Changing how the world works a worthwhile 'AIME'

Published:05 July 2018

“If we want to change the world, we have to change the way it works!”

... By Sonja Anderson

This the tagline of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), the Australian and increasing worldwide movement (South Africa and Uganda have adopted the program) that connects universities to the most disadvantaged high school kids. AIME brings the powerful and the powerless together under one simple equalising paradigm – mentoring.

According to the AIME website, since the program’s inception in 2005, its founder and CEO, Jack Manning Bancroft, a then 19-year-old university student, and 25 kids who volunteered from Redfern, NSW founded the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience; AIME.

Sarah Bell Law leads the CQUniversity AIME partnership as the Centre Manager across the three sites of Mackay, Gladstone and Rockhampton.

“This year’s programs on all three campuses kicked off in the last week of May with the mentee attendance high,” she says.

“There was plenty of energy from the mentees and mentors, so it was a great start to what we hope will be a year when we substantially expand participation.”

She says that regional high schools participating in AIME have increased from 17 in 2017 to 20 in 2018.  Last year, 667 students took part and this year’s numbers are likely to grow during the course of the program.

The foundation of the AIME program is the interaction between volunteer university students trained as mentors, forming relationships and engaging with high schools students from years 7-12, in activities at Program Days, and providing mentees with educational support during Tutor Squads.

Program days see students bussed to the nearest CQUni campus, and tutoring takes place one hour per week for 10 sessions at participants’ high schools.

“We have expanded so much this year, that we have hired two extra staff to cope with the bigger numbers,” Sarah says.

AIME has employed the two to handle the 2018 participation increase.  Lakeisha Kennell is new to the position of program management for Mackay, Bree-Anna Saltner is now managing in Gladstone and Arna-Leigh Brazier has changed her role to supervising mentors in Rockhampton and Gladstone.

“Program managers nurture relationships with school staff and oversee mentee recruitment and engagement,” Sarah says.

“It is a job that demands wide-ranging skills in communication, lateral thinking, creative interaction and diplomacy.”

Stacey Chamberlain has joined the team as a third manager for Rockhampton.  She comes from a background in youth work and says her work with AIME keeps her authentic and functioning directly from the heart.

“AIME is about living conceptual work and authentic outcomes,” Stacey says

“All of us – mentees, mentors and managers all make a conscious choice to participate in the program.

“AIME is about getting kids to dream and get them away from the ‘but’ stuff, the thoughts and ideas that hold them back,” she says.

“That is such a magic process, seeing someone step outside their comfort zone and realise that they can consider their dreams.”

Days of bravery, dreaming, music and laughs:

AIME Mackay, Gladstone and Rockhampton held the first Program Days of 2018 from 22-25 May.

In Mackay, Arna-Leigh acted as DJ for the 144 participants who bussed in from five local high schools at the CQUni Ooralea campus.

“I busted out some serious tunes while mentees and mentors got to know each other.

“Year 9 and 10 students charted goals for the coming 365 days and year 11 and 12 students wrote their Big Risky Audacious Visionary and Endless (BRAVE) goals,” Arna-Leigh says.

In Gladstone, 53 students from four high schools met their mentors, under Bree-Anna’s watchful eye, on the Marina Campus.

“There was plenty of music and high energy as the year 9 and 10 students identified their dreams for the coming 365 days; how to combat shame and how to define identity,” Bree-Anna says.

“Grade 11 and 12 students focused on creating BRAVE goals and creating Tree of Life artwork that charted values that express who they are and where they want to go.”

In Rockhampton, 175 students from seven schools played with the dynamic theme of Magic and Dreams, with Stacey.

“Activity times generated some deep and insightful conversations between mentors and mentees and strong connections were forged,” Stacey says.

“The day was full of energy and excitement for everyone and Year 9 and 10 students created incredible Art from the Heart.”

Program Day One created revealing moments of magic in Rockhampton, Mackay and Gladstone in May. AIME magic is due once again for these three centres when Program Day Two takes place in July.

The AIME program in Mackay is generously sponsored by The Bennelong Foundation and Colliers Charitable Fund.