Hear how students feel about Clemente and its impact on their lives.
All up until that time period of being 38, I’d struggled with jobs, courses and didn’t know why I wasn’t achieving things. When I first came here, I didn’t have a voice, not because people had made me like that but I had lost my voice through the mental illness… And as every week went on, my confidence just grew.
Jane, Clemente student
I just needed to build up more self-confidence as I was quite shy, and not knowing how to start up conversations with other people. With the Clemente program, I enjoyed and looked forward to being constructive with my time.
Gordana, Clemente student
My purpose in life is to be of service to humanity and bring joy and happiness to all. Thank you to everyone at ACU, St Vincent DePaul, Centacare, Micah Projects, Brisbane Common Ground, Sisters of Mercy, all lecturers, all learning partners and classmates. Clemente is not a hand slap, a hand out, a hand up. It is a handshake between equals to say let us walk together in peace and love with a common goal. For education is a powerful tool. Let us continue to change lives for the better. Thank you for making my life and yours truly amazing.
Risa (pictured left), Clemente student
Education is the ultimate empowerment.
Michael, Clemente student
My past is seen as something rich not dirty. I feel I am treated as an equal, there is no patronising paternalism, just respect and humility.
Julian, Clemente student
Before I started the program, I felt lost. Then when I started learning I found my way back. I found out how much I can do, a new door opened. When I was in the darkness, I was sinking. I was surrounded by violence, I felt alone, and I felt like no one heard me. No voice. No choices. Nobody heard my pain. I had no money and no support and I had to raise and protect 5 children, and protect them from all the trouble. Then I started Clemente; …I came out of my house and into the world. … The learning is difficult at university level because I have never formally learnt English. When I learnt more language, I could get more education, and I became a good example for my children. … It has changed my life because now I am not alone and I have more opportunities now to build my experience and knowledge. I am valued for my experience, I can use my new skills and knowledge and I am happier now because there are more opportunities in my future. I realise now I can do it.
Lieue, Clemente student
We are of different ages, different backgrounds and we are all addressing different issues. Whether it be drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse or mental health issues, we are all doing our best to over- come these difficulties and rebuild our lives. We all desperately wish to re- join mainstream society.
John, Clemente student
I’ll never read a book the same way again.
Susie, Clemente student
This program has saved my life. It’s given me a reason to get up in the morning.
Martin, Clemente student
People see that I have a brain because I have done a university unit. I am back in society. Everything here is provided for us. Access to a computer, learning partners, general help, you can ring someone up, you know it’s all there for us, this place here we can use as a base if we don’t have one … so when the inevitable question comes, oh what is it exactly you do, I can be more than just a carer for my son. I can say also well I’m doing a course up at Mission Australia.
Sam, Clemente student
Part of my learning through the course has been about my own healing and commitment to health.
Darren, Clemente student
I had done really well at school until things unravelled in direct correlation with the onset of my illness, but with Clemente I have found the understanding, accepting and supportive nature of my classmates, staff, learning partners and lecturers have meant I have now finished four university subjects offered by the programme. I have confidence that I can achieve my goals given the help I need. Sometimes what we do makes us who we are and by doing the things that make me who I want to be I have found my life fall into place, piece by piece and struggle by struggle. I hope above all to continue learning and to have an open mind about how this learning comes about and from whom it will come.
Christine, Clemente student
For the first time in years I wanted to actually have a conversation with another person, and felt like I had something to contribute.
Craig, Clemente student
Being a single mother of three, it is difficult to study. I joined the Mt. Druitt Thrives Program because I attempted to study online last year and failed my first essay and oral presentation quite miserably. This course allows me to return to tertiary study with all the support that I need. The time slot, in the middle of the day, is perfect. I also get to meet new people.
Debbie, Clemente student
As a group, we in the Ballarat Clemente group have perhaps experienced a broad range of life issues that do not rank amongst the genres of ‘advantaged’ or ‘successful’ … WE do NOT own or accept this label (disadvantaged)… In fact, I/we/other Clemente groups interstate are courageous people undertaking an opportunity as it is presented. For this reason we applaud the supporters of the Clemente Program who enable us to continue this wonderful experience of university studies. Thank you to the financial supporters, the educators, agencies, mentors and visionaries who enrich our lives.
Dawn, Clemente student
Yarrie Bangura’s joyful childhood was disrupted by a bloody civil war that ravaged her home country Sierra Leone. But the refugee-turned-student entrepreneur has found solace and healing through poetry.
The young poet, student, businesswoman, performer and role model describes herself as “the happiest person in the world.
“People always ask me, ‘Why are you so happy?’”she says. “What should I do? Lock myself in my room and cry? No. I want to be happy.”
