First cohort of scholarship winners delighted to help further regional and rural economics research

The inaugural Samuel and June Hordern Scholarship in Rural and Regional Economics has been awarded to Jacklyn Lee, Diego Machillanda Flechas, and Gavin Williams.

The scholarship was established by the descendants of Samuel and June Hordern to support education and research activities that connect the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne with regional and rural Australia.

“This first cohort of scholarship winners will be the foundation for a legacy of University of Melbourne students advancing impactful research into the challenges facing rural and regional communities in Victoria and Australia,” says Dean Paul Kofman.

“Our Faculty is proud to now offer a scholarship that enables and supports research on topics like climate change, sustainability, agricultural innovation, youth unemployment and job mobility, insufficient quality services (in health, education), supply chain and logistics blockages, all severely impacting rural and regional Australia – a fantastic homage to the late Samuel and June Hordern.”

This scholarship is made possible by a gift from the Samuel and June Hordern Endowment and is offered to students enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce (Honours in Economics), Master of Economics, or Master of Commerce (Economics) and undertaking research in rural and regional economics.

Diego Machillanda Flechas smiling in suit
Diego Machillanda Flechas (supplied)

“This scholarship has definitely improved the overall quality of my research,” says Honours student Diego Machillanda Flechas, whose research topic compares voluntary job mobility between metropolitan and regional labour markets.

“The generosity of the scholarship allowed me to reduce my working hours and spend more time reading the background literature, trawling through my data and its documentation, drafting and re-drafting.”

He says job changes are commonly associated with pay rises and he wanted to understand which groups of Australians were more or less likely to experience wage growth.

“Ultimately, my focus is one of disadvantage and inequality, and this scholarship inspired me to consider a dimension that is often overlooked.”

Jacklyn Lee (supplied)

For Master of Economics student Jacklyn Lee, the scholarship has allowed her to overcome a barrier to her research on how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns further exacerbated Australia’s existing gap in educational attainment between rural and regional students and those in metropolitan areas.

“I was interested in the regional aspect of the lockdowns; however, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data did not provide a breakdown of school location at a granular level.

“Due to the scholarship, I was able to purchase a customised dataset from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) which included school postcodes at an individual level.”

Staff shortages and less-secure internet connections for remote learning are just two examples of the various channels through which the lockdowns would have had a more significant impact on students living in rural and regional areas.

Lee is hopeful her research could be useful for predicting the effects of other future shocks facing rural and regional areas have on education, such as bushfires.

“This scholarship has supported my analysis, which I hope will be a part of research that informs the next generation of policies to increase equity of opportunity in education in Australia.”

Gavin Williams, who is also completing his Master of Economics, is focusing on the extent to which a more diversified labour market dampens the negative effects of power plant closures on local employment and wages.

He says diversification across sectors in the hopes of lifting an area’s heavy reliance on primary industries is a common policy proposal in response to events like power plant closures, but further research is needed as empirical evidence in Australia supporting diversification is limited.

Expressing gratitude to the donors, the scholarship has supported him to juggle the challenges of working and studying part-time and says this support has strengthened his motivations to continue his research.

“I am hoping my regional-focused research can stimulate additional thinking and support to policymakers developing government response to pending plant closures, and ultimately, improve economic outcomes of Australia’s regional and rural population.”

About the donors

The late Samuel and June Hordern were noted pastoralists and the maternal grandparents of Rupert Myer AO, an alum of the University holding a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) and is a member of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Business and Economics Advisory Board.

Alongside his wife Annabel, the Myers are donor representatives on the selection panel for the scholarship.

Samuel Hordern OBE was born in Sydney and his family had run the Anthony Hordern and Son department store business there, and June Hordern was born in Melbourne, the youngest daughter of Clive and Mary Baillieu.

The combined interests of Samuel and June Hordern included the promotion of rural and regional Australia.

Following Samuel Hordern’s retirement from the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1948, he pursued pastoral interests, developing Australia’s beef cattle industry, and successfully introduced Santa Gertrudis cattle breed to the country in 1952, a breed that has become one of the leading cattle breeds in Australia.

He held the position of President of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales from 1954 until his passing in 1960 and greatly contributed to the formation of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.