By Ellie Grounds
The first ever graduates of the AFL Cape York House Alliance for Education & Training were honoured last week with the program’s inaugural Year 12 Graduation in Cairns.
The House provides accommodation for 50 young Indigenous students from remote Cape York communities while they finish high school.
Around 85 students, AFL Cape York staff, family and friends attended the function on Friday 14th November to celebrate the six young men who were each awarded a specially designed plaque to recognise their resilience and commitment.
Graduates Glendon Woosup, Ezra Charlie, Malachi Songoro, Suma Nona, John Pearson and Joe Pearson kicked off the night by performing Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander dances, and then each gave moving recounts of their time at the House.
Four of the six young men have enrolled in universities across Queensland and New South Wales.
Glendon Woosup is set to attend Bond University on the Gold Coast, where he will also link to the Gold Coast Academy Program as a top-age player. Despite Glendon missing out on a selection in the Qld U18 team as a 17-year-old in 2014, Cape York House’s Rick Hanlon is hopeful the youngster will be able to go all the way in 2015.
Thursday Island’s Ezra Charlie was completing Year 12 at Tagai College, but had little idea what the future would hold for him. Since arriving at the House in mid-2014, he has excelled, playing regular footy for the Cape York Eagles and representing the Multicultural team at the State Championships, and is now gearing up to head to James Cook University to study teaching. Despite his limited footy experience, Ezra has showed a clear natural talent that Hanlon hopes will see him brought on board with a senior Cairns club in 2015.
Suma Nona and John Pearson will make the journey over the border to head to Sydney University where they’re set to study Psychology and Engineering respectively. The pair will be lucky enough to find another mentor interstate, with AFL Commissioner Sam Mostyn, who lives around the corner from the Uni, offering to take the boys under her wing.
Malachi Songoro will head back to his home on Yam Island in the Torres Strait, where he will potentially look at joining the Defence Indigenous Development Program (DIDP). He has graduated from Cape York House with a Certificate III in Fitness, Certificate II in Hospitality and Certificate II in Sports Management under his belt.
Cape York House’s youngest graduate Joe Pearson is planning on taking a gap year before similarly signing up with the army as part of the DIDP. He will continue developing his footy skills with the Eagles if he remains in Cairns in 2015.
Over the 11 years since AFL Cape York was established, the program has grown from an instrument to encourage participation on the footy field to an invaluable vehicle for both personal and community change.
Through the spirit of AFL, development staff roll out lifestyle and sporting programs throughout Cape York and Torres Strait Island communities, highlighting the importance of school attendance, the negative impacts of substance abuse and the detrimental effect violence can have on communities.