Sydney University Australian National Football Club (SUANFC) has signed the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) as their official Charity Partner for the next three years.
SUANFC General Manager, Tristan Liles, said the club was delighted with the partnership that is sure to benefit both organisations, with one individual, Nick Winmar, having already grasped the opportunity to make a significant difference.
“With SUSF’s backing and a side in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL), SUANFC is developing pathways towards excellence, both on and off the field,” Mr Liles said. “This is the standard we are striving for and why we have chosen to partner with AIME who share the same philosophy.”
AIME is a dynamic educational program with a proven record of supporting Indigenous students through high school and into university, employment or further education at the same rate as all Australian students. AIME aims to provide Indigenous students with the skills, opportunities, belief and confidence to grow and succeed.
AIME’s Partnership Manager (Corporate and Philanthropic), Jarrod Myers, said 3,500 mentees are presently connected with 1250 mentors in partnership with 16 universities in all mainland states and the ACT. “And kids in their program are bucking the trend’ big time,” he said.
“In 2013, the Year 9 to Year 12 completion rate for AIME students was 76 per cent, well above the national Indigenous average of 38 per cent and close to the national non-Indigenous average of 80 per cent.
“By 2018, AIME plans to annually reach 10,000 Indigenous kids across Australia and support their transition to university, employment or further education at the same rate as every Australian child.”
Mr Myers said AIME’s decision to partner with SUANFC was an easy one.
“The University of Sydney is the initial stomping ground of the AIME program and remains our longest standing university partner,” he said. “Without the support of the University, we would not be where we are today; in a position to take one of the biggest practical whacks at closing the gap in Australian history.
“AIME is pumped to be joining forces with SUANFC as their Charity Partner. SUANFC is on track to be a premier club in the NEAFL and Sydney AFL leagues, and to be the charity sponsor of a club with such a strong future is an honour.”
Mr Myers said the partnership was particularly special in light of how AIME came about in 2005 when 25 University of Sydney students walked down the road to Alexandria Park Community School to meet with 25 Indigenous students.
“This is our stomping ground, so our partnership with SUANFC runs close to home,” he said. “We hope to build upon the strong progression results we’ve seen among kids attending AIME at the University, while offering casual work and mentoring to SUANFC’s Indigenous players where possible. It’s a match made in heaven.”
The partnership between SUANFC and AIME has already reaped some very practical results, not least in the form of SUANFC new recruit Nick Winmar, who now works for AIME as a Program Manager Assistant.
Winmar, the cousin of legendary indigenous footballer Nicky Winmar, spent three seasons with AFL club St Kilda before playing with Claremont last season in the West Australian Football League (WAFL). This year Winmar made the move to Sydney to sign with SUANFC and study a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney as an SUSF Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holder.
“Nick expressed an interest in relocating to Sydney to a current player he had a friendship with,” SUANFC head coach Daniel Gilmore said. “The current player talked about SUANFC’s AFL program within the NEAFL and what it offers our players in terms of education, support and mateship. From their Nick took the initiative to look at his options to study and to his credit he put the effort to turn it into a life-changing opportunity.”
Winmar couldn’t be happier with the move to Sydney.
“It’s proven to be one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “I’d almost walked away from playing altogether. The move has helped me enjoy my footy again. There’s an amazing bunch of people at this club who do so much more than expected, so it’s hard not to enjoy my time here.”
Despite an injury interrupted pre-season, Winmar has made a positive start to his SUANFC career – so far booting four goals in two victories. His contributions off the field with AIME have been equally, if not more, important.
Winmar started working at AIME in March and he has loved every minute of it. “Working with kids has always been something I’ve enjoyed and to couple that with helping young Indigenous kids finish high school and move on to the next phase of their lives is something pretty special,” he said. “I’m extremely proud to be working at AIME and thankful for the opportunity to help change not only my life but hundreds of kids who may not think they can go to uni or get a job.”
Winmar’s positive contributions to AIME have attracted the attention of AIME Centre Manager at The University of Sydney, Nat Heath. “I have been very impressed with Nick. He has a great attitude and is keen to help in any way he can,” he said.
“Nick assists in the daily running of programs, which includes Outreach programs, Core Program and Tutor Squad. He handles a lot of the communication between mentors and our team. He has also been out to schools to assist with mentee recruitment.
“We plan on getting Nick to do some presenting by the end of the year as we believe he has the ability to be a really strong presenter.”
When asked whether being an elite sportsman helped him to be a positive role model for indigenous kids, Nick’s response was far wiser than his 23-year age would suggest. “No sportsperson ever thinks they are a role model, but I think I’m a better role model now than when I was playing in the AFL,” he said. “Honestly, I think attending the University of Sydney and one day graduating would make me a far better role model than running around on an oval for two hours on a Saturday.”
Luckily for SUANFC and AIME, he plans to continue to kick goals on and off the field.
National Hoodie Day is AIME’s winter fundraiser on Friday, July 11, 2014. It’s a chance for the whole nation to don an AIME hoodie and support more Indigenous children to finish school at the same rate as every Australian child.
Every limited edition hoodie sold brings AIME closer to working with 10,000 Indigenous children annually across Australia by 2018. Grab your hoodie at www.aimementoring.com
*Please note that AIME also has a formal relationship with the Sydney University Football Club (SUFC).