Mentoring program: ‘It helps with your self-esteem, drive and self confidence’

INSPIRED: Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience participants and Bega High School Year 11 students Emma-Lee Hawker and Tremaine Cotter.“It doesn’t matter what your name is, the colour of your skin or where you come from, you can do what you want.”

These are the words Bega High School student Tremaine Cotter used to describe the successfulAustralian Indigenous Mentoring Experience(AIME).

“it’s a place where Indigenous students are given the focus to complete school and provide the tools for success,” he said.

“It helps with your self-esteem, drive and self confidence.”

The successful educational program held a graduation day at Bega’s University of Wollongong campus recently for Bega, Narooma, Eden and Bombala high school students from Year 7 to 11.

The students listened intently to award-winning guest speakers, author Bruce Pascoe and rugby league player Kezie Apps.

Mr Pascoe spoke to the students about feeling “ashamed” for not knowing about his culture as a young man.

He spoke of his own struggles at school and the hard work of his grandmother who would bribe him with books to give him an incentive to finish his higher education.

“I really found school a bit of a hard act, but I would read anything,” he said.

He shared stories from his 2014 book Dark Emu, where Mr Pascoe puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Australian societies.

“What the first Europeans saw was Aboriginal people cultivating the land everywhere,” he said.

“They saw a sophisticated society that worked really hard and produced lots of food.”

Ms Apps spoke of her dedication to succeed as a footballer and the early morning struggles of her first job milking cows on her family farm.

Mr Pascoe, also a sports lover, shared a tale of the time he fulfilled a dream by training with his beloved Richmond Tigers Football Club while still a high school student.

“I ran onto the field at a training session out of nowhere, and it took some time before they realised I wasn’t supposed to be there,” he said with a smile.

He movingly reinforced the advantages of being your own boss, and the feeling of independence and pride it has brought him.

“I told my son if he didn’t finish school he’d be pushed around for the rest of his life,” Mr Pascoe said.

“Being in full-time is traditional Aboriginal lore and working hard and being successful at what you do is what Aboriginal people do.

“Tradition is to be successful.”

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