15 April 2024

From Orientation Camp Buddies to Best Mates

Russell Whap and Mismam Kris grew up less than 50kms away from each other in the Torres Strait. They’re the same age – second cousins (“or maybe third?” they questioned). And, at the end of Year 6, they were both heading to the same high school.

And yet they’d never met until they boarded a plane on Horn Island to fly down to the Gold Coast for Yalari’s 2018 Orientation Camp.

Russ and Misi at Orientation Camp 2018

Turns out they had both chosen to attend St Ignatius’ College Riverview – one of Sydney’s most prestigious GPS schools – so they teamed up as buddies at the Orientation Camp … and have been pretty much inseparable ever since.

Hailing from Moa Island, just over 40kms due north of Thursday Island, Misi says he had a “pretty cruisy life” growing up – swimming every day and hanging out with his three younger brothers.

But grandfather John Toshie Kris casts a formidable shadow in the Torres Strait. He has served as Chair of the Torres Strait Island Regional Authority, a Councillor for the Torres Strait Island Regional Council and has stood for election as Mayor of the TSI Regional Council.

“Pop really wants me to follow in his footsteps,” says Misi, “so he was definitely the driving force behind me going to boarding school. And my mum – she could see how good it would be for me.”

For Russell, trading his home on Thursday Island for the Big Smoke was a huge opportunity.

“I wanted to experience something other than TI,” he says. “I just felt that going to boarding school down south would really expand my view of the world.

My whole family – mum, dad, grandparents, aunties and uncles – were all pushing for me to get a Yalari scholarship. I also had two cousins who had applied.”

Six years later, Russell and Misi are set to move onto different pathways. Russell has set his sights on university and a degree in Marine Science while Misi is applying for apprenticeships. But they came together for one more Yalari adventure as leaders at the 2024 Orientation Camp.

“The Senior Leadership camp was really good too,” adds Misi about their pre-Orientation Camp training weekend. “There were a couple of familiar faces but also lots of new people to connect with. Yalari is such a good network and a strong community.”

Yalari is also now their family, they both agree … even though they still couldn’t quite work out whether they were second, third or maybe fourth cousins!

This article was published in our 2023 Annual Review.
Click here to read more.

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