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Matthew Evans named Namoi Valley’s 2024 AFF Scholarship Program winner

Matthew Evans

Article courtesy of the Narrabri Courier -March 28, 2024

Narrabri’s Matthew Evans said he was thrilled but surprised to receive the news he had been selected as a recipient of the prestigious Australian Food and Fibre scholarship program.

“I was at Nutrien working and I got a phone call, I was very happy – I automatically called my mother and when I told her, I don’t think she believed it either, but we were very happy,” he told The Courier.

The former Narrabri High School student’s selection for the highly sought after scholarship won’t come as a surprise to many readers, who would have followed Matthew’s school success over the years including awards for leadership, teamwork, dedication to agriculture, and his top HSC results in the subject of Industrial Technology after he produced an outstanding project – a working full-size cattle ramp.

Being named the Namoi Valley’s 2024 AFF scholarship winner is another feather in Matthew’s cap, and his passion and potential in the agricultural sector is recognised alongside fellow recipients Kaitlyn Cosgrove from the Macquarie Valley, Bailey Harrod from the Barwon-Darling and Darci Masters from the Murrumbidgee Valley.

AFF is a grower, processor and exporter of cotton and has farming and ginning facilities operating in NSW’s cotton growing valleys.

Every year, AFF supports a new crop of country students in their chosen fields of study, selecting a recipient from each of AFF’s operating regions.

The AFF scholarship program continues a long-standing and respected community initiative that was previously known as the Auscott Education Scholarship.

The scholarship assists students to meet their non-tuition costs such as accommodation, books, and other living expenses, totalling up to $11,500 per year over the duration of their studies.

Matthew, who has started an Engineering degree majoring in Agriculture at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba said the scholarship will be an ‘immense help’ while he studies and lives away from home.

“I was so excited and appreciative to win the scholarship,” he said.

“It took me a couple of minutes to process that I’ll have that kind of help throughout my degree.

“It’s taken so much pressure off – I know I won’t have to split my time studying with working to pay for my accommodation and textbooks which will be a huge help.

“It’ll take a big weight off my shoulders.”

When he completes his degree, Matthew hopes to return to his country roots in the Narrabri region and work as an agricultural engineer.

“Narrabri and Wee Waa have some of the country’s biggest cotton producers,” he said.

“There’s a lot of action happening at home and the industry is going to keep improving over the next decade.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and I’d like to be a part of the innovation.

“I’m studying a four-year course, I’ve just started, fresh out of high school so hopefully once I’ve finished I can come back to the area and find employment with a company around here whether that be Australian Food and Fibre or Cotton Seed Distributors or somewhere else local, there’s agricultural engineering companies in Gunnedah, something around the area would be good.

“I think with the cotton industry growing and the introduction of autonomous robot sprayers and all that kind of stuff, agricultural engineering is going be a big thing coming into the future.

“This area has so many opportunities for people to just do whatever they like.

“Growing up here I’ve been able to experience so many different sides of agriculture – I suppose because dad (Bruce) is a stock and station agent, I’ve had that side and because mum (Cathy) is a bookkeeper, I’ve seen all the cotton farms at Wee Waa and working with Nutrien as well, and agricultural engineering is just the best fit for me.

“It’s my love for designing things and building things, and my love for agriculture combined – it’s the perfect fit.

“And it’s a big thing for me to come back to the area because there’s so much here – it’s not just a little country town, it’s a regional centre.”

AFF chief financial officer Cara Moore said the scholarship program is about supporting AFF’s local communities and encouraging youth from regional NSW to consider the cotton industry as a career.

“Our scholarship program has been designed to help the young people living in our communities further their tertiary education and manage the non-tuition costs associated with studying, including accommodation and textbooks,” she said.

“We also want to highlight the vast opportunities our communities offer to rural up-and-comers and encourage more young, bright talent to consider starting their career in a regional community.

“We’re really proud to support our ambitious scholarship winners and hope that they can use the funds to set themselves up for a great future.”

The AFF Scholarship Programme will be open to 2025 recipients towards the end of the year.