The scholarships, worth $2,500 each, are designed to encourage the next generation of nursing and allied health professionals from rural communities.
The winners are, from left, Sammy-Jo Sly from Cullulleraine, a nursing student on the Mildura Campus, Claire Hammond from Woodglen, a dentistry student at the Bendigo Campus and Elizabeth Kemper from Boorool, an audiology student on the Melbourne Campus.
They will receive Royal Flying Doctor experience as well as cash payments to help them cover the costs of their first year at university.
RFDS Victoria CEO, Scott Chapman, congratulated the Give Them Wings winners, describing them as role models for other country students interested in health careers.
“We’re delighted to give these students a flying start at university in that crucial first year of study,” he said. “They represent the future of rural health.”
Rural Health Workforce Australia CEO, Greg Mundy, said the scholarships recognised the importance of country students in helping to reduce Australia’s rural health workforce shortages.
“We need more nurses and allied health professionals in the bush,” he said. “They have a critical role to play in caring for country people.”
The Give Them Wings scholarship program is generously supported by the volunteer fundraising activities of the Bayside Auxiliary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria.
An Aspire student growing up in Cullulleraine has given Sammy-Jo Sly an appreciation of small town life. And when it comes to country towns in Victoria, they don’t come much smaller than Cullulleraine, 56km west of Mildura.
With a population of 50, it’s no surprise that Sammy-Jo knows everyone – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” she says, with a hint of pride. “We have a real community here and Lake Cullulleraine is just stunning.”
Just down the road is Werrimull, where Sammy-Jo was one of only two VCE students at the local school. Here she developed a passion for biology, which, combined with her love of working with people, led to an interest in nursing.
“Nursing really appeals because I’ll be able to comfort, support and help others on a daily basis,” she says.
Sammy-Jo was thrilled to be accepted into the Bachelor of Nursing course at La Trobe University’s Mildura campus.
And her transition to university has just been made easier with the Give Them Wings scholarship.
This is a welcome bonus for Sammy-Jo, who has never been afraid of hard work in order to pay her way. One of her regular jobs is at the Lake Cullulleraine Store, which serves the many tourists who flock to the picturesque area over summer to enjoy water-skiing, canoeing and sailing.
Above all, she is keen to pursue a career in rural Victoria. “I love the feeling of being part of a tight-knit community and I’m excited about the impact my job as a nurse will have on people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Claire Hammond wants to help make dentistry more accessible and affordable for rural communities.
Growing up in the Lindenow Valley near Bairnsdale, she became interested in the profession during routine check-ups as well as trips to the orthodontist when she had braces.
“The joy of changing a person’s life by creating a beautiful, healthy smile that brightens up the whole room is unquestionably the biggest reward of a dentist,” she says.
“And the thought of being able to help those in need with choice of health professional often crosses my mind.”
Claire is a first year dentistry student at La Trobe University in Bendigo but her true home is East Gippsland, where her family runs a farm at Woodglen, a stone’s throw from the Mitchell River.
She was the local primary school captain, one of the student leaders at Nagle College in Bairnsdale and used to be a boundary umpire in the East Gippsland Junior Football League.
Her passion is horse riding, competing in events since the age of seven. She has also represented East Gippsland in state championships for dressage and show jumping.
As a member of the fourth generation of her family from the Lindenow Valley, she is proud of her heritage and determined to make a difference.
Rural Australia needs more audiologists, and Elizabeth Kemper wants to be one of them.
Having grown up on the family dairy farm at Boorool in South Gippsland, she knows about the challenges country people face when it comes to their health.
“Personally, I like living in the country and the community feel of town life,” she says. “That makes me passionate about helping people access the specialist medical services they need – within their own communities.
“I have first-hand experience of having to travel to receive specialist care, as I have a mild hearing loss and the closest paediatric audiologist is an hour and a half drive away.”
Elizabeth, a first year audiology student at La Trobe University in Bundoora, plans to work in rural Victoria once she graduates. She is particularly interested in paediatric audiology and the role it can play in helping children develop socially, overcome learning difficulties and boosting self-esteem.
She has also joined the LARHC Rural Health Club at La Trobe, looking to connect with other students who share her commitment to rural health. LARHC is one of 28 clubs that belong to the National Rural Health Student Network.
Elizabeth wants to thank all those who have made possible this scholarship. “The money they have raised will definitely help me and the other Give Them Wings winners.”
Images credit: Rural Health Workforce Australia