The benefits of being a Mentor

LV had the chance to chat with Jenny Trethewey (WCLP’98), a GreatConnections volunteer mentor and asked her why she gave up her time for others. “It is the mutual exchange that makes it so worthwhile. Mentoring is all about sharing experiences and learnings. Neither party is an empty bucket and so both provide insights to each other.”

One of the community organisations that GreatConnections supports is the Indigenous Leadership Network of Victoria (ILNV) and they have worked with them since it began, in 2006. Jenny mentored the founding Executive Director and has continued to support the work of the organisation, joining ILNV’s Board in 2012. Today her mentee is Cherie Minniecon, whom she met in September last year. Cherie was working in a State Government department at the time but has since begun a role with the welfare organisation MacKillop Family Services to help to develop cultural competence within the organisation.


The first meeting is the most important as each person needs to set out what they want to get out of the relationship and to gauge if there is a good chance of developing the rapport and trust on which a mentoring relationship relies.  Matching mentors with mentees is the difference between a successful relationship and one that doesn’t work as well. Finding a mentor with skills and experience that match the issues the mentee wants to explore is key – and shared values increase the chances of a good relationship developing.

“As a mentor I don’t have all the solutions but mentoring provides a sounding board and structured base for reflection. Knowing that we are meeting once a month enables Cherie to think about the issues she wants to talk over with me and more often than not she has the solution after a short discussion,” adds Jenny.

As a mentor the main attributes are to be an active listener, able to question and make suggestions and be as encouraging as possible. It isn’t a managing role but one that provides support and space to talk and think about work and career issues.

Cherie’s new role meant that she was dealing directly with an Exec team and this was a new experience for her and so Jenny was able to use her experience gained from working in other community organisations to support her with this. Jenny comments: “It is amazing the difference that showing an interest in people can make.”

All mentors involved in the ILNV program complete a two day training program covering aspects of mentoring and Indigenous culture. Each match is carefully managed and at least one meeting is arranged before a commitment is made. This ensures that expectations of both parties are achieved.