Introduction to mentoring

Introduction to mentoring

Introduction to mentoring

This page explores what mentoring is and the benefits of mentoring programs for young people, mentors, the community and organisations.

It will help LDATs to understand mentoring, and how Mentoring Programs can work to prevent and minimise alcohol and other drug harms.

What is mentoring?

“Mentoring aims to provide a purposeful, structured and trusting relationship, that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement.”17

Mentoring builds positive relationships between people; often between a more experienced or knowledgeable person (a mentor) and a less experienced or knowledgeable person (the mentee).

Mentoring aims to build the skills and wellbeing of young people through the input and support of an adult who has more skills, experience and knowledge and is a reliable, positive and trustworthy guide.

Mentoring helps young people establish a sense of identity and develop positive aspirations for their future, so they can grow and flourish to their full potential.

“Mentoring is not about telling or judging, but caring, listening, exploring, seeing how things could be different. In this relationship of mutuality, ideas and thoughts can be safely tested.”18

Mentoring Programs provide a structured way for young people to make connections and find someone - other than their parents/caregivers - to offer guidance, support and encouragement.

Mentoring is not the same as coaching or role modelling.

Mentoring is much broader than coaching and is related to the whole person and their life, with goals and objectives evolving over time.

While a mentor may be a role model, a role model is not necessarily a mentor.19

Benefits of mentoring

Mentoring is a key strategy for strengthening communities and building resilience in young people.

Well planned and organised mentoring programs can provide strong individual support, advice and guidance and can help in practical ways at important transition points in young people’s lives.20

Mentoring can contribute to young people developing new skills and knowledge, making decisions to participate in community life, and encouraging and empowering them to make positive contributions to their local community.20

“The benefits young people receive from good quality mentoring relationships and positive role-modelling are not only supportive in a time of uncertainty; but for some youth can have a life-changing impact.”17

Mentoring Programs can help to prevent and minimise alcohol and other drug harms.

The presence of non-related adults in a young person’s life can have a positive influence, particularly when those adults provide strong emotional support over a period of time.

The protective influence of caring, competent adults who are not parents is significant, particularly in the lives of young people facing challenges.20-22

Young people, mentors, the community and organisations all benefit from mentoring.

Benefits of mentoring for different audiences

Young people (mentees)

Improvements in academic performance
  • Improvements in school attendance/reduction in truancy
  • Improvements in attitudes to school (e.g. interest, scholastic ambition)
  • Improvement in school completion rates and chances of moving into higher education.
Positive behavioural choices and a reduction in high risk/problem behaviour
  • Prevention or reduction in substance use
  • Reduction in sexual intercourse, early involvement in sexual behaviour, pregnancies
  • Reduction in negative behaviour – unsocial, offensive, criminal, gang behaviour
  • Increased options and opportunities for participation.
Social and emotional development
  • Improved relationships with adults (parents and teachers), family and peers
  • Increased resilience and reduced feelings of isolation
  • Improved communication skills
  • Positive social attitudes to school, others (families and friends) and the future
  • Improvement in young people’s perceptions of their self-worth.


Increased ‘cultural capital’

Building of 'cultural capital' (see glossary) helps mentors to:

  • make sense of their own past (sometimes difficult) experiences and current challenges
  • gain insight into the day-to-day lives of young people
  • develop positive, more reciprocal relationships with young people
  • gain satisfaction from making a positive contribution to the lives of others and the community.
Skill development and increased network connections
  • Building of new skills through training and application during the mentoring match
  • Increased opportunities to build networks with other mentors, program staff and partners.


Community strengthening
  • Creating positive relationships and increased community connectedness
  • Building collaborative partnerships as well as community capacity and abilities
  • Increasing the pool of community volunteers, particularly when young people become more involved in their communities
  • Breaking down barriers between more and less privileged members of society
  • Garnering support for other youth development initiatives
  • Where successful, increasing commitment to youth policies, programs and institutions.


Enhanced corporate responsibility and organisational image
  • Increased sense of corporate responsibility
  • Building of positive corporate profile.
Increase in staff skills and commitment
  • Development of employee skills and improved staff morale and performance.
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