Speeches

AIME mentoring 20/8/18

August 29, 2018

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (10:43): I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges the power of mentoring and its impact in fighting inequality;

(2) recognises the outstanding work of the AIME mentoring program;

(3) notes that:

(a) 15,000 Indigenous high schoolers and 5,000 university students have been through the AIME program since it began in 2005;

(b) the program aims to mobilise a generation of university students to volunteer and mentor disadvantaged high school students; and

(c) the program is helping to close the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; and

(4) calls on the Government to explore how AIME's successful model can be strengthened to help address Indigenous inequality and assist other marginalised Australians.

Destiny is a proud and confident young Indigenous woman. She wasn't always like that. She was raised in foster care, taunted and bullied about her weight and her culture with cruel slurs that I won't repeat in here, but the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, or AIME, changed her life from when she joined it around 2014. In mentoring she found meaning and motivation and she now dreams of a future in photography.

Almost 10 years ago a young man knocked on my door, and we stayed in touch ever since. His name is Jack Manning Bancroft, and he started AIME in 2005 as a 19-year-old university student. His idea was as simple as it was difficult to crack. He was all about bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in education, getting them further down the pathway of education, building bridges between powerful people and the powerless, between school and university, between mentors and mentees—a cause taken up and advanced by so many others, including my friends in the gallery today Darren, Steph, Alex and Ben, who we spent some time with this morning. We thank you for your time and your commitment to such an important cause.

Mentoring is not some soft or fuzzy concept. It is cheap and scalable. For every dollar invested in AIME, for example, there's been something like $9 of value harvested, according to a KPMG study. And it's not a new concept either. As I was talking to Jack on the weekend, he reminded me that mentoring has been at the very core of 60,000 years of Australian culture and history. Its usefulness is not limited or narrow either. Just because it has found extraordinary success in Indigenous education here in Australia doesn't mean it can't solve some of our other challenges here and around the world. That's why this successful model developed here in Australia, the AIME model, is being adopted in South Africa and Uganda and also amongst our own African communities of Australians here at home.

Deputy Speaker, as you know, the defining challenge of our time is inequality, and inequality has many constituent parts that I unfortunately recognise daily in my own community of Logan City and the southern suburbs of Brisbane. Social immobility and marginalisation, locational and intergenerational disadvantage, racial and other forms of discrimination, underresourced schools, poor health outcomes—the list goes on and on and on. As many of my colleagues know, including some who will speak after me today, all of those forms of disadvantage can too often be allowed to become despair.

It may be that the answer to these challenges, or at least part of the answer, has been hiding in plain sight. It may be that the Indigenous high school students and the university students associated with AIME have done more than build one of the most successful movements in our country. Maybe they've shown us how to start fixing the problems that we too often dismiss as intractable problems. There's absolutely no reason why mentoring can't be one of the ways that we knit this country back together after too many years and too much division. But it will take a change in thinking, not just here in this building but out there in the community as well.

As AIME says, it will take 'a permanent shift in mindset' to 'end the cycle of disadvantage'. It will require us to genuinely treat somebody else's success as our own. It will require us to recognise that success is not a zero-sum game where, for someone to do well, somebody else must fail. It will require us to spend as much time and effort building bridges as we do walls. It will require us to appreciate the value in encouraging people to reach back and help each other along. And it will require us to get behind AIME and the thousands of young people who have reminded us to go about it and why it matters, to learn from the examples that they have set for us, drawing on the amazing work of our friends in AIME and all of the people they have helped to build more fulfilling lives, based on the good work and goodwill of tens of thousands of Australians and tens of thousands of years of culture as well, to end the cycle of disadvantage wherever we can.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST