Souths Cares’ parents, teachers, sponsors and supporters sailed to Shark Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour, to recognise and celebrate the success of their 30 HSC graduating students.

General Manager of Souths Cares, Shannon Donato, said that 84% of the graduates have either gained a place in fulltime further education and training, or employment.

“Souths Cares are very proud of their students and their achievements – which are higher than the national average for indigenous students,” said Shannon.

“Our students are typically motivated and conscientious, qualities that they are obviously taking with them in to TAFE, university and the workplace.”

Shannon said that today was a day of celebration for the students who have reached another milestone in their development.

“The Commonwealth Government’s School to Work Transition program is all about supporting our students in finishing school, getting their HSC and successfully transitioning from the classroom to either fulltime employment or study,” Shannon said.

“Seeing so many of our students achieve that goal is both exciting and rewarding.”

“Some of the students here today are the first in their family to complete their schooling.

“Their examples will help to their contemporaries in overcoming any barriers they may have to achieving their dreams.

The graduating students made their way to the ceremony aboard the indigenous owned, manned and operated vessel, Tribal Warrior.

Shannon said that the entire event was conducted in a culturally sensitive way.

“Shane Phillips, a highly regarded member of the Redfern community, gave the Welcome to Country, whist Danny Allende, who is a senior member of the La Perouse community, was the master of ceremonies” said Shannon.

“These two, proud, indigenous men are great leaders and role models in their respective communities.”

On their trip to the Island, the students and their guests listened to inspirational talks by indigenous NRL and Rabbitoh superstars Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion and Rhys Wesser.

The trio’s shared main message was to believe in your dreams because with a little focus and hard work, they are very achievable.

Arriving at the Island the guests participated in a Smoking Ceremony by Aboriginal Elder Uncle Max Eulo and Welcomed by Glen Doyle, with traditional singing and didgeridoo playing.

After the formalities the group reboarded the vessel to relax and enjoy a smorgasbord luncheon in honour of the students.

Souths Cares would like to acknowledge the efforts of all involved in making the day a success especially Byron Matthews and Steven Clarke from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Sydney TAFE, Maxima and The University of Sydney University.

Rhys Wesser, Souths Cares Students Mentor, said that despite his role he has learnt much from his students.

“I have learned so much from these students, including a lot about myself,” said Rhys.

“I’m not sure who is mentoring who at times.”

“I not only want to wish all the graduates the very best for their futures but to thank them for making me a better man.”

As part of their graduation gift from Souths Cares, each student was given a tablet device which will assist them with their future studies and employment.