AIME’s SCU program leading the nation’s next generation of young Indigenous talent

Published in the July 2016 issue

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Year 12 students Rebecca Fuller from Mt St Patrick College and Nila-Madhava Poudal from Wollumbin High School practising a speech at their final AIME day at SCU.

Year 12 students Rebecca Fuller from Mt St Patrick College and Nila-Madhava Poudal from Wollumbin High School practising a speech at their final AIME day at SCU.

Southern Cross University has the best AIME Year 12 transition rate of any university in the country, with 58 of the 59 Indigenous high school graduates last year going into university, formal training or fulltime work.

The 2015 Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) annual report, released this month, shows Indigenous high school students who participated in the intensive leadership and educational program last year progressed to their next year of schooling or post-school positive pathways at record numbers.

The national results mean AIME students are completing school and transitioning to university, further education, training and employment at rates closer to their non-Indigenous peers.

Across Southern Cross University’s three campuses in 2015, 494 mentees engaged with the program, supported by 54 University student mentors. The result means SCU has become the second biggest site in Australia, surpassing the University of South Australia, University of Sydney and Griffith University.

SCU has been an AIME partner since 2009 when the program was first rolled out at the Coffs campus.

“During my time at SCU I have watched our engagement with AIME develop and grow,” said Professor Andrew McAuley, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) at Southern Cross University.

“The AIME staff working with us are an awesome bunch of people. What they are managing to achieve by working with Year 12 students who are local to our main sites at Lismore, Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour, is wonderful. They are raising the aspirations of those students and having a positive impact in their lives.”

The AIME SCU Year 12 attainment in 2015 was 98.3 per cent, compared to the AIME national figure of 93.7 per cent.

The AIME SCU team at a training day in Brisbane.

The AIME SCU team at a training day in Brisbane: (from left) Tom Avery – Lismore, Pat Orme – Lismore, Danial Carriage – Coffs Harbour, Taneeka Hyatt – Gold Coast, Rich Atkin – Lismore and David Duroux -Coffs Harbour.

“This is an outstanding achievement for AIME SCU, with the majority of those students having been engaged with AIME since Year 9,” said Pat Orme, AIME Centre Manager at SCU.

“The results are proof the program opens the pathways to success through the guidance of our University student mentors and the emphasis on the importance of education.”

Graduates of the program include former Lismore High student Megan Jenkins who is now studying nursing at SCU Gold Coast, and Olivia Barrett, who went to school at Ballina’s Southern Cross K-12 and is completing a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University’s Coffs campus.

Recently, nine Tweed students who are heading into their HSC exam in a few months attended an AIME graduation ceremony at the Gold Coast campus.

The Year 12 students delivered speeches encouraging the younger mentees in Years 9 and 10 to keep a positive attitude and focus on school. Afterwards, they spent time with SCU student mentors setting goals and writing thank you notes to friends, family members and teachers who had supported their journey so far.

Wollumbin High School student Nila-Madhava Poudal, 17, said the program, which is delivered in multiple day-long sessions across the year, was not only fun but also a good way to get support and plan for the future.

“My graduation speech is about challenging younger students to take opportunities when they come and I will also be thanking my mum, dad, siblings and close friends for helping me get through school,” he said.

“AIME has been a great way to meet a lot of new people and has encouraged me to do even more in my own community.”

For 17-year-old Mt St Patrick College student Rebecca Fuller, AIME has helped her gain a sense of identity she felt her family had lost.

“My great-grandmother was a member of the Stolen Generation and all her paperwork was destroyed, so I have no way of finding out where I’m originally from,” she said.

“Even though I don’t know where I’m from, I know who I am and I value myself. AIME has helped me to realise my potential, even though I’m not sure yet what to study at university. It’s nice knowing you always have someone here who believes in you.”

In 2016, AIME is connecting approximately 6000 mentees with 1800 mentors across 34 locations and in partnership with 18 Australian universities, with SCU aiming to engage with 600 Indigenous students.

This year marks the roll out of Year 5 and 6 program, which sees AIME’s support for Indigenous students broadening to help primary school students with the transition to high school and instilling the AIME message that ‘Indigenous equals success’.

AIME SCU highlights so far in 2016:

  • Program team has grown to three full-time staff and four casuals
  • Program has expanded south of Coffs Harbour to Bowraville and Macksville
  • The Gold Coast program has added Wollumbin High School
  • SCU based programs are well on track to achieve targets for 2016 and the site has been flagged as a potential growth site by AIME HQ

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