FORMER footy players Wendell Sailor and Nathan Blacklock had one clear message for Aboriginal youngsters at the Deadly Days Festival at Casino yesterday: “Stay in school!”
And the former stars of the field in both league and union had personal stories to tell once they freed themselves from the mobs of fans that turned out to see them and 2009 Australian Idol star Stan Walker at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Sailor freely admitted that while he had enjoyed a stellar career as an athlete, he could have given more attention to his academic studies.
“When I was at school I didn’t achieve my full potential in education,” he said. “If I had my time again I’d listen to my teachers.”
Sailor did finish school and even studied justice for six months in the hope of becoming a policeman.
“I saw a lot of people, including relatives, just waiting around for the dole cheque,” Sailor said.
“I wanted more out of life and while I made the most of my sport at school, I could’ve given a bit more to my education.”
Sailor said he had also decided not to drink until he was 21.
“I would tell kids to stay at school and finish Year 12, even if you don’t like it,” he said.
“You will need Year 12 to find a good job.”
Blacklock said he was the first in his family to finish school and attended McIntyre High School at Inverell.
“I have three brothers and three sisters and none of them finished school,” he said.
“I learned from their mistakes. They gave me a lot of drive to keep going.”
Since retiring in 2006 Blacklock has been involved in mentoring programs for youth and will join the Federal Police in Canberralater this year as part of the Juvenile Justice mentoring program.
Mallanganee elder Tim Torrens, who attended the day with family, said he was pleased to see so many turn out for the day.
“I tell you what, I was surprised to see so many people here,” Mr Torrens said.
“I went to about the third year of high school.
“Then I went and did bush work and cattle work, but these days you need something behind you to get a good job.”
The Deadly Days Festival encourages young Aboriginal people to take part in education, training and employment and is staged each year by the North Coast TAFE’s Aboriginal Learning Partnerships Team.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.