The Evidence Portal

Mentor-mentee relationship

Flexible activity

Mentoring relationships should be based on common interests, mutual respect, genuine friendship, fun and a non-judgemental approach.

Creating a safe and supportive space for mentors and mentees to interact and engage in structured or unstructured activities is critical for relationship-building. A safe, supportive context for mentoring activities will help mentees look to mentors as role models, for guidance and advice, and allow mentees to glean the most benefits from the mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is unlikely to produce any change if:

  • the mentor is authoritarian and judgemental
  • there is too much emphasis on expected behavioural change, rather than just building a friendship

How can it be implemented?

Mentors can create positive relationships with mentees by:

  • Having fun together
  • Enjoying each other’s company
  • Adopting a non-judgemental
  • Building trust
  • Being encouraging
  • Affirming, empowering and inspiring the young person
  • Having mutual respect

This approach should be adopted throughout all activities mentors and mentees participate in.

However, it is also important that mentors carve out time specifically for relationship building. This will look different depending on the interests of the young person. Possible activities include:

  • Going for walks together
  • Playing sport
  • Attending events (e.g. concert, art gallery, sport)
  • Exploring interests together (e.g. music, cooking)
  • Working on a shared project together (e.g. wood working)

A wide range of activities and options should be available to engage young people. Young people have a variety of interests, so where possible, activities should provide the broadest set of options to maintain their engagement.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

  • Cultural sensitivity is critical to program effectiveness when young people maintain strong cultural ties. Culturally sensitive programs incorporated culturally appropriate activities in interventions, engaged staff from the same cultural backgrounds to deliver programs, used young people’s preferred languages and embedded traditions and norms within interventions (Pooley 2020)
  • Additional activities to build relationships with Indigenous youth could include adventure camps, fishing, hunting for bush tucker, yarning and instruction in traditional cultural knowledge and practices (Ware, 2013).
  • Where possible, local Elders should be involved in the program as mentors or in other activities. This can enhance the cultural connections of young people. It can also improve the level of respectful relationships with local community leaders (Ware, 2013).

Who is the target group?

Developing a positive and trusting relationships with mentees is critical for all partnerships, regardless of target recipients.

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The Campus Corps program involves daily unstructured activity time in the evening between 4-8pm when youth can interact with their mentors, learn new skills and have fun in a safe environment (within the Campus Corps facilities). 
  • In the Mentoring Program for At-Risk Youth, mentor-mentee pairs participate in group activities sponsored by program administrators. This fosters a safe and supportive environment in which youth and their mentors can interact during recreational outings and cultural events with organisational oversight from the program.

What else should I consider?

Positive mentor-mentee relationships develop over a long time period (generally at least 12-18 months). Meaningful contact needs to be maintained for at least 12-18 months, with effectiveness and influence increasing the longer the relationship is maintained (Ware 2013; Bainbridge et al. 2014). Some evidence suggests that short-term mentoring programs (6 months or less) may disadvantage at-risk youth as they can reinforce or compound the sense of loss and disappointment frequently linked with other youth-adult relationships (Ware, 2013). This sense of loss can be particularly acutely felt where the relationship has ended poorly or suddenly.

Mentors should continue to support the young person and build their relationship after the ‘at-risk’ period. Mentors should continue to support young people through a phase where positive changes are consolidated.

Further resources

Last updated:

25 Nov 2022

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