7 Down- Rhian Miller’s Story

Rhian Miller is a proud Wirangu, Narranga, Wongi Woman and Artist. She grew up in Ceduna, South Australia, learning from an early age to share her culture, stories and surroundings through her work. Seven years ago, she graduated as a student in AIME’s program and applied for a job only a few weeks after finishing high school. 

As a 17-year-old kid, she was quickly knocked back as too young for the gig, but Rhian challenged this view, drawing on AIME’s ethos ‘you’re never too young to lead’. She was passionate about making a difference to the Aboriginal community in South Australia and knew that if she was given the opportunity she could step up to the role. Jack Manning Bancroft agreed, putting her on a 3-month probation, which ended up seeing Rhian become an integral part of the highs, the lows, the confusion, the excitement, the failure and the learnings of a 7-year journey to try and change the world.

A few weeks after joining the team she flew to Sydney for the staff AIME Institute where she had her first real experience of being a staff member, rather than a kid in the program. It was here that she met people that would shape her and offer mentorship throughout her career. Rhian describes the experience as a completely different world than  she was used to as the only Aboriginal kid in her high school. She was surrounded by loud, proud and bold personalities, and knew then that AIME was definitely the place she wanted to be.

In 2017, Jack Manning Bancroft announced that AIME was going global and giving 20 golden tickets to 20 university students across 20 countries. Rhian describes this time as uncertain, with some team members excited and others concerned that expanding would mean funding would be spent overseas, rather than supporting Indigenous students in Australia. Seven months later the golden ticket winners headed to Sydney, and Rhian remembers meeting people from Canada and Africa for the first time. It was an incredible experience to know that these people were joining the AIME team, not just as an extra addition, but to do the same thing; working with kids and supporting them through their schooling. 

In 2018 the U.S.A campaign launched, and Jack decided to charter a flight to Australia to bring 200 students to the Festival of Mentoring. Here they would learn the AIME model and bring it back to America to engage with people in power. 

The campaign went live and within 24 hours there was only one application. They were forced to consider a new approach and Rhian recalls Jack calling out to staff to see who would like to fly to America to try and recruit people in person. She volunteered and within the next few days was on a flight to LA with 30 other team members. It was an outrageous hustle as they were tasked with visiting as many colleges as possible to get people pumped about applying. Working in teams they would hit 28 universities in 14 days to recruit people who wanted to make a difference. 

Together they pulled it off, the plane was chartered and everyone was pumped to attend the festival. At this stage Jack had curated the schedule, and was the only person in the know about the plan for when everyone arrived in Sydney. Adrenaline was high, and during the flight he ended up suffering from exhaustion and was hospitalised. This left Rhian and Ben Abbatangelo to facilitate the sessions. They had to take it back to basics, but in doing so uncovered a lot of truth and difference in who was in the room and what Indigenous backgrounds meant to different people. There was a lot of energy and emotions during the festival, and the conversations helped AIME to dig into the pressure point of imagination, freeing people from literal understandings and unlocking their potential.

This concept birthed IMAGI-NATION{University} and IMAGI-NATION{TV} in 2020. This was the next step for AIME to build unlikely connections and make knowledge accessible and free for people across the globe. So far Rhian has featured in five episodes of IMAGI-NATION{TV} as a guest and co-host to unpack topics like building bridges to educational equity, making space and social good. 

During her last seven years at AIME Rhian has seen the organisation grow from a successful national non-profit to a global movement. Her work has been integral to this journey as she helped recruit and support students and mentors from across the United States and Africa. In seven years time Rhian knows she will still be working with kids, still mentoring others and still making an impact across the world, hopefully providing the next generation of leaders to step up and to change the narrative leading to a fairer world.