Rewards lure Girrawheen boys to school at Clontarf Academy

Clontarf Academy operations manager Wayne Young with some academy students. Picture: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au d442139
Clontarf Academy operations manager Wayne Young with some academy students. Picture: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au d442139

A GIRRAWHEEN program offering support and incentives for indigenous boys to graduate high school ready for employment has boosted attendance.

Clontarf Academy operations manager Wayne Young said the program engaged students in schooling using rewards like football as a drawcard.

He said since opening at Girrawheen Senior High School 18 months ago, the boys’ attendance rates had jumped from 58 to 82 per cent.

“We work together with the boys. If they attend school at a certain rate we’ll have a game of footy at the end of the week or a camp every term,” he said.

“This is the first Clontarf Academy north of the river.

“It’s a bit closer for boys to come so our boys are spread out everywhere – Lockridge, Beechboro, Morley, Embleton – but they come to this school because of the Clontarf program.”

Mr Young said they had about 40 students from years 7 to 12 in the Girrawheen academy, with five of the senior students to graduate this year.

“The end game for this program is to get these boys job ready,” he said.

“We try to get the boys’ birth certificates, bank accounts, driver’s licences or a least their L-plates so they’re more likely to get employed once they do finish school.

“We have an employment team who work together with our partners and there’s some big players in the mining sector and Wesfarmers and Caltex and companies like that and they want to employ our boys straight out of high school.”

As well as getting to school, he said the boys were rewarded for their efforts in the classroom, earning shorts, shirts, hats and bags.

“We don’t give anything away, the boys are made to work and earn it,” Mr Young said.

“The opportunities are there – we have footy games, camps, carnivals. we’re taking the Year 11 and 12 boys to Melbourne on Thursday20.8 because once a year, they get a reward trip for their commitment to their education.”

He said many had come from having low attendance rates, getting in trouble with law and ultimately heading down the “wrong path” like one student who was now about to complete Year 12.

“He turned his back on crime and a life of probably limited opportunities and he graduates in five weeks time,” Waynehe said.

“We provide daily support and mentoring, we’re the constant and we’re non-judgemental… we’re here to lend an ear and just keep pushing them along.

“It all starts with education and if you’re not attending school your opportunities are limited – it’s just a fact of life.”He said they also took part in projects such as helping tidy country town Corrigin or fixing a community garden in Busselton to give the boys a sense of achievement by doing something meaningful.

Success brings rewards

Year 12 students Sheldon Kitto (17) and Dylan Wallam (18) were both excited about to be heading off on their Melbourne trip when they spoke with the Times recently.

“Without the program, I probably wouldn’t be able to graduate,” Dylan said.

“It supports me at school by helping me get through the day and it’s just something there that I can go to when I need help. I found that I enjoyed (school) way more.”

Sheldon said since taking part in Clontarf, not only had his attendance had improved and but also his grades had gone going from very low to getting As.

“It’s just good here because I feel comfortable so I come to school and I look forward to coming to school to see my friends, do my work and getting rewards,” he said.

“If I didn’t come to Clontarf I’d probably be in trouble with the law and have gone down the wrong path.

“I’m looking forward to employment and working and maybe even studying a bit more.”

For more about the academy, visit clontarf.org.au.