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Promising Indigenous leaders flourish at NRL Youth Summit

Sixty-four high school students gained invaluable leadership skills and knowledge from the annual NRL Indigenous Youth Summit in Sydney last week.

There were four representatives for all 16 NRL clubs - with two-thirds of the attendees being NRL School to Work students.

In the lead-up to Indigenous Round, the participants stayed at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence from Tuesday-Saturday and engaged in workshops aimed to inform, upskill and empower.

School to Work regional manager Mara Greenwood said the workshops covered areas like racism and art while Clinton Toopi spoke about mental health through the NRL State of Mind program.

Participants also enjoyed a university exposure day.

"We worked alongside the University of NSW on Wednesday, we went there and had a variety of faculties that ran sessions for the students. They got to choose where they wanted to go," Greenwood said.

Bailey Scholes and Claudia Brown.
Bailey Scholes and Claudia Brown.

"Whether that was law, science [or other subjects]. You had some really hands-on experiences with the lecturers and academics."

A significant part of the Youth Summit is its ambassador program.

All attendees were encouraged to apply, with Bailey Scholes and Claudia Brown being voted as the male and female representatives.

"It's getting them to think about life outside of school, what it looks like to apply for things and really set yourself up," Greenwood said.

"They go through this series of workshops to understand the best way to apply for something and the best way to sell yourself.

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"They answer some questions, they spend some time on that. And then while they're doing an activity on the Wednesday evening, the staff get together and look at all their responses.

"They then whittle it down to 20 of the applicants. We had 10 young females and 10 males. The next day we came to RLC [Rugby League Central] and we had a number of corporate representatives here.

"We had corporates from Telstra, Accor Hotels and of course from the NRL who gave up their time to come. Those 20 [candidates] then had to go in and be interviewed by these executives and they also had one of their peers sitting in on that interview.

"For some of them it was a very daunting process but they learned a lifelong skill to behave and prepare for an interview."

The final four nominees delivered a speech at an ambassador lunch attended by the ARL Indigenous Council. 

"Everyone who was at this lunch then voted [for the top two ambassadors]," Greenwood added. 

The four finalists met with the ARL Indigenous Council on behalf of the group, raising issues that are facing young Indigenous people and what the NRL could be doing to further support them.

To cap off the week, the participants attended Friday's Wests Tigers-Dragons Indigenous Round clash at Bankwest Stadium.

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"These participants are amazing and I think a lot of them were doubting whether or not they should come because before coming they don't know anyone," Greenwood said.

"Some of them had never been on a plane before, so it was all a very, very new experience. Some of them gave up really important things to be here. That's a part of becoming a leader, making these choices and being put in those positions to make tricky decisions.

"That nervousness and anxiety quickly changed when they got there because they realised they were there to absorb and take it all in.

"They all left with smiles on their faces and a lot of very practical skills and knowledge to take with them while they're finishing their education and choosing where they want to go in their life."