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Acting the part in Year 12


Busy carving out a name for herself in the film and television industry last year, Indigenous actress Shantae Barnes-Cowan says completing Year 12 always remained a priority.

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Graduating from Samaritan College in Whyalla in the Class of 2021, Shantae filmed two movies and a mini-series on sets in Sydney, Western Australia, Coober Pedy and Adelaide while completing her final year of study.

She also recently completed filming the eight-part fantasy TV series Firebite in Adelaide in which she plays the lead role of Shanika, an Aboriginal Australian hunter battling a colony of vampires in the middle of the South Australian desert.

The Adnyamathanha woman admitted balancing her acting with school work was challenging.

“It was extremely difficult to juggle all of these acting roles, getting used to living alone and being alone, while also having to remember to do some homework when I barely got a break to myself… but I stayed positive and held in there,” she said.

Shantae at Samaritan College, Whyalla.

“Completing Year 12 was important to me as I didn’t want to chuck all my school years away.

“It made me feel happy and proud to finish Year 12 as I got to make my family proud and I got to finish with my friends who I grew up with.”

Shantae acknowledged it was the support from her “two big families” that helped her navigate her busy schedule

“I’m passionate about my culture, my family and friends and my education,” she said. “I love my family – they all support me with everything I do and is always there for me.”

Her family includes foster parents, Jeanette and Stephen Cowan, who have cared for Shantae since she was 18 months old, as well as three sisters and seven brothers.

Shantae was one of 157 young people in care – either living with foster and kinship carers or in residential care – who received a certificate to recognise reaching the end of Year 12 at a ceremony at Government House on December 6. The State Government has partnered with Catholic Education SA to support scholarships for children and young people who are living in care.

As for the future, the 18-year-old has big plans.

“I hope to continue acting and pursuing my dream,” she said.

“The thing I love about acting is you can get really creative and become someone you’re not and really have fun with it. Also the people you meet and the connection you make really excites me!

“I hope to keep aiming high and I also want to be more of a role model for my town and the young Aboriginal kids who live there.”


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