Indigenous students from around the region participated in the first round of a three-day Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) at the Lismore campus of Southern Cross University (SCU) yesterday.
AIME is an educational program that gives Indigenous high school students the skills, opportunities, belief and confidence to finish school at the same rate as their peers. Special guest at the session was 26-year-old founder of AIME, Jack Manning Bancroft (pictured).
Around 40 students from years nine to 12 from Lismore, Ballina and Casino high schools were individually paired with a mentor student from SCU. The university is proud to sponsor the program and bring it to the northern rivers.
‘By interacting with Southern Cross University students, who in many cases are just a few years their senior, the mentees begin to understand the doors that can open for them if they complete their high school education. Like considering a university degree,’ said pro-vice-chancellor academic Professor Andrew McAuley.
After a welcome to Country, Jack began the day by sharing his own journey.
‘Five years ago, I had a scholarship at a university in Sydney and part of that was to play sport. My passion was cricket but I had to play soccer. So I went out for this game and within 20 minutes, my leg had been broken in two places. Whilst being moved to the ambulance the support for my foot dropped and my foot just dropped away! The worst pain in my life.
‘After operations to fix it I then had to go home and all I could think was how my life sucked. A mate took me out for a drive through Redfern and no joke, through three sets of lights, I saw a different bloke at each block with one leg. Then I thought – what have I got to complain about? So when I walked, I was so happy. The way I look at education for us (Indigenous students) is that education is a way for us to walk, and our ability to run.’
Jack went on to create AIME as a result of being at university and hearing about all the problems that were facing many Aboriginal students. Jack, a Bundjalung man, was aware of the talent out there so in 2005, went to Redfern and worked with some kids. His company is now working with 1000 kids along the east coast with future plans to go to South and Western Australia next year.
‘What the Australian Institute of Sport is for athletes, we try to provide for Indigenous high school kids,’ Jack told Echonetdaily.
‘It is a highly structured training program that sits on top of the school system that helps kids go through years nine and 10 and some of the challenges they have at school. For example, using empathy to be able to understand teachers and what they might go through, so they can pick their battles when it comes to that.
‘By years 11 and 12, we want them to start thinking deeply about how they are going to develop their study technique, overcome their challenges and think about life post-school.’
Over the last three years AIME students are finishing school at almost the same rate as every Australian student.
‘If we continue to see the gap closing, then suddenly we will have a very strong Indigenous population coming through, which will be great for the country,’ Jack proudly claimed.
Jack paid homage to the work that has been invested before him, which has provided the platform for his business to work from. Being office bound as CEO, he was thrilled to interact with the students again.
Kyle Bell, a student of Lismore High School, told Echonetdaily, ‘Finishing your schooling off will give you a better career in life or, if you choose to, to go to university’.
Lismore High School’s Aboriginal community engagement officer Stephen Scott told Echonetdaily that he was grateful that so many students had showed interest.
‘Programs like these give them more initiative and help them believe in themselves,’ he said.
I asked Stephen about the major challenges inhibiting Indigenous students from future career pathways.
‘One big area – and I say don’t use that word – is shame. Shame is a word that you are going to be tripping over. When you trip over, how are you going to move forward? If the younger students see these older students following these opportunities, it’s all positive.’