Latest Churchill Fellows named

26 Jul, 2000 03:01 PM

THE final event in a process that started with 106 applications for Churchill Fellowships was held in Perth last week when 13 successful West Australians were presented with their Awards. Among these were several primary industry projects, including the processing and marketing of carob beans, development of Australian flora and indigenous education. The applications were assessed by nine specialist advisory committees, which resulted in 20 being shortlisted for interview by the WA Regional Committee, with the final number being determined by the quality of the applicants and the funding available from the Churchill Trust to finance the study tours. Apart from having a passion about their chosen subject, applicants must be able to show that they need to travel overseas to find the information they need and that, on their return, the community will also derive some benefit from their studies. The primary industry applicants have quite a good record of success, although country people often seek fellowships under different categories and not all primary industry applicants are from the country. George and Sue Matchett travelled from Geraldton for the official announcement of George's success in obtaining a Churchill Fellowship to study the processing and marketing of the carob bean. George is a local schoolteacher, but he also has a property nearby where he grows most of the 10,000 carob trees that can be found in the Geraldton region. Although the pod is used extensively to produce a chocolate substitute and the beans produce a valuable food gum, Australia imports all its current requirements. The tree also has a "pretty good" tolerance for saline water and has the ability to help farmers overcome salinity problems while also providing a cash crop. George will be travelling to Spain and Italy to examine local marketing systems as well as checking out the machinery used for harvesting and processing Two other Churchill Fellows for 2000 are Mark Webb, Perth, and Suzanne Cooper, Narrogin, who were both in attendance for the official announcement of their successes. Mark is a horticulturist, formerly with Agriculture WA from Albany and now working for the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, an organisation that he would like to see take a more active role in developing Australia's unique flora. He started the Australian Petunia Project, not to grow that floral import, but to make Australian plants as attractive and accessible as petunias. He will be visiting botanic gardens in the US, Canada, South Africa and Israel to learn how they have developed and commercialised the plants from their area ‹ and others. He would like to alter the current situation where the US and Israel have far more experience at commercialising Australia's 25,000 unique plant species. Suzanne Cooper is the acting curriculum improvement manager in the Narrogin Education office, an area that stretches through Hyden, Lake Grace, Broomehill, Williams and Corrigin. Her particular interest is in developing a program for gifted indigenous students, similar to but separate from other arrangements that cater for mainstream gifted students. She believes very strongly that the indigenous students need that sort of assistance, but also one that helps them to make the transition through tertiary education and into the workforce. Suzanne will be visiting selected schools, tertiary institutions and government departments in the US and Canada, where they have had experience in operating such programs for their indigenous students.


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