CYLP Shonteia Warradoo

Taking Her Seat at the Table

An opportunity. That’s how Shonteia Warradoo’s mum presented the idea of her joining the Cape York Leaders Program. Shonteia was only in Year 6 at the time but with a little nudge from her mum, she took up a CYLP Secondary Scholarship and moved to Brisbane at the age of 13 to complete high school at Clayfield College.

“My mum mentioned the Leaders Program to me. She’s really big about opportunities and taking them as they come. She encouraged me to go for it, and I’ve been on it for five-plus years now.”

As a young boarder away from her home and family, she felt the struggle of being a minority in an unfamiliar environment.

“Going to Clayfield was a big culture shock. In primary school I was around a lot of black fullas and being removed from that and not being the dominant racial group, you feel like an outsider. There’s a lot of imposter syndrome about how you fit in.”

During these times, Shonteia learnt how to walk between and interconnect her two worlds; how to create space for herself.

“I had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s about not being afraid to speak loudly on what I feel and the opinions I hold.”

While Shonteia was at Clayfield, she received wrap-around support from her CYLP Student Support Officer, Clem, and took part in the CYLP Leadership Camps that helped her develop leadership skills and confidence.

“CYLP fosters such a sense of powerfulness in self. You go to camp every year and you’re taught about all the old people that fought for land rights and stood up for community and what they felt we deserved and so it really empowers you to be in that space with other Indigenous kids.”

When it came time to leave school, Shonteia knew she would continue with tertiary studies. With a passion for community wellbeing and Indigenous rights, Shonteia set her eyes on a Bachelor’s degree based around political science.

She now lives at Bond University’s student accommodation on the Gold Coast. Each working day, she makes the short walk from her dorm room to her classes where she completes her Preparation Program – a 12-month stepping stone to a Bachelor of Policy, Philosophy and Economics.

“Eventually, I’ll probably go into politics. I’m really passionate about fighting for what mob deserve.”

Shonteia’s Cape York connections run to the Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u peoples on the east coast close to Lockhart River. From these family lines come a number of other trailblazers who are actively involved in politics.

“I come from a lot of land activists. My aunty is a First Nations campaigner. She helped me foster that political ambition and empowered me to move into that space.

“Tertiary studies aren’t for everyone, but I’ve always felt they were for me. And CYLP have been there to support me through that. My mum was the first person in her community to get a degree, so that really drove me to go into tertiary studies as well. My mum’s story really empowers me. That’s why I don’t feel too scared doing it; I have a lot more access to tools than she did, and she did it by herself. So, it’s been great to have a role model. Someone to follow in the footsteps of.”

Another strong role model for Shonteia is American political activist, philosopher, academic, scholar and author, Angela Davis. Shonteia can see Angela’s work reflected in the current undertakings of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – a movement that Shonteia is watching intently.

“We’re one of the only Commonwealth countries that don’t have a treaty with the Indigenous people. I think that speaks to a lot of the things we haven’t come to reconcile as a country. There’s talk of the Uluru Statement and a Voice to Parliament, and I think that’s one of the first steps we take towards coming together as a nation to move forward together, not as separate entities,” says Shonteia.

“After my degree, I’ll probably go into post-graduate studies. I imagine that after my studies I’ll be in a space more equipped to help people; someone who’s stronger, more resilient and has a bit more tenacity to face their problems and issues. Rather than aiming towards a place or role, I envision me growing on those qualities.”

Shonteia hopes to use her experience to positively inspire the younger generation, just as her role models have inspired her.

“I know that one day someone will trail in my tracks, and I want to do good for them. That’s part of what drives me. I have a lot more growing to do before I become the person that I want someone to emulate. Being confident and being strong in what I believe in, things I hold close to my heart, so they know that it’s okay to stand up for yourself and stick up for the things you believe in.”

But for now, Shonteia will continue to be the student and develop her knowledge of the world and fine tune the way she interacts with it.

“Angela Davis is intelligent, she’s staunch, she’s everything I would want to be. And that’s who I want to grow into: a staunch woman.”


Shonteia Warradoo
CYLP Leaders Sam, Shonteia and Alyza.



Scroll to Top