitan areas don’t necessarily have if they are living at home and going to university, TAFE or to work. It’s just that extra bit of help and support to get them off to uni…In an area such as the Monaro, we’re pretty reliant on the rural economy and tourism. A poor run of years, as we have had on the rural side of things, or even a bad ski season can mean that parents can struggle in affording to send their kids off to gain further education."
"For us to be here to help facilitate students going on to further study and work opportunities can make a big difference. Some of our students wouldn’t have been able to afford to go off to further their education or access the vocation of their choice if it wasn’t for the help that their local Education Foundation can give them...Probably the most important thing to these rural students is the community support. The financial support makes a big difference but having the support of the community is a big help as well,” Mr Forrest said.
Ms Taylor concluded, "As communities, we are each responsible for our future success, prosperity and sustainability. We need to ensure that we create and maintain a positive and supportive environment that shows our youth that we believe in them and support them in achieving their hopes, dreams and aspirations. The Country Education Foundation of Australia is a powerful and proven way of achieving this."