Access to higher education is crucial in addressing entrenched socio‐economic disadvantage, particularly for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Moreover, if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are to succeed at university and/or vocational education and training, then targeted support across the social, financial and academic spheres is vital. In that context, this report examines the success of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program operating from CQUniversity campuses in the Central Queensland region (Rockhampton, Gladstone and Mackay). AIME is designed to develop study skills and career ambitions and prepare Indigenous students for a successful journey to higher education.
This report presents the outcomes of a qualitative research study that focused on the factors influencing the success of AIME and the impact it has on individuals’ lives. The project involved interviews with current AIME mentees, mentors, alumni, school coordinators and the families/carers of mentees, and this provided rich evidence of the value of mentoring and its positive impact. The findings corroborated existing literature which highlights the value of effective mentoring programs and the potential such programs have for powerful, positive and lasting effects for at‐risk young people. In particular, the data synthesis across the participant groups revealed that the AIME program: Is empowering, unifying, inspiring and holistic; Advances reconciliation; Contributes to Closing the Gap targets; Builds self‐confidence, pride, identity, self‐esteem, self‐identity, self‐worth and self‐ determination; Challenges stereotypes, shyness and ‘shame’; and Promotes cultural connection, pride in identity, unity in diversity, self‐improvement, school retention and academic excellence. Key factors in the success of the AIME program include: Relevant content; Fun, motivating activities; ‘Relatable’ mentors and facilitators; Personal encouragement; and Role models who demonstrate success. The results of this research provide ‘qualitative depth’ to the pre‐existing quantitative data, in relation to the success of the AIME program. Taken together, these data strongly suggest that AIME is a motivating, successful program for mentees that can profoundly influence their engagement at school and their post‐school pathways. Furthermore, the positive impacts of AIME continue long after the program is completed and extend out to mentees’ families and communities. AIME also has a positive impact on the lives of volunteer mentors, who report improved engagement with their own studies as a direct result of their participation in AIME.
The research also provides evidence that AIME is a valuable, effective program that contributes in a concrete way to achieving targets for Closing the Gap and Widening Participation. AIME’s outcomes are experienced at the individual level, with improved educational outcomes and career prospects available to many AIME participants. These benefits extend from individuals to their families and communities, and have the potential to support long‐term change in outcomes for Indigenous young people. From a policy perspective, this research suggests that the AIME program should be: continued and expanded (geographically), if the benefits of education access for Indigenous people are to be achieved in other regional, rural and remote communities; well supported and resourced, with particular attention to the resourcing requirements of recruiting and retaining mentors, who appear to be the lynchpin of the program success; and made available to new cohorts ‐ possibly including a wider demographic (such as young students and to young adults who have left school)