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Cultural and Country Roots Inspire Rising Stars

By February 8, 2023No Comments

Impossible choice. Those were the words of the panel when deliberating for this year’s Alinta Energy – CEF Rising Star Award.  As a result, this year we have two winners: The optimistic and enthusiastic Heather Walker from Grenfell studying through TAFE, and Matilda Langford, a dedicated, strong young woman at The University of Sydney.

Alinta Energy – CEF Rising Star
Heather Walker

Certificate III in Agriculture/Certificate IV in Wool Classing


Local Foundation:
Country Education Foundation of Grenfell


Dad never went a day without teaching me a lesson. I want to be there for my father and make him proud while achieving as much as I can.

Despite many challenges this year, Heather Walker is someone who remains incredibly bright and positive. When her father fell ill this year, she took on the responsibilities of the family farm, caring for younger siblings and making regular visits to see her father, who is being cared for some 70km from her home town of Grenfell in NSW. She has not let this, or COVID affect her determination to succeed.


When completing Year 12 in 2019, Heather admits she wasn’t overly confident going into her final exams and when researching alternative options, TAFE caught her eye. She did get over the line with an ATAR that gained her entry to a Bachelor of Teaching, however, she decided to remain in Grenfell for a year, undertaking a Certificate III in Agriculture and a Certificate IV in Wool Classing through TAFE NSW and TAFE Digital, an industry that she is passionate about and has grown up with.

She is employed as a Learning Support Assistant at Henry Lawson High School, and at a local bakery. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Scout Leader and on Saturday afternoons at the gate for the local rugby club, with part of the proceeds going to CEF Grenfell.

She will finish her TAFE courses this year, and heads into 2021 full of hope, confidence and excitement about commencing university studies to become an agricultural teacher.


Growing up on the farm, Heather is very aware that the agricultural industry and farming are male-dominated industries. She is willing to face this challenge head on, “willing to do whatever it takes” to facilitate change.

I hope to become a youth ambassador and role model for younger women who are as passionate about agriculture as me, and not let gender define our capabilities.

Her love for family and farming and the desire to be an inspiration is infectious. Determined to remain in Grenfell to help Dad and with the family farm, she hopes to move her tertiary study online, and is very keen to gain work experience as a livestock agent or shearing contractor.

Heather’s own words are exactly why she was named one of our joint Alinta Energy – CEF Rising Stars for 2020 : “I am driven by the support from my local CEF and want to give my best! I want to make change! I want to make Dad proud!”

Alinta Energy – CEF Rising Star
Matilda Langford

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws (Politics)

University of Sydney

Local Foundation:
Shoalhaven Education Fund


Matilda grew up in the sleepy coastal town of Mollymook, and is studying Law at the University of Sydney. Alongside her studies, she works tirelessly to support young Indigenous students throughout the country, connecting and helping them find pathways to higher education. She dreams of creating widespread change for both her local community at Shoalhaven and for wider Aboriginal Australia.

In a past profile on Matilda, we wrote that many say this young, ambitious and dedicated woman could be the first indigenous Prime Minister of Australia, to which she replied, “Prime Minister would be a good gig, but I’ll have to wait a few years because I’m not sure that they’re ready for me yet!”

I will do all I can to create positive change for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia.

She is strong and passionate about what she believes in, and is already doing all she can to create change, particularly for Indigenous Australia. Some of Matilda’s achievements include:

  • USYD Student Ambassador and WPO Student Leader
  • USYD SRC Indigenous Officer
  • Member of the Law Society First Nation sub-committee
  • Indigenous Strategy and Services Officer
  • Awarded the Bernard Lee Scholarship for 2020


She says her studies and university experiences allow her to follow her passion, “advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander equality and sovereignty.”

As a result of this passion, she was selected to represent The University of Sydney at the National Indigenous Legal Conference last year in Darwin. Matilda says this experience “opened her eyes to some of the amazing Indigenous legal minds that Australia has,” and it reinforced her knowledge and belief that change needs to come.

And, she is already doing her part to contribute. Her work in recruitment and Widening Participation and Outreach (WPO) with The University of Sydney means she is able to help disadvantaged students discover what further education could mean for them.

Matilda is an amazing role model for Indigenous youth, and her desire to inform and inspire students is uplifting. These qualities and her achievements made it impossible not to name her as one of our joint Alinta Energy – CEF Rising Stars for 2020.

I hope to constitutionally enshrine the Uluru statement to create an Indigenous voice to parliament, and then I hope to become further involved with politics and be a continuation of this voice.


How does it feel to be a CEF Rising Star?

Heather: It is incredible to know that I was nominated along with so many hard working scholars and was fortunate enough to be a joint winner.

Matilda: Really great to be recognised in this way, especially since I’ve had to move away from my local area to attend university. It’s good to know they haven’t forgotten me.

What did your CEF grant mean to you?

Heather: I was able to purchase a new laptop. Without realising what this year would be, having my own laptop enabled me to continue my studies with ease.

Matilda: Receiving my grant in 2019 meant that I could start my University journey with a laptop… I’m not really sure I could have done without it.

Your advice to the next generation of regional students?

Heather: If you don’t know what to do, generate a list of what you would like to try. Take them onboard and see how you go, if it’s not for you then keep at it and don’t give up!

Matilda: You will miss your family, you will miss your home, but don’t let that discourage you from your future. Growing pains are both natural and necessary, but it’s all so worth it.

Proud words from the person who nominated you!

For Heather:
Heather possesses a great deal of resilience. She takes on the present challenges of life with energy to motivate not only her siblings but also the wider community and instills trust that this generation will take on responsibilities and move in a positive direction in the future.
Clemence Matchett, CEF Grenfell Chair

For Matilda:
She has committed herself to the service of her Aboriginal communities, even travelling home to help during the devastating south coast bushfires. Her passions continue to be rooted in working toward a Constitutionally-recognised voice for Aboriginal People. She certainly is a rising star!
Deborah Southwood, Mother


Author CEF

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