Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke officially opened the Narrandera Clontarf Academy today, a nationwide project which improves education, life skills and self-esteem for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

The Academy is a part of Narrandera High School and provides space and resources where students can socialise, learn new skills and form renewed, stronger relationships with teachers.

After opened earlier in the year, the Academy already has 34 members who are benefiting from the program.

“This is such a fantastic project and I’m delighted that it has come to Narrandera,” Ms Cooke said.

“The Clontarf Foundation started 20 years ago and now has 118 academies across Australia. Today we officially welcome the Clontarf Foundation to Narrandera, and its effects are being felt already.

“Attendance at Narrandera High School by Indigenous boys is up by around 20 per cent on this time last year, which is an unheard-of level of improvement.

“The activities which the boys can take part in go hand in hand with the provision of their own space to socialise and play pool or table tennis in.

“They can take part in cookery sessions, some go for training sessions at Bidgee Boxing at 6 o’clock – anybody who is up and at the gym by 6am is already showing a great dedication and self-respect which is testament to the Academy’s philosophy.”

John Ingram, Director of the Narrandera Clontarf Academy, explained how the Clontarf Academy builds a stronger relationship between the students and teachers.

“We invite teachers to the Clontarf room with recipes and cook a signature dish, which gets everybody out of the classroom situation,” Mr Ingram said.

“This creates a more relaxed environment and the teachers see a different side to the students.

“It’s a real ice-breaker, and we’ve seen examples where classroom problems have been reduced as a direct result of these sessions.

“Some of the boys go to the gym, and they learn basic exercise and weightlifting techniques, after which they come back to the school for a shower and get into uniform.

“Then they head to the Clontarf room for breakfast, and they’re ready for a school day.”