Try for 5! is a school attendance challenge operating in 22 schools and 11 locations, including remote Aurukun, 800km north-west of Cairns.
The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys are proud to work with community partners Rio Tinto and Skytrans to motivate and reward the Aurukun school community for good school attendance.
We spoke to Cowboys community ambassador and club legend Matthew Bowen about his strong connection to Aurukun through the Try for 5! program.
Tell us about your community role
MB: I'm an ambassador for the club's Try for 5! program, which is a school attendance challenge that rewards and motivates schools, classes and communities to strive to send their kids to school five days a week.
I visit schools in the Townsville, Mt Isa and Cairns regions, and also the Torres Strait, Doomadgee and Aurukun.
What's it like going back to regional communities in the North?
MB: I grew up in Hope Vale and went to school at St Teresa's College, Abergowrie before landing my first contract with the Cowboys when I was 19, so this is definitely my turf.
When I was playing I always thought I'd like to be involved somehow in making a difference after my rugby league career ended, and I love being able to do this now in communities like the one I grew up in.
How long have you been visiting Aurukun?
MB: Aurukun State School has been part of Try for 5! since 2017, and I've been on all nine program visits.
It has helped me to get to know the staff, parents and students and we can easily pick up from the last visit, in terms of seeing who's been working hard and what challenges there might be to coming to school.
What's your biggest outtake from Try for 5! Aurukun?
MB: The commitment from the school to be running the program for the third year is huge. We visit to reinforce the messages the school is putting out every day.
We also couldn't do it without the support of Skytrans, who fly us and our program prizes and merchandise in and out of Aurukun, and Rio Tinto, who have been our program partner in Aurukun since we started there.
What does the program mean to you on a personal level?
MB: Since I became a dad [Matt is father to Diaz, MJ and Tatum] and my kids have been going to school, you understand more the impact of not going to school, and how hard families work to get their children an education.
I've met some really inspirational mums, dads, grandparents and extended family members who are faced with difficult circumstances but make school a priority for their kids no matter what.