It is always uplifting and rewarding to attend the scholarship award ceremonies at the various universities. This year we also had the opportunity to spend a bit more time with our GAF Scholars at Murdoch University, Griffith University and The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies at Queensland University of Technology (ACPNS). In each instance, I came away from our meetings impressed by the calibre of the scholars and delighted by their excitement at having been selected to receive a GAF Scholarship.
The strong message from scholars was that receiving a GAF Scholarship helped build their confidence and belief in their ability to achieve and set bigger goals in the future. The ethos of George Alexander inspires our scholars to reach their full potential, both academically and personally. Scholars at Griffith University commented on the benefits of the leadership opportunities that have been available to them.
The George Alexander Foundation Scholarship Program at ACPNS is for students in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors. The program commenced in 2013 and is the Foundation’s only scholarship program that supports postgraduate students.
Many of the students are either returning to study, come from volunteer organisations and backgrounds or are currently working within the non-profit sector and are looking to build on their skills. In many cases, they attempt to balance study with significant volunteering contributions and employment. These scholarships make the return to study much more viable for the individuals, and we see it as an important investment in the future success of these growing sectors of the community and the economy.
I continue to be inspired by the achievements of so many GAF fellows and scholars. Vicki Abraham received a GAF Fellowship through our program with the International Specialised Skills Institute. Vicki is an experienced occupational therapist who travelled to the USA, Germany, Austria and Israel to learn about constraint-induced movement therapy as a way of helping people who have suffered strokes or acquired traumatic brain injury. As a result of her study trip, she has set up a private upper limb rehabilitation clinic focusing on robotic/computer-based therapy and Constraint Induced Therapy.
There are many examples that underscore both the calibre and diversity of GAF scholars. Marli Lopez-Hope, a GAF scholar from Swinburne University, was one of two people selected from almost 2,000 applicants from 52 countries to travel to Antarctica with Air New Zealand and National Geographic. Marli assisted National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards and their work helped draw worldwide attention to scientific research in the Antarctic. Meanwhile, Cassie MacKenzie from The Gordon Institute of TAFE was a finalist in the 2014 Victorian Vocational Student of the Year Award and won the Princeps Shield for the Most Outstanding Diploma Student 2014.
I have no doubt that George Alexander, who often said that the students the Foundation supported would become his greatest legacy, would be greatly reassured by the stories and achievements of GAF Scholars, both past and present. We look forward to watching the progress of this year’s intake and feel confident that they will continue the tradition of achievement and dedication that is the hallmark of the students in all the GAF programs around the country.
Chief Executive Officer