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Reducing inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

March 29, 2023

Using football, cooking, and gardening to reduce inequities for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in Australia

We are proud to partner with the Clontarf Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation helping improve the education, discipline, self-esteem, life skills, and employment opportunities of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. The Foundation caters to more than 11,500 participants in 158 schools across six states in Australia.

Gerard Neesham is the Foundation’s CEO and wants to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. “The disparity is increasing in education, health, incarceration rates and employment. The young men targeted in our programs are considered one of the most at-risk groups in contemporary Australian society,” he says.

Clontarf students and mentors.

Clontarf attracts young men into their programme through sport, but it’s not a sporting programme and Gerard is keen to point this out. “It’s a sophisticated behavioural change program—we use sport as one of the ways to entice young men to attend school and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Clontarf academies are set up in schools all around Australia and staffed with full-time, appropriately qualified males who act as role models and mentors. The support is daily, intensive and ongoing, with great results that keep the boys in school and then into secure jobs or further education when they leave. “Our main objective is to keep these boys in school,’ explains Gerard. ‘Our programs see improvements in school attendance rates, improved behaviour in classrooms and around the community, more participation in general school life, and more success in higher education post-school.”

Clontarf students listen to speakers at a Clontarf morning tea event.

The Clontarf mentors lead the students in comprehensive programs covering sports, cooking, health and well-being, life skills, public speaking, employment preparation, volunteering and mentoring.

Stantec doesn’t only offer financial support; we have locally appointed Clontarf Champions who liaise with Clontarf mentors and interact directly with the students—this includes attending local academy activities such as breakfasts and barbeques, training programmes, award events and sporting carnivals; playing a sport with the students such as golf, biking, volleyball or cricket; going on camps and excursions; creating volunteer opportunities for the students; and hosting them in our offices where we can talk to them about career opportunities in our industry.

Brett Davis, Stantec’s Director for Buildings in Australia and New Zealand, internally spearheaded the idea to partner with the Foundation. “Our employees are encouraged to participate in activities with the Clontarf students, who need experiences to practice their social skills, build confidence, and know there are tertiary study and work opportunities for them when they come out of school.”

Clontarf students and supporters listen to a speaker at a morning tea event.

The Foundation’s program is based on values and relationships and their informal, unstructured, and fun activities intend to build relationships, break down barriers, reduce stereotyping and garner positive involvement between students and partners like Stantec. “For some of our students, this can be the first stepping-stone to their future employment,’ says Gerard. ‘We’d love to see the team from Stantec come and join us in our academy rooms as guest speakers, host a morning tea, help the boys prepare for a job interview, or cheer them on in a football game.”

Want to find out more about the Foundation? Visit their website.

  • Brett Davis

    Brett is a regional manager for Buildings known for his approachability and open and honest character. He’s passionate about organisational culture and plays a key role in mentoring and motivating staff.

    Contact Brett
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