Indigenous students at Chifley College empowered by Clontarf Foundation program

A sport-based program is helping to close the gap for indigneous students in the Mount Druitt area by bringing them back to the classroom.

Attendance numbers have “sky rocketed” and participants have found a newfound sense of teamwork, according to Mount Druitt Chifley College campus’s Clontarf Academy director Luke Swain.

“The focus is on school attendance and creating a sense of belonging,” the former NRL player told the Star.

“I grew up in Plumpton and have lived in this area for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of similar programs fall over. This one is working.

“In the last 12 months we’ve seen a 12 per cent increase in attendance for our boys. That might not seem like much, but it’s significant.”

Statistics show that only 50 per cent of indigenous students will go on to complete year 12 in NSW.

Chifley College campuses have been running the Clontarf Academy program since April 2016, and staff say they have seen transformative results for students.

The program, which runs in 91 schools across Australia, is aimed at male Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students.

It uses sport, camps and full-time mentors to engage students who are at danger of falling through the cracks.

REAL CHANGE: Luke Swain in the academy room at Chifley College Dunheved College.

REAL CHANGE: Luke Swain in the academy room at Chifley College Dunheved College.

A team of two mentors at each school run pre- and post-class training sessions for sports including rugby league, cricket and basketball.

Students also have access to an academy room, which was described as a “safe zone” by Mr Swain.

“It’s a long-term thing but we’ve been running for about 12 months now and you can see the difference in our kids,” he said.

He said there was 49 students enrolled in the program at Chifley College’s Mount Druitt Campus, and about 51 at Dunheved.

The high schools have also reached out to primary schools in Whalan and Tregear to be a part of the program.

“The guys enjoy the team environment it creates. You can especially see it in the kids who haven’t played sport before, there’s a real sense of togetherness,” Mr Swain said.

The program also deals with lifestyle issues including diet and mental health.

Details: www.clontarf.org.au 

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