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Brumbies players awarded inaugural Women’s Emerging Leaders Scholarships at UC

Kailey Tonini

15 February 2023: The recipients of the inaugural ACT Brumbies Women’s Emerging Leaders Scholarship were announced yesterday at the University of Canberra’s Sports Hub.

Grace Kemp, Gabby Petersen, and Ash Fernandez were each awarded the scholarship for their leadership qualities on and off the field, as well as their motivation, determination, resilience and commitment to positively impact the world through sport.

Funded by the Lestari Foundation and in alignment with the University’s Sport Strategy, the scholarship aims to provide financial support to up-and-coming female players who participate in the Brumbies Women's Academy or Super W squads, so they can pursue their rugby careers simultaneously with tertiary education.

University of Canberra Director of Sport Carrie Graf, Brumbies Deputy CEO and General Manager of Community Rugby Craig Leseberg, and Lestari Foundation Directors Miles and Le-Anne Jakeman were in attendance at the presentation ceremony.

Ms Graf believes that it’s imperative athletes also pursue an education while chasing their sports dreams, but juggling all those commitments can take a toll.

“Many of these elite female athletes, who have high training loads, also work other jobs and undertake study. This scholarship provides a financial boost so they can focus on their rugby careers and study commitments, and develop skills that will help them continue to be leaders in their sport and community,” she said.

Mr Leseberg says the scholarship provides a tangible level of support for Brumbies Women’s Academy and Super W players.

“This scholarship recognises the unique role that sport plays in cultivating leadership, so it’s wonderful to partner up with the Lestari Foundation and UC to support our players holistically, setting them up for a bright future beyond their playing days,” he said.

Ms Kemp is very grateful for the scholarship in her third year of studying a Bachelor of Primary Education, after deferring her degree last year to focus on the women’s 2021 Rugby World Cup (which was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

“I do training five days a week in mornings and afternoons, and then I'm at uni one day a week trying to cram everything into one day, so this scholarship gives me the ability to focus on my training and studies, and then try to fit some work in as well,” she said.

Dr Jakeman says it’s an honour for the Lestari Foundation to be involved in helping to support women in sport who will also go on to be leaders in society, and strongly encourages other organisations to also get involved.

“Sport is a huge source of inspiration and athletes have to have another career after their playing years, which makes it really important for them to gain skills and knowledge through education, so that they can continue to inspire and lead after playing, in whatever sector they find themselves,” said Mr Jakeman.

“We’re proud to play a part in their development.”

Part of a targeted initiative to aid in the development of women’s rugby in Australia, the scholarship sees each recipient receiving $10,000 per annum for up to three years (or six semesters) to support them during their studies.

This is the first round of the Women’s Emerging Leaders Scholarship, which will continue until the end of 2027.

Women's Emerging Leaders Scholarship Recipients: