Clontarf students Kaian Ritchie, Jarrell Hood and Latrell Harrison with Clontarf Operations Officer Richard Harrison at Bairnsdale Secondary College. Photo: Troy Brown/GEGAC

By Troy Brown

What an inspiration we have in our community.

Richard Harrison has become one of our leaders when it comes to the local youth of today’s generation.

Richard remembers being on the Clontarf program at Bairnsdale Secondary College when he was in high school.

Clontarf is an indigenous and Torres Strait Islander program that is only for the males.

Clontarf began as a Christian Brothers’ boys’ orphanage in 1919 and later became known as Clontarf Boys Town. In 1984 it closed. 

In May 1986 it re-opened as the Clontarf Aboriginal College, and up to 50 Aboriginal boys and girls were to reside at the facility whilst engaged in educational pursuits.

Then in 2000, the Clontarf Foundation as we know it started in Western Australia.

There are 11,500 students in 148 academies participating in a Clontarf Program, operating over 6 states and territories, with 900 year 12s participating.

The Clontarf Foundation exists to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

Staff at Clontarf love doing activities and camps outside of school with the boys to give them a better feel for culture.

Richard said he remembers going on a camp when he was at Clontarf back in 2010.

At the time, Richard says he was struggling.

“I was a very shy kid,” he says. “I wasn’t the best, academically. Clontarf, the activities and camps boosted my confidence in being a leader.”

With help from the Clontarf program, and through self-belief and self-determination, Richard was able to graduate in 2012.

“It was a very proud moment of mine because I was the first one to graduate in my family,” he says.

After graduating from high school, Richard started working at Target/Kmart, soon becoming a junior manager.

He did that for 10 years.

Then he got the opportunity to become a role model and a leader at Clontarf, as an operations officer.

When asked why he thinks Clontarf is important, he replies, “it’s important because it sets them up for the next step in their journey.”

Richard loves working with these young men.

“It’s a true passion of mine, watching these young boys graduate as I once did.”

Richard is also the coach of Lindenow’s under 17.5s football team, where he will be leading them in the grand final at Bairnsdale Oval this coming Saturday.

We here at GEGAC love and value the work and the amazing leadership and guidance that Richard is doing for these young Aboriginal men.

We are beyond grateful that we have such voices like Richard in our community.

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