AS Indigenous training programs face funding cuts, a new mentoring program is bravely forging ahead at Flora Downs station 80 kilometres east of Camooweal.
Brothers Patrick Cook and David Sammon are the brains behind the idea - coined after chatting around the campfire around five years ago.
The Cultural Horsemanship Program has just finished its third week, working with Mount Isa youth at risk.
They have their own story of survival; their mother died when Patrick was six and David was five.
They had two older brothers and a threeyear-old sister, and the family was split up.
Patrick was adopted into a white family and grew up in Mackay and didn't see his family again until he was 19.
His home life was not not good - his foster father was abusive and he lived on a Housing Corporation street.
As a youth he got into drugs and ran wild.
"I was pretty much in the same scene as many of these boys, they all think they're gangsters, but they're not," he laughed.
"I could have ended up in jail, but at about the age of 22 or 23, I turned myself around."
"It was basically my choice... my choice to move forward.
"I could have run with the pack. I could have been a bikie or a a drug dealer. I could have been in jail."
With that kind of background, the two brothers talked about how they could help young Indigenous kids.
"We set up our own company, Mona Aboriginal Corporation, in memory of our mother; we got a project plan together and sourced funding and got a small pilot grant from the Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) to run the program," Patrick said.
The grant only covers food and essentials for the project.
The mentors, Patrick and David are all volunteering their time - taking up to 10 young people for a week at a time on their version of a boot camp at Flora Downs.
Patrick has taken leave from his job at the Department of Communities in Cairns, and David from his mining job.
David's wife Angela does the cooking and up to nine Indigenous mentors have pitched in to help voluntarily.
The camp uses workers' accommodation at Flora Downs and the young people are up before dawn to learn skills such as fencing and horsemanship.
"We've got a mixture of kids who don't usually mix together in an urban environment: gangsters, ringleaders, petrol sniffers, kids just about to disengage from school and those who already have," Patrick said.
"It takes about two or three days for the kids to "come out of themselves.
"It's great to see them sitting down and talking with each other, playing games, playing cards.
"We have a TV here in the middle of the room and not one of the kids wanted to turn it on."
The youths have to go cold turkey - withdrawing from petrol or glue sniffing, alcohol, drugs and nicotine.
"We have a yo-yo here for them for stress relief, that's it; no glue, no smokes," Patrick said.
The young people have found their country appetites and have been enjoying their food and there's no complaints about the lack of junk food or cigarettes.
"They get up at the crack of dawn and at half past eight at night, they're straight to bed," Patrick said.
After a couple of days working with the horses, the boys are ready to ride by themselves.
"You should see the huge smiles on their faces; it's really built up their confidence," Patrick said.
"These kids are turning their lives around."
He is hoping for an extension of funding for the program.
"We're covering education, health and well-being for these kids; we're 100 per cent Indigenous owned and run, and our mentors are all Indigenous people with local knowledge," Patrick said
Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter, spent a few hours with the youth on the program at Flora Downs last week and said he was very impressed with it.
"It has huge potential," he said.
"Just getting these kids out of the city and onto the land brings out another side to them and it's run by local people who are doing a great job."
Patrick and David said they were grateful to the owners of Flora Downs for the use of their facilities to run their Cultural Horsemanship program.
- Pictures: SUPPLIED