MORE Aboriginal students are going to university thanks to programs like the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience.
And when it comes to providing mentors for the program, Fremantle’s Notre Dame University is leading the way.
This year the AIME scored 121 volunteer mentors from ND’s 6000-strong pool of students. Curtin provided 600 but from a student body 10 times the size.
AIME mentors help Aboriginal kids get through school and prepares them for tertiary life: one in five the program works with make it from year 9 to university, which is five times the national average.
ND physio student Isobel Copeman says she was a typical high school kid from an affluent area: “If you live in Perth in the western suburbs, go to a western suburbs school, you don’t know anything,” she says. Mentoring has opened her eyes to people from wildly different worlds.
“I come from a pretty sheltered background where you’re expected to finish school and go to uni. It’s pretty different.”
Kyle McKenzie is an indigenous uni student who’d already arrived in Perth to attend uni when he first came across AIME. Feeling lost on open day he came across its booth and found like minds: “if I hadn’t found them I’d have gone back up to Darwin”.
ND student services manager David McLean suspects the university’s high rate of volunteering is partly down to it taking volunteering into account when students apply to enrol.
Several courses like social justice, law and medicine have volunteering requirements built in and there’s also the Catholic ethos of helping those in need.
AIME WA program director Reece Harley says the small campus helps too.
“A lot of people know each other, so if a volunteering program is fun then word spreads”.
by DAVID BELL