Author: Marie Hanson-Kentwell

My time with Clontarf

Since 2016, Greater Charitable Foundation has supported Clontarf Foundation, who work in partnership with schools and communities to provide programs for at-risk, teenage indigenous male students across the Central West, Upper Hunter and New England regions.

Clontarf exists to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and by doing so equips them to participate meaningfully in society.

Recently, Greater Bank’s Group Executive People and Process Transformation, and Greater Charitable Foundation Director, Marie Hanson-Kentwell, had the opportunity to experience first-hand the wonderful work Clontarf Foundation undertakes by participating in a four-day immersion experience with some of the Clontarf students and supporters.

Marie was grateful for the experience which gave her a greater understanding of the impact our funding is having on the lives of the young men involved in the program.

Here is Marie’s recount of the adventure.

The NSW Mid-North Coast township of Port Macquarie played host to this year’s Clontarf Immersion Experience.

Day one began with an employment forum for Clontarf students in years 9-12 from across the Mid North Coast region. It resembled a speed dating session as the boys listened to short one-on-one presentations from a number of local organisations, including Greater Bank, regarding employment opportunities.

I really enjoyed sharing with them information about employment prospects at Greater Bank. The boys were surprised by the number of opportunities we offer beyond what they would have seen in branches, including the diversity of roles in Head Office, such as marketing, IT and HR.

The forum was a great way to quickly communicate our message, hopefully imparting on each of them the benefits of working at Greater Bank and encouraged them to find out more about the career opportunities available at one of Australia’s largest mutual financial institutions (excuse the bias).

This was just the beginning though for myself and nine other Clontarf supporters who committed to the full immersion experience. Next, we accompanied a number of the year 11 and 12 students on a two day camping trip to Point Plomer. Together we took part in a range of group activities such as surfing, scuba diving, beach games and worming.

Come night fall, we sat around an open fire, listening to talented students play guitar and watched the boys perform traditional Indigenous dances. It was relaxed, insightful and heartening to share the experience with the boys and to get to understand some of the boys personal journeys through one-on-one conversation.

The accommodation was basic but comfortable. I had just a tent and swag to protect me from the elements, which on a few occasions included pouring rain. This didn’t concern me at all as I was lights out as soon as I put my head down after what was a full day of activities.

During the trip, each partner was paired with a student. My buddy was Mason, and when it came to camping and the outdoors, he was the one doing most of the supporting! Mason was a delightful young man and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. Despite only knowing each other for just a short time, the shared experience of camping in a beautiful environment and seizing the moment certainly enabled us to bond. I hope to continue this new-found friendship and mentorship beyond this experience.

What became abundantly clear to me over the course of the experience was the fact that our support of Clontarf is clearly making an impact on the lives of the young men involved. Despite some personal, familial, cultural and socio-economic differences, the program creates a nurturing environment and an overall strong sense of community for these young men.

I was proud to be involved in the experience and see first-hand the impact our funding is having, but also demonstrate that our commitment as an organisation goes above and beyond financial assistance. We are passionate about supporting the communities that support us by also lending practical and tangible assistance to our partners.

I hope the boys got as much out of the experience as I did, establishing new connections and networks to help foster their employment opportunities and plans for future growth.