At Greater Bank, when we say that our staff love volunteering with our Community and Greater Charitable Foundation Partners, we're not exaggerating. In the last year, over 200 Greater Bank staff have given well over 1,000 hours of their time to connect and assist with organisations making a real difference in the communities we call home. In fact, all Greater Bank staff are encouraged to take their two extra leave days each year, specifically for the purpose of getting out of their day-to-day job and volunteering with one of our partners.
Recently, Vanessa, Abby and Gabby from our Organisational Change Team set off from our Head Office in Hamilton to take part in a series of sessions with our Greater Charitable Foundation Partner, The Clontarf Foundation, in Taree.
The Clontarf Foundation utilises our Greater Charitable Foundation Funding to run an in school re-engagement program for at-risk, indigenous male students who would otherwise not attend or have very low school attendance in various centres of regional NSW including: Orange, Dubbo, Singleton, Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Taree.
Clontarf's program does this by mentoring, counselling and working in partnership with teachers, parents and the community to ensure each student's educational needs are being met; planning daily activities focused in areas of education, leadership, employment, wellbeing, community and sport.
In Abby's own words, below is a re-telling of our Organisational Change Team's experiences as part of the Clontarf family for a day, and just what it meant to them.
Our day started at 6.00am sharp when we piled into the Clontarf minibus with a bunch of students, ready for a morning boxercise session! General banter and a running commentary of each of the boys’ background, provided by JJ – a Year 11 student, quickly broke the ice & built rapport between the boys and The Greater Bank Change Management team.
Nathan, our driver and Clontarf Mentor, regularly interjected key information about the Clontarf Academy into the conversation, while we wound our way through the country roads. We learned that if it weren’t for the minibus, many of the boys wouldn’t be likely to attend school. We also learned that helping kids stay at school reduces the likelihood of incarceration of indigenous youth dramatically. This fact was frequently repeated by the mentors during our visit. So, naturally, keeping the kids at school is one of the main aims of the Clontarf program.
Preparing the boys for life is another key aim - it quickly became apparent that deep care for the boys’ wellbeing and success as citizens was at the heart of the Foundation.
Arriving at the Clontarf Academy, we met with the larger team. We were quickly ushered onto the back field to participate in our boxing session, followed by a game of touch footy. Highlights included playing alongside an ex-Wallaby legend, James Grant; Vanessa screaming down the field to score her first touch footy try ever; and the friendly camaraderie of my teammates. Despite my lack of coordination, they continued to help me run the field and pass the ball. I was struck by how kind and accepting the boys were – united around the play of the ball. The session left me pumped!
Jeremy Long (Clontarf Academy Director), explained that playing a morning sport got the boys active, had them working together and having fun straight away. It helped set the boys up for a successful day at school. He then asked if we did something like this at Greater Bank every morning? Not much room for touch football on Beaumont Street, but I loved the enthusiasm.
We returned to the Clontarf Academy for an egg and bacon roll and listened to Reece, an Alumni student, tell his story of making better choices to start turning his life around. Reece now works at Officeworks, and is currently studying to get his forklift license. He has his sights on becoming a physiotherapist.
Storytelling, getting to know the boys, building trusting relationships, turning up, doing what you’ve said, are just some of the things that the Clontarf staff reinforce daily to help show the boys that they always have choices in life, have the power to make their own decisions. The Clontarf Foundation and the boys participating in the program are creating incredible results. Effects of the program have shown to help the boys stay longer at school; graduate and hold down jobs, and become better fathers and community members.
The Clontarf Foundation staff and the program participants should be incredibly proud of the work that they are doing - ultimately creating stronger, richer and more resilient communities, impacting future generations to come | Abby Clifton, Change Manager
Humbled by their courage to do things differently, we could see parallels to our own working and personal lives. I’m sure that I’m speaking on behalf of the team when I say that the day reminded us to think about the legacy we wanted to leave behind as employees at Greater Bank, as well as in our personal and community lives.
Thank you to The Greater Bank Charitable Foundation for facilitating this wonderful experience.