Brianna Kerr believes investing in a person who might be limited in resources, but not in passion, can help make their dreams come true.
As the Snowy Monaro region’s Audi Foundation – Country Education Foundation Young Achiever of the Year, Brianna completed a Bachelor of International Studies/Bachelor of Media at the University of NSW.
She was the first in her family to go to university and proudly says her sister followed in her footsteps not long after.
Growing up in Cooma, Brianna always enjoyed the academic side of school at Monaro High and, after completing year 12, she took a year away from the books to work and save enough money to head to Sydney to study.
She worked three jobs, seven days a week – Snowy Hydro during the day, Rose’s Mediterranean Restaurant in the evenings, and Birdsnest clothing store on weekends – during this time to make her dream come true.
For the self-professed country girl, making the big move to the city wasn’t easy.
“Looking back, I think moving to Sydney at the beginning of 2015 was one of my proudest moments,” says Brianna.
She wants young rural and regional students to know they can achieve anything they set their mind to. Brianna knows from experience that the road may not be straightforward, and it will definitely be hard, but it is worth it.
“There are so many country kids out there kicking goals and contributing to their communities in lots of different ways,” she says.
When it comes to leaving home, Brianna encourages country youth to ‘reach out to those in your community who have done it before you’.
Brianna says she is humbled to receive the Audi Foundation – Country Education Foundation Young Achiever of the Year Award for 2021.
“I am so grateful the committee believed in me, and so lucky a foundation like this exists,” she says.
“Connecting with others in the network creates opportunities for collaboration and experience sharing.”
Brianna has worked for a number of overseas organisations in places such as India, Indonesia and Malawi.
She has co-designed global internship courses for students in Australia, and has delivered free workshops on ethical volunteering.
In 2018, during the final year of her degree, Brianna co-founded Kua, a social enterprise that specialises in world positive coffee with 100 per cent of profits going to environmental initiatives in Uganda, where the coffee is grown.
She consults for The World Bank and travelled to Berlin in 2019 to represent Australia at the Global Solutions Summit as a G20 Young Global Changer. She was invited back in 2020 as an ambassador.
In 2020, Brianna was awarded one of 15 national Westpac Future Leaders scholarships to study her Master’s of Human Rights at the University of Sydney.
She has now almost finished her Master’s, and while the past two years have been very disrupted and difficult due to COVID-19, she is excited to focus solely on growing Kua during the next couple of years.
Ulladulla’s Axel Nurdin took out the Audi Foundation – CEF Rising Star Award via the Shoalhaven Education Fund (SEF).
The former Ulladulla High School student completed his HSC in 2020, and is now studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of NSW.
A quiet achiever, Axel desires to be a lifetime learner and says he is surprised how much he has developed during his first year at university, albeit during difficult COVID-19 times.
“I am passionate about balancing and optimising life, whether it’s personal, academic, extracurricular or work,” he says.
“I love learning about how to properly learn as efficiently as possible so I focused on ‘learning how to learn’ more than simply ‘studying for uni’.”
Axel says the Country Education Foundation grant has helped with accommodation costs.
“I remember looking at university accommodation and realising how expensive living in Sydney would be,” he says.
“From there I started catastrophising about how many hours of work per week I need to do, how can I balance it, what will be the best way moving forward, and a lot of thinking.
“When I received my grant from SEF, it helped tremendously.”
Axel moved to Ulladulla when he was 11 years old, and he believes the Country Education Foundation helps rural and regional students overcome the obstacles faced when pursuing their goals, while the foundation’s alumni network helps country kids connect and network.
Award winners were announced during an online event held on 23 October, 2021.
Country Education Foundation chief executive officer Juliet Petersen says she is thrilled with the momentum the awards have gained since their inception in 2018.
“The level of engagement from not only our foundations, but our communities and the friends and families of our recipients this year has just been extraordinary,” she says.
“We received more than 50 nominations across the five categories, which is testament to the talent and dedication of our rural and regional youth, and the impact they have on the lives of others.”
Audi Foundation has partnered with the Country Education Foundation since its establishment in 2017, supporting rural and regional youth to access post-school education.
Audi Foundation chairman Paul Sansom says the foundation will continue to partner with the Country Education Foundation for another two years.