THEY SAY the best way to change the world is to educate women, and it's a mantra that has earned a Noosaville woman a nomination for Australian of the Year.
Laurie Cowled is a passionate philanthropist and has helped dozens of young women achieve their dreams through scholarships and donations from her namesake trust, the Cowled Foundation.
Ms Cowled has been nominated in the Queensland category for Senior Australian of the Year, something she said came as a complete shock.
"(It's) something I never expected at all,” Ms Cowled said.
"I woke up... and the phone was ringing, and it was someone telling me that this was happening.
"I was stoked, of course.”
Ms Cowled's venture into philanthropy began in 2005, not long after her husband died.
"We had no children,” Ms Cowled said.
"We decided that whoever was left would leave all of our money to charity.
"So when my husband died, I thought, rather than writing a will, saying 'when I die, (this) charity should get my money', I prefer to see some results of what happens.
"Can I help someone, can I do something?
"That's what I've decided to do.”
Ms Cowled said it was "serendipity” that resulted in her now spreading her generosity across a vast number of projects.
Her first initiative was to set up a fund in the Queensland Community Foundation to offer a scholarship to a rural girl to attend Somerville House, an elite private school in Brisbane.
Ms Cowled opened the Cowled Foundation in 2007, with the objectives to foster the education of gifted, underprivileged and disadvantaged girls from regional and rural communities throughout Australia, and to foster the education of regional children in the performing arts such as theatre, classical ballet and dance.
The Cowled Foundation has seen more than 50 girls attend Queensland University of Technology, a number of indigenous women attend the University of Technology in Sydney, business opportunities in developing countries and scholarships for ballet and stage design.
Ms Cowled has kept in contact with a number of her beneficiaries, and said she felt honoured to see them progress in to bright, capable people.
"It gives me the most utter joy, it makes me cry to think about it,” she said. "It means that I'm in touch with wonderful young women.
"Young people get very bad press, very largely, but I have so many young women that I know who are just wonderful.
"It's just great for a woman of my age, to know so many lovely young women, and I think it's keeping me young.
"It's a joy, an absolute joy to know that I can.
"I recommend to anybody at all, that if they could help some young person, it gives them as much joy as it does the young person.
"That's something I'm really keen to advocate.
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