CBNS Mentoring Program

Professor Justin Gooding, CBNS, with mentee and colleague, Professor Swaminatha Iyer from UWA.

The CBNS aims to provide a high quality training environment for the next generation of researchers and to build human capacity.

In 2016 the CBNS has launched a pilot mentoring program where we match CBNS ECR / MCR staff and postgrad students with suitable mentors, either internal to the CBNS or external. The mentoring program provides our researchers with advice on dealing with current professional matters and guidance on where they can apply their skills and interests next. This program sets out the broad parameters of mentoring, in general, and so can be adapted for use by anyone.

The CBNS Mentoring Team will match a mentee with a mentor to help them reach their next role or progress in their existing role. The Mentoring Team is Professor Maria Kavallaris (UNSW), Professor Stephen Kent (Melbourne Uni) and Ms Gaby Bright (CBNS Manager). In addition to matching mentees with mentors, the Mentoring Team is a contact point for the relationships if either the mentor or mentee has questions or concerns. The Team checks-in with participants occasionally to gauge the success of the program.

Participate in the program

CBNS staff and students interested in being matched with a mentor should complete the mentoring request form and email it, along with a 2-page CV to, by the end of the day on Monday 12 September. Note that all applications for mentoring will be kept confidential by the Mentoring Team.

In September the Mentoring Team will source mentors to be matched with a limited number of applicants for the 2016 pilot. If successful the program will be expanded in 2017.

What can a mentor provide?

  • Advice on current professional matters, for instance, which conference you should attend or whether to publish in a particular journal ahead of another
  • Advice on personal matters, as they relate to your work (e.g. balancing parenting and work commitments, or relocating internationally with a spouse/partner)
  • Advice on working in the Australian research system, which may be useful if you are not experienced in the Australian system/environment
  • Access to new professional networks
  • Advice on where to look for your next role and what options you could consider
  • Perspectives on handling interactions with colleagues or your supervisor

Role of the mentor

  • Be a sounding board
  • Provide advice
  • Keep discussions confidential
  • Note that mentors won’t always have an answer to a mentee’s problem or endorse their actions. Their advice may sometimes be critical but should be constructive.

Role of the mentee

  • Honesty in the information provided
  • Keep discussions confidential
  • Be respectful of the mentor's contributions
  • Note that a mentee won't always act on the advice provided by a mentor

Finding a mentor

  • In many cases it’s better to have a mentor from outside your organisation or work area. The mentor can provide an objective perspective on your situation. It is important that they have a reasonable understanding of your current role, but they don't need to know the specifics of your work.
  • It’s often good to look for someone who is two levels, or more, above where you are currently. This way they are able to provide the perspective of someone who would be recruiting you for your next role.
  • Potential conflicts of interest should be explored early on in the mentoring relationship. For example, a mentor may be doing research in a similar area, which the mentee doesn’t know about.
  • Ask your supervisor or other senior people for recommendations. 

How do the interactions occur?

  • Depending on whether your mentor is in the same city as you or not, you may meet in person or via phone or video-conference.
  • If you can meet in person this is often best. Email is useful for quick or simple queries.
  • Meetings can be informal, for instance over coffee, and this is often best. You need to consider though whether what you’re discussing is appropriate in a public place, for instance, it's not a good idea to discuss how to patent an invention in a café.
  • The frequency of meet-ups can be formal, for example, for an hour every 2-3 or 3-6 months, or ad hoc.
  • It’s useful to establish early on what the mentor and mentee want and can offer within the relationship.
  • Some topics won’t be able to be discussed because of conflicts of interest or because the mentor doesn’t feel that it’s within their expertise to advise. Both the mentor and mentee should be clear about this as items arise.

If you have any questions about how mentoring relationships can work or the CBNS Mentoring Program please contact a member of the CBNS Mentoring Team:


Thank-you to the Children’s Cancer Institute for their resources on mentoring which were adapted by the CBNS.