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EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation

Clontarf Foundation

Striving to improve the life chances of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men

Australian Business Network

EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation

The Clontarf Foundation is a nationwide non-for-profit Australian organisation that exists to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. The foundation aims to prevent the build-up of negative feelings such as alienation and anger among vulnerable men through igniting their existing passion for sport and combining this with education. A large network of football academies exist across five states/ territories and work in partnership with local schools to deliver several types of engaging Australian Rules and/or Rugby League programmes. But for the boys, the Clontarf journey doesn’t stop at the end of their education, as the foundation offers support all the way through to employment. AusBN’s editor catches up with Clontarf’s CEO Gerard Neesham. Jacob Ambrose Willson: Gerard you are the CEO and founder of the Clontarf Foundation. What has it been like to watch it grow from one academy to a nationwide force of positive change for young vulnerable males?

Australian Business Network

EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation Gerard Neesham: It has been an incredible

tirelessly in the field each and every day to

and humbling experience to see a relatively

make the programme such a success.

simple concept back in 2000 continually grow and become more sophisticated and

I feel so lucky to work with and amongst so

professional over time and most importantly,

many committed people, not only our staff

reach more Aboriginal and Torres Strait

but also the teachers, Aboriginal and Torres

Islander boys and communities in need.

Strait Islander families, community workers and our many government and private sector

We started in Western Australia with 25 boys, two staff members and one school almost 19 years ago and today we support 6,600 boys in 97 schools across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. We also now have 350 full-time, dedicated and passionate staff members who work


Australian Business Network JAW: How does the organisation

is the one we have with schools. We have

collaborate with local schools to ensure

fantastic, working relationships with 97

academy participants are provided a

schools across five states/territories and to

healthy balance of education and sport

have the support of each individual school

and why is this school engagement

principal and teaching staff is paramount to

mechanism so important for many at-risk

achieving the outcomes we are striving for.

students? We develop an understanding of why we GN: Our most critical partnership in addition to the one we have with the boys and their families,

exist with the schools and then fit in around their education delivery, allowing the many fantastic teachers in our country to do what they do best without having to worry about poor attendance or behaviour. There is a good level of give and take and we both share the great success stories and enjoy the journey together.

EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation

Australian Business Network We believe education is the key factor for any at-risk child to have an opportunity to succeed in life. First and foremost, they need to attend school on a regular basis and complete Year 12 which will positively impact the other ‘Closing the Gap’ indicators of employment, health and reduction in criminal activity. It is also our belief that this is a generational problem and will take a generation or two to fix. We are regularly witnessing this in many communities where we have been operating for 10 years or more. It has now become normal for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in those communities to go to school as that’s all they see and know. JAW: What lasting impact do the programmes tend to have on students themselves and on the communities in which they live in? GN: Our goal is to make stronger, more sustainable and cohesive communities. Our boys become confident men, great workmates, good fathers, husbands or partners and like any community, the more people who positively contribute, the better the community will be. JAW: How does the foundation prepare young men for the world of work and how does it support them all the way through to employment? GN: One of our key areas is obviously employment and we have a separate


EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation employment team around the country whose

based traineeships, driver’s licenses, job

job is to prepare the boys for post-school

applications – the list is endless. Everything

life and transitioning into the workplace or

that my wife and I did for our four children

further study.

so they each had the best opportunity to succeed in life, is exactly what our staff do for

We place an expectation on the boys as soon

the Clontarf boys.

as they walk through the door that they will be getting a job once they finish school and

We have had almost 3,000 of our boys

we support them along the way.

complete Year 12 since inception and so there are many, many success stories. Year

We take them on worksite visits to our

on year, more than 80% of these boys remain

partnering organisations, assist with CV’s,

engaged in employment or further study 12

interview skills, work experience, school-

months after completing school.

Australian Business Network As an example of a successful partnership

Today we have several alumni linked to Rio

within the resource sector, over 100 of our

including two second year lawyers, a second

boys have gone on to work for Rio Tinto who

year civil engineer and an OHS graduate

are our most significant corporate partner.

working full-time within the business. This was unheard of five or six years ago, so these

What is most pleasing is that in addition

boys are continually breaking new ground.

to the many boys who have gone on to be apprentices, trainees, T/A’s or truck drivers

JAW: Finally, how proud are you to

with Rio, we are now seeing our boys go on

have provided this platform for many

to tertiary studies and completing cadetships

generations of young Aboriginal and

with Rio Tinto.

Torres Strait Islander men to escape from dangerous paths and excel themselves, and what does the future hold for the foundation?

EDUCATION | Clontarf Foundation

Australian Business Network GN: I feel extremely privileged to have worked with so many of the boys, their families and the great people in our foundation. I feel even prouder when I’m constantly reminded how far we’ve come, when I hear the great accomplishments our enormous group of alumni are consistently achieving. Our ‘old boys’ are forging successful careers, buying houses, driving nice cars, getting married, travelling the world and most importantly - placing such a high emphasis on education and employment for their own children. We know there are approximately 16,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander boys across the country who would benefit from a Clontarf programme so we still have a long way to go. The stark reality is that for every year we don’t reach a community, many of these boys’ life outcomes will unfortunately head in a negative direction. As an organisation, we remain extremely focused on our core business of keeping these boys in school and placing them into employment and we remain equally as focused on expanding as quickly as we can to hopefully change the lives of many for the better. There is certainly no slowing down!

Phone: +61 (08) 9356 2500 Email:

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Clontarf Foundation | AusBN v4i1  
Clontarf Foundation | AusBN v4i1