• The School to Work program supports and encourages young Indigenous school students to further their studies and find a career. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
More than 60 Indigenous students have graduated from the NRL School to Work program in celebration of the games’ Indigenous education support program.
Laura Morelli

17 Jul 2017 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2017 - 5:18 PM

The School to Work program (S2W) kicked off in 2012 and aims to support and encourage Indigenous youth to complete schooling, studies, and move into further education or work.

The program has seen more than 750 students involved and has built to achieve a 98% success rate of graduates transitioning into further education or sustainable employment.

One of those successful students is Yuin and Wiradjuri woman, Cheyenne Cruse. What started off as just a traineeship soon turned into a career as the first Indigenous female dogman/ rigger at Borger Cranes.

“The reason why I wanted to get into working on the cranes is because my grandfather owned his own company, Cruise Cranes and my dad was the first Indigenous dogger and rigger there. Those men have been great influences in my life and it’s good to be able to follow their footsteps with help from School to Work.”

Looking around the room filled with successful young Indigenous people Cheyenne says she’s proud to be part of it.

“Not many happy stories flow around Aboriginal culture… My brother, my cousins, my dad, basically my whole family has been in trouble with the law, so it’s good to see a change in Aboriginal communities and young Indigenous kids doing well instead of being in juvenile.”

In addition, the Australian Government and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion confirmed a funding boost of $6.3 million for the program, ensuring the continuance and support for hundreds of Indigenous students through to at least 2021.

At the award ceremony today in Sydney, hosted by FOX Sports presenter and Jawoyn woman, Hannah Hollis, alongside Minister Scullion was also Chair of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, Linda Burney, Labor Senator Pat Dodson, and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg as the students celebrated their studies and transitioned to their future careers.

From troubled student to studying teacher, Sherice Jackson is now on track to meeting her goals to graduate from university and become a primary school teacher. She says if it wasn’t for the School to Work program she’d be lost.

“The program helped me achieve all my personal and educational goals and they played a huge role in me actually getting to university because they told me about alternative pathways for Indigenous students. Without that knowledge and help, I wouldn’t have been able to get into uni.”

The Bundjalung woman is now an Aboriginal tutor at Mitchell High School and says it’s great to give the help she feels she missed out on in school.

NRL General Manager of Indigenous Strategy, Mark Deweerd, says it’s important to focus on the next generation of leaders.

“The graduates today are our leaders of tomorrow and our rugby league community will continue to assist and back these Indigenous students and many more that come through the program, as they forge their own pathways in the world.”

The current NRL clubs involved with the School to Work program: Storm, Raiders, Dragons, Sharks, Bulldogs, Eels, Tigers, Panthers, Roosters and the Knights.

“I was really struggling at school, I wasn’t focused mentally and physically, I just didn’t want to be there, but when I joined this program it made me want to be there."

The School to Work program utilises the positive profile of Rugby League to support and encourage young Indigenous Australians like Brett Kelly-Wirth to stay at School and move on to further education or employment.

“I was really struggling at school, I wasn’t focused mentally and physically, I just didn’t want to be there, but when I joined this program it made me want to be there."

Now the Bundjalung student is at University completing his dream degree in Social Work while also scoring sporting opportunities he never imagined possible.

“I want to go work with Indigenous people in jail and create opportunities for change. A lot of my cousins are in there, so I want to be able to help my community.”

Brett advises children struggling in class to stay at school, as the opportunities could open several new doors to success.

“Coming from a country town to city - the program has opened up so many sporting opportunities for me which is huge, especially in my Indigenous culture. Now I play national Indigenous sevens and have the chance to travel the world for my team. I’m also on track of my career, so things are great.”

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