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It was a big year at NRL Cowboys House.

More than just a place to stay, NRL Cowboys House changes the lives of geographically disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

A joint initiative of the North Queensland club, the NRL and the Queensland and Australian Governments, Cowboys House was last month recognised as the NRL Community Program of the Year.

Established in 2017, Cowboys House now accommodates 55 young Indigenous men and 30 women - in grades 7-12 - who hail from rural North Queensland communities that are lacking in opportunity.

They attend one of nine partner high schools in Townsville while receiving additional educational and extra-curricular guidance in their shared home.

"Cowboys House is a unique program that is specifically set for Indigenous kids from remote communities who don't have a secondary school option in their home community," Cowboys community relations manager Fiona Pelling told

Cowboys House recognised for work with Indigenous communities

"Typically our kids from remote communities don't do well in mainstream boarding. It can be really isolating for them – so this model is purpose-built for them. We remove accommodation as a barrier [to education].

"Cowboys House is set up with education, health and wellbeing, recreation and transitional support areas."

With a dedicated team of staff and volunteers on hand, Cowboys House residents are encouraged to reach their potential outside of study.

There was a fitting reward to NRL Cowboys House in 2019.
There was a fitting reward to NRL Cowboys House in 2019. ©Supplied

"We really work hard to make sure that from a recreational and participation perspective that they have extra-curricular options," Pelling said.

"Through our program, we've exposed a number of kids who have specific talents in many different areas, be it the arts or sport."

Cowboys House's specialised set-up has already reaped big benefits for the youths in its care.

The girls campus will take in another 20 students before the 2020 school year - filling the House to capacity - and there is a long waiting list.

The senior members of Cowboys House are all poised to move into the workforce once they leave school.

"We have four year 12s leaving next year and three of those year 12s have got school-based traineeships that will [help] in their ongoing career pathway once they leave the house," Pelling said.

"Our program has the Key Performances Indicators of ensuring that every young person in year 10, 11 and 12 will be in some form of paid employment and have a very solid career path in place.

"They will also have their learner [driver's] licence and be well on their way to their provisional or [full] driver's licence.

"We measure everything that we do in the program from a baseline perspective. Education, health – every pillar that there is. We do that every year with the kids.

"We've seen extraordinary examples of young people exceeding in different academic areas through our tutoring program and the school support that's provided."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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