CHARLIE MAHER has only been in Port Macquarie for nine weeks, but he is already making a big difference by becoming a role model for young indigenous people.
“Attendance has picked up about 20 per cent since we’ve been working with the children at the school.”
“Majority of the boys’ attendance was at 50 per cent last year and now they’ve jumped to 70 to 80 per cent attendance, in nine weeks.”
Mr Maher is the Clontarf Foundation director in town and works with operations officer Vincent Scott to create positive change in the community. They work with the students to create behavioural change, develop positive attitudes and help to secure employment.
The foundation exists to improve the education, discipline, self esteem, life skills and employment prospects of young aboriginal men and by doing so equips them to actively participate in society.
There are currently 25 students enrolled from year seven to 12 from the Hastings Secondary College Port Macquarie.
Mr Maher and Mr Scott recognise how important it is for young indigenous people to have mentors.
Mr Maher grew up in a small town which is situated about 120 kilometres west of Alice Springs and has a population of about 300 people.
He said he misses his home town, but has moved away to provide for his family and make a difference for their lives.
Mr Maher’s mother was his role model growing up. She taught him about his culture, language and heritage which he said he will pass on to his own children.
The men said they can relate to the students, as a lot of the issues they face, the men have already been experienced.
“I’ve grown up around drugs, alcohol and violence. It’s a tough environment but you have to have strong people around you to guide you in the right direction,” Mr Maher said.
“If you don’t have strong people around you, you get led astray.”
“I think that’s why we’re so passionate about what we do and the kids know we’re here to stay.”
Mr Scott said a major challenge is to get families on board with the program .
“We want them to believe that this isn’t going to be a blow in, blow out program,” he said.
“Once they see the changes in their sons, they are our biggest supporters.”
Mr Scott said the students are starting to show some changes in their behaviour and beginning to value their education.
Mr Maher said working in Port Macquarie is his dream job.
“I’m really passionate about about being a strong role model and leader so that the guys look up to us as staff.”
Mr Scott said that Mr Maher was also a great mentor for him, as Mr Maher is a keen runner who is about to compete in the Berlin Marathon on September 25.
Mr Maher said he was looking forward to participating as it has been a long 24 weeks of training and juggling his responsibilities with work and family.