Indigenous youths aided to succeed in life through NRL School to Work program

Current and former rugby league stars have gathered to support the NRL's School to Work program in Sydney.

The NRL School to Work program allows more Indigenous students to complete high school and successfully transition to the workforce.

Kamilaroi teenager Dokota Simonds said taking part in the program at the age of 16 has changed the course of her life. 

Now she has landed her dream job, working with the NRL.

Dokota Simonds.
Source: SBS

"I support the project officers who go out and talk to the schools and students and help them get jobs, just like they did with me,” said Dokota.

“I'm behind the scenes, helping them with admin, paperwork and making sure they got everything they need to do their job.”

This week, graduates from the 2018 NRL School to Work program received an opportunity to enter the workforce, with new apprenticeships and traineeships being offered at a function at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.

Mark Kucks from Hutchinson Builders said the company has built a good partnership with the NRL School to Work program over the years.

“We've had about a dozen kids come through that program and into apprenticeships in the construction industry,” he said.

The director of Bennelong Energy Services, Gaven Sheehan, said he has already employed several apprentices from the program and is keen to hire more.

Current and former rugby league stars support the initiative.
Source: Daniela Intili/SBS

"It's been just phenomenal to see the kids grow."

"A lot of our kids wouldn't talk and now they've opened up - it's just amazing."

Hall of Fame inductee and Manly legend Cliff Lyons is one of several former players involved in the program, along with Preston Campbell and Steve Menzies

"The kids these days look up to players like Greg Inglis and Preston Campbell and they're here supporting this program so it's great to see them get behind it."

Several NRL clubs provide mentoring to the students, while the program also facilitates work experience and other training programs.

The NRL School to Work program started in 2012 as part of the Australian Government's aim to close the gap for young Indigenous people by using the profile of the rugby league sporting code.

Since 2012 more than 900 Indigenous students have gone through the program, with 95 per cent of them successfully transitioning into an employment or education placement.

In 2019, 500 new students are expected to be supported through the School to Work program, which will be the largest number of participants so far.

For Dokota, she is relishing the chance to give back to the program that kick-started her career.

"I wouldn't be who I am today without it and I'm so thankful to now be able to give back and help other students achieve their dream jobs," she said.

"My parents love seeing me talking on panels and giving advice to other students.

"They couldn't be prouder."

Lyons hopes the initiative will one day produce future leaders

"I'm looking forward to our next Aboriginal prime minister of Australia."

Published 29 November 2018 at 7:48pm, updated 29 November 2018 at 8:09pm
By Daniela Intili