Supporting Our Future Historians

12 September 2014

Student Mohamad El-Skaf of Granville Boys High School with Associate Professor Michael McDonnell
Student Mohamad El-Skaf of Granville Boys High School with Associate Professor Michael McDonnell

From investigating conspiracies around the assassination of JFK to Dr Who’s influence on British culture, students from low-socio eocnomic high schools in Sydney explored a diversity of influential moments of the 20th century for this year’s History Presentation Day, held in the Quad Oriental Room in September. The Presentation Day is the culmination of months of engagement with the History Individual Projects (HIP) Mentoring Scheme, one of many activities underway within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Social Inclusion program.

To prepare them for the event, Department of History undergraduates, honours students, and postgraduates volunteered as volunteered as ‘HIP’ Mentors to year 11 students from Granville Boys High School and Miller Technology High School for three months, helping their mentee students to write essays, to develop their presentations, and to share their love of History more generally.

“This is also about building up relationships between us, the teachers and the students,” said Associate Professor Michael McDonnell, the program’s convener. “The program is about community engagement, fostering skills for the mentors, but it has also been a great way for the students to really get to know the University,” he added.

Gabrielle Kemmis, a PhD candidate in the department, enjoyed the challenges of coordinating the volunteers for 2014 and said the program delivers more than assistance with student projects.

“It’s very daunting for them and we are very encouraging of students on how they can improve so I think it's a huge confidence building exercise. Today is a big deal and a very formal process but we try to make it very relaxed,” said Kemmis.

Participating schools and teachers say they are impressed.

Granville Boys High School history teacher Jimmy Bellavia has been encouraging his students to take part for over three years.

“It has got them motivated and a lot more engaged in class. The support given to them by the university makes them actually understand that life after school has support mechanisms,” he said.

Miller Technology High School student Aneel Mekho delivered a presentation on his passion for Dr Who and how it influenced British TV culture.

“It inspired British writers to do more science fiction like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and taught people that it’s not about how much people put into a set but how good the script is and how it captures your imagination,” said Mekho.

For more information about the HIP Mentoring Scheme or other FASS Social Inclusion activities, contact the FASS Social Inclusion Project Coordinator, Kieryn McKay at