Cowboys House is growing, and it is not for the chance to meet a sports star.

NRL Cowboys House is doing things.

It offers Indigenous men from remote communities educational choices.

‘Traditional boarding school models can be a struggle for some families from remote communities,’ says General Manager, Fiona Pelling.

‘Cultural support and family and community connection is critical, so is a holistic model of care.’

‘Strong emphasis on students’ social, emotional and physical wellbeing supports retention.’

‘Sport is a huge drawcard, but providing a choice of education in an appropriate environment is our focus,’ Pelling says.


Palm Island Dancers visit to teach students some moves to participate in the Palm Island objective to break a world dance record, which they did!


The facility is supporting 50 students in its second year of operation.

Students from as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria, Cape York, and the Torres Strait Islands attend.

‘We challenge our students and set high standards,’ says Pelling.

‘We broaden their experience and encourage participation in the broader community.’

‘Their confidence to adapt to their forever changing surroundings is growing every day.’

‘We also encourage students over 16 years old to work part-time.’

‘Students who work are learning how to manage their finances and a bank account,’ Pelling says.


Honouring many family members and soldiers by taking part in the Townsville ANZAC day march


Many volunteers give their time, especially to support the tutoring program.

Indigenous staff, house parents, health providers, educators and an Education Manager are employed.

‘The Education Manager handles the academic assessment and success of students,’ says Pelling.

‘He is also responsible for selecting a school that best fits student and family values.’

‘Our staff complete ‘Unconscious Bias’ training along with their Cert 4 qualifications in residential care, first aid and water safety.’

‘Our team also spends a lot of time on the road working in the remote communities that our students come from.’

‘This involvement helps build relationships with families, schools and community,’ Pelling says.

NRL Cowboys House is a partnership between: the Cowboys Community Foundation, the National Rugby League, the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.


Major General Stuart Smith (ret.) with Stuart Ward, the head of boarding at Cowboys House, and NQ Cowboys’ general manager, Fiona Pelling. Image credit: Townsville Stronger Communities