Plans are underway to expand the reach of the University of Wollongong’s AIME program, which has been inspiring Indigenous students in the Illawarra for 10 years.

Australian Indigenous mentoring experience (AIME), kick-started at UOW with the goal of reconciling the high school completion rates of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

UOW AIME Program Manager Maiquilla Brown has been a part of the program from the beginning where they mentored just 50 students.

“Fast-forward to 2018 and we have over 500 students that we cater to in the Wollongong area alone,” Ms Brown said.

The mentoring program recruits university students who volunteer to support and tutor Indigenous students, with the participants meeting one-on-one each week.

However, the meetings are not limited to tutoring and academic support.

“A lot of our time is spent on providing the students with encouragement, guidance, building a positive relationship and just being there to listen to them,” Ms Brown said.

Originally a mentee and now fellow program manager, Jason Gillard fondly remembers his first experience of AIME mentoring and how influential the program was for him.

“During my whole first session and each one afterwards, all my mentor kept saying was ‘I believe in you’,” Mr Gillard said.

“Because of that belief and encouragement from one person alone, I feel I have come so far in my life… AIME is life-changing”.

Growth in the reach and influence both in the Illawarra and Australia by AIME has been gradual.

Following the opening of UOW’s South-West campus in Liverpool, plans are underway to establish the mentoring program in high schools within the Liverpool region.

UOW AIME has partnered with the university’s In2Uni mentoring program in a joint application to work in schools in Liverpool; an area in which it is felt further education and social support for Indigenous students is necessary.

“It was an area where none of our regional programs were covering, it was a blank spot,” Ms Brown said.

“We want to hit the area because we don’t want a single student to fall through the cracks.”

It’s hoped the program will be operating in the Liverpool region by the end of the year.