Introduction

AIME provides mentors for a fairer world. Based at university campuses the model brings together university students and the most disadvantaged school students, into AIME. Here they are trained to be mentors, the result of which sees them become educational heroes and role models for their region. Here's a brief intro video ...

The purpose of the following words are to provide a framework for understanding a question we’ve been asked since we began in 2005.

What is AIME, and how does it work?

I wish I could say to you that we have a perfect answer. But the nature of the organisation is it’s alive, like the kids and university students we work with and the world we inhabit, we move with the times, we adapt and evolve constantly.

The world changes, and so do we.

In 2017 we are setting our sights on scaling AIME in Australia by giving it away. We are launching our most focused assault on ending educational inequality for Indigenous kids to date. This piece of writing seeks to explain how in more detail, the headline of which is - we will give it away to the kids to run it themselves.

2017 is also the year we are set to offer the program to the world.

As you read on you will see an attempt to distil what it takes to run AIME at it’s simplest level.

As such there is not a section on the impact created by our corporate, government and philanthropic partners. Needless to say, these funders are the most critical players in the ultimate end game of scaling the solution, so the problem doesn’t exist any more.

It is through an operational lens that we move forward, to answer the question, “What is AIME, and how does it work?”

This piece was originally written for those people on the ground charged with bringing the AIME magic to life, but we have opened it up to the public with the hope it provides an insightful window into our work.

Jack Manning Bancroft AIME CEO and Founder 6th February, 2017

The Backdrop to AIME

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the two Indigenous groups in Australia, were invaded by the British in 1788.

Before 1788, Aboriginal people occupied Australia’s mainland continuously for over 60,000 years and are internationally recognised as the oldest continuous surviving culture in the world. A people rich with tradition, storytelling, resilience and ingenuity, who hold a deep respect and relationship with the land.

Over the 200+ years of Australia’s colonial history Indigenous people were attacked, murdered, driven off their land, had their children taken away and were denied cultural identity and history. It is a dark chapter in Australian history plagued by atrocity and injustice.

It is a dark chapter in Australian history plagued by atrocity and injustice.

Against all odds Aboriginal people fought back, initially with spears, then as time progressed with their minds and collective strength. 

Despite not being able to vote in most states from 1962, it wasn’t until the nation was asked to vote in the 1967 constitutional referendum, that a resounding ‘yes’ vote ensured that Australia’s Indigenous people would be thereinafter counted in the national census, effectively recognising them as citizens of Australia.

Dawn of a New Era, a clip we use as part of our identity sessions with kids, helping re-frame their narrative around identity to one of strength and resilience.

Throughout the back half of the 20th century activists fought for human rights traversing the landscapes of art, sport, politics, and the land. This culminated in the 1992 Australian High Court Mabo decision reversing the notion of Terra Nulius, which had proclaimed Australia as unoccupied land and damned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the classification of flora and fauna, thus negating 60,000 of existence. In 1992, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history was finally recognised by Australia.

The common law of this country would perpetuate an injustice if we were to continue to embrace the enlarged notion of terra nullius. - Justice Brennan, Justice of the High Court, Mabo Decision, 1992

Over the next 20 years significant advances were made in sport and the arts with Indigenous people becoming leaders in their respective fields, againing the adoration of audiences both at home and abroad.

Whilst there had been outstanding achievements in other fields, from education to science and beyond like David Unaipon, the Aboriginal scientist from South Australia who broke a number of stereotypes including the design of the helicopter before World War One. Or Lowtidja O’Donoghue, from the same state, who helped lead the Yes vote team which resulted in the successful referendum in 1967. 

The reality was that they were the exception to the rule.

David Unaipon on the Australian $50 note

By the time AIME came to life in 2005, the fight was well and truly advanced but the storyline across the nation was still one of Indigenous disadvantage. Within the schooling environment there was an even more focused narrative taking place.

Indigenous kids were born athletes, or talented artists, but school wasn’t for them.

The teachers, parents, and kids themselves, were playing out the examples that had come before. Indigenous people had made it in the sports and the arts, therefore, it was proven this was a pathway. The story had become the new normal.

Life is a wonderful combination between the stories we tell and the realities we create. Which comes first is a debate that can mirror the chicken and egg conundrum. But there is one thing that is clear, you either grab the pen and create the story you want to see, or you play your part in someone else’s narrative.

