Under the radar: Report on the mental health of Australian university students

Vivienne Browne1, Jeremy Cass2*,

1 Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Victoria, 2052
2 RMIT Counselling Service, 124 LaTrobe Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000*

According to Australian and international research, university students are experiencing heightened psychological distress, in part due to academic and financial pressures, isolation, loneliness and poor self-care. The impact has been particularly felt across university counselling services, where increases in both service demand and severity and complexity of mental ill-health problems are putting significant strain on existing resources.

While Australian Government policy has driven increased participation and equity in higher education, little attention has been given to ensuring university settings respond effectively to risk factors and experiences of mental ill-health. Further, mental health and suicide prevention policies across all levels of government, have focused on providing support within primary and secondary school settings and largely ignored the role of tertiary education. This is despite the significant numbers of Australian young people who are engaged in these settings.

There remains contention about whether the core business of higher education delivery should extend to supporting student’s mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Regardless, universities across Australia have been independently developing policies and programs to respond to the myriad of mental health issues presenting on campus. Orygen’s Under the radar report calls for national leadership and guidance to support these efforts and work towards:

  • Articulating the reasonable expectations for universities to respond to mental health issues on campus and models for partnership with community mental health services.
  • Improving our understanding of these issues through research, data collection and monitoring.
  • Promoting evidence-based, appropriate and acceptable programs and interventions.


Vivienne Browne is a Senior Policy Analyst at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. Vivienne has worked for over 15 years in policy development, project management and program delivery for young people across government and the community sector.

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) – making allies, forming networks

Mrs Clare Moseley1, Mrs Robyn Idewa Gede2

1University Of Southern Queensland, Ipswich, Australia, 2University Of Southern Queensland, Springfield, Australia

As a university with a 5 star social equity rating, USQ wishes to further increase its standing by making improvements in how we cater to the needs of our LGBTIQ staff and students. The university is also committed to being a leader in social responsibility and leadership in rural communities and, as such, recognises that supportive and inclusive policies may offer a protective factor for LGBTIQ students, including for safety and suicide risk (Jones, 2012). Therefore, implementing such policies can be viewed as an essential strategy for education providers.

The poster will reflect the following policy and practice initiatives of the university:

  • Ally Natters (monthly): shared by webinar with all three campuses and online. Speakers are from community organisations, staff members, and students past and present sharing experiences.
  • Ally newsletters (monthly): a vehicle to share news, events and support groups with the USQ Ally network.
  • USQ Library LGBTIQ Safe Place: this initiative will provide a visible and inclusive Library safe area for staff and students who identify as LGBTIQ.
  • Ally train the trainer: select staff across USQ will undergo the first ‘Ally train the trainer’ workshop, which will increase the number of Ally training opportunities.
  • Ally Champion: the DVC (Academic Services) has been appointed as LGBTIQ champion, representing the Ally Network at the senior executive level of the university.
  • The first USQ LGBTIQ student club has just been affiliated.
  • Ally Flag: flown at all three campuses on IDAHOT Day.


Clare Moseley BA (Hons) Social Sciences, Prof Dip Marketing and Post Grad Diploma in Careers Guidance.

Clare Moseley is currently the Welfare Officer at The University of Southern Queensland based at the Ipswich campus.  Previously, she was a Student Advocate for The University of Queensland Student’s Union at Ipswich, Gatton and St Lucia.  She originates from south Wales, UK and has spent the majority of her career undertaking a variety of marketing, event and project management roles for the Welsh Assembly Government at their offices in Wales and New York.

Robyn Idewa Gede BA, PG Dip TESOL, BA Psychology (Hon), PG Cert Career Dev & Lifelong Learning.

Robyn Idewa Gede is a registered Psychologist and currently holds the position of Welfare Officer at The University of Southern Queensland, Springfield. Prior to this she was a Student Success Advisor, Coach, and Student Success Coach Coordinator at Griffith University for the School of Applied Psychology, Mt Gravatt. She has also worked as a Career Counsellor and Counsellor at Queensland University of Technology. Robyn has also taught academic level English to international students at Griffith University, and been an examiner for the International English Language Testing System at the University of Queensland.

