The Glen Story
The Glen was established 30 years ago by Cyril Hennessy, a Malyangapa man who grew up in Bourke, and worked as a prison and parole officer. Hennessy became frustrated with the system, knowing that many of the people who breached their parole and went back to jail had addiction problems and had suffered immense traumas. He knew that none of those issues were solved by another stint in jail.
“He wanted to concentrate on keeping them out of jail, instead of putting them behind bars for an illness,” says his sister Carol Hennessy, chair of the all-Indigenous board. “He knew they needed somewhere to go to get help… a lot of them have come from very harsh lives from when they were little kids. Cyril wanted to create a place where they could recover.”
Cyril had two sons, Glen and Anthony, who both had problems with addiction. Anthony died in a bus crash. Glen, who’d gone to university and was a linguist, died at an early age of alcoholism. Hennessy turned his grief into action. He named the centre after his son. “He had a dream of doing things differently.”
Cyril Hennessy teamed up with Vincent Coyte, who had been the principal of Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth. Vince had retired to the coast at an early age, devastated after the death of his wife from breast cancer. When he learned of Cyril’s vision, he decided to join him.
It wasn’t the most popular project with the local community when first mooted 30 years ago. But this Indigenous-focused rehab centre has become a much-loved local institution. People are proud of it and there’s a team of eager volunteers who help out. Each year it hosts the local touch-footy carnival. The Central Coast Mariners have embraced The Glen – before games, the centre’s Indigenous dance crew performs to rev up the crowd. It holds a regular variety show, The Glen’s Got Talent, and local families come to watch.
Musician Kasey Chambers drops in regularly to give guitar and songwriting lessons, or to help out in the kitchen. She became involved eight years ago when her then teenage son, a talented AFL player, attended a talk given by clients at The Glen about the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol. “I was just really taken by the way they handled the whole thing,” Chambers says. “And it really sunk into those boys.”
In May 2021, after many years of pushing by the board, all of them Aboriginal women, The Glen for Women, a 20-bed facility on a nearby bush block, took in its first clients. Chambers performed two songs, at the official opening, held a couple of months ago. “Every time I come here I am just so inspired by the staff and the way they handle every situation… but the clients, they’re the ones who are in the ring and they are actually doin’ it. They are making these changes in their lives, and they’re the ones doing the hard work… it’s inspirational.”
Local businesses and industries, too, have become involved, offering employment. “Most people get their first job through their connections,” says Joe Coyte. “For many of our clients, they just don’t have those connections.” At the end of the three-month rehabilitation clients can opt to stay on in a transition program where they get a job and save some money.