Well-known for its support of rural university students, the Country Education Foundation also supports an increasing number of tradies. 

Story Ken Eastwood   

Alice Springs resident Timothy Button grew up with a love of aircraft. “My grandfather, dad and brother all are in the Airforce, and I have been flying since I was a baby, in a car seat strapped in the back of the plane,” he says. “I have always had a strong draw to aviation due to this.”

So, after graduating from St Philips College two years ago, he began an apprenticeship as an aircraft engineer with Central Australia company Aircraft Engineering NT, which services and repairs many of the light planes used on stations. “We’re based in Alice and most of the time people come to us,” Timothy says. “But sometimes a plane will break down and we’ll have to travel out bush to repair it.”

Timothy works for the company five days a week, and occasionally travels to Darwin or Cairns for trade school at TAFE for a week or more to complete his requirements for a Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical). “There’s still heaps to learn,” he says. “It’s been really eye-opening and it’s never the same thing coming in the door.”

Like almost 7,000 people over the past 29 years, Timothy has received a grant from the Country Education Foundation (CEF). The foundation has 44 local foundations in five states and territories. 

Through small grants of up to $3,000, CEF has handed out $15 million to support rural students in their studies. Most of these are first-year university students, but thanks to a large anonymous donation, more and more tradies are being supported, from plumbers to hairdressers.

This story excerpt is from Issue #143

Outback Magazine: June/July 2022