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Mentoring to help overcome negative behaviours is particularly promising among Indigenous young people at risk, according to a new paper released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

Mentoring programs for Indigenous youth at risk examines evidence for the effectiveness of these programs in helping to set Indigenous young people on healthier life pathways when they may otherwise have engaged in antisocial, risky or criminal behaviours.

Young Indigenous Australians in some communities face multiple and complex challenges that can put them at high risk of disengaging from their communities, schools and positive life courses.

Mentoring can have powerful and lasting positive impacts on behavioural, academic and vocational outcomes for at-risk-youth.

It is particularly promising with Indigenous youth because it fits well with Indigenous teaching and learning styles, and can help to build strong collective ties within a community.

To be effective, however, the local community must be involved in planning and delivering mentoring, parents need to be involved in the mentoring relationship, and-crucially- relationships between mentors and mentees must be long-term, respectful, and mutually fulfilling.

Mentoring works best if it begins before Indigenous young people exhibit antisocial or criminal behaviour, lasts at least 12-18 months, and involves consistent, regular contact between the mentor and mentee.

Mentors who have experienced similar challenges to those facing the mentee and have proven success in overcoming negative life circumstances are the most influential in achieving positive behavioural change.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 18 September 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671

Full publication available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/