Audi Foundation CEF Alumni Awards

Celebrating the achievements of past and present Country Education Foundation students.

Graduating is just the beginning of a student’s journey with the Country Education Foundation, the recent Audi Foundation CEF Alumni Awards recognising the tremendous, ongoing achievements of these outstanding individuals.

Felicity Bonello

26 November, 2021

Geographical location, cost of relocating and the  emotional weight of leaving a small town all create obstacles that are peculiar to those living in regional areas

Although young Australians in rural and remote areas are every bit as bright and ambitious as those living in metropolitan centres, when it comes to higher education, training and jobs, too often, many of them are missing out. The reality is that to shape a career or undertake further education these young Australians often face myriad challenges as a result of their geographical situation.

Distance to metropolitan tertiary prospects, the financial burden that comes with relocating interstate to study, and the social and emotional weight of leaving a very small town all create obstacles that are peculiar to those living in regional areas, and that’s where the Country Education Foundation (CEF) steps in to help bridge the gap.

CEF is a thriving support system designed to empower students across rural and regional Australia to aspire beyond secondary school, to higher education and a flourishing career. ‘Through community-based encouragement and financial assistance’, CEF’s local foundations across the country are run by community volunteers all with one thing in common – a passion for seeing rural and regional youth succeed, and since its humble beginning in 1993, they have helped over 6000 students on their way to further education, training, and careers.  

But graduating is just the beginning of a student’s journey with CEF. On receipt of a scholarship or grant, recipients automatically become a member of the CEF Alumni which opens a range of benefits from mentoring and networking opportunities to speaker events. 

While some CEF Alumni venture back to regional communities on completion of their study, others go on to become makers of change within their newfound communities. Regardless of where their personal journeys may take them though, their collective achievements new celebrated each year through the Audi Foundation – CEF Alumni Awards. 

The Audi Foundation has partnered with CEF since 2017, donating more than $350,000 over that time to support the CEF in its ongoing programs. “In 2021 alone, despite the challenges of COVID, our funding has included 28 scholarships for rural and regional CEF supported students to pursue their post-school education,” Paul Sansom, Audi Australia Managing Director and Chairman of the Audi Foundation said on the night. 

“In addition, we are proud to support the annual Alumni Awards which acknowledge the wonderful achievements of our young rural and regional people. This year there were over 50 award nominations for the five award categories.”

“The awards are an opportunity for our past and present students to be recognised by volunteers, families, their community and the CEF network for their vast and amazing achievements in the time that they’ve completed their studies, and an opportunity for them to learn from each other. It’s a real celebration of their achievements,” explains Juliet Petersen, CEO for the Country Education Foundation.

Understandably award recipients are overwhelmed when acknowledged and nominated as part of such an esteemed group of people, but a powerful part of this is that they’ve been recognised within their community, by their community once again. 

This year there were over 50 award nominations for the five award categories

Juliet Petersen, Country Education Foundation CEO.
Paul Sansom, Audi Australia Managing Director and Chairman of the Audi Foundation.

While COVID-19 made it impossible to hold a face-to-face event, the 2021 Audi Foundation CEF Alumni Awards were held virtually this year

“It always comes back to our community model and at awards time there’s been someone from their locality who’s acknowledged them and understood that what they’ve done is really impressive and something they should be proud of,” says Juliet. “Our award recipients are so grateful for the support that was offered to them all those years ago. Whether it was three or twenty-three years ago, they speak of those very first efforts of support they received when they were navigating their way through leaving school. It’s very moving.”

Equally, the awards offer a congratulatory sentiment to the individual volunteers who advocated for the former high school graduates, now-award winners too. “It’s a really nice time for reflection for the volunteers as well. They’re rewarded when they can see they’re really making a difference to the lives of these incredible people. It’s not just the winners, the nominees and their families, it’s very much a reminder of the fabulous work from our volunteers as well,” says Juliet. 

While COVID-19 made it impossible to hold a face-to-face event, the 2021 Audi Foundation – CEF Alumni Awards were held virtually with the online event providing grant recipients, volunteers, families, and passionate stakeholders the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of more than 6000 rural and regional youth.

On closer inspection of this year’s deserving winners, it’s clear to see that CEF is a living example of the incredible social change that can take place when a whole community acknowledges the value of their people and the benefit of their capacity to dream for a career.

The 2021 Winners

With over 1000 unique views of the live stream event, viewers tuned in to watch the announcement of the evening’s five winners – selected by a panel of judges. 

Taking home, the big prize at this year’s Audi Foundation – CEF Alumni Awards, Kimberly Becker was named the 2021 CEF Alumnus of the Year. While Kimberly is currently completing her PhD at the University of Oxford, she was supported by CEF’s Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation from 2014-2017 while studying a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics) at the University of Adelaide. A passionate and dedicated supporter and advocate for women in STEM, Kimberly believes the strength of the CEF alumni network shows the positive impact a student can have on their local community, no matter where they end up.

Jemma Burrell is the deserving winner of the Audi Foundation – CEF Community Alumni Champion Award. Initially supported by the Coonamble & District Education Foundation from 2009-2010, Jemma received a Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology) from Charles Sturt University. Today, the mother of three lives with her family in Gilgandra and supports the local community through her speech pathology practice and her recently opened Little Windmill and Yoga Wellness centre.

Kimberly Becker – 2021 CEF Alumnus of the Year.
Jemma Burrell – Audi Foundation - CEF Community Alumni Champion Award.

A self-professed country kid from Cooma, Brianna Kerr is this year’s Audi Foundation – CEF Young Achiever Award recipient.  Supported by CEF Snowy Monaro from 2015-2018, Brianna received a Bachelor of International Studies/Bachelor of Media from the University of New south Wales (UNSW) and believes that “change can occur when you invest in a person who might be limited in resources but certainly not in passion.”

On receiving a 2021 grant from the Shoalhaven Education Fun, Alex Nurdin is currently in his first year at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), studying a Bachelor of Medical Science. The recipient of this year’s Audi Foundation – CEF Rising Star Award, Axel believes that “true achievement is trying to become a better version of yourself every day.” 

And finally, the deserving winner of the 2021 Audi Foundation – CEF Launching Star Award, Cody Logan is the first of his family to go to university and hopes to improve the health outcomes of those in regional communities in the future’. Supported by CEF Orange and Districts since 2019, Cody is in his final year of a Bachelor of Paramedicine at the Charles Sturt University Bathurst Campus. 

Congratulations to all of this year's nominees and winners and to all of those who work tirelessly to make this programs a reality.

Brianna Kerr – Audi Foundation - CEF Young Achiever Award.
Alex Nurdin – Audi Foundation - CEF Rising Star Award.
Cody Logan – Audi Foundation - CEF Launching Star Award.