In 2005, we picked up the pen, to write a new story for Indigenous kids.

AIME is Born

The AIME program commenced with the intention of connecting university students with Indigenous high school kids.

To connect those with power with those who were being left behind.

Check out the Australian story on the early setup of AIME

The university students would become mentors and education heroes, but it didn’t take long before the kids grabbed the education hero title for themselves.

Starting from humble beginnings with 25 kids, over 10,000 high school students and 5,000 university students have now been through our program. It's the largest volunteer movement of university students in Australian history.

In terms of the kids, we are ending education inequality, check out an example of the impact below:

In 2015 AIME worked with 4864 kids, above is the results of the Year 12 students, of which there were 569 

The Program

The university is the home base for AIME. Our first step is establishing a partnership with a university. This then provides the infrastructure and foundation to start recruiting the first set of mentors, who in turn generate the ripple from which the wave of change grows. As we build a generation of mentors to create a fairer community around their university, we begin to create a fairer country and that extends to creating a fairer world.

Our Founder Jack Manning Bancroft speaks to AIME at it’s core

Generally a university signs on through the Vice-Chancellor, President or a senior executive who also makes a financial commitment to cover costs for one AIME staff member to facilitate program delivery, as well as a small contribution towards program costs. In Australia this has averaged out at around AUD$100,000 each year and it will be similar in other countries.

In terms of infrastructure support, university partners provide access to relevant venues for program days. We also have access to their currently enrolled students - arguably one of the greatest untapped resources in the world - who are waiting for their moment to be called upon.

We call upon these university students by offering the chance to become a mentor. 

We do this in lectures and tutorials where we show a video about AIME and invite the students to answer the call by expressing their interest in getting involved in the program and providing their contact details for us to follow up with them.

Mentor Film for 2017

We get into the lecture theatres with the support of Deans of Faculties, Heads of Schools, or through student unions and student councils. Once a university student shows interest we send them one email on how to get involved with a link to an online application, which starts their journey towards becoming a mentor for a fairer world.

We make an effort to spice it up and get the cool uni kids in the Hoodies. Explicitly we are trying to make giving cool, and not preach to the converted, but to those who may have never had an experience like AIME without us connecting with them. Let’s say just say we work pretty hard at standing out from the crowd. This clip is a rip off we did of Zach Galifianaks’ Between Two Ferns, we used it for mentor training in 2016.

So how do we get the high school kids on board?

We extend our reach to schools within two hours of a university campus. 

We then meet with school principals, ideally with the support of the relevant Department of Education or with an endorsement from a high profile influencer in the field of education. In the meeting we ask:

"Would you like extra support in helping to raise a generation of kids up from a place where they’re not getting through school to a place where the can secure an education and walk equally alongside their peers."

Once the schools and universities are signed on, it’s then showtime.

This is the clip we are showing to kids in 2017

AIME staff visit all partner schools and pitch the program to students, who then receive a year-specific application form to take home and complete. An application question asks why they want to be involved in AIME.

The forms are signed by the Parent/Guardian and the contact teacher. There must be written or verbal permission obtained before the kids are involved in the program.

All kids must return their forms, and in rare cases when signed forms have not been received the school can complete the form for students to move into the interview stage, while awaiting Parent/Guardian permission, so they don’t miss out on any program sessions.

Once forms are collected AIME staff liaise with contact teachers to arrange a time to return to the school to interview all Year 9-12 applicants. The Year 7 and 8 program starts later in the year and interviews with those students are conducted closer to the kick off date.

It might seem counter intuitive to ask the most disadvantaged kids to apply for a program that is meant to be helping them. But the only way to truly help someone, is to give them the chance to help themselves.

The message is simple - if the youngsters want something in life, they’ve gotta work for it.

We can walk by their side through mentoring and coaching and can also build hype around AIME so they are keen to apply, but at the end of the day, it’s their call.

When they make the call to stand up, following their application, they find themselves seated at an interview table.

Interviews take 10 minutes maximum, where we test their integrity, interpersonal skills and intent.

With this step there is a chance that some of the least engaged students, say 10%, won’t show up for the interview or won't perform well in it.

That’s when we get to work behind the scenes.

If they don’t show up for the first interview or bomb out, our team will work with these kids through coaching and give them a chance to interview again - to take another shot - but they will not get to be a part of the program without putting skin in the game.

