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Our Region, Our People: Meet Fred

Published 08 April 2024

First Nations students reaping rewards from mental health help

Nathan Mellor and Year 12 student Fredrick Mick from Doomadgee.

Cowboys House youth mental health worker Nathan Mellor is empowering young First Nations students from remote northern Queensland communities to set themselves up with positive futures.

One of those students is boarder Frederick (Fred) Mick, who will graduate Year 12 this year after beginning his journey with Cowboys House in Year 8.

Fred, from Doomadgee, is an inspiring role model.

“I'm very fortunate to be given so many opportunities by Cowboys House,” Fred said. “And I’m thankful to all the staff over the years who have cared for me.

“The extra support to help me be successful has really helped get me to school, and Nathan helps motivate me to improve and overcome challenges.”

Fred’s journey highlights how access to appropriate healthcare and mental health resources can pave the way for a happier, healthier life, and a positive future.

Cowboys House is a boarding facility for First Nations students from remote areas who otherwise may not have the opportunity to attend and finish secondary schooling. Students come from very remote communities and homelands spanning the Gulf of Carpentaria, Eastern and Western Cape York, the Torres Strait, Palm Island, and Western Queensland.

Students from years 7-12 who reside at the boarding facility can also access the youth mental health worker, Mr Mellor, who works with them to overcome mental health challenges.

Mental health challenges can stem from adverse economic, family, education, and employment issues, while geographic location and limited services in these remote regions can also contribute.

“We work together with our students to establish boundaries and provide tools for them to cope in healthy and culturally safe ways,” Mt Mellor said.

Mr Mellor, who has worked in the youth mental health role since 2022, said the students he had worked and engaged with went on to graduate high school, get jobs, and take their skills back to their home communities.

“Part of my role is delivering culturally safe activities to encourage students to learn skills and build resilience while providing them with strategies to grow in confidence and deal with adversity,” Mr Mellor said.

“There are so many success stories. It is so humbling to work with these students, watch them grow in confidence, and forge their pathways after school.

“That’s what I enjoy most.”

General Manager Rochelle Jones said Fred was driven and wanted to get an after-school job.

“He began working in the Cowboys House kitchen after school, which he enjoys. More recently, he was hand-picked by the Nandos CEO for an after-school job, which he is really enjoying,” Ms Jones said.

“We have an active transitions program that works with the students and families on vocational pathways and our students tend to have an interest in jobs related to health, children and young people, university, and trades.

“One of our former students Brody, from Mornington Island, graduated in 2022 and has recently accepted a role in our transitions team and will be running a program with the students.

“The comprehensive care model at the Cowboys House provides more than a secondary education, it incorporates all aspects of life learning such as health and wellbeing, on-country cultural learning, nutrition, hygiene, budgeting, fitness, music, sport, and the arts.

“Our passion is for every one of our students to have the confidence to reach their potential and live happy and healthy lives.”

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) currently funds a part-time psychologist and part-time youth mental health worker at Cowboys House.

Last updated: 08 April 2024