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Pictured above: Royston Noel (Sagigi-Baira).

Staying at an Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) hostel has opened doors for many First Nations people.

Take Royston Noell (Sagigi-Baira) for example. 

As a proud Thanakwith and Wagadagam man, Royston inspired people around the country earlier this year when he took out the Australian Idol 2023 trophy, against some fierce competition.

Winning one of Australia’s most high-profile televised singing competitions has certainly opened doors for Royston, including a recording contract with Sony Music, the release of his debut single ‘Invincible’ and spending time overseas being mentored and writing new music.

As many high achievers have proven, success doesn’t happen overnight.

Royston hails from the tiny and remote town of Mapoon, located on the western side of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, with a population of around 400 people.
Royston reflected that, ‘most kids wanted to play rugby or go fishing, but I just wanted to sing. It's all I ever wanted to do.’

To get started in the performing arts field, Royston moved to the ‘big smoke’ and studied at the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts (ACPA) in Brisbane.

During this time, Royston stayed at AHL’s Elley Bennett Hostel, which helped him immensely while studying at ACPA.

Royston said, ‘moving to Brisbane was super exciting but also really daunting. Despite that, I had the best time at Elley Bennett Hostel because there were so many other students from ACPA staying there and it was super convenient because ACPA was only down the road.

‘I found it so easy being a new adult while staying in Elley Bennett because meals were included in the weekly rent which I loved.’
Jackson Beckley, manager at Elley Bennett Hostel when Royston was there, fondly recalls that, ‘I can absolutely say in the nicest way possible, that you could hear Royston wherever you were, in or outside of the hostel. His voice was so mesmerising. He could be found sitting on the lounge room sofa singing to the other students, or they could be all singing together.’

With a short stint as well at AHL’s William T Onus Hostel in Melbourne while looking for a share house, Royston recalled that, ‘they were so accommodating.’
AHL currently has 42 hostels around Australia, providing safe, culturally appropriate and affordable places to stay for First Nations people.

Royston agrees that AHL provides a vital service for First Nations people.

‘Yes, I do think it's important because there is a number of us that come from remote places for a lot of reasons – for example, hospital visits, Sorry Business, following your dreams – and get easily homesick or flustered being in the city for the first time.

‘It's so awesome to have a space where you feel comfortable and know that the staff have your best interest,’ Royston said.

So, what’s next for Royston, who counts fellow First Nations singer Jessica Mauboy as one of his own idols and whose footsteps he hopes to follow.

Royston’s debut single ‘Invincible’ was released in 2023, a strong and hopeful ballad with very personal lyrics, touching on the challenges Royston has faced and overcome to achieve his dreams: ‘…and I had nothing left to lose, because I died a thousand times just trying to make these dreams come true and there is nothing I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t do.’

The song is a moving anthem, showcasing Royston’s soulful voice and musical style, with Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston noted as musical inspirations.

But no matter how far his career soars, Royston wants to help inspire First Nations kids to achieve their dreams, as the boy from Mapoon once dreamed. 

‘I think it'll let them know that it doesn't matter where you come from or what experiences you have, if you follow your dreams and work hard, you can achieve them. No dream is too big,’ Royston said.