The hard lessons come when we are forced to choose something we want to fight for

We don't want AIME to be a bubbly, fake, safe space where everything is okay. From day one we start preparing kids for the times in their lives when they have to fight for what they believe in and for what they want.

Once their foot is in the door they know they've got to work, and we’ll work alongside them to lift them, their peers and the kids that follow in their footsteps, out of educational inequality, and we’ll do it in our lifetime.

What we teach

We teach three key lessons:

Indigenous = Success

The identity which makes the kids different and is the reason why so many people think they are destined to fail, in fact comes from much deeper roots of success. 200+ years of dispossession and disadvantage is nothing compared to the 60,000 years of genius, resilience, character and life that pumps through their veins. We re-align the kids’ psychological framework around their association with their identity so they begin to see it as ‘a reason for success as opposed to an excuse for failure’.

Are kids less Aboriginal if they engage with a western education?

Our view is no. With one significant caveat - the kids have to see their identity as something that is central to them, something they are proud of and want to keep alive and strong. They must be inspired to want to learn from their elders, from those who have come before, and learn the lessons of their people.

Once they feel secure about where they’ve come from they begin to feel the power of where they’re going. This gives them ‘permission’ to operate in more than one world. They understand it’s not a compromise to have all the tools on hand to ensure their success.

From a base of strength, grounding and self-knowledge, the educated mind’s capacity is limitless.

Education is freedom

Once students are proud of their identity and see it as a reason for success, they have unlocked their sense of belonging and self-worth. Then we reveal the key: education.

It’s a quick progression down the rapids at AIME; get an education, get a voice, get influence and power to make your world fairer.

Our strategy is you’ve got to be a part of the system to change it. Having these kids, and our mentors, grow and succeed in the upper echelons of society, will perpetuate the change we believe in.

These kids by playing within the system will become the minds examining the status quo and shifting paradigms. They will find themselves inside the machine, with their hands on the very levers of governance that once signalled their people’s inequality. With education they win themselves a seat at the table and will be able to use their honed tools with nuance to influence and change the outcomes for generations to come.

We provide a comprehensive mix of programs across the high schooling experience.

On the kids’ home turf, the school, we deliver the following:

For the Year 11 and 12 Mentoring experiences our team provides Year 11 students with 10 hours of free tutoring and for students in Year 12 we provide 6 one-on-one mentoring sessions to support the transition into life after school. We also run optional Tutor Squads where university students are organised into small groups that travel to schools, with one person in the group being the designated driver. Tutor Squad times are worked out in consultation with schools and run for an hour a week across two terms or two semesters of the school year.

In terms of the time high school students spend on our turf … the university campus … this is what it looks like:

Program days are split into 3 x 1-hour sessions with 30-minute breaks in between with an hour at the end of the day for the students to travel back to school. We try to provide healthy lunches for the kids, through donations from local organisations, businesses and from the university students.

With the 1-hour sessions, the first 20 minutes is focussed on an episode of AIME TV.

AIME TV

Through our TV show we profile mentors and influencers from across the globe. It is hosted by our founder and CEO. We also have competitions for the kids to shine. An couple of examples of these competitions are below. The impact is that kids get to see their peers rising in front of their very eyes. The promise of Indigenous success is live.

One competition is AIME Got Game where talented youngsters from across Australia and beyond have their skills broadcast to the world. To enter they simply tag #AIMEGOTGAME

AIMEs Got Game 2016 Showstoppers

The other regular competition is for enterprising visual artists who can win a licence with AIME to have their work made into a piece of AIME Apparel, with proceeds from sales helping to change lives. Kids can enter by tagging #AIMEApparel.

These run all year round and are a key part of ‘failure time’ (described below), for example in an AIME room you would see art stations set up with the next Apparel artist crafting their work whilst the next AIME Got Game stars are being recorded and uploaded then and there.

AIME Apparel Launched in June 2015

Once the AIME TV episode has been shown in the lecture theatre, the high school kids and university students then break into activity time, which is the middle 20 minutes of each workshop.

The final 20-minute block is “failure time” where our local program team gather as many different props and resources as they can find and everyone jumps in to have a go at something they’ve never done before. We make failure the new normal. Removing the stigma of shame that comes from trying, we teach the kids that failure is where the magic happens.

