Camp of Champions

A traditional Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony marked the beginning of the annual Cape York Leaders Program (CYLP) Leadership Camp to prepare their Secondary Leaders for the year ahead boarding at the best high schools in Queensland. This year the camp was held on the beautiful lands of the Yugambeh People, Traditional Owners of Dugulumba, Bilinooba, Gumera, Nirang, and Gugai - the Logan, Albert, Coomera, Nerang, and Tweed, also known as south-east Queensland and the Northern Rivers of New South Wales.

Almost 100 Academic Secondary Leader scholarship students joined CYLP supervisors and alumni at the Tallebudgera Leisure Centre in the heart of the Gold Coast.

Nestled between pristine surf beaches, creeks and rivers, students aged 11-17 came from all over Cairns and Cape York to take part in activities, including surfing and bodyboarding, archery, Indigenous orienteering, basketball, catapults and team rescue, along with some fiercely contested games of handball.



The five-night camp incorporated a panel of inspirational stories from alumni, including life hacks for coping with living away from community and thriving at boarding school. There was also a lively presentation by the From the Heart team on the Voice to Parliament. The team brainstormed ways that young people could engage in the Voice campaign and effect change, even if they were not yet able to vote in the referendum.

A powerful mental health session led by Kunjur First Nations Men’s Collective leader and former CYLP staff, Bernard Sabadi discussed important topics, such as self-harm, depression, anxiety and other social and emotional wellbeing issues. Rounding out a jam-packed week, leadership and transition planning helped year groups prepare to navigate a new school year in their respective boarding schools throughout Queensland.

CYLP Scholarship Manager Krista Christensen said the camp was essential in bringing all the scholarship students together to not only have fun but engage in essential personal development work and prepare for the year ahead.

“It’s more than just a camp. It brings everyone together and gives students the time to reflect, reset and prepare for the year ahead," Krista said. "Some of our students are as young as 11 and going away to boarding school for the first time. Others are seniors entering their final year of high school, so we’ve got children and young people at every stage of their educational and leadership journey.

“There’s a lot of peer support and interaction that goes on between the students and that’s incredibly important. We see the students supporting one another throughout challenges and witnessing leaders stepping up and taking ownership, students stepping up into leadership roles that you wouldn’t expect because they’ve previously been shy and reserved. But we work hard to create a safe space for everyone to be themselves. Most importantly, we create a culturally safe space where our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people thrive. This is also the perfect opportunity for our CYLP Team to build rapport with our new and existing students.”


Alumni and Pama Futures Staffer Sinjon Gavin has gone from taking part in the camps as a scholarship student at Brisbane Grammar School to being a supervisor. He says it’s been an incredible journey to go from a student being supported by CYLP to now working in CYP and supervising other younger students on camp.

“I was 14 when I went on my first camp," Sijnjon said. Leaving home at a young age and being surrounded by strangers was very daunting. But it really prepared me for the years ahead and it brings you closer together with other people from Cape York, creating friendships that still last today.

“I started working at Cape York Institute as an Engagement Officer for Pama Futures in 2019 and I felt over time it was important to give back to the program that supported me throughout all those years. I put my hand up to be a supervisor and this is my second camp in three years that I’ve been on. It’s an incredible experience to have come full circle. I was only a kid when I went on my first camp and now, I’m supporting this next generation through their own ups and downs. It's incredibly rewarding to see that you’re a small part of these students’ journeys.”

Want to see more?

Check out the full album of photos from the camp


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