14 November 2023
Commencing in 2000 with a single academy in Waterford, WA, the Clontarf Foundation was created to improve the education, life skills and employment prospects of young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander men.
Now, there are 148 Clontarf Foundation Academies operating across 6 States/territories in Australia-with 11,500 students participating and over 560 dedicated staff members.
One of those staff members is Ene Shibasaki, an operations officer helping to run the Academy at the Mackay State High School. For him, he believes that mentoring the students doesn’t mean setting goals and targets for them, but to help them achieve the goals and targets they set for themselves.
‘My favourite part of this job is basically seeing the boys every morning, and watching them reach their targets and their goals every day. They set targets and goals with us, and we basically help achieve it, and they do. They do most of the work and we basically support them in that.’
It primarily operates through a sports academy model, using footy as a tool to engage and mentor the young men around Australia. Sport is seen as a way to build relationships, install discipline, and encourage attendance and participation in education. Ene should know, he was picked to represent the Japanese Rugby League in the Emerging Nations World Championship in 2018.
And while sport is important, it lays the further foundations of education, employment and cultural connection. The positive changes in its participants then have a ripple effect in their communities. As these young men become more educated, employed and engaged in their communities, they can then serve as positive examples and advocates for change.
Sport is just one factor of the Foundation, with academies taking part in a range ofcommunity focused education, camps and activities. They also participate in things like hiking, swimming, cooking and national events like Clean Up Australia Day.
‘Basically, the importance of this Foundation is to help these young lads become better young men and to basically build them up to be young Indigenous leaders. It's just something we've lacked in the past and then something we're getting better at now.’
Each Academy has its own room at each host school, meant to be a home-base for Clontarf students. Equipped with cooking and washing facilities, computers and entertainment equipment, the rooms are safe and familiar places for the boys.
BHP and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) partnered with the Clontarf Foundation in 2020 to deliver 1new Academy in Mackay, QLD and support another 24 existing Academies across QLD, NSW and SA. And while the funding is important for the growth and ongoing support of the Foundation, helping the boys with employment prospects with training and job placement is something that will have positive effects long into the future.