Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mentoring indigenous Australians

A couple of days ago I wrote about the feedback I have received about eMentoring and indigenous and Torres Strait people in Australia. I have been considering these issues for the eMentoring program I am running for Aged Care Queensland, and also for the Flexible Learning Course I am taking at the moment.

I have come across an excellent website called Mentoring employers and indigenous trainees to enhance retention. There's heaps of great information so I will not regurgitate it all here. But I was struck by two things.

Values and beliefs?
The first thing is a sentence about values and beliefs.

Awareness, tolerance, and respect for the values of others are essential to establishing a successful mentoring relationship.

Everyone comes to the mentor/Australian Apprentice relationship valuing certain behaviours and ideals. As individuals, we are aware of some but not all of our values. As a first step, mentors should, themselves, recognise the values that are most important to them.

In order for me to develop and design flexible mentoring or education programs for people who are culturally different from myself, I must have an understanding of who I am.

A POM down-under
The older I get the more I am aware of my culture, and I identify very strongly with the anglo-saxon English background and history. But it's the history of England I identify with, and the land. I come from many generations of English farmers and I am very proud to have my roots in the West Country.

At the same time, I am also a Kiwi, and that has become all the more evident to me since I moved to Brisbane for the last few months. I love to identify with the liberal, free-thinking attitudes that I think characterize New Zealand. And I believe I am a lot less judgmental and conservation in my attitudes since I left England. So I think I am a real mix of cultural differences - how I was born and what I have become.

How does that affect my work as an educator?
Hopefully, it helps to me see that everyone has very different backgrounds and roads that they have traveled to get to the point where they are at. In terms of education flexibility, being aware of the cultural influences on people underpins design so that education meets individual needs. This isn't just in terms of the content we provide, but also being mindful of the different ways people learn. So it is not fitting people to education courses and processes, but rather fitting the courses and processes to fit the people.

Supporting indgenous people in a mentoring program
The second aspect of the website that struck me was the practical advice that was given about running a mentoring program for indigenous people. Whilst this information is directed at mentoring programs, it is just as relevant for more formal education courses.

It is likely that Indigenous Australian Apprentices will require support in the:

Recruitment stage - they may not be adequately prepared for direct entry into a structured training programme.
Formal training stage - they may have difficulty with aspects of the learning.
Work-based stage - they may require help in adjusting to the requirements of regular attendance and establishing effective working relationships.
Transition from training to an ongoing working role - they may need to explore and revise their attitudes and values associated with work, careers and financial security.

The message to me continues to be that people need support, edication, mentoring, professional development, call it what you will, in an individualised way - which to me is at the heart of flexible learning.

Image: 'Beach Access' G a r r y


Helen said...

What an exciting role you have Sarah - it must be so interesting and rewarding to be able to offer so much in the way of flexiblilty. Hope the clotted cream picture in my blog didn't make you too "home-sick" - we had our quota at Christmas! As to our requirements this week - I enjoyed reading about your views on "fitting courses to people" rather than the other way round

Sarah Stewart said...

The thing is , Helen, it's all well and good me going on and on about flexibility - the issue is how this is implemented. And the bottom line is that we need time to do it, and as we all know time is....money.

So I would, as with all projects like this, we need time to do a proper consultation with local communities and make the time frames long ones, because it does take time before you see change and how people have been benefited.

infomidwife.paulinerose said...

well Sarah, very interesting, certainly are flexiable - not quite sure how it is going to work though!

Sarah Stewart said...

I am found some really useful information about mentoring indigenous people here: