‘Life-changing’: Program inspiring Indigenous girls
NEW Ipswich State High School captain Tahlia Marshall is determined to carve a path for other Indigenous students to follow.
She is one of six Indigenous girls appointed to a leadership role in 2021, which is a record number for the Brassall school of more than 2000 students.
Tahlia has been part of the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy for five years, which now has more than 1700 Indigenous girls from across the state and northern New South Wales enrolled.
The program aims to improve school attendance, increase confidence, foster leadership and create career pathways after school.
Tahlia, who is also a talented rugby league and touch football player, said the academy had helped her make great strides.
She plans to study education at university.
"I am so thrilled to be elected school captain at my school and want to be a role model for other girls in the academy, showing them what is possible," she said.
"The girls academy gave me the confidence to apply for school captain.
"I have been able to build up my confidence, connect with my culture and step out of my comfort zone to lead my school.
"To be one of six Indigenous leaders at the school is a real honour.
"I want to show other Indigenous girls that they can achieve anything they put their mind to."
Her fellow Indigenous school leaders include Phoebe Conlon (Indigenous Captain), Rose Munt (Rivers Sports Captain), Shaieisha Towler (Sullivan Sports Captain), Gillian McInnes (Visual Arts Captain) and Maliyan Thompson (2021 Student Wellbeing Captain).
The school was visited by a pair of the the program's ambassadors on Wednesday; homegrown rugby league legend Ali Brigginshaw and netball star Beryl Friday.
Staff are based in each participating school to provide daily mentoring with more than 70 girls enrolled at Ipswich State High School.
Ambassadors, a list of which also includes Justin Hodges and Scott Prince, visit each participating school every term.
Former Bremer State High School student Ms Brigginshaw has been involved in the program for three years.
"When I started playing for the club the one I really wanted to do was work for the club and they gave me the opportunity in the community program and I've loved it ever since," she said.
"I just love working with the girls and we want them to come to school and enjoy it and know school is the right place for them and not think the easy way out is just to drop out.
"One thing I did when I was younger was I took school for granted. I was there to play sport and probably didn't do the school work.
"I really like to get that understanding and that relationship between the teachers and the students.
"I turned my back on a few teachers and that was probably down to immaturity.
"I'm trying to show these girls their teachers are here to help us and they're not here to make our days painful.
"To have a female Indigenous school captain is something we're so proud of."
Ms Friday, who is studying education, said it was incredibly rewarding to be involved with the academy.
"I think it's all about empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls at school and helping them get the most out of their education," she said.
"We're trying to empower these girls so they can make better decisions.
"It's pretty life-changing.
"We want to leave them with things to do in their day to day lives to make changes so they can become the best versions of themselves."
The program is supported by the Federal Government, State Government and major community partner NRMA Insurance.
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.