Indigenous artwork created by recent NRL School to Work graduate Ameena Kanj will feature on the cover of Ultimate Security's Reconciliation Action Plan.
Ultimate Security, a major sponsor of the Canterbury Bulldogs, ran an exclusive competition for School to Work students, providing them with a brief to design artwork that reflected their company's values.
Kanj, who completed Year 12 at Westfields Sports High School in 2020, spent about 10 hours perfecting her painting of a lizard.
Ultimate Security's Jennifer Mezher said the nation-wide business was keen to engage with Australia's First Nations People.
"We were discussing with the Bulldogs and they put us in contact with the School to Work program," Mezher said.
"After we read up on what they do, we realised, 'You know what, this would be a beautiful partnership', so we went down that path."
School to Work, which helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students complete high school and transition into employment or tertiary education, is renowned for providing a platform.
Ultimate Security wanted to provide a "young, talented artist an opportunity to showcase their work" – and Kanj fit the bill.
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"We sent out a brief to the students and there were a few things that we wanted to see. Ultimately our identity is our colours – red and blue – so that had to be sort of conveyed," Mezher explained.
"And the messaging behind it is we wanted something that conveys strength and connection and a bit of deep meaning."
Kanj put plenty of thought into the design.
"I took my opportunity to put a lizard into it because it's one of the biggest aspects and concepts in our culture," she said.
"It's a big animal incorporated within Dreamtime, so I thought I'd take that element and enhance it.
"The blue detailing that I've got in the top right corner is to enhance how the lizard works in with the earth and what's put it around it.
"It's a cold-blooded animal, so it adapts to the environment that it lives in ... In the red detailing I've got in the bottom left corner, I've used that to incorporate the energy and the fire that's stored within the lizard."
For her efforts, Kanj won a $500 cash prize, a signed Bulldogs jersey and will be given tickets to one of the club's home games next year.
"The artwork will be framed, definitely, in our headquarters and also will be digitised. It will be on the front cover of our Reconciliation Action Plan which will be available online," Mezher said.
"Ameena's artwork will be showcased on our social media in any sort of marketing initiatives we have in the future and Ameena will be given credit, obviously, for her work.
"We're happy that Ameena's going to get some really good exposure. Hopefully, it encourages her to pursue a career in art."
Your culture is who you are, so you're better off embracing it than trying to hide itAmeena Kanj
School to Work business development officer Luwis Fernando said the Ultimate Security competition was one of several ways the program is keeping connected with students during the pandemic.
"It's amazing that even in the middle of lockdown, we can still actually engage our kids and connect them back to their culture as well," he said.
Mental health support is also being offered.
A strong relationship has been formed with Ultimate Security and Fernando said they would prioritise School to Work alumni when hiring for junior or entry-level positions.
Kanji, a sports development student at Western Sydney University, said she was grateful to have been a part of School to Work.
And she wanted to share a message.
"For kids out there that are scared to embrace your culture, at the end of the day, your culture is who you are, so you're better off embracing it than trying to hide it," Kanj said.