If you walked into failure time at one of our university campuses you would see a group of kids making up a play as others gathered around a local elder to hear stories and learn language from times gone by. You’d see kids delivering speeches, creating plays, making art, discussing ideas.

As Yoda once said, ‘there is no try, only do.’

For the Year 7 and 8 day we offer a taste of what's to come. Kids get a chance to see what’s on the horizon, as they move through to Year 9 & 10 and have the opportunity to be officially accredited as an AIME mentor.

We also play with maths and science and start to instill the ideas that education and learning are 'cool'. This program also provides a really simple way for the kids to get to know us, and spend some time on a university campus so that the environment becomes ‘normal’ for them and no longer a foreign place. The idea of university study suddenly becomes a real option for them, not something unobtainable as they may have previously thought.

Year 9 and 10 students come to the campus five days throughout the year where they get the chance to be trained and accredited as an AIME mentor.

This is at the heart of our strategy to work at tackling Indigenous educational inequality for all 200,000 Indigenous kids in school. We are training our Year 9 and 10 kids, alongside the university students, to become mentors in their own lives. To set up mentoring programs for their local primary schools, or sister school relationships with remote schools.

This is how we give it away.

To be a mentor is to be the ultimate guide.

In order to become an official AIME mentor in the Year 9/10 stream, both the university students and high school kids will have to attend day one and day two, navigating complex questions around identity, purpose, resilience, hope and direction as they unlock the powers of the mentor.

They will also show that they have initiated a mentoring relationship outside of the environment, plus complete any other challenges that are set as part of the program.

One of the workshop challenges we work through with the kids is to write a speech as the First Indigenous Prime Minister. This clip is from a campaign we ran in 2013 called The Other Election where we posted the kids speeched online and asked the country to vote and Imagine What’s Possible

Day 4 will be a chance to work through broader concepts and themes and Day 5 will be KiNDLiNG, which is a festival where an eclectic mixture of people take the stage for 5 minutes each. It’s also a time to celebrate graduation and invite the Year 11 and 12 students who have been part of the program, together with members of the local community to join in celebrating the achievements of kids and the university students, who have worked together to create change.

What we do for this age group is give them the symbol of AIME as their very own. It’s a chance for them to be somebody, to be a mentor.

Year 11 students head to the university campus 3 times throughout the year with the first day being a combined careers day with Year 12. The second day is spent at KiNDLiNG and on the third day the students become mentors for the Year 7 and 8 kids on their day at the university.

In 2017, in addition to our current school ambassador program, AIME will release 300 Golden Tickets for Year 11 students from across Australia. One student will be selected from each school to travel to Sydney for three intensive days training with our CEO and Founder together with a variety of other leaders, when they will learn how to deliver their own version of the AIME program. These students will be responsible for:

  • setting up a mentoring program for one of their local primary schools,
  • providing tutoring and support for their school’s Year 7 and 8 kids, and,
  • building a sister-school relationship with a school in a remote or rural area.

They will be inducted as an official member of the AIME team and offered a contract for 12 months. It will be an unpaid internship. Funding for this in 2017 has been provided by Triple J listeners from around Australia who donated on 26 January during the Hottest 100, which is a countdown of the top 100 songs for the year.

Year 12 students will attend a combined Year 11 and 12 careers day and hold a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements. These students will be providing a new narrative of Indigenous success in Australia, one that others will look to replicate abroad.

It’s critical for the kids to be able to see that many people, just like them, and often the first in their family to finish school, can and are going on to university and beyond.

All it takes is one group of Year 7 kids across all the schools in their region, to stick together and move confidently towards completing high school, and in as little as 6 years they will end educational disparity.

History is ready to be made by a generation of kids willing to step up.

As previously mentioned we offer one-on-one mentoring for Year 12 students, which are led by our fulltime staff, our casual staff or our lead Mentors. We work with students on the Mentors 4 Life program, which is a self-directed mentoring program consisting of 6 unique sessions. This begins in April and finishes before the students sit their final high school exams. It is our chance to individually mentor and guide our Year 12 students as they transition from the safety of the school system into their future lives.

2016 AIME Anthem, each year as paart of AIME’s Got Game a select group gets to come to Sydney, write and record the AIME Anthem for that year, reflecting on the world we have created, and the one we are building together

That concludes the summary of the program for 2017, which we are also set to take around the globe, in our relentless commitment, to be mentors, for a fairer world.

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