NRL Cowboys House is attracting more young men to its accommodation facility in Townsville, and it is not just for the chance to meet a NRL sports star.


Head of boarding at Cowboys House Stuart Ward (left) with Major General Stuart Smith (ret.) and NQ Cowboys’ general manager, Fiona Pelling.


NRL Cowboys House is doing things differently, it is a specialised culturally supportive accommodation facility with partnerships with mainstream schools offering Indigenous young men from remote communities a choice in their secondary education pathways.


In its second year of operation, the facility is at capacity supporting 50 students from remote areas including the Gulf of Carpentaria, The Cape and the Torres Strait Islands.


Cowboys House in Townsville officially opened in 2017.


“Traditional boarding school models can be a struggle for some families from some of our remote communities for a number of reasons,” says Cowboys General Manager Community, Fiona Pelling.


“Cultural support and family and community connection is critical, as is a holistic model of care that has a strong emphasis on social, emotional and physical well-being. Drop out rates are high in boarding for Indigenous students if you don’t get this part right.


“We challenge our students and set high standards, we broaden their experience base and encourage participation in the outside community giving them more confidence to adapt to their forever changing surroundings.


“We encourage every student who is over 16 years to engage in part time employment while studying away from home, and learn how to manage their finances and a bank account.


NRL player Jonathan Thurston meets students at the launch of Cowboys House in Townsville.


“Staff education and training is also paramount.


“Staff will undergo Unconscious Bias training in addition to their cert 4 qualifications in residential care, first aid, water safety.


“We have recently added “Living under the Act” training where the team learn about the history of Indigenous Australians in Queensland who have had to live under the act of the Queensland Government.” Ms Pelling says.


Cowboys House employs a high number of Indigenous staff, house parents,  health providers, educators and also is grateful to a number of volunteers who donate their time to the house, especially supporting the tutoring program.


“Sport is a huge draw card, but accessing a choice of quality educational options in a culturally appropriate environment is the main focus,” Ms Pelling says.


We have a Dedicated Education Manager, supported by the Queensland Government, “The purpose of our Dedicated Education Manager is to set students up for success.


“The Education Manager is responsible for the academic assessment and success of students and is a very broad portfolio including selecting a school that best fits the student and their families values.


“Our team spends a lot of time on the road working in the remote communities that our students come from, building relationships with families, schools and broader community networks. ” Ms Pelling says.


Palm Island Dancers visit to teach students some moves to participate in the Palm Island objective to break a world dance record, which they did! In April this year Palm Island broke the world record of two hundred and fifty dancers doing the same corroboree as reported by ABC North Queensland.

NRL Cowboys House is a partnership between the Cowboys Community Foundation, The NRL, The Australian Government and the Queensland Government, whose purpose is to remove remoteness as a barrier and to provide safe and culturally supportive accommodation options for Indigenous Students to ensure they have access and choice in secondary schooling options.

Written by Rachael Hakim

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