Opportunity knocking at Clontarf Academy

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Three Clontarf students are being sponsored by the Rotary Club of Stuart, at a cost of $3436, to attend a “fun packed learning experience” in Belair, near Adelaide, run by the Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment.

 

Elisiah Wasaga, Dereece Hanley-Satour and Jordan Khan, from the Clontarf Academy at the Centralian Senior College, will hear talks about working in teams, self belief, conflict management, goal setting and public speaking during the seminar from April 11 to 13.

 

They are among about 230 students of the burgeoning foundation for young Indigenous men spread over four academies in The Centre: 50 in Years 10 to 12 in the Centralian Senior College, 50 each in Yirara College (Year 7 to 11) and Centralian Middle School (Mbantua, Years 7 to 9) and a further 50 in Tennant Creek (Years 7 to 12).

 

The foundation was established in WA 15 years ago and spread to The Centre in 2006.

 

Since 2008 there have been about 70 or more Year 12 graduates, 55 or more of whom are in employment (two thirds of them) and the remainder in training or further studies.

 

Last year 18 young men finished Year 12 – nine each in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

 

The Employment Mentor, Simon Coutts, says 15 of them are in employment or further studies.

 

Jordan says: “Clontarf makes me come to school more, keeps me out of trouble. We go out on excursions, stuff like this. It gives me something to do in my spare time.”

 

At this stage he thinks he may aim for a labouring job after Year 12.

 

Dereece admits to laziness before he joined Clontarf: “I suppose I was too lazy to get out of  bed or catch the bus. Making up an excuse not to go to school.”

 

Elisiah enjoys work experience lined up by Clontarf, for example, at Ross Engineering, and has confidence the foundation will help him find a job when he finishes school: “If we want to, Clontarf would support us.”

 

Elisiah says “confidence in myself” has been boosted by the foundation, through “going away on camps, being a role model.

 

“Before Clontarf I was running amok in class, not doing the right thing. Clontarf is helping me out with my school work.”

 

What are his plans for after Year 12 next year? “See what happens. I’ve been thinking about joining the armed forces. See other places. Do some travelling.”

 

Is Alice Springs a good place for young people? “There is too much drinking and drugs. That’s what Clontarf is here for, to keep us safe and supported.”

 

Operations officer Tom Clements (pictured) at the Centralian College academy, an ultra fit looking man in his early 30s known as “Mr Cricket”, speaks to us in a bright room in the college with a pool table and posters of outdoor activities and health themes. He says family connections are a big part of what keeps young Indigenous men in town.

 

The prime task is finishing Year 12 and there “is plenty of opportunity” for them in local employment.

 

Even if they have to leave town, Clontarf will back them: “It’s a big family.”

 

The young men are there voluntarily, of course: “They can vote with their feet.”

 

Should Clontarf grow? Yes, says Tom, to 60 or 65 alumni per academy, “so long as we can keep up the same retention and attendance rates.”

 

Clontarf will have a Year 9 expo at Yirara College on May 7.

 

PHOTO (from left) Elisiah, Dereece and Jordan give Rotary members Paul Della, Tony Jennison and Saroj Chhetri a run-down of their engagement in Clontarf.

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