Sydney Catholic Schools has partnered with the NRL School to Work program to increase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ success in the classroom and assist in their transition from school to tertiary education. Here Jane Bridges, SCS’ Wellbeing Specialist: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, explains how the partnership is helping to make a difference in our young students’ lives.  

Sydney Catholic Schools’ student wellbeing specialist, Jane Bridges

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Student Wellbeing Specialist, Jane Bridges. Photo: Kitty Beale

As Sydney Catholic Schools prioritises success and excellence for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, we look to our partnerships with programs such as NRL School to Work to help ensure that we are catering to the needs of all, and achieving the best possible outcomes for each individual student. 

The NRL School to Work program was started in 2012 in response to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage in employment and education outcomes across the Western Sydney region. 

Since then the program has extended beyond servicing Western Sydney to schools across Victoria, NSW, the ACT and south east Queensland with more than 95 per cent of participants transitioning into education and employment after graduating from school. 

Sydney Catholic Schools has recognised the impact of this program and has continued to extend the opportunity to SCS secondary colleges. 

In 2021 there are 34 active students in the program across 11 SCS high schools. 

The young Aboriginal students in the program are provided with access to a number of workshops, leadership camps and the support of an Indigenous mentor. This support includes job readiness guidance and support in the job application process. 

The workshops and mentors also assist in identifying students’ career aspirations and provide support with, and awareness of, the myriad of Indigenous pathways into tertiary education. 


Ashleigh Ingrey Ferris is a 2019 graduate of All Saints Catholic College Liverpool, who went through the program.

Ashleigh Ingrey Ferris with Greg Inglis

Ashleigh Ingrey Ferris with Greg Inglis. Photo: Supplied.

“The NRL School to Work program helped me grow in confidence within myself and my culture,” Ashleigh said.

“I went to the NRL Indigenous Youth Summit leadership camp in 2018, which helped me open up and get out of my shell. 

 I have met lifelong friends from this experience” – Ashleigh Ingrey Ferris 

“It helped me learn more about myself and taught me how far I can push myself,” Ashleigh said. 

“My mentor helped me open my eyes and stuck with me when I changed my mind 100 times in what I wanted to do in life.”

Ashleigh has since relocated to Townsville where she is completing a Certificate IV in Youth work at TAFE.


Shaun Humphries, the NRL School to Work Regional Manager, shared his reflections on the program. 

“What continues to become more evident is that for Indigenous excellence to shine through, a holistic, multilayered, strengths based approach is needed to ensure the success of the NRL School to Work program and the results obtained by our participants continues.” Mr Humphries said.

One of the strengths of the program SCS has identified is the fact that young Aboriginal people continue to participate in the program in the first year of their post school pathway. 

“The program supports the young person for the first six months of their tertiary placement, to ensure they are supported in the difficult transition from school to work or study” – Shaun Humphries

Bryce Ingrey Ferris, another Aboriginal SCS graduate and participant in the NRL School to work program, stated that in the beginning it was about meeting new people and working with his mentor to find out what he wanted to do in the future. 

“My mentor helped me get into TAFE doing a Certificate 11 in Youth work.

“Further down the line my mentor kept in touch with me and provided me with cadetships to apply for. 

“With the help of this program I applied to work with Transport for NSW (TfNSW) and to do a Certificate IV in Business. 

“I am currently still working for TfNSW as an Assistant Coordinator, which I am very thankful for.” 


Students involved in the NRL School to Work Program.

Students involved in the NRL School to Work Program. Photo: Supplied.

Alanah Scholes, a proud Gamilaroi and Dunghutti woman, works with the NRL School to Work program as a project officer, helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at All Saints Catholic College Liverpool to identify their aspirations and pathways to success.

When asked about her role, she said: “I personally feel that my role (and similar roles) plays a significant part in these young peoples’ lives, especially in such a crucial time in their life as they embark into adulthood. 

“I feel it truly helps set them up for success. It’s a role that is so rewarding.

“In my time as a Project Officer, I’ve not only seen students graduate year 12, but also be the first in their families to go off to university and gain full-time meaningful employment in an industry of their choice” – Alanah Scholes


Sydney Catholic Schools will continue to provide the NRL School to Work program in its schools, as it exemplifies the need for industry partners and schools to collaborate to achieve the best possible outcomes for all our students. 

The program also builds skills in its participants, around cultural competence, work readiness and self confidence. The focus on building skills and capabilities is a priority for SCS, and the program does a great job in achieving this outcome.