Yarrie was seven years old when her carefree childhood was taken from her. Sierra Leone was on the brink of civil war and Freetown — her home city — was the scene of a fierce battle as rebel soldiers tried to seize control of the capital.
Along with her parents and four siblings, Bangura fled and sought asylum in a refugee camp in neighbouring Guinea, where she stayed for years until arriving in Australia in 2004 on a humanitarian visa.
While she had escaped the war and the misery of life in a camp, the atrocities she had witnessed deeply traumatised her. About two years after settling in Australia, she began to experience nightmares and flashbacks.
“Poetry and writing is a medicine,” she said. “I'm from a culture where we don't talk about the past, and so for me, the gift of poetry was something that allowed me to express what I was feeling inside.”
In recent years, Yarrie has racked up an impressive list of achievements.
She went through ACU’s Clemente program and will soon graduate with a Bachelor of International Development Studies, which she plans to use to start an enterprise aimed at creating jobs for youth in Sierra Leone.
Her poetry and writing has been published widely and featured on the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald. She’s a special ambassador for the UNHCR, and was a keynote speaker at a major event organised by the refugee agency.
John Foster, a Clemente Brisbane student, has entertained fellow students and staff with his moving recitations and performances – from Rudyard Kipling’s “If” to Shakespeare. A recent article in The Catholic Leader, reported how the Clemente program reignited the love of learning and philosophy John had as a child growing up in one of Australia’s circus families.
I think I can speak for many, if not all students of my generation and older, though we may have differing and varied backgrounds, that the bond that links us all as we approach an uncertain future is a need to still contribute in some way and not to be left by the wayside.
This is of course the main agenda of the Clemente program.
Luke Moroney reflected on his Clemente experience and further undergraduate and postgraduate study in his speech at a meeting of Clemente alumni in Brisbane in 2019. This is an abridged version of that speech.
It is just not the responsibility of the individual, to ensure that they have faculty and agency of their destiny, rather, it is the collective responsibility of society to ensure that no talent is wasted because of poverty, ill health and discrimination.
Being given the chance to attend the Clemente program was a pivotal turning point in my life.
I am on the Autism Spectrum, and I grew out of a disadvantaged adolescence, where crippling poverty, combined with a lack of knowledge or comprehension of Aspergers Syndrome among my teachers and peers in High School led me to develop severe depression.
The supportive social environment of the Clemente lectures — where I was free to speak my mind, and step by step gain interpersonal skills in an environment where I received support and empathy — enabled me to gain a pathway to a bachelor degree.
After completing my certificate and accreditation from the Australian Catholic University, I was offered a place at Griffith University and studied a Bachelor of Politics and Government. I received the highest grade in three of my courses, and on completion of my degree I received the Griffith Award for Academic excellence on my academic transcript.
My passion for finding more reasonable and logical solutions to problems outside the prevailing orthodoxy has inspired me to commence study this year of a Master of Economics at the University of Queensland.
After I complete my Masters I intend to start work on a PhD, which examines the topic of inter-generational wealth, and how inherited accumulation can restrict access to public utility, thereby reducing the scope of enterprise and economic vitality.
Ben Klok shares his journey through Clemente and on to university—the first Clemente Macarthur graduate to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree.
When I began my Clemente journey in 2009, I could not begin to imagine the journey that would be ahead of me. Like all journeys, there were numerous highlights, and several bumpy patches. In the years since, I have completed a Bachelor of Arts, a postgraduate Bachelor of Philosophy, and I am now studying a Bachelor of Laws. University study has become a long, large part of my life.
I did learn a lot more during the Clemente program than just the content though. I rediscovered my love for English Literature, as well as the academic ability to finish a degree or two. It is a lot harder to doubt yourself once you’ve proven that you can do something.
Outside of study, I did have some health problems to get through, as well as an unsympathetic boss who did not seem to value education. I made it through all of this somehow, and progressed on to my first degree.
After finishing my Bachelor of Arts, I moved on to Macquarie University to keep studying English Literature at a postgraduate level. It was a great experience to share with like- minded academics that have since gone on to other projects and PhDs. I ended that experience with another degree under my belt and a few more friends.
At the moment, I’m back at ACU, studying Law part time while I work full-time. Somehow I managed to find the time to write a novel in amongst that too. While I’m not working within my field of study, I am a lot happier where I am now.
It’s funny the curveballs that life throws at you. Plans change, things happen, and in the end you have an experience that is wholly unique. It might not be exactly the way you planned it, but it is yours. Life has a way of upending the cart, but it does right itself in the end. I am glad that I have had this learning journey, and there isn’t much that I would change if given the chance to do it all over again.
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