Teaming up with Indigenous students
This National Reconciliation Week, Suncorp Regional Manager for Regional and North Queensland Brendan Jones shares how working with local young Indigenous men has been helping to break down all kinds of barriers.
As a father of two boys, Brendan knows the value of education, teaching respect, and bonding over sport, but he’s also now sharing those lessons with other young men in his region.
For the past few years, he’s been volunteering with the Clontarf Foundation, one of Suncorp’s community partners that works to improve the education, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
A couple of times a month, he and members from his Suncorp team visit one of their local Clontarf academies – often at Trinity Bay High School in Cairns where he lives – and spends time with the students. The activities they run can range from educating on how to save for a car or open a bank account, to helping senior students practice for a job interview, to cooking breakfast together, to bonding over a game of touch football.
Brendan said a personal highlight was climbing Baldy Mountain near Yarrabah with the boys, just outside of Cairns.
“I think for any young person, once you start spending time with them and they know they’re supported – it just gives them someone else to talk to,” he said.
The program works because the value goes both ways. My team members get a lot out of spending time with the boys, and it also helps us to understand Indigenous communities a little better, and ensure we are equipped as a business to better serve these communities.Brendan Jones, Suncorp Regional Manager for Regional and North Queensland
Brendan said they also hoped to give the students valuable life skills.
“Some of these boys, say, would never have walked into a bank before, so we try and break down that barrier by inviting them to our own team morning teas. It’s a social activity, but hopefully it makes it a little easier for them in the future when they get their first job or want to save for their first car.
“But the program works because the value goes both ways. My team members get a lot out of spending time with the boys, and it also helps us to understand Indigenous communities a little better, and ensure we are equipped as a business to better serve these communities.”
Brendan said one of the most rewarding aspects came when he ran into Clontarf alumni around Cairns in their new places of work and got a “G’day sir”.
And when a vacancy opened on his team earlier this year, the team was able to hire Dmitri Ahwang, one of the young Indigenous men they had met through Clontarf.
“It felt good to know that we were able to directly provide employment for one of the young people, and because we already had a relationship with him, we could be confident that he had the skills and capability to be a great fit for our team.”
Suncorp people are this week participating in virtual events and activities hosted by Reconciliation Australia.