The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation awarded 70 scholarships to help rural tertiary students this year. The Nelson triplets from the Riverina in NSW got three of them

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photo Monde Photo

As soon as they’re through the gates at the bustling Sydney Royal Easter Show Kate, Phoebe and Tim Nelson make a beeline for the arts and crafts pavilion. Forget the constant action in the main arena, the district produce displays, the cats, dogs, canaries, cattle and sheep, wood-chopping, sideshow alley and sample bags … as far as they’re concerned, the arts and crafts pavilion is the most important place in the showground. 

This may only be the second time the triplets have attended the show in person, but they’ve been in it for as long as they can remember – ever since they were old enough to thread a needle and operate a sewing machine. So, checking out the competition in the sewing section is a high priority for the 18-year-olds from Tooleybuc, population 250-odd, located on the Murray River in the western Riverina.

Attending the 2021 Sydney show had an extra layer of excitement for the siblings because they were recently awarded scholarships by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) to assist with the cost of their first year of tertiary education. 

This year, the RASF awarded 70 scholarships to NSW and ACT university, TAFE and college students who demonstrated a passion for the bush and a commitment to careers that ensure the future success of rural and regional communities. A second round of VET (vocational education and training) scholarships will be released later in the year. Successful scholars receive $6000 for full-time study or $3000 for part-time.

It’s a much-appreciated leg-up for the next generation of country doctors, physios and teachers, not to mention fitters and turners, tourism, hospitality and health-care workers. 

For Tim, Kate and Phoebe, receiving RASF scholarships allowed them to move to Albury, where they live with their grandmother while they attend Charles Sturt University. Tim is studying for a Bachelor of Nursing, while Kate and Phoebe are each undertaking a Bachelor of Education. “It means we can pay proper board while we live with our grandmother,” Kate explains. “Our parents earn just a small amount more than the cut-off for government support, so even though there are three of us, it means we don’t qualify for any financial assistance. So, the scholarships really are a lifesaver for us.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #137

Outback Magazine: June/July 2021