The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 217–236 | Cite as

Recognising aspiration: the AIME program’s effectiveness in inspiring Indigenous young people’s participation in schooling and opportunities for further education and employment

  • Valerie HarwoodEmail author
  • Samantha McMahon
  • Sarah O’Shea
  • Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews
  • Amy Priestly


A strong feature of the widening participation agenda is improving the aspirations of groups that are underrepresented in higher education. This paper seeks to reposition the utility of this as a focal point of educational interventions by showcasing the success of a mentoring program that takes a different approach. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) significantly and positively impacts Australian Indigenous high school students’ aspirations to finish school and continue to further study, training or employment. AIME is not read as a classic intervention program for raising aspirations. Instead, AIME builds upon the cultural wealth of participants and adopts an approach that seeks to inspire individuals rather than remediate them. The paper draws on survey data and fieldwork to present an example case study for resisting the assumption that young people’s aspirations are deficit and in need of ‘improving’. The paper describes how AIME works within young people’s ‘windows of aspiration’ to positively impact their engagement in school and further education, training and employment.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous Education 


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Harwood
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samantha McMahon
    • 1
  • Sarah O’Shea
    • 1
  • Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews
    • 2
  • Amy Priestly
    • 3
  1. 1.University of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.University of TechnologySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.AIME MentoringRedfern, SydneyAustralia

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