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NRL Cowboys House shone for their inaugural NAIDOC Day as families descended on the boarding facility to celebrate and catch up with their beloved children.

With this year’s NAIDOC Week falling during school holidays, a student-free day in Townsville proved the perfect time to invite families from 29 remote communities for a big day of activities, followed by NRL Cowboys House’s inaugural NAIDOC Ball.

Students and parents hosted a range of cultural activities including spear making, traditional dance, damper and scone making, language classes and coconut husking for visiting family, staff and community members.

NRL Cowboys House General Manager Rochelle Jones said alongside recognising this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Heal Country’, the day presented an opportunity for students to reflect on their achievements together.

“There have been a lot of smiles, a lot of meeting people for the first time, and obviously the students all live together but the families often don’t get to meet one another,” she said.

“They could be living 2000km away so they’re all down here meeting the other parents of the children their kids are friends with for the first time.

“It really is just a matter of sharing, connecting and celebrating the awesome things we’ve done this year.”

The day’s activities also aligned with the House’s values of resilience, integrity and family with students sharing and teaching activities they would normally do in their spare time.

For year 11 Ignatius Park College student Elijah Joe, it was an opportunity to celebrate NAIDOC Day with family he hasn’t seen in months.

“They were pretty excited, I was pretty excited, I got goosebumps which shows just how much it means,” he said.

“Heal Country means a lot of things to a lot of different people but the main thing it means to me is just having everyone here.

“As we know, Australia is a sacred land, and people come from all different communities, and just seeing everyone come together and bring our bond closer really stands out for me.

“I’ve seen a lot of groups from different communities come together and talk about different culture, share each other’s stories of our elders and what we used to do.”

Throughout the day, students shared what Heal Country means to them via a series of video messages.

“It’s about having a whole community coming together with their elders past, present and future to acknowledge our ways,” Theophelia Mosby-Nona said.

For Kody Rogers, “it is important to me because it’s preserving our culture and land for generations to come.”

A Kup Murri was prepared and cooked throughout the day, providing the main feast for the NAIDOC Ball, held at the Boys’ Campus that evening.

Those festivities included a display of traditional dance from the Wulgurukaba Walkabouts while this year’s NAIDOC awards were also presented, before a stirring guest speech from Palm Island woman, Academic Lead of Indigenous Health at James Cook University Dr Lynore Geia.

For Rochelle Jones and the House staff, the day provided a big lift for students to finish the school year on the best note possible.

“For these guys getting to the end of term 3, a very busy term especially for the year 12s, to be able to have family come down, connect and spend that time just gives them all an extra boost to finish off the year,” Rochelle said.

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