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Helping country kids get to uni

Ahead of Wind Farm Open Day, Andrew Bray from the Australian Wind Alliance chatted with wind farm landholder, Peter Coy, about the tertiary education scholarship his family is establishing with the support of the Salt Creek Wind Farm.

Growing up in the country with its freedom and open spaces can be something country kids cherish and carry with them for life. But good educational opportunities can be harder to come by for them and their families.

Making the jump to tertiary education is one of the big challenges for young students living outside the main cities. Many need to move away from home to attend university and this can be prohibitively expensive. The newly established Salt Creek Charitable Trust aims to help young people from the Woorndoo area in Western Victoria with this important step in their lives by providing an annual $30,000 scholarship.

Established by the Coy family, who own the Salt Creek Merino Stud in Woorndoo, the Trust is also supported by Tilt Renewables, who built, and now operate the Salt Creek Wind Farm on the Coy’s property.

The wind farm commenced operation in July 2018 and generates enough renewable electricity to supply 30,000 homes every year. It will be open for the public to visit on Sunday, 21st October, as part of Wind Farm Open Day, which will see ten wind farms across the country open their gates to the public.

Country Kids Go To Uni Peter Coy
Peter Coy with is sheepdog Claire. Image credit: Emily Wilson Photography

Peter Coy is the third generation of his family to produce premium-quality fine merino wool for global sale at Salt Creek, which has operated for 113 years. He has a long history of involvement in the town’s community organisations, including as long-time Captain of the Woorndoo Fire Brigade, the Public Hall committee, Primary School committee, the Gymkhana and now even the Cemetery committee.

“It’s a lovely area here and our family’s done very well out of farming,” said Peter. “We’ve long been active in the community so I’ve always wanted to leave some sort of legacy.”

“When the wind farm started to become a reality and we saw the possibility of regular income regardless of whether it rains, we thought of the idea of a scholarship.”

“I’ve experienced enough droughts and commodity collapses to be wary of saddling my children with an obligation that could very well be too much for them to honour. The establishment of a wind farm on Salt Creek with a guaranteed rental income for 25 years plus, offered us the opportunity to do this and the security of an ongoing return which we are able to share with the community.”

The Coy family decided to gift rental payments from one of the turbines on their property to the Trust. Tilt Renewables stepped in at this point, offering to match the donation, bringing the total value of the scholarship to $30,000, increasing with CPI, each year for 25 years.

The scholarship targets potential scholars who might not be able to manage a tertiary education due to the costs of living away from home and of supporting themselves close to their chosen place of study.

“Whilst kids that grow up in the country are lucky in so many ways, once they turn 18 and contemplate tertiary education they are at an enormous disadvantage to their city counterparts.

“Anyone living here knows that tertiary education is expensive. Kids deserve to get a good education. It’s important to give them a chance because sometimes they don’t get it.

Applicants are selected on the basis of personal qualities and demonstrated leadership as well as academic ability. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed and successful candidates announced. Potential recipients could choose to study at University, an Agricultural College or even at TAFE. The Trust plans to announce its first recipient of the scholarship in January, in time for the academic year in 2019. A website is being prepared where applications will be accepted.

“We’ll be in touch with all the high schools in the local area to make sure any student who might be able to take up this opportunity knows about it”, Peter said.

Peter explains that the focus of the scholarship is on providing opportunities for local students, regardless of their plans post-study.

“Some kids will come home after study and bring that experience with them, some won’t. Our hope is that this scholarship can help country kids achieve their potential.”

Find out more about the Salt Creek Scholarship.