More than a sporting chance

November 23, 2023 | Community

Paynter Dixon and partners in the club sector are getting behind Clontarf Foundation in support of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Shared bonds of sport and community are empowering youth development.  

“We have fun getting all the boys together for sport,” says Darnell Coppini (pictured top left).

Darnell is a proud Kamilaroi man and footy-playing student at Clontarf Foundation’s Shalvey Academy in Western Sydney.

Clontarf is helping Darnell and 60 fellow academy students to attend school, finish year 12 and enter employment. Today, 148 such academies are supporting 11,500 students across Australia.

Operating within schools, academies comprise a dedicated room where students meet for group activities, retreat for personal space, and receive guidance from Clontarf staff.

Darnell says, “I come down here [Academy room] to calm down, have a little talk, and then return to class and get back to work.”

Relationships for life

CEO and Founder of Clontarf Foundation, Gerard Neesham, says the relationship is for life.

“When they’ve finished school, we’ve prepared them over 6 years so that they’re ready for work, and then we place them into work though our employment officers.”

“We don’t ever leave them, and they can always come back.”

Paynter Dixon supports Shalvey Academy as part of a major partnership with Clontarf Foundation.

“We have seen the great work done by the Foundation in a range of communities and we just want to be a part of it,” says James Boyd, Executive Chairman of Paynter Dixon.

Employees are also encouraged to participate in academy life. Volunteer activities include early morning workouts, guest presentations, employment forums, chaperoned workplace tours, awards nights, carnivals and more.

The community game

Sport is a core pillar of the Clontarf program, with a focus on building teamwork and leadership skills. While the boys play a range of games, rugby league is a runaway success. Today, the annual Ross Kelly Cup sees over 650 boys play in a Sydney-based weekend competition.

“If they [boys] work hard and achieve at school, and consistently demonstrate positive values, good things will come – and the Cup embodies that,” says Gerard.

Don Hammond, CEO of Leagues Clubs Australia, believes Clontarf and the club sector are on the same wavelength.

“Clubs are all about our community, and this is where Clontarf fits so well with the club network – these Aboriginal kids are all about community as well … at the end of the day, we are collectively bringing the community together to look out for people that need help.”

“We’re in a position now where a lot of our member clubs have come on board as corporate partners.”

Kicking long goals

Leading by example, Workers Lifestyle Group has supported Clontarf by providing access to sporting facilities in Blacktown.

“In our ethos, Workers Lifestyle Group has a commitment to sport and being a community partner,” says Morgan Stewart, CEO of WLG.

“We have a prime focus on ruby league, so much so that Clontarf Foundation was a natural partnership. We have built a stadium specifically for rugby league, and that was used by Clontarf for their regional finals last year. So our commitment to sport facilitated a partnership with Clontarf.”

For more than 60 years, Paynter Dixon has delivered exceptional hospitality venues and sporting infrastructure for clubs. Client partnerships can span decades, such as the 40-year relationship with Workers Lifestyle Group.

“Clubs do a marvellous job in the community,” reflects Paynter Dixon’s Executive Chairman James Boyd. “We work in that ecosystem, and we’re aware that these institutions go beyond decades and timeframes.”

Looking ahead, Paynter Dixon is committed to growing relationships with Clontarf academies in areas where the business operates, including the ACT and southern region of NSW.

Whatever the future holds, Darnell has faith in those around him.

“I have lots of mates here, and I really want to see them when I grow up.”

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