Cobain a natural leader in new environment

December 30, 2023

Cobain Tipiloura shares his musical talents with audiences at SPC in Concert at the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts.

Ballarat could not be more different to Cobain Tipiloura’s home of Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory. But that hasn’t stopped the proud Tiwi student from achieving outstanding success since joining the St Patrick’s College community in 2022. In fact, it has opened Cobain’s eyes to a world of possibilities and earned him various accolades, including a prestigious state award for leadership.

It wasn’t too long ago that Cobain Tipiloura was living on Bathurst Island with his three sisters, fishing, hunting, and enjoying spending time on country.

Life was relatively simple, but the 17-year-old could only dream of following his heart and pursuing a career in music.

Fast-forward two years and the Year 12 student has completed his VCE at St Patrick’s College, received academic excellence awards along the way, taken centre stage and performed in front of hundreds of people, and been recognised at state level for outstanding leadership.

Cobain admits it hasn’t always been easy, especially leaving his family.

“Coming to Ballarat from the Tiwi Islands was very hard and different because I was very unsure if it was the place for me or if I would fit in,” he says.

“Ballarat is a lot bigger than what I was used to on the Tiwi Islands but the main struggle I faced was missing my family and loved ones.”

But Cobain did not let his fear hold him back and, buoyed by the encouragement of his family and friend Eddie Turner who also came to St Patrick’s College from the Tiwi’s, joined the St Patrick’s boarding community.

“I have been a boarder at St Patrick’s for two years and over those years I have faced many challenges and lots of home sickness but… each day there is something new to experience and enjoy,” he says.

Once settled in, Cobain seized every opportunity that came his way and was soon helping other Indigenous students trying to find their feet in unfamiliar territory.

In June, Cobain received a Ricci Marks Rising Star Award for leadership.

The awards are funded through the Victorian Government’s Community Support Fund and recognise the individual achievements of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in training, education, arts, sports, culture and community leadership.

In receiving the award at a gala presentation dinner in Melbourne, Cobain was described as an “amazing leader within his community” who was “always enthusiastic to take on opportunities that are presented to him and keen to provide guidance to younger mob who attend St Patrick’s.”

Cobain said he was shocked but honoured to receive the award.

“This is something that I truly cannot believe and one of the best achievements in my life,” he says.

“Year 12 is something that I thought I was going to struggle with but it has seemed to be quite the opposite. I’ve received Principal’s Awards for Academic Excellence in two of my classes (Vocational Major – Personal Development and Work Related Skills).”

Clontarf Academy coordinator David Friebel said Cobain had made a huge impact on the Clontarf program at St Patrick’s.

“It can take some time for a new program to grow legs but Cobain embraced Clontarf from the start and brought others with him. It didn’t take long for me to see the positive impact Cobain has on the other students, particularly in boarding,” he said.

“Coming from a remote area such as the Tiwi Islands to St Patrick’ College has challenges that many of us don’t understand and Cobain has been instrumental in providing support for the other boarders.”

Mr Friebel said Cobain was a natural leader and very worthy winner of a Ricci Marks Award.

“His leadership stands out and he continued to grow in this space throughout the year,” he said.

“It’s been great to see Cobain gain recognition of his leadership through the Ricci Marks Awards; it is richly deserved.”