Returning home after a successful career in the NRL, Troy Robinson has used his experience to become a mentor and role model to local Indigenous youth. FOCUS sat down at Southern Cross University to talk with him and find out more …
What is your connection with the Coffs Coast?
I was born in the old Coffs Harbour Base Hospital; I’m a Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung Young man. Coffs is my place of birth, and Sawtell is where I’ve done all my growing up. My mum and dad bought me, my oldest brother and sister up close to the salt water and always around Rugby League.
Can you tell us a bit about your current job?
I’m the Indigenous Australians’ Student Support Officer at Southern Cross University – in the Indigenous Australian Student Services Team. I pretty much support all Indigenous students studying bridging courses, Bachelor courses and any other higher education degrees.
I also have a major role with AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) on campus, where I present and inspire our Indigenous high school students to aim to complete their Year 12, and we’ll walk with them along their journey, but mostly to instil into the young men and women that Indigenous Equals Success.
What do you hope to achieve in this role?
My goal is simple here at SCU: to give each and every Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student the best opportunity of completing their study, to eventually become our next Indigenous leader in nursing or midwifery, law, psychology, teaching or anything that they desire. Also, making aware to the wider community “what it takes to be a UNI student” and all we have to offer.
Have you seen an increase in Indigenous kids becoming interested in getting degrees and furthering their training over recent years?
Yes, massive increases; it’s so rewarding for me. To work with Indigenous Students (with AIME) coming on to campus, seeing them apply for university as a life pathway to give them opportunities or to make their family proud is something that I work hard to support. In the four years I have been at Southern Cross University, I have seen increases in both locals and the wider community, which is great.
Why do you think this is?
I think now more than ever our Indigenous Mob is seeking further education. I feel that closing the gap has been a major factor in having Indigenous people, young and old, interested – because it can help close the gap of our life expectancy.
Then you have those who have a passion to learn, the passion to lead, to create opportunities and pathways.
What kind of support is out there for the younger generation to help them transition form secondary school to tertiary studies?
There’s a lot of support, and it first starts within the schools, because each school has a careers adviser. The first stepis doing units in school to receive an ATAR/OP to get into uni; getting each student interested is another step. Looking at pathways (courses they’re interested in) they wish pursue. Then applying for an early entry, in SCU’s case STAR, which allows each student to receive an offer at the end or start of the year. The university also does school visits, information days and much more.
You had a successful football career playing in the NRL; can you tell us a bit about that?
My goal as a young man was to play first grade Rugby League, and that was it for me – nothing else mattered. Although after getting down to the big smoke (Sydney), I realised it was going to be harder than I thought.
My career started at the Wests Tigers, where I began training with the first grade squad at a young age and also managed a few trials. That led me to Souths Sydney Rabbitohs, where I managed to strike a first grade debut as halfback, one of the many halfbacks since they come back into the comp.
All my dreams were met the night I played Penrith Panthers in 2003, as a young, blond- headed, skinny fella … ha ha; it was a good night that night.
And you’re also stepping up to be captain coach at Bello this year.
I coached Bello back in 2008 and relocated from Canberra with my family. So, there was a feeling of unfinished business that was brewing up … My cousin, Brad Hart, and I decided to take the co-coaching job on board and help the club out. Belingen Valley/Dorrigo Magpies have always had massive hearts. When they’re short of players, they always field an outfit throughout the year. With new players, I’m passionate about bringing structure to the club and most of all, to have a fun filled year …
What is the One Deadly Step programme?
The One Deadly Step progamme is an event supported by the NRL, instigating communities to take One Deadly Step to Closing The Gap. Coffs Harbour this year are taking it and running with it by getting Aboriginal staff members from various workplaces to rally together to provide an event the whole community can be involved in and benefit from. Many staff will be involved in the 17 different health check stations: Galambila with the Ready Mob team, Mid North Coast Local Health District, NSW Government Health, Medicare Local are just some that have put together comprehensive chronical disease health screenings and the opportunity to find out what’s available locally to support your health. Rugby League stars will be attending and running training sessions for our future generation. All in all, the day will be One Deadly Day.
How did you become involved?
Because the NRL are in support of the day, the community came together and decided that we should get our local Group 2 coaches out there and put them on the invitation to exploit the day and enable interest from youth and community. Brad Hart, Clark Webb, Cameron Blair, Ronald Gordon and I were all asked to attend the day and help with the Rugby League sessions.
What is the goal of the programme?
The goal is for community to come together, Close The Gap with getting your regular checks, and staying healthy through your local services.
Instigating positive change through leadership and role modelling is important: showing our youth that it’s OK to be healthy, it’s OK to get regular health checks, it’s OK to be active on a regular basis.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment my future plans are to watch my kids grow to be the best that they can be; 2016 is a big year for me and my little family.
But in regards to work and football, I’ll continue to support and inspire those who require guidance and with footy, make it through 2016 with Bellingen Valley/Dorrigo Magpies, and shock a few sides ha ha!