By Daniel Whyntie
With the help of billionaire Richard Branson, Australian Minister for Higher Education Sharon Bird and South Australian Minister for Youth Tony Piccolo, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) has made it to SA.
Thanks to the program’s partnership with UniSA, mentors will walk with Indigenous Australian students around Adelaide to help build their confidence and show them a pathway to a brighter future.
AIME has been able to expand its program into SA and WA thanks to an increase of $2.4 million in funding by the Federal Government and corporate sponsorship from companies such as Virgin, which is why Richard Branson came to UniSA recently.
Sharon Bird (shadowed by a silent Minister Piccolo, who the crowd was told was there only because “he wanted to see what was going on”) made the official announcement of the program’s increased government funding at the end of the AIME Getting to Know You session last Friday.
Alicia Johnson, a former mentee and now an AIME mentor, explained why the program has done so well in connecting with young Indigenous students.
“Its made for us by us and that’s why I believe it’s so successful. It’s not someone trying to save us, it’s not someone trying to tell us what to do, it’s about giving us self-determination and hope,” Ms Johnson said.
Jack Manning Bancroft started AIME in 2005 (when he was just 19-years-old and attending the University of Sydney) to help disadvantaged Indigenous youths finish high school; today he is one of Australia’s youngest CEOs and the kids who participate in the program are finishing high school at almost the same rate as non-Indigenous Australians.
As Jack put it, they have “lived Indigenous success”. “You showed it to yourselves, to your fellow students, to the mentors, and through AIME, you showed it to the world,” he told young Aboriginal students at the event.
Jack and AIME’s story appeared on Australian Story last year when he explained why he wanted to start AIME in the first place: “So kids were able to see that there was physically a brighter future in front of them, that they could see, touch, feel and know someone who had been to university, someone who had been successful, and look at Aboriginals or Torrens Strait Islanders and say, ‘You know what, I don’t have to be a rugby league player, or an AFL player, I can be a doctor or a lawyer, a dentist, I can be a dancer, and that’s in front of me.'”
Jack wants to give back to the community that helped him succeed, crediting his mother, a successful Indigenous artist, with creating a link within him between being Indigenous and being successful, an example of the possibilities for the future that many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths lack.