Broncos, Media Release, September 2023
Broncos are propelling academic achievements and cultural empowerment for rural and regional Indigenous students, fostering greater attendance, full-time employment prospects, and equitable opportunities comparable to their city counterparts.
Nearly 3,000 students across Queensland and Northern NSW are enrolled in this years’ Beyond the Broncos program, an initiative of the Brisbane Broncos to inspire, empower and assist with educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Strong role models and the promise of a brighter future have deeply impacted Dalby State High School students. Sarah Dodd, Beyond the Broncos Student Support Officer (SSO) at Dalby State High School, is proud to provide emotional and academic support within a culturally safe space in the school.
As a Wulli Wulli/Gamilaroi woman and a Dalby High alumni, Sarah fills a unique role in connecting with students as well as working collaboratively within the school.
“I have lived in Dalby for 30 plus years, so I know a lot of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and I’ve already built those connections with them, so when the students come to school they’re already comfortable with me and are confident enough to come and seek support if they need,” Sarah said.
“Key outcomes of the program have included increased school attendance and improved grades. When I started in 2020 there were 20 students enrolled in the program and now there are 90. That’s an amazing 350 per cent increase in enrolments.
“I work to identify barriers that students may face, and work collaboratively with them and other school support staff to help students reach their full potential.”
In her first year out of school, alumni Meelah McCarthy is using her experience in the program to support and mentor current students in Dalby.
Her key role is assisting students with their transition between primary and secondary school, particularly those who are struggling or disengaged.
“I wouldn’t have these opportunities and career progression if it weren’t for the program. It definitely helped me to figure out who I am and made me more confident and ambitious,” she said.
“I’m currently studying teaching at the same time, and now don’t feel there are any limits to where I can go.”
Christine Halliwell, General Manager of Community & Government Programs at Brisbane Broncos, said the program ensures youth in regional and rural Queensland and Northern NSW, are given the same opportunities and support as those in city centres.
“Beyond the Broncos combines hands-on workshops with in-school mentoring and support to encourage attendance, good behaviour and positive participation.
It helps students in regional and rural communities to graduate with confidence and forge pathways into employment or further education,” she said.
Arrow Energy has been supporting the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy in the Surat and Toowoomba region since 2018.
Australian Rural & Regional News: How has the program helped the students with their studies and relations with the broader school and wider community?
Sarah Dodd: Having the program available within our school for First Nations girls has created a culturally safe space. It allows students to be themselves without judgement or fear. This safe space, as well as having an “Aunty,” has encouraged the girls to attend school. The success of the program has been reflected in the students’ increased academics.
We are seeing an increase in attainment rates with a total of 13 First Nations girls graduating from the Beyond the Broncos in 2023, with 9 of these students are already within the workforce and securing apprenticeships/traineeships. Students are then entering the workforce in our wider community as young positive role models and contributing to not only the First Nations communities but our wider communities.