DESPITE finishing her Higher School Certificate at South Grafton High School, working part-time at Bunnings, travelling to and from Sydney to work with Bangarra Dance Theatre and playing rugby league with the school, Dakota Mundine still found time to work with the Clarence Valley Council's human resources as part of the AFL's SportsReady program.
All of her hard work paid off last week, when the 17-year-old was recognised with a major award for Indigenous trainees, winning the program's Queensland and New South Wales trainee of the year award during a ceremony in Brisbane.
"I didn't really have a lot of social life," Dakota said.
"There were some who said I had too much on my plate, but I said 'I can do it', but it was pretty hectic."
Dakota was one of 11 finalists at the Brisbane awards ceremony and said the win took her completely by surprise.
"I had no idea," she said.
"When I was listening to the head of AFL SportsReady talk about the achievements I thought they were incredible. I just couldn't believe it when I was announced as the winner. I just hugged everyone."
Dakota has been accepted into university and plans to get back into study next year.
Council's human resources manager, Kathleen O'Sullivan, who accompanied Dakota at the awards, said she demonstrated tremendous work ethic and a determination to succeed, while displaying empathy and discretion.
"She is driven to make the world a better place," Ms O'Sullican said.
"Dakota didn't hesitate to offer assistance to other team members and give new administration tasks a go."