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Mentoring broadens horizons

Name: Cordell
Age: 17
Studying: Year 11, 2018; Wesley College, South Perth
From: Fitzroy Crossing, WA

When Cordell was 13, he travelled from his home in the tiny, remote town of Fitzroy Crossing, 400 kilometres east of Broome, to attend Wesley College, South Perth on an AIEF Scholarship.

“Part of the reason I decided to go to boarding school was to further my knowledge and education because I didn’t really know much about school and learning before I came to Perth.”

Little did Cordell know that his future mentor Richard Yeo, a Regional Manager for Qantas Ground Services, was also looking to broaden his horizons.

Richard learnt about the AIEF Mentor Program through the Indigenous recruitment team at Qantas.

“I try to do as much as I can at Qantas and work within the on-boarding and recruitment with Indigenous communities. I wanted to expand my understanding of Indigenous families and their culture and try to assist them to remain in work.”

Richard believes that in order for a connection to grow, both the mentor and the student need to invest in the relationship.

“I think it’s about spending time with each other, talking and figuring out what you’re both interested in. Over time, and with the events that AIEF puts on, Cordell and I are in a good spot and we get along really well.”

“Whenever I fly home on my holidays, I’ll go and visit Richard at the airport or Richard will come out to the terminal and see me. Whenever we meet up, it’s always fun and we share lots of laughs together. We’re closer than most mentor pairs. My mentor is probably the closest person I have to talk to since we met.”

Richard is proud to mentor Cordell and counts him as a mate.

“Cordell has a really genuine connection with people. No matter what he’s doing he’s giving it 100% so whenever you speak to him he’s always engaged and caring. He’s just a really good person.”

As Cordell prepares to finish Year 12, he values the role that Richard is playing in supporting his different career options.

“I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what I want to do when I finish Year 12. One of them has been to become a flight attendant at Qantas because they have a good Indigenous program and you can receive traineeships. Richard always keeps me updated on how I can apply for these opportunities.”

Richard understands the importance of encouraging Cordell during this transition. “Nowadays there’s a lot of pressure on students to make big life choices at quite a young age. I play the part of a sounding board with Cordell and let him know that it’s actually ok to not know what you want to do.”

Looking to the future, Cordell wants to show Richard what life is like back in Fitzroy. “We speak about that a lot, just going out onto the river on fishing trips and seeing the gorges and national parks.”

Richard is confident that he and Cordell will remain good friends and is appreciative of the opportunities afforded by the AIEF Mentor Program.

“Cordell spends a lot of time on the river back home. I also love the bush and the outdoors and it will be great to go to Fitzroy and for Cordell’s family to show me the area.”

“I think the mentor program is probably just as beneficial for the students as it is for the mentors; to be able to give back a bit of their time and experience. It’s been such a good experience and I’m looking forward to further developing the relationship.”

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In my own life, education has been a key to unlock both opportunity and ambition. For young Indigenous Australians, the same key should be available and AIEF makes that possible.

Ann Sherry AO
AIEF Ambassador


The AIEF Scholarship Program and the AIEF Pathways Program are supported by the Australian Government in collaboration with individual, philanthropic and corporate supporters from the private sector.