Parliamentary Speech: Clontarf Academy, Coodanup College


House of Representatives on Monday 1 July 2024

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Two weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Clontarf Academy at Coodanup College in Mandurah, right in the heart of my electorate of Canning. It was a chilly morning, but I was greeted with very warm smiles from the boys of Clontarf. They gave me a firm handshake and looked me in the eye, and it was a real pleasure to spend the morning with them. From the top, I'd like to thank Mr Nick Jenkins, the partnerships manager for Clontarf, who invited me to go and see the Clontarf Academy; Mr Shawn Gillies, who is the academy's director and runs the year 12 program; Mr Pierce Dawson, the operations officer for years 7 and 11; Mr Kevin Dalgetty, the operations officer for years nine and 10; and Mr Thomas Bowey, the operations officer for year 8.

What is the Clontarf Foundation? The Clontarf Foundation is designed to provide a safety net for young Indigenous boys who often fall through the cracks of normal school programs. It's a national program. There are 155 academies in Australia. There are 35 academies in Western Australia. In 2024, there are approximately 11,800 students participating in the program. The aim is to have 15,000 boys in the program for 2025. This is a really heartening statistic, and it's why I am a big supporter of Clontarf: 83 per cent of Clontarf alumni are engaged in work a year after completing year 12.

This initiative is about addressing the needs and challenges faced by Indigenous boys, ensuring that they get opportunities and support so that they can succeed both academically and personally. Clontarf aims to set up these kids so that they can succeed in life—to instil them with confidence and to show them the power of being consistent in life. It's great to see young, ambitious men at the Clontarf Academy. I saw them grow in interpersonal skills, life skills and realise the importance of hard work. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Clontarf Foundation, through its academies, seeks to instil this in these great young Australians.

Two weeks ago, I arrived. I was greeted, and I went into the kitchen. Those who were good at cooking were making bacon and eggs and baked beans on toast. I was offered a nice coffee. Then I went next door to the gymnasium, and that's where the boys warm up before school. We started with some dodgeball. I almost dislocated my shoulder and managed to get hit by a couple of the balls. Then, we progressed to basketball. It was great to see that community. One of the challenges is the breakdown of the family unit, and Clontarf seeks to replicate the family environment. I really felt at home with those kids, and it was great to be there. We then enjoyed breakfast together.

The thing about the Clontarf Academy is that it builds routine. There is a morning routine. Every morning, the boys are picked up by a bus and taken to the gym where they are given a substantial breakfast. This routine serves a number of purposes. It promotes healthy habits for these young boys, gives them regular exercise, helps them to wake up early and instils discipline. It contributes to their overall wellbeing. It's a great start to the day, and it fills critical gaps. I mentioned the challenge with a lot of families. The program provides essential services that might be lacking at home—that mum and dad won't be able to do or can't do. It makes sure that the boys get to school on time and have a nutritious meal. As we know, it's very hard to study or play sport on an empty stomach, so this is where the Clontarf Academy sets these young guys up for success.

There's consistency across locations. Clontarf is uniform across all the academies throughout Australia, and, because of that, it gives stability and security if these young boys move to different academies. One thing I was really impressed by was something I was shown by two young gentlemen. I want to read their names into the Hansard: David Tumbungu and Rhiley Wilson. They took me through the tracking and incentives. There are boards up in the Clontarf Academy, and there are a number of milestones that they can achieve, including obtaining a driver's licence, getting a Medicare card and getting a job. It was great to see that these two young guys, who had a very consistent attendance record at the Clontarf Academy, had ticked off a lot of the milestones. They had jobs; one of them was working at Chicken Treat. These guys are going places, and I was really inspired by that. The incentives are there so that they attend. If they attend throughout the year then they get a Melbourne trip or a Karratha trip, and that really keeps them going.

To the Clontarf Academy: thanks so much for having me. I really back what you're doing and I'm keen to visit more often.

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