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


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.

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  1. 1.

    Data collection for this mixed-methods project completion in 2015. Exact numbers of survey participant are yet to be advised. At the time of writing we had interviewed a total of 125 mentees and 77 mentors).

  2. 2.

    For reasons of space we are unable to fully discuss how AIME works with Shame. This is currently the focus of a manuscript in preparation. Briefly, the AIME program explicitly addresses Shame by having a rule ‘No Shame at AIME’. AIME staff and university student mentors each role model this approach and the mentees are consistently invited and encouraged to step up and get involved. The phrase ‘No Shame at AIME’ is frequently heard throughout AIME sessions. This includes being spoken at the start of the day by the Indigenous AIME staff and we have observed the young people saying it to one another, with the outcome that their peers will then engage in activities.


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Correspondence to Valerie Harwood.

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Harwood, V., McMahon, S., O’Shea, S. et al. Recognising aspiration: the AIME program’s effectiveness in inspiring Indigenous young people’s participation in schooling and opportunities for further education and employment. Aust. Educ. Res. 42, 217–236 (2015).

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  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Indigenous
  • Education