University linkages program: Partnerships to enhance student learning in Iraqi higher education institutions

Ms Elisabeth Macias1

1Irex, Washington, United States

Due to ongoing conflict and limited resources, universities and faculty in Iraq have been isolated from the international higher education community for many years. This isolation has limited incorporation of recent pedagogical, curricular, and administrative advances in global higher education. The University Linkages Program, funded by the U.S. Embassy Baghdad and implemented by IREX, has been supporting the development of long-term partnerships between faculty and universities in Iraq and the United States. The goal of each partnership is to develop a project that improves teaching, learning, and administration in Iraqi universities, with a focus on improving workforce readiness among graduates. In order to better identify the needs of local stakeholders and enhance career growth of Iraqi faculty, the partnerships are based on proposals developed by Iraqi faculty with support of Iraqi university administrators. After a competitive review process, each project is matched with a faculty partner in the United States with specific technical expertise in the project area. Most partnerships involve a mixture of in-person training in the United States or Iraq and remote collaboration. Partnerships are evaluated for their impact on sustainable changes in Iraqi university policies and practices. The poster will provide an overall theoretical and applied framework for the program as well as specific examples of partnerships that highlight successes and challenges of implementing cross-cultural partnerships in higher education in conflict regions. The overall University Linkages Program has demonstrated the ability to achieve results despite the inherent challenges of operating in a region with conflict. Development of sustained personal connections across a broad level of governance, ranging from faculty and staff at specific universities to Ministry of Education officials, has been central to achieving this success. Institutionalization of these relationships requires long-term commitments and flexible problem solving.


Elisabeth assists with monitoring, administration, and reporting for small grants linking Iraqi and US university partners, which promote institutional development for Iraqi universities and workforce development activities. She also contributes to the development of higher education tools, including higher education toolkits and workforce development training modules. She provides logistical and administrative support for events and ongoing programming.  Prior to joining IREX, Elisabeth taught high school World and European History at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, MA. Her teaching skills include curriculum design, differentiation to meet diverse needs of learners, and assessment.  Elisabeth received her EdM in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received a BA in European History from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

International Students’ gateway to personal and academic success

Ms Anna Jenkins1

1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia

Volunteering provides students and young people, with a valuable gateway into future paid employment; the development of leadership potential, organisational and networking skills can often lead to a successful transition into the workforce upon the completion of their studies.

In addition to these important and valuable employability outcomes, volunteering has a number of additional benefits, particularly for International students. Volunteering, both on-campus within the University structures, but importantly externally, can contribute greatly to increasing a student’s connections with their host community, can contribute to their own community upon return, and has real benefits for a student’s resilience, and wellbeing, thus helping to contribute to more successful academic and other outcomes.

A much underestimated benefit that volunteering provides to international students are psychosocial benefits, building personal resilience, and greater connectedness and positive experiences for international students. Positive social experiences for International students builds confidence, wellbeing and resilience, enabling them to form personal relationships with their immediate community members, and thereby increase their support network, and builds their own internal coping mechanisms, helping them deal with everyday work and study and personal stressors.

Volunteering external to the student’s university provides students with an opportunity to contribute, in a meaningful way, to the host community, which they are living in. Often, International student are siloed, highly involved and active within their student community, but rarely connecting with their host community, and engaging with the “Australian” culture and its people.

Drawing on examples from La Trobe University’s volunteer International Host program and Volunteering program, as well as student feedback and testimonials, I will discuss the benefits that volunteering brings to connecting international students with the wider community, ensuring that their social, cultural needs met, building social networks, creating cross cultural connections, and enhancing the student’s successful outcomes, both inside and outside the classroom


Anna Jenkins is a qualified Social Worker, and has worked with non-English speaking, migrant, vulnerable youth, and refugee communities, in the community and not-for profit sector, both within Australia and overseas for over 16 years, prior to joining the International student Services team at La Trobe University in 2015.

She worked with the Australian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, from 2001 to 2015, including coordinating, training and recruiting volunteers in one of the largest internationally recognised volunteer organisations in the world.

Anna has a passion for community development, social justice and assisting and supporting vulnerable migrants.

