Graduates unlocking potential

16 Nov 2023

Encouraged to unlock the success that lies within them, 17 young men and women have graduated from NRL Cowboys House with skills and guidance for further education, training or employment.

The graduating cohort of 11 young men and six young women joined their fellow Indigenous boarding students, staff, family and community members, school community members, partners and supporters for the sixth annual NRL Cowboys House awards ceremony on Monday evening.

NRL Cowboys House Girls Campus shone as the efforts and achievements of the whole Year 7-12 student body were recognised across 18 award categories, following a Welcome to Country and performance by the Wulgurukaba Walkabouts and on-stage performances by the NRL Cowboys House dance troupe and student soloist George Abednego.

NRL Cowboys House General Manager Rochelle Jones paid tribute to every student who has reflected the NRL Cowboys House values of family, resilience and integrity in their actions throughout the year.

“We are really fortunate to work in a place where we’re still seeing many firsts for our young people who are coming here from some very remote communities,” she said.

“Whether it’s their first time in a large shopping centre or movie theatre, or the first time at a school of over 2,000 students, they take that challenge in their stride.

“All of the young people who leave their families to come to Townsville to get a secondary education, you’re a truly amazing group of young people.

“Day to day, our staff, partners and volunteers, all of the people here and watching at home get to travel on the journey with these awesome people – it’s a wonderful experience.”

Monday night’s celebrations were hosted by Year 11 student Leland Michael (Cooktown) and Year 10 student Makeilla Gibson (Cooktown) and included guest speakers and a Q&A with past students about their time at NRL Cowboys House and their achievements since graduation.

Graduating students were presented with a special North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Indigenous jersey with their name and boarding number on the back, featuring artist Margaret Mara’s ‘My Journey My Way’ design.

Outgoing House captains Elijah Joe and Chasidy Pearson thanked the House’s philanthropic family in a moving video that encouraged younger students to work hard in their education to achieve their dreams.

Speaking at the ceremony, Cowboys Community Foundation Director Jeff Reibel said NRL Cowboys House has created significant opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous secondary students across North Queensland.

“Over the years, we’ve worked hard to create an innovative balance of ensuring a place of safety, friendship and fun, but also encouraging students to challenge themselves to reach the goals they have for themselves and write their own stories,” he said.

“Six years on, I believe we’ve created a unique home away from home unlike any other in this country that is creating success stories like the ones we celebrate tonight.

“My message to the graduating and continuing students is simple – remember, success is inside each and every one of you.”

The event was streamed live online, with a recording available at

NRL Cowboys House celebrated its first four inspirational graduates in 2019, before honouring 17 graduates in 2020, 13 graduates in 2021 and now a further 17 in 2022. 


George Abednego (Thursday Island), Brody Ah-Kit (Mornington Island), Liana Bee (Normanton), Josh Daniel (Thursday Island), Trefena Dugong (Mornington Island), Elijah Joe (Mornington Island), Jaylee Linden (Mornington Island), Larnie Mara (Old Mapoon), Jaylen McMullen (Normanton), Tekelu Mene (Warraber Island), Rodneisha Mick (Doomadgee), Manu Nona (Thursday Island), Chasidy Pearson (Yarrabah), Haley Pearson (Warraber Island), Kody Rogers (Mornington Island), Zayryn Rosendale (Hope Vale), Cordell White-Benson (Rockhampton).