A new joint initiative between the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, the National Rugby League and State and Australian Governments will help young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from remote areas in Queensland complete their education and find jobs.

To be built on former Townsville TAFE land, NRL Cowboys House is being supported by a $9.5 million investment from the Australian Government and will provide accommodation for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from the beginning of the 2017 school year.

Co-captain and Origin star Johnathan Thurston, with former champion fullback Matt Bowen, will be Cowboys ambassadors for NRL Cowboys House, which will be home to up to 50 students from remote areas in northern Queensland attending secondary schools in Townsville.

Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said NRL Cowboys House had been modelled on AFL Cape York House in Cairns which has operated successfully in Cairns for three years.

“This new facility will provide accommodation for students from remote communities and ensure they have the best chance possible of completing high school and moving into the workforce or on to higher education,” Minister Scullion said.

“The house will provide supported accommodation for male students aged 12 to 18 from remote areas so they can study in high schools throughout Townsville. 

“It will be home to 25 students in its first school year – 2017 – and it is planned to move to full capacity of 50 by 2018.”

The $9.5 million grant was provided by the Australian Government through the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the Cowboys had a high profile throughout the communities in northern Queensland.

“NRL Cowboys House will be an extension of community support programs that the football club had been running for about five years,” Mr de Brenni said.

“The house will have accommodation wings, study areas, a learning hub, a dining room and recreation area is being built on a hectare of land near the Pimlico TAFE campus, in the city’s inner west.

“Preliminary work at the site began last year, and it is expected all construction will be finished by December 2016.

“It aims to help guide students through their secondary education, right through to completing school-aged apprenticeships or university.

“NRL Cowboys House will be managed by the Cowboys Community Foundation, the charity arm of the North Queensland Cowboys, with financial and other support from the NRL.”

NRL Commission Chairman John Grant commended the Cowboys and both levels of Government for committing to greater education support in North Queensland for Indigenous students.

“The NRL has a very strong resolve to support and include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across Australia, particularly in relation to education,” Mr Grant said.

“NRL Cowboys House will be a fantastic education hub for North Queensland and I look forward to seeing the success of students in years to come.”

North Queensland Cowboys CEO Greg Tonner said NRL Cowboys House fitted perfectly with the football club’s commitments to communities in the north.

Mr Tonner said the Cowboys would work closely with families and community leaders from the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure the success of the program and the young people involved.

“NRL Cowboys House is designed to encourage and nurture students, whether their interests are in the arts, academic pursuits or sport,” he said.

Minister Scullion said the NRL Cowboys House program aimed to give the students the best chance of doing well in Year 12, in higher education and to find jobs for students after they finished high school.

He said Construction Skills Queensland had committed to a program of matching Year 11 and 12 students to local businesses and would subsidise participants' costs.

“The successful transition to higher education or employment at the completion of schooling will be part of the overall strategy for the House.”

Mr de Brenni said the students would be selected with the support of an NRL Cowboys House advisory committee that would include representatives of the NRL, school principals and community advocates, as well as the North Queensland Cowboys.

“Candidates will be expected to have sound school attendance records and be committed to getting a good education as a pathway to achieving their goals,” he said.

“The students coming to NRL Cowboys House would be from some of the most remote areas in the state.”