Young, Black and Deadly

  • Story by: Mahala Strohfeldt

  • Video by: Josaphine Seale

Hollywood Glamour was the official theme of the night as four Cape York Girl Academy students graduated from their senior year of high school in grand style at the Palm Cove Surf Club on November 16.

Anyone who knows Verona Platt, Savanna Forbes, Jordan Harding and Cara Kalkeeyorta would attest to just how hard each young woman has worked to reach this pivotal point in their lives. And while it hasn’t always been easy, the four girls, along with their army of supporters, have never given up.


Clockwise from top left: Jordan Harding; Cara Kalkeeyorta; Verona Platt and Savanna Roberts (Forbes).

The tight-knit group has encountered more than the average amount of challenges in their young life, but according to Lockhart River's Jordan Harding, there was always an unwavering belief that they could achieve anything they set their minds to.

“I want to thank everyone who has been here for us from the beginning” Jordan said. "Our families and teachers and especially the other students – we wouldn’t be standing here today without you, without your love and support. Even when we were going through hard times. You never gave up on us, and we never gave up on each other.


Check out all the pics from the Girl Academy Formal here

Speaking to the students on the night, Dean of Campus, Karen Salam said it was incredibly rewarding to be a part of these young women’s lives and see the positive changes they went through as they navigated their way through their school and personal lives.

“It gives me great pleasure to be a part of this celebration of these four young women, and I’d also like to acknowledge their families and communities," Karen said. "They have made us all very proud, and I know they will continue to make us, their families and themselves proud as they go out into the world and make their mark.

“I want to wish each of you the best for this next stage in your lives and reflect on your strength and determination to get to this point. I know that you will be successful in whatever path you choose next because I have seen the way you have applied yourself to the challenges you’ve faced here. I am grateful to have been a part of your journey.”

It is a testament to an academy that is more like a home-away-from-home with built-in family to keep the morale high when the stresses of school life get too much. On top of the usual demands of being a senior student, some of the girls also have the added pressure of balancing being young mums to their babies while studying. One of the graduates, Cara Kalkeeyorta is mum to her three-year-old daughter Shaquoiah.

While tears flowed during many of the speeches – especially during the students' farewell to the graduates led by Year 11 student Naydia Dooley – the mood was high by the time the girls were presented with their graduation folders and gifts, signalling the end of the formal proceedings.

By the time DJ YoYo got the beats pumping and glitter confetti was flying through the air, the dancefloor was packed with exuberant dancing, shoes optional.

We wish heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class of 2022, all the best for the brightest future and a world where you lead the way. We can’t wait to see where this next path takes you and will be here every step of the way cheering you on.


Savanna Roberts (Forbes)
Savanna is a 17-year-old proud Alawa young women from the Minyerri Community of Northern Territory who commenced with the Academy in 2019. Savanna is considering her future options, which includes the possibility of returning to Cape York Girl Academy in 2023, to complete more studies.

Verona Platt
Verona is a 17-year-old proud Lama Lama and Kaanju young women from Coen who commenced with the Academy in 2021. Verona's goal is to study Law, however, is considering a gap year to take up some work before heading off to university.

Jordan Harding
Jordan is a 17-year-old proud women from Lockhart River who commenced with the Academy midway in 2022. Jordan has applied for work/traineeship at Rio Tinto, and is also considering work in the future with the Australian Defence Force.

Cara Kalkeeyorta
Cara is a 20-year-old proud Wik Mungkan women of the Putch Clan, from Aurukun who came with her 3-year-old daughter Shaquoiah mid-way through 2022. Shaquoiah has spent her time at Girl Academy preparing for kindergarten, learning to be away from mum with new routines, toileting, meals, activities and achieving her developmental goals at the Early Learning Centre. Cara plans to obtain employment with Aurukun Council or the local school, after settling her daughter into kindergarten in Aurukun.

Check out all the glitz and glamour from the night with the full photo album here.


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