Graduates honored at moving ceremony

‘Write your own story’ – that’s the message to the 13 young men and women graduating from NRL Cowboys House this year as they begin a new journey in life after school.

The hard work, resilience and commitment of 104 Indigenous boarding students from 29 remote Indigenous communities was celebrated on Tuesday evening as part of the NRL Cowboys House annual awards ceremony and graduation.

RE-WATCH THE EVENT IN FULL >>> cowboys.com.au/house.

Eight boys and five girls, some of whom have been with the House since opening day, were joined on stage by 2020 graduates to mark the end of their secondary schooling, inspiring the younger students watching on to strive for a bigger and brighter future.

The Year 12 students have been hard at work with the House Education team and partner schools in completing their academic year, at the same time focusing on their next step in employment, training or further education with the House Transitions team, supported by Waanyi Joint Venture.

The efforts and achievements of the whole Year 7-12 student cohort were recognised across 11 award categories, including academic, boarding, sports and individual contribution.

NRL Cowboys House General Manager Rochelle Jones said the awards ceremony was an opportunity for House staff, families, partners and supporters to celebrate the success of every student.

“This year has been a year of consolidation and continuous adjustment as we all navigate the ever-changing ‘normal’ and kept our students on track with their studies,” she said.

“Despite the challenges, we are very proud that NRL Cowboys House continues to evolve into one of the leading Indigenous boarding facilities in the country.

“We thank everyone involved with our amazing facility in 2021, and while farewelling our graduates is bittersweet, we thank them for their lasting contribution to our House and wish them well on their journey.”

NRL Cowboys House celebrated its first four young inspirational graduates in 2019, while 17 graduated in 2020.

Tuesday night’s celebrations included guest speakers, interviews with former graduates, a traditional Welcome to Country and dance performance from the Wulgurukaba Walkabouts and a student-led performance from the House’s own Torres Strait Island dancers.

The evening was hosted by Year 11 students Elijah Joe (Mornington Island) and Chasidy Pearson (Yarrabah), who were also announced as the NRL Cowboys House 2022 boarding captains.

Speaking at the ceremony, Cowboys Community Foundation Director Jeff Reibel told the audience of students, families, staff, volunteers, partners and special guests how proud the Cowboys family is of their ‘shining light’ – the students of NRL Cowboys House.

“At NRL Cowboys House, we’re providing opportunities and pathways so that you may write your own stories – but ultimately, it is up to you to choose your road,” he told the students.

“It is your choice to wake up every day and give everything you have, to go to school, study hard, and graduate with the best results you can.

“Remember that it is you who has the power to choose the path to success, which we have had the honour and privilege of helping you find.

“Tonight is not the end of your House story, rather the beginning of a new chapter in your NRL Cowboys House journey to an independent and fulfilling life, and we wish you well on your road ahead.”

The night was an opportunity to reflect on the growth of NRL Cowboys House, which included:

  • Welcoming 19 new year-7 students in 2021
  • Introducing a driver’s licence program, with assistance from the Department of Transport and Main Roads and Waanyi Joint Venture, contributing to all current year 11 and year 12 students obtaining their driver’s license and taking part in driving lessons by the end of term 4.
  • Expanding the Education team to incorporate the Development and Advancement team, which is strengthening the relationship between the House and James Cook University.
  • Eight students achieving school-based apprenticeships and traineeships while three graduates will transition from school-based to fulltime apprenticeships next year.


Rochelle said the students’ success would not be possible without the teamwork and collaboration of everyone involved in NRL Cowboys House.

“Their contribution in creating a supportive, culturally respectful and nurturing environment where each and every student can flourish and chase their dreams cannot be under-estimated,” she said.

“Our House values of family, integrity and resilience have been put into practice like never before over the past two years, and to have 13 graduates and a long list of award winners is due recognition of their efforts.

“Our vision at NRL Cowboys House is to ensure every student graduates to gainful employment or meaningful education, and to see that goal smashed year after year is something we are extremely proud of.”

The event was streamed live online, with a recording available at cowboys.com.au/house.


NRL COWBOYS HOUSE 2021 GRADUATES: Rose Baira (Badu Island), Frank Backo (Weipa), Nykia Casey (Normanton), Gershom Kelly (Yam Island), Zane Kyle (Eidsvold), Tyreece Michael (Cooktown), Sanetta Nona (Badu Island), Tyler Pickering (Normanton), Charles Roughsey (Mornington Island), Shakia Sambo (Normanton), Daynie Seriat (Thursday Island), Chad Taylor (Doomadgee) and Absalom Wailu (Murray Island).



Chunbahmah Music Award: Philip Sam, Ralph Sam

Academic Encouragement Award: Makeilla Gibson, Aleeah Michael, Rodneisha Mick, Briseis Tamwoy, Chasidy Pearson, George Abednego, Leland Michael, Philip Sam, Ralph Sam, Zecky Doolah

Best at Study Award: Brody Ah-Kit, George Abednego, Leland Michael, Peah Messa, Carleesha Tayley

Most Outstanding Academic Junior Award: Topaz Baragud, Ralph Sam

Most Outstanding Academic Senior Award: Liana Bee, Brody Ah-Kit

Most Outstanding Sportsperson: Elijah Joe, Zecky Doolah, Keelin Hookey, Manuifua Nona, Theophelia Mosby-Nona, Makeilla Gibson

Leadership Award, presented by AMA Group: Tom Gagai, Hezekiah Nona, Isaac Accoom, Leland Michael, Brody Ah Kit, George Abednego, Peah Messa, Topaz Baragud, Elianah Tabuai, Makeilla Gibson, Savanah De Bosch, Theophelia Mosby-Nona

Community Service Award: Peah Messa, Elianah Tabuai, August Smith, Ty Gibson, Zayryn Rosendale, Tyreece Michael, Leland Michael

Resilience Award: Charles Roughsey and Isaac Accom, Carleesha Tayley, Rodneisha Mick

Gold Award for Boarding (Boys): Rathony Pearson, Milton Larry, Isaac Accoom, Lhere Forester , Phillip Sam, Ralph Sam, Zecky Doolah, Absalom Wailu, Tom Gagai, Brody Ah Kit, Leland Michael, Elijah Joe, Teke Mene, Haley Pearson, Isaiah Kepa, Zayryn Rosendale, Josh Daniel

Gold Award for Boarding (Girls): Peah Messa, Shontay Mick, Destiny Escott, Rodneisha Mick, Eliahnah Tabuai, Ariel Wailu, Desharnthie Nona, Topaz Baragud, Connor Rogers, Chasidy Pearson, Jaylee Linden, Larnie Mara, Carleesha Tayley, Rahu Mara, Rose Baira, Liana Bee, Kelly Dalton, Makeilla Gibson and Theophelia Mosby-Nona

Most Outstanding Boarder Award: Elijah Joe and Topaz Baragud

Training Awards – Apprentices & Trainees: Charles Roughsey, Gershom Kelly, Chad Taylor, Sanetta-Rose Nona

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