Mentoring FAQ

Before I nominate …

Do I have to be an APS or Commonwealth employee to take part in the Indigenous Mentoring Program?
  • Mentees must identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent, and be employed by the APS or the Commonwealth.
  • Mentors can be Indigenous or non-Indigenous, and can be employed in other sectors if they are the most suitable person to advise a Mentee.
Does it cost anything to participate?

No – perhaps only a cup of coffee if you're meeting in a coffee shop. Mentor training is provided by the Australian Public Service Commission at no charge.

Am I eligible to be a Mentor for the Indigenous Mentoring Program?

You will need to be at the APS 5 level or above (or equivalent for Commonwealth agencies and other sectors). You do not need to identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to be a Mentor – we're looking for people from a diverse range of backgrounds and employment. You will, however, need the support of your direct manager or supervisor to participate in the Program, and the nomination process asks if you have their support, so we encourage you to discuss this with them before you nominate.

How much mentoring experience should I have to be a Mentor?

Individuals' experience will vary across the Program. You may have a lot of experience as a Mentor or none at all; either way we will provide training.

Can I be a Mentor and Mentee at the same time?

Of course! Consider what your availability will be; if it might be taking on too much, perhaps you could complete one program as a Mentee, and join the next as a Mentor. Remember you will need the support of your supervisor for both arrangements before committing.

Can Mentors have more than one Mentee?

Yes. A Mentor can have more than one Mentee if their commitments allow, and they are comfortable with being in multiple mentoring partnerships.

How long does the Indigenous Mentoring Program run for?

Typically each formal relationship will last for about six months, after which it can continue on an informal basis if both parties wish. We will be running concurrent six-month programs as participants come on board, so there are always opportunities to join us.

Apart from being matched with a Mentor/Mentee, what is included in the Indigenous Mentoring Program?

The Australian Public Service Commission will:

  • provide comprehensive training to Mentors, and guidance for Mentees
  • assist with developing a mentoring agreement on commencement of the mentoring relationship, to help facilitate your discussions
  • provide ongoing pastoral care and advice for both Mentors and Mentees, and follow up with participants each month to see how they're progressing
  • provide updates on how the program is tracking more broadly, as well as advice on steering the Mentor/Mentee relationship and information on other Commonwealth Indigenous employment initiatives.
  • provide Mentors/Mentees with a certificate of recognition or completion, at the conclusion of the formal relationship.
As a Mentor, do I need to be a subject matter expert in my Mentee's field?

Sharing common knowledge or interests will certainly help with "breaking" the ice; however it is not a mandatory requirement of this program—what we need most is an enthusiastic attitude and willingness to guide others. We will do our best to pair Mentors and Mentees from similar sectors, but it is likely we won't be able to in every instance. You will be provided with initial training, and advice throughout the mentoring relationship.

Mentor/Mentee matching …

Am I guaranteed of being matched with a Mentor/Mentee?

Mentor/Mentee matching will be conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission. There may be occasions when we'll need to discuss alternatives if there are issues matching participants due to location, background or Mentor/Mentee preferences

It is also likely that non-Indigenous Mentors will outnumber Indigenous Mentors. Mentees who have a strong preference for an Indigenous Mentor may have to wait a bit longer, however we'll do our best to find one for you.

Will my Mentor/Mentee need to be in the same location as me?

We'll do our best to match participants from the same location, however this may not be possible in every case. There will be Mentors/Mentees working in remote locations, requiring a long distance relationship using communications channels such as telephone, video conferencing or Skype.

During the mentoring relationship…

What can I expect from my Mentor?

You can expect your Mentor to provide you with guidance, and commitment to imparting experience and knowledge while listening to you, and challenging you along the way. Your Mentor won't resolve issues or obstacles for you; they will work with you and help you identify your own solutions.

How many hours am I expected to spend communicating and meeting with my Mentor/Mentee?

There is no set requirement, however keeping lines of communication open will ultimately influence the quality and success of a Mentor/Mentee partnership. We recommend no less than 2–3 hours per month via whichever medium you agree to use.

What do we talk about? Is there a template we a can use to capture our conversations?

During the initial Mentor training, Mentors will be taught how to open, shape and nurture conversations, and also how to capture and store information from each meeting. Ultimately the conversations should be driven by the Mentee. Your mentoring agreement will also help guide discussions. There will be ongoing guidance and resources available throughout the Program to help maintain momentum, engagement and work towards a shared goal.

I think I'm aware of cultural sensitivities. How will I know if I'm not?

Cultural capability is a life-long pursuit – there is always something new to learn. Ideally non-Indigenous Mentors will have already undertaken some cultural awareness training. As part of the Mentor training, we will cover cultural sensitivities, and ask each participant to do some self-assessment and reflection on their own cultural capability. Not every partnership will have a balanced awareness of cultural sensitivities, and so being able to recognise your own capability and take appropriate action is a key element in the success of the mentoring partnership. Because of the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, awareness between Indigenous Mentors and Mentees may also differ.

What do I do if my Mentee asks me a question I can't answer?

Mentors at times will be asked questions that they don't have the answer to, or perhaps don't feel comfortable answering. Be honest with your response, and don't provide your Mentee with answers you're not 100% certain of.  If you can't answer a Mentee's question, contact us, and we will assist with a solution. This scenario will be covered in more detail in Mentor training.

My Mentee has opened up about some personal issues. What should I do?

Your primary focus as a Mentor through this Program is to help your Mentee achieve their professional goals. It is important to listen, but remember you are not their direct supervisor or manager. Of course you have a duty of care, however contacting the Australian Public Service Commission in the first instance might be the best approach. If you feel there is a risk to your Mentee's safety or health, referring them to their agency's internal processes is also an appropriate solution.

I have tried contacting my Mentor/Mentee but have not heard back, what should I do?

There may be sensitivities behind why you can't reach your Mentee/Mentor. Get in touch with the Commission and we will follow up.

Can the mentoring relationship continue following completion of the Indigenous Mentoring Program?

Yes. When the formal mentoring relationship has concluded—around the six month mark—the relationship may continue on an informal basis with the mutual consent of both parties. However, closure and reflection are important factors in a mentoring arrangement, and Mentors, Mentees, and the Program Manager need an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the Program.

Will my time in the Indigenous Mentoring Program be recognised by my manager or considered in my performance assessment?

This Program is not formally measured against your performance or development, however to participate both Mentors and Mentees will need the support of their manager or direct supervisor. This will encourage your manager to consider how this Program may tie into your individual and professional development. At the end of the Program your manager will be notified of your successful completion, and you will be provided with a certificate to acknowledge your participation.

Can I be a Mentor again?

You are very welcome to continue as a Mentor through the Program on conclusion of your current partnership.

If I need to withdraw from the Program, who do I notify?

If for any reason you need to withdraw from the Program, please contact the Indigenous Capability Team on 1300 656 009 or

I want to find out more about the Indigenous Mentoring Program?

If you would like to know more about the Indigenous Mentoring Program, please contact the Indigenous Capability Team on 1300 656 009 or