Mentoring Indigenous kids gives more than just a chance for a better education
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Sadly, the story of a talented Indigenous kid who has difficulties with their teachers is far too common. In many of these cases, these kids come from a background in which academic success is not expected or where it may even be a source of ridicule/shame.
Sometimes we take for granted the many opportunities we have been afforded and assume that others have been given the same chances. I was lucky enough to have parents who provided the support and structure to achieve the educational and career goals I set for myself that ultimately resulted in a job at KPMG.
The AIME mentoring program aspires to close the gap for Indigenous students and assist them complete their education journey from high school into university, further education or employment. This year, I have been lucky enough to be a mentor.
A recent encounter with a young Indigenous man through AIME, highlighted how important it is that these opportunities are provided to all students.
As a mentor, my role was to talk with and provide advice to year 11 students making the transition from high school to the next chapter in their life. One young man struck me as someone who was clearly intelligent but lacked the structure in his personal life that allowed him to achieve his potential.
We were from the same town, we had gone to the same school, both been enrolled in an accelerated learning program and both played for the same footy teams. He also wanted to become an engineer, which was one of the career choices I considered before deciding on accounting.
The similarities in our background was surprising, but what struck me most was that this young man was rejected a full scholarship to a prestigious school in Melbourne because he did not want to move from his home. He had passed up on a great opportunity and now he was going to be suspended from his local high school due to poor behaviour. After following up I later discovered that he had indeed been suspended from school.
It is concerning that the national year 12 completion rate for an Indigenous student is 58.5 percent compared to 86.5 percent for non-Indigenous students. However, for the 2014 AIME students the year 12 completion rate was 93.2 percent, which is not only 34.7 percent higher than the national Indigenous rate, it was 6.7 percent higher than the non-Indigenous rate.
It is important these young adults have mentors and role models who support them to achieve their goals and dreams. The encouragement which mentoring provides will directly change the stories of these young men and women.
That is why I would ask anyone who wants to help ‘close the gap’ in education to seriously consider AIME mentoring. Furthermore, independent economic evaluation conducted by KPMG found AIME contributed $38 million to the Australian economy in 2012. For each $1 spent on the AIME program, $7 in benefits was generated.
The work done by AIME is part of a larger step in helping our young Indigenous men and women to achieve their dreams. But the statistics don’t give the full picture. It is only through getting to know the unique and individual stories of those involved that we can become emotionally invested in helping ‘close the gap’. Giving back to our communities using the skills we have been blessed to learn at KPMG is vital as we are given opportunities that have historically been unavailable to an important part of the wider Australian community.
Daniel is a non-Indigenous Accountant for KPMG Melbourne Audit & Assurance