The Mentors of AIME – documenting stories of the past and the present

My final project is a podcast series called ‘The Mentors of AIME’, in which I interview five past mentors from Sydney Uni, documenting their stories of being a mentor and creating a product which can be used to attract new mentors to the program. Although this format is arguably highly saturated in the podcasting world, I felt that the volunteering world lacked a form of media where the facilitators of programs could share their experiences of delivering mentorship and gaining experience. Much of my inspiration stemmed from AIME’s own series of podcasts, interviews, short films and other videos, which documented the perspectives of First Nations people and their history.

Episode 0! Check out the final website and other episodes in the link at the bottom

My project is ultimately trying to argue that AIME’s mission to end educational inequality is one of the most important in modern Australia, and that university students can make a tangible difference to this issue. This is fairly explicit in my project, right from Episode 0, where I discuss the important work of AIME and the purpose of the podcast series. The project itself would not have been possible without the amazing AIME mentors who volunteered to be interviewed, and who provided the evidence and the stories needed to create the final series. Some interviewees I knew before starting, but some I met during the process.

It was incredibly interesting to see key themes develop over the course of the project’s development, namely the idea that mentors and mentees engage in a two way exchange of knowledge and understanding during the program. Each mentor I interviewed spoke about how much they had gained from the program, and how giving their time to students eventuated in the students giving knowledge and understanding back. This overall theme really helped to propel my project in the direction I originally wanted, towards a project which championed the message and work of AIME. 

My ultimate aim was to create a project which documented the stories of AIME’s mentors, and thereby would attract more mentors to the organisation. I know that AIME is always looking to recruit new mentors, and so I would like my project to serve that need, to act as a product which can be shared by AIME on their website or through their university societies. One of the mentors I interviewed was Janice, who currently works as an ambassador for AIME, running the USYD AIME society. She noted that reaching new university students to attract mentors was one goal for USYD at AIME, and so I wanted to work with AIME to create a project which balanced two goals – documenting the stories of mentors and attracting new mentors to the program. 

AIME’s work is inherently significant. By working to eliminate the educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, AIME is addressing centuries of racism, genocide and its ongoing effects. Working with AIME was incredibly enlightening but also sobering. Being able to create something which will hopefully help AIME continue with this work is incredibly personally significant, as I do not get many opportunities to make such a difference through my work at university. The more mentors involved, the more students AIME can reach. In some small way, I hope that this project helps to propel AIME’s goals and work. 

Over the course of the unit, I considered many different options for the presentation of my final project. Initially, I planned to create a set of educational resources aligned to the NSW History Curriculum using interviews from staff, material published by AIME and previous educational materials created by AIME (check AIME’s educational materials out here Unfortunately, this idea was a little out of reach, and so I ended up deciding to create a project which would have a target audience of university students, in order to spread AIME’s message and attract new mentors.

The Imagination TV Library contains lessons for teachers to use

The podcast will be passed onto AIME and the USYD Society for them to distribute as they wish. Understandably, they might not want to distribute it but I hope that some episodes will be featured by the USYD Society branch, as a way of reaching mentors at Sydney Uni through O-Week stalls, social media posts and in person events. In the future, I would love to continue working with AIME as a mentor in 2023. I most likely will not be able to carry on the podcast due to time commitments next year when I start teaching, but it would be amazing to see the podcast featured in AIME’s work as a way of continuing the overall aims of my project.

Check out my final project here! A special shout out to Alice and Jen from our course who were extremely generous with their time. Another shout out to Phoebe, Janice and Kirsty who also volunteered their time!

Unlikely Connections for a Fairer World – working with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)

As we sat in on our first few lessons of History Beyond the Classroom and Mike encouraged us to start considering what kind of organisation we might want to work with, I knew that I wanted to give back to a community whose history has been ignored and denied for so long in Australia. And so it was with great relief that the opportunity to work with AIME came to me totally as a surprise, arising from a meeting with a mutual friend about a university society partnership. I had heard about AIME before, with some of my fellow History Beyond the Classtorians being involved with AIME, and so it seemed like the perfect fit. 

Watch the Australian Story episode on AIME’s founder Jack Manning Bancroft, who founded AIME in 2004 while at Sydney Uni

Combining my desire to give back to the local Indigenous community and working with young people, AIME’s key focus is helping young First Nations students progress through their education with an increased sense of self worth and belonging. In their own words, AIME wants to create ‘unlikely connections for a fairer world’ by pairing university student mentors with First Nations students, to act as a support network as they make their way through school. Founded in 2004 by Jack Manning Bancroft, AIME was one of the first organisations to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people, with a tangible impact on the educational outcome gap. As an Aboriginal man himself, Jack Manning Bancroft spoke to the ABC for Australian Story of his desire to go beyond the ‘happy smile organisation’ model, where a smiling picture is taken before the organisation leaves without any real impact. Over AIME’s short but impressive history, they have mentored over 25,000 students with over 10,000 mentors, making them the largest ongoing movement of university volunteers in Australia so far. AIME’s impact goes beyond the traditional school setting, breaking down barriers to employment, higher education and decision making positions through their network of resources, leaders and publications. 

AIME’s impact on Year 12 Completion rates and overcoming educational disadvantage

AIME’s vision for a fairer Australia aligns closely with my personal mission, both as a historian and as a teacher. By working with AIME, I hope to bring light to the stories untold, the events ignored and the history neglected. By creating a project based on my work with AIME, I hope to ensure more people gain an understanding of the visceral challenges which young First Nations students face over the course of their education, and work to break down educational barriers. It would be a dream to create some teaching resources for use in a history classroom (and beyond!) that draws upon the work of AIME and their knowledgeable staff and mentors. Naturally at this stage without actually having done any volunteering I am a bit fuzzy with the details – form, content and style all allude me for now. However I am confident that whatever work I do will be meaningful in some way, and that being flexible with my approach will benefit both AIME and my final project. I guess you’ll be finding out how it all goes soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll be chipping away!