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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6818

Mr TUDGE (AstonParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (12:29): I thank the member for Swan for his question, for his ongoing advocacy for Aboriginal people in his electorate and across Australia, and for his particular commitment to the Clontarf Foundation and the 55 academies which they run across Australia. The member for Swan emphasised that, if money were the answer to Indigenous disadvantage, we would have solved it by now; there would not be disadvantage. We have had an 80 per cent increase, in real terms, in funding to Indigenous-specific programs over the last 10 years, but many of the indicators have not closed. The Productivity Commission found that we are spending about $44,000 per Indigenous individual on specific programs, and in remote communities it would probably be double that amount. It is clearly not just about money; it is about how the money is invested, how that money is allocated on the ground and what the focus is. And our focus is squarely on those three areas which I identified.

I am pleased to inform the member for Swan that the budget allocated a further $13.4 million to the Clontarf Foundation over the next four years. That will mean that an additional 3,000 boys will get an opportunity to participate in academies across Australia, and that will see almost a doubling of the operation of the Clontarf academies. We are doing this because Clontarf works. Earlier the member for Blair asked, 'What's going on with the budget?' Well, we are backing things which work. The Clontarf Academy is exactly one of those things which we want to back—with an additional $13.4 million.

Last Friday I visited the Bairnsdale Clontarf academy with the member for Gippsland. It was interesting speaking to a few of the graduates from the Bairnsdale academy. I recall one young fellow in particular. When he was 13 or 14 years old, he was effectively dropping out of school. He was attending school on maybe one day per week. He was reflecting that that was going to be his pathway. He was about to exit the school system entirely when he was 13 years old. But, because of the Clontarf academy which had just begun in Bairnsdale, he rejoined school and started attending regularly—in fact, 90 per cent of the time. He then went on and completed several more years of schooling and was assisted by the Clontarf academy into a job at the local Target store in Bairnsdale; he actually had a management role in the back office at Target. He is an outstanding young individual who otherwise would have been off the rails and probably would have been causing a bit of havoc in the community of Bairnsdale. But now he has an important job in the community. It would not surprise me if one day he is running that entire Target store—if he has not got a bigger role within the Wesfarmers Group—because he is a very impressive young man.

We met a number of other young men with very similar stories whose lives were literally transformed because of the work of the Clontarf academy. As the member for Swan knows, the Clontarf Foundation was started in Western Australia at the Clontarf school in the year 2000 by Gerard Neesham, who was the inaugural Dockers coach. I commend his commitment of over 14 years to this process. He and his staff have made a tremendous difference to thousands of boys, and, with this funding, we will hopefully support the work of the Clontarf Foundation to make a tremendous difference to another 3,000 boys over the four years ahead. There will be opportunities for schools to work with the Clontarf Foundation to make bids to provide academies in their electorate.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:34 to 12:43