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Hammer's message hits hard for Western Cape students

When Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow walked through the classroom door, students at Western Cape College in Weipa simply couldn’t believe their eyes.

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys flyer, who travelled to the Gulf with North Queensland Toyota Gold Stars player Romy Teitzel, came armed with a very important message – Try for 5!

The school is currently ranked fourth on their Try for 5! leaderboard, as part of the interschool attendance challenge, supported by the Australian Government and Regional Express (REX). 

The program challenges and incentivises schools to improve and maintain positive school attendance through messaging, rewards and prizes, as well as visits from Cowboys personalities.

For Western Cape College Associate Principal (Primary) Craig Law, the visit from ‘Hammer’ made a real connection with students, allowing them to see that success is achievable no matter their geographical location.

“When I was the principal at Balaclava State School, Hamiso was one of my students there, so that gives a real connection for me and I can tell that story to my students that he’s not someone from away and afar, he went to a state primary school and is now playing for the Cowboys,” he said.

“For us, the program and these visits elevate attendance to a different level, giving us something tangible to attach the message to.

“Attendance is varied, but what I do know is it’s at the forefront of conversations and there is a direct link between attendance and outcomes – we know if we have students here 85% or more of the time, they’re going to pass.”

Mr Law said the school faces a number of challenges associated with school attendance but adopts a whole of community approach and sets the example by accommodating Mapoon campus students, who are often required to travel to Weipa with family for essential services, for an extended period of time.

Mapoon is a remote Indigenous community situated approximately 90km north of Weipa and is connected by a single unsealed road.

The Tjungundji, Yupungathi, Taepadhighi, Mbakwithi, Thankakwithi and Anathangay people are acknowledged as the Traditional Owners of Mapoon.

Western Cape College (Mapoon Campus) is a leader in the Try for 5! program, currently ranked second in their Try for 5! challenge, led only by Bloomfield River State School.

During the trip, students in Mapoon were given a boost to keep pushing for top spot with a visit from Gold Stars player Romy Teitzel.

Head of Campus (Mapoon) Jo Ross said the Try for 5! program gives the school a way to combine all their attendance strategies under one banner.

“It’s up there at the shop, our posters are around the town, so Try for 5! is really embedded in Mapoon and it helps us get every child to aspire to come to school each day,” she said.

“A lot of our children are either at 100% attendance or very close, and occasionally when students are sick, we actually have to try to convince them to stay at home.

“We talk to the children about their commitment to their learning, commitment to their classmates and their school, and the pride in their Mapoon community and how the Mapoon community is very proud of its school, and that makes up part of their attendance grade.”

Hamiso and Romy played outdoor games and signed autographs for Western Cape College students in both Weipa and Mapoon, after visiting classrooms and speaking one-on-one with students about the need to come to school.

Program schools have just weeks left to compete for the title of 2021 Try for 5! challenge winners, with huge prizes still on offer for improving school attendance in term 4.

The Try for 5! program is being delivered to 15 schools across North Queensland in 2021 with the support of the Australian Government, Queensland Government, Aon and Regional Express (REX), working together to promote better education outcomes through improved school attendance.