Thales Australia's Technical Director - Avionics, Philip Swadling and Director Australian Industry Capability, Sharon Tuminello, recently attended a Clontarf Foundation event at Brisbane Parliament House to celebrate the not-for-profit organisation's journey in Queensland. It's been two years since Thales first partnered with the Clontarf Foundation to support their mission of improving the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
Thales has signed a further two-year partnership with the Clontarf Foundation and was joined at the event by their other industry partners - including Boeing, BHP, Australian League Commissions, Brisbane Lions and many others.
‘From little things, big things grow’ is the title of a well-known song by Australian singer and songwriter Paul Kelly. However, it’s also the motto for the Clontarf Foundation, an organisation established in 2000 in Perth, with the aim of encouraging Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander boys to finish high school and find their way into meaningful careers.
The foundation launched in Queensland in 2015, and by 2021 had grown to support 2,652 boys in 24 schools. The foundation has very strong support from the Queensland government, and this was evident at the event in a number of ways; the guest list included no less than 18 MPs out of the 93 seat Queensland Parliament, the Master of Ceremonies was the Speaker, Clive Pitt, and the event itself was held in the Premier’s and Speaker’s Rooms in Parliament House.
However, the most honourable guests by far were the boys involved in the Clontarf program, past and present, and the Clontarf staff, including founder and CEO Gerard Neesham OAM. Phil and Sharon had the pleasure of having Year 12 student Tanu at their table. Supported by Clontarf and his loving family, he is driven, focused and confident. Although he was on crutches from a football league injury, it was evident this young man is destined for success. When asked on what he might do after his HSC, he said “I will see how I get through with injury and where footy takes me, but I’m keeping my studies up as I would like to do something maybe in science or law.” Tanu’s journey with Clontarf was one of many shared with guests at the event.
Real success stories from Clontarf alumni
On the night, guests heard from four Clontarf Alumni young men about their journey and experiences during and post graduating from high school. Their stories were authentic and inspiring, including one from a young boy who used to turn up to school less than 50 per cent of the time. When he was at school he sat in the back corner of the classroom under his hoodie, and was unable to look people in the eye. After joining the Clontarf program, his attendance jumped to 99 per cent, he graduated high school and had the confidence to present to a room of 200 guest in Parliament House. He mentioned the strength of the bonds engendered by the Clontarf program, and how it gives these boys the drive to be the best person they can be. A couple of the parents also shared their stories of the Clontarf program’s positive impact to their families – there were some very emotional moments!
The closing statement and thanks to industry supporters came from a 12-year-old student, who took to the podium and delivered a sincere and confident acknowledgement of the difference it has made to so many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys. The dinner event concluded with a tour of Parliament House.
Thales’ positive contribution
Sharon and Phil had the opportunity to meet a Clontarf Employment Officer from Cairns who had recently accompanied a group of Clontarf students on a visit to the Thales facility at Eagle Farm. He recalled the group’s amazement on seeing the workshop areas and their excitement at being able to sit in a Bushmaster. This was one of many visits hosted by Thales; with our Garden Island, Myambat and West Leederville sites all welcoming Clontarf students to our facilities in recent times.
Visits like this are an importance element of industry support – showing Clontarf students the careers options that are available, and then following up by providing work experience opportunities and apprenticeships gives students a reason to continue their studies when many would otherwise drop out before graduating.
While walking back to our hotel, we thanked the Clontarf representative for the evening, to which they responded “thank you for your support, you are one of our villagers!” – it was a proud moment to see how Thales is contributing to making a difference."