The Joel Abernethy Advantage

About the Scholarship

The Joel Abernethy Advantage was established by the ACMF in February 2014, with a generous donation from Joel’s parents, Wendy Smyrk and John Abernethy, to honour their son’s memory.

Joel Abernethy was a young man from NSW, who began playing electric guitar at 11 years old. As his mother, Wendy said recently. “Music was his solace, his passion and his creative outlet”. Joel sadly passed away in 2010.

Every year, a discretionary award is given - to provide support and encouragement to a young ACMF music student who displays outstanding personal and musical attributes.

Click here to donate to the Joel Abernethy Advantage Fund - this will enable the ACMF to help more aspiring young musicians to reach their goals!

Joel's Story

Joel Samuel Abernethy was born at Port Fairy on December 31st, 1979. He attended Port Fairy Consolidated School (where his mum Wendy taught) and was a typical young boy, full of energy and purpose – enjoying his coastal environment, bike riding and exploring his own big back yard. He played footy, cricket and golf but skateboarding became his passion. Even at this age he had a great ‘ear’ and enjoyed picking out tunes on his Nana’s piano.


Aged twelve, Joel moved to Delegate NSW, a small town at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. He attended Bombala High School until Year 11 and whilst not particularly academic, Joel enjoyed the real experiences of farm life – horses, dogs and outdoor adventures. Upon leaving school, Joel tried his hand at a variety of jobs, experiencing overseas travel with family and searching for a meaningful career. It was at secondary school that Joel expanded on his guitar playing and song writing, forming a band with friends and finding an outlet for his self expression and creativity in music.


Joel adored his younger brother Sam, ten years his junior. They were the best of mates. And he was adored by all his cousins. Joel was a handsome, charismatic, strong-willed young man with a great sense of humour and a sensitivity and perceptiveness towards others.


Joel died tragically on December 26th, 2010, whilst celebrating Christmas with family – five days before his 31st birthday.


Pictured: Joel Abernethy (L) and his brother Sam (R)

A memory of Joel

A memory of Joel, written by his father, John Abernethy:


As his dad, I saw Joel’s interest in music begin before his teens, he had his first electric guitar (a black lefthander …which I still have) – by the time he was 11 years old, and could play it within the first week!


We lived on a mountain in the Snowy Mountain region of Southern NSW at a place called “Bendoc” – very cold, very remote, but very beautiful. Joel was a great Kurt Cobain Fan – he had every CD and could play and sing everything Kurt Cobain ever wrote.


Next came all the pedal gadgets to change the sound, amp, rhythm – I don’t know what they are called, but I know it cost me a fortune – but I can say with a great deal of pride that Joel made great music, and had a solid handle on it.


In his teens he had his first band, with Liam Daley his best mate, amongst others (drummers were the hardest to find). I was ‘surprised’, to say the least, that Joel in particular, was very talented, and very good.


There were better, and bigger, (and even more expensive) amplifiers, always new strings – and more and more music books in tablature – Joel never learnt to read music!


However, Joel’s greatest asset and gift was song writing – this I can say yes; biased, but music is a very personal thing – and I never heard a song Joel ever wrote that I didn’t like, understand, and enjoy. Sadly they were all hand written and I don’t know where they are, or even if they still exist!


But only a few months before his untimely death in 2010 he videoed himself performing a song for his mum and grandmother.




Books by John Abernethy

"The right Break" - Autobiography of John Abernethy – donate here for your copy!


"Drug War" by John Abernethy - donate here for you copy!


Joel’s father John has written two books, from which all proceeds are to go towards the Joel Abernethy Advantage scholarship to enable more children to benefit from the advantages of extra musical tuition.


Click on the links above to make a donation and a copy of the selected book(s) will be posted to you.

Past Recipients

Click here to find out more about the 2015 recipients.

Click here to find out more about the 2016 recipients.

Click here to find out more about the 2017 recipient.

Click here to find out more about the 2018 recipients.

Click here to find out more about the 2019 recipients.

Click here to find out more about the 2020 recipient.

Past Scholarships

ACO String Scholarships


Between 2015 and 2017 the ACMF, in partnership with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), helped three children who had been part of an ACMF music program at their primary school, but had left year 6. Liam, Jessica and Andrea were all involved in the string program at the school and wanted to continue learning violin with their wonderful teacher, Leo Novikov, but they all needed some help.

Andrea and Jessica, both needed a violin they could call their own, and due to our instrument recycling scheme, we were able to provide them with one each! And due to generous support from the ACO, Liam and Jessica had financial support to enable them to continue weekly violin lessons.


From Liam's mum:

“Liam visits Mr Leo every week, without exception. These visits have highs and lows, depending on Liam’s’ focus that week. Liam practices every afternoon, seven days a week (except when life gets in the way, occasional excess homework, or getting home very late!). As Liam began High School at South Sydney High School this year, we are juggling new routines, but violin has remained a constant. Another constant is the dedication Mr Leo has to his students, and every week Liam wants to try to fix any problems from the week before. Both Liam and I feel it keenly when Leo is not happy! Liam is currently working toward his first violin exam and says he will definitely fix his mistakes to get a good result – I know he will try his best!

Thank you to the ACMF and the ACO for helping Liam to keep playing.”


From Jessica’s mum:

“The ACMF and ACO have given my daughter Jessica a wonderful opportunity to be able to learn the violin. Through the ACMF music program at school, my daughter Jessica has had many opportunities in life opened up for her, and has given her teaching that she will carry on throughout life. The scholarship she has now been provided by the ACMF and the ACO to learn violin, has opened a gateway that many other children would never have.

I believe that the ACMF has not only helped my daughter learn music, but has inspired her to grow into a person who wants to one day inspire people herself.

The opportunities that the ACMF and ACO have given my daughter is tremendous, and I am enormously grateful that Jessica is able to continue learning the violin.”