Graduate Women NSW – Central West Branch recently held its Annual Scholarship Dinner at the Cowra Services Club. Building on the long-standing tradition of supporting local students, the branch presented its HSC Scholarship to two high school graduates commencing university, and the Barbara Wright Scholarship for an outstanding postgraduate student.

The prestigious biannual Dr Barbara Wright Post Graduate Scholarship for students from the Central West was awarded to Amanda Bergan (seen in featured photo with Committee member Cathy Starr and Margaret Stent). Amanda, born in Bathurst, is an outstanding young woman who graduated from Charles Sturt with a Bachelor of Human Movement and Bachelor of Teaching in 2009.

Now teaching in West Wyalong, Amanda discovered a natural talent for teaching Special Needs students. She switched from PDHPE to a permanent teaching position in Special Education of the multi categorical class, which included students with Autism, Tourette’s, intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. Amanda also delivers online and face to face professional development courses for the Department of Education. While challenging, Amanda finds her current work the most rewarding, and the students inspire her ‘to become an even better teacher’.

Apart from being an exceptional teacher Amanda has travelled to 38 countries, run in 9 marathons, an ultramarathon and has qualified to represent Australia in the World Championships of Spartan Racing in Greece later in the year! Last year Amanda finished a Master of Education in Special Education and this year she will begin her PhD in Special Education at the University of Wollongong, where her research will combine her passion for special education and teacher education, with the aim of helping to improve the education system.

HSC Scholarship


One of this year’s successful HSC scholarship recipients, Hayley Amos from Cowra High School, has wanted to become a teacher for as long as she can remember and will go to the University of Canberra to study B.Early Childhood and Primary Teaching. She was presented with her HSC Scholarship by coordinator Sue Brown.



The second recipient Ella Gruessing from Canowindra High School (seen below) was presented by Cowra Services Club Board Member Joanne Treasure. This award was funded by the generous support of the Cowra Services Club. Ella has also always wanted to have a positive effect on young children and is going to the University of Canberra to study a Bachelor of Primary Education.

The guest Speaker for the night was the inspirational young woman, Steffanni Gardener. Steffi was educated at Cowra Primary School and Cowra High School where she graduated with an exceptional ATAR mark in the HSC. Steffi graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (1st Class Hons). She received the University Medal from the Faculty of Law, Arts and Creative Arts and delivered the Graduation Address. She hopes to begin a PhD after her M. Bus is conferred later this year.

Her address, titled “What I would tell my High School Self” was aimed at the Cowra High School and St Raphael’s School students who were present along with teachers. She offered suggestions for HSC and later life ‘survival’ – a great guide for all young people.

  • She spoke of growing up and finding out who she was, while studying for the HSC along with the worry of perhaps not achieving a particular goal.
  • She encouraged students to have other plans as it is okay if “Plan A” doesn’t work. Give yourselves options.
  • Her next point was not to burn out – do other relaxing things, have patience and look after yourself. Between the ages of 16 to 19 years old there is still a lot to learn–life  is a  continuous learning experience so don’t work purely to one attainment. There is more after that.
  • Remember to congratulate yourself for your achievements whatever they are. There is always someone doing better – and only one “best in the world” and that person is simply dependent on who you ask.
  • Do not spend time equating yourself to a mark as you are worth more than that and should be proud of any achievements.
  • Don’t forget your teachers and adults are human like you so don’t be mean and rebellious (as she felt she was) and turn that attitude around.
  • Look after your friends as they are special and eventually you will meet more special people that you must also keep.
  • Cowra is a wonderful place to grow up as there is such wonderful support but remember it is a bubble in a very big exciting world so you must stay open to suggestions and greater knowledge.

Steffi reminded everyone that you have successes but you are not the sum of successes, so if things don’t go to plan, and sometimes they won’t, this does not impact your value. She finished by stressing how important it is to do what you like doing as this enriches your life experience.

One of Steffi’s former teachers, Viv Meiklejohn, moved a vote of thanks to Steffi and presented her with a memento of her visit. Several of Steffi’s former teachers, drama and dance, were also in attendance and everyone was impressed by Steffi’s shared reflections.

The night was another great success for the Branch but also for promoting education and the experiences it can bring for young women from the region.