Digital storytelling and identity work: How university students narrate their involvement in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)

Year: 2012

Author: O' Shea, Sarah, Kervin, Lisa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper presents initial findings from research currently being conducted with mentors involved in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience [AIME]. The research utilises multimodal, digital texts (Digital Stories) to initiate reflection amongst participants in relation to their motivations for joining this program and also the impact this involvement has had.

Background and Context: The AIME program provides a longitudinal mentoring program, matching indigenous high school students with university mentors. The objective of the program is to provide positive role models and encourage students to consider the possibility of university attendance. The lack of participation and success within the higher education system is very obvious amongst the Australian Indigenous population. The AIME program provides one way to situate university within the discourse of these young indigenous people in order to increase their capacity to 'imagine' higher education. Rather than perceiving these young people as lacking, the program instead aims to improve their sense of capability via a series of interventions including a mentoring program. This research study recruited current AIME mentors who produced a Digital Story under the theme of 'My AIME: Education For All'.

Digital Stories: Digital Stories adhere to strict guidelines concerning length and composition. Each of the stories contains between 10-15 images and scripted to 250 words. The stories are between 2 to 3 minutes long and the voice of the storyteller is used to narrate. The resulting digital narratives are powerful representations of both the public and personal motivations related to their involvement. By producing digital narratives, participants also had the opportunity to play an active role in story telling, facilitating the disclosure of the 'dynamic quality of experience' (Graham, 1984, p119). The stories of these mentors touch upon themes of racism, cultural oppression, educational disadvantage and social exclusion as well as revealing the possibilities for disrupting or resisting accepted positions.

Presentation: The presentation will showcase 4 digital stories produced by the university students, the group includes both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and also, international students. Each narrative provides unique perspectives on both the nature of this involvement and the personal motivations in this regard. As students narrate their stories the themes of identity, history and place intertwine to reveal the tensions that exists in political and educational discourses within both Australia and overseas.


Graham, H. (1984). Surveying through stories. In C. Bell & H. Roberts (Eds.), Social researching: politics, problems, practice. London: Routledge.