ABCN Foundation announces 35 new Accelerate scholarship awards

Applications for our 2020 Accelerate scholarship program peaked at a record high this year – almost double those of last year – a stark reminder of the deep need for our support in low socio-economic status communities.
A male mentor wearing a checkered shirt is looking kindly at a male student. The student has his back to the camera.
Accelerate is a three-year mentoring and financial program for exceptional yet disadvantaged students.

We are grateful that funder support enabled us to increase our intake from previous years to address this demand and as a result, 35 bright and deserving young students will start the program in 2021.

One of our successful applicants, Jamila*, was only nine when ISIS came to her village in Iraq. She remembers the choice they had to make as a family – staying meant torture or death, and leaving meant starting over, not knowing where. Terrified, and with minutes to spare, the family scrambled into their car, leaving everything behind – their home, school, community and money – destination unknown.

For many years, the family was in limbo, living in a refugee camp, with no clean water, no school and not enough food. While grateful to be granted entry to Australia in 2017, they then faced new challenges.

‘Everything was different: the language, the people, the places … everything,’ says Jamila. ‘It was a new start, and I was grateful for it, but it was far from easy. I didn’t know the language and, for a long while, I felt invisible.’

Despite arriving in Australia with no English, Jamila is now in the top 5% of her cohort, and also tutors other students who are struggling with the language.

‘I want to make a difference in society by working as part of the Australian community,’ she says. ‘I want to be an advocate for other students from disadvantaged backgrounds so they know no matter what, to stay strong, stay patient, and to believe that their hard work will pay off. This scholarship will be an opportunity for me to be the first in my family to go to university.’

Refugees make up half of applicants

Of our 2020 applications, 48% were refugees like Jamila. Over 30% have parents with an education level below Year 12, 23% had suffered traumatic experiences and 15% live in precarious housing.

Accelerate is a three-year mentoring and financial program for exceptional yet disadvantaged students. Successful applicants receive a unique combination of one-on-one corporate mentoring support and financial assistance over Years 11, 12 and their first year of tertiary studies or training.

‘Once again, selecting this year’s scholarship winners was difficult, and provided a strong indication of the immense challenges many Australians are facing,’ says ABCN Foundation Chair, Mike Hawker. ‘I hope for those students selected it will make a substantive difference in helping them to reach their potential.’

Not surprisingly, Victorian students made up a greater proportion of applicants than in previous years, reflecting the particularly tough circumstances faced by Victorian families in lockdown due to COVID-19. Targeted funding for Victorian students allowed us to increase our focus in this state, with Victorian students representing 46% of scholarship awards. Other targeted scholarships were offered to First Nations, female, NESB/refugee, LGBTQI and Western Australian students.

Successful recipients will be honoured at a national online event on 26 November.

* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.

Our scholarships are wholly reliant on funding from the corporate sector, philanthropic foundations and generous individuals. We would like to acknowledge the following supporters who have made our 2020 scholarships possible:


Bank of Melbourne, Citi Pride Network, Investec, KPMG, Microsoft (Brian Glasgow Memorial Scholarship), Navitas, Optus, Stockland, TAL.

Trusts and Foundations

Fogarty Foundation, Harold Mitchell Foundation, James N Kirby Foundation, JIBB Family Foundation, Matana Foundation for Young People, Miss M K A Bell Memorial Fund, Oliver-Affleck Fund, Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, William Buckland Foundation.

Major Donors

Mike Hawker AM, Tony Macvean, Paul O’Sullivan, Rob Priestly, Matthew Quinn, Mary Reemst, Stephen Roberts, Robert Sindel, Guy Templeton, Carla Zampatti AC, Helen Zimmerman.

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