There's much to love about country life: fresh air and wide-open spaces; close-knit communities and that certain breed of hospitality found only in a country pub. But if you're a young person living in a regional, rural or remote area, life can be less idyllic when it comes to education.
In fact, young people living in the country are amongst Australia's most disadvantaged when it comes to further education and training.
Twenty one year old Ashley Nielsen knows first-hand about the struggles country kids can face. Growing up Ashley had a tough home life, with mental illness and addiction a reality for her and her brothers. She experienced hunger, homelessness and even grief. Despite these difficulties, Ashley always loved school and learning.
"For a long time I was ashamed of my upbringing. I looked back on my primary years and felt embarrassed. I was the kid in the classroom with the dirty shoes and socks. But I loved my teachers. I had so much going on at home, that to be able to go to school and have someone to talk to about it, made me feel safe"Ashley Nielsen
Those teachers inspired Ashley to become a teacher herself. She is now in her second year of a teaching degree at the University of Newcastle. In a few years she will be a primary school teacher and hopes to return to a regional area to help the next generation of country kids succeed.
Through our partnership with the Country Education Foundation, Ashley received a grant to help with the cost of text books, rent and food. "I ended up in hospital during my first year at uni because I wasn't eating, because I couldn't afford to eat" recalls Ashley, who says the financial support has provided her with some much-needed stability in her life.
We have gifted more than $1 million to the Country Education Foundation, to help country kids like Ashley get a better deal when it comes to education.