Partnership to expand tertiary pathways

With dreams of one day studying law or physiotherapy at university, Year 10 NRL Cowboys House student Makeilla Gibson will now have greater access to tertiary pathway support thanks to a new multi-year partnership between the Cowboys Community Foundation and the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation.

The Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation will help those Indigenous students looking to pursue tertiary education, with expanded access to programs and opportunities from as early as year 7 through their support of NRL Cowboys House’s Development Advancement Team.

Critical to ensuring students can remain engaged and transition to independence and self-determination among study and work commitments, programs and support offered through the Development Advancement Team help students to identify and follow tertiary pathways.

It means students like Makeilla, or George Abdenego who wants to be a doctor or Kody Brett Lee Rogers who hopes to get into physiotherapy, can realise their goals in a fully supported and stable environment while still living away from home post-secondary school.

Established in 2021, the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation has a focus on empowering communities, walking together with traditional custodians, being ecologically sound and protecting people from harm.

A delegation from the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation, including CEO Coralie Nichols and Founder and Chair Tracy Norman, toured NRL Cowboys House to meet with education staff and see firsthand the work being done to support current students on their education journey.

Founder Tracy Norman said their Foundation is heavily invested in supporting innovative community programs that champion qualitative outcomes over quantitative output.

“I was really excited about how (education manager) Sam Smorfitt spoke about the way success is measured at NRL Cowboys House, because their approach really fits into our Foundation,” she said.

“It’s very obvious when you talk to everyone at NRL Cowboys House that we can enable kids to go back into their communities to take on jobs such as teaching, nursing or doctoring, and work with them from year 7 to build the idea they can do this.

“It’s empowering kids through self-determination.

“The fact that NRL Cowboys House are building confidence enough that these kids now believe they can do it, and put them on a pathway towards university is quite incredible and really powerful.”

Tracy described the work being done at NRL Cowboys House as “well beyond expectation.”

While in Townsville, the delegation also took the opportunity to meet with staff at James Cook University’s Indigenous Education and Research Centre at the Bebegu Yumba Campus which regularly hosts NRL Cowboys House students.

They then travelled to Cairns for a collaborative evening with representatives from the Cape York Institute, From the Heart, Souths Cares and the Cowboys Community Foundation.

Cowboys Community Foundation Director Fiona Pelling said the long-term partnership would lead to long-term benefits for students present and future.

“It was wonderful to welcome our visitors from the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation to NRL Cowboys House to see the wonderful, industry-leading work our staff are doing here to improve outcomes for Indigenous students,” she said.

“Securing this vital partnership ensures we’re not just creating opportunities for current students, but are equipped for those to come.”

β€œIt’s very exciting to be working with Coralie and Tracy and their passionate team on our shared vision to build tertiary pathways and support a sustainable transition to post-secondary study for our students.”

NRL Cowboys House has nurtured and celebrated the achievements of 34 graduates since it began operations in 2017, with students from 23 remote communities attending 11 partner schools in Townsville in 2022.

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