SUPPLIED | Broncos Media

An unstoppable student duo from Cunnamulla State School has achieved a resounding victory for their community and culture, securing 1st place at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aspirations Programs (ASTIAP) Queensland State Finals.

As superstar Beyond the Broncos students – an initiative of the Brisbane Broncos community programs – Charli Pender, 16 and Heidi Jones, 15, took home 1st place in the Visual Arts challenge.

The girls collaborated on a painting representing the equity and excellence of First Nations’ students. The deadly award-winning artwork will now feature on the competition shirts next year.

Charli and Heidi also proudly walked away with 3rd place in the Drama Improvisation category.

The highly motivated students attended the event after originally beating out 47 other schools across the Darling Downs and South West in three categories of art, poetry and persuasive speech.

The ASTIAP state finals, an initiative for high performing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, took place at the University of Queensland on June 21st, where contestants were given the opportunity to speak in front of other students from across Queensland, vying for a spot in the national competition.

ATSIAP is a state-wide academic challenge for eligible students in Years 7 to 12. The program builds upon students’ critical and creative thinking skills by providing opportunities to investigate solutions for real-world challenges. ATSIAP aims to raise students’ expectations of themselves as learners and
enhance post-school aspirations to include tertiary pathways.

Being part of the highly successful Beyond the Broncos Program and recently attending the Arrow Energy Leadership Camp, Charli commends the program for inspiring, empowering, and helping her embrace her culture.

“It felt good because coming from a small community, we didn’t think we could do that and to think of all the schools we won against is pretty cool,” she said.

“I’m very confident when it comes to some things, but it definitely got me out of my comfort zone. Beyond the Broncos is so good because it helps young people that are really shy, helping them connect to new people and find new friends

“We came first in the visual arts challenge between 78 schools and our design is going to be on next year’s shirts. Mum’s really proud of me. It feels good to take on more of a leadership role and use my experience to help the younger generation.

“Especially for my younger sister and cousin who are doing the same thing next term, they can come to me for guidance.”

Christine Halliwell, General Manager of Community & Government Programs said the highly successful Beyond the Broncos Program continued to inspire the next generation to take a positive step towards their future careers.

“The program is so important in our schools, because it not only reignites the student’s pride for their culture, but it also deepens their leadership skills,” Ms Halliwell said.

“We have over 300 students from across the South West region currently enrolled in the Beyond the Broncos and we’ve already seen first-hand how much it has boosted school attendance rates.

“As their confidence in the classroom grows, the students are more engaged and apply themselves to reach their full potential, which is fantastic to see.”

Linking cultural identity with academic achievement, more than 600 students across the South West region are enrolled in the Beyond the Broncos program.

Using their learnings in the classroom from Broncos sporting stars, students like Charli and Heidi have now become deadly leaders in their local communities. To find out more, visit or email

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