New Colombo Plan: Australians as international students in Asia and their cross-cultural learning

A/Prof. Ly Tran1

1Deakin University, Vermont, Australia

The latest figure from the Australian University Directors’ Forum, AUIDF, (2016) shows that the number of Australian students participating in learning abroad increased more than six fold over the last 10 years, from 6000 in 2005 to 38,144 in 2015. Almost one out of five Australian students undertook learning abroad during their undergraduate study in 2015 (AUIDF, 2016). The New Colombo Plan program established in 2014 represents the Australian government’s signature initiative of not only student mobility but importantly public diplomacy. This important mobility program has contributed to the recent remarkable growth of Australia’s outbound mobility to Asia, bringing the number of Australian students funded by the NCP to the Indo Pacific to more than 10,000 by 2016. However up to date, there has been insufficient empirical data about the cross-cultural development and other forms of learning Australian students are engaged in Asia through the New Colombo Plan. This paper aims to fill out this critical gap. It draws on empirical data from a research project that includes policy discourse analysis and more than 50 interviews with academics, mobility officers and Australian students undertaking study abroad in Asia. The presentation addresses the diverse forms of learning including intended and incidental learning, authentic, formal and informal learning as well as individual and collective learning in which the New Colombo Plan participants are engaged. Using Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and habitus to interpret Australian students’ learning in Asia, it analyses to what extent Asia as a geographical, social, cultural and educational space can help to transform Australian students’ cross-cultural understanding, their capacity to pursue a meaningful professional life and their potential to act as actors of public diplomacy with regard to Australia’s connection with Asia. The presentation draws on Harvard University’s Visible Thinking Approach to engage the audience in exploring Australian students’ learning and cross-cultural development in Asia via the New Colombo Plan.


Dr Ly Thi Tran is an Associate Professor in the School of Education, Deakin University, Australia. Her research focuses on student mobility including the New Colombo Plan and the teaching, learning and wellbeing of international students across the school, VET and HE sectors. Ly has been awarded three grants on international student mobility and staff professional development in international education from the Australian Research Council. She has published widely in the field of international education and is frequently invited to speak at a wide range of conferences, symposiums and workshops on student mobility and the teaching and learning of international students. Ly’s book, ‘Teaching international students in vocational education: New pedagogical approaches’, won the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) Excellence Award for Best Practice/Innovation in International Education.

International students and the NZ Police: A collaborative safety initiative

Mr Dylan Anderson1

1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

The New Zealand education sector takes great pride and effort to market itself internationally as a prime education destination. Currently, New Zealand is home to nearly 85,000 international students on student visas, making up 1.7% of the total population. Unfortunately, international students are victims of crime at a rate higher than the general population due to a wide range of factors including: their age; exposure to, and lack of experience with alcohol and drugs; their information and help-seeking behaviour and being a transitory population. Following on from the New Zealand Police initiative “Student for Student” in Auckland, a modified version of this project was launched in Wellington in September 2016 and renamed the “International Student Ambassador” (ISA) project. The goal of the project is to empower students to take control of their personal safety and the safety of their peers by providing them with training to reduce the risk of being a victim of crime. Students from Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, Queen Margaret College, Whitirea Polytechnic, and Weltec are involved in the project. This presentation will discuss the initiative, the positive impact on the Ambassadors and how they have been able to disseminate what they have learnt to the international student body.


Originally from the small town of Homer, Alaska, Dylan graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a BA in Philosophy and Asian Studies. He has been working with international and tertiary students in various roles in the US and New Zealand since 2007. He is currently an International Student Advisor as part of the Victoria International (VI) team at Victoria University of Wellington.

Improving student success through engagement opportunities at Massey University Student Association (MUSA)

Ms Kerry Howe1, Ms Gunhild Litwin2

1MUSA, 2.22b Student Services Building, Massey Manawatu, 4410, advocacy@musa.org.nz , , , 2MUSA, 2.25 Student Services Building, Massey Manawatu, 4410, clubs@musa.org.nz 

This presentation will describe and analyse the re-building of student engagement with MUSA initiatives and the flow-on effect on personal and professional success. We will discuss the underlying philosophy of emancipating students to find their voice in a climate of users-pay education and the role student associations play in developing an ethics of civics in students. Though only two years in the making, the authors will tell stories of how the re-building of a de-funded student association has invigorated vibrancy on campus, increased the number of volunteers to the student association (MUSA), increased the functionality of clubs and their executives, enabled a better functioning class representative system, and improved personal and professional growth for students. Particularly, the authors will describe and analyse issues that are enabling progress for this process, such as the development of a volunteer system, and the refining of the definition of volunteer for different aspects of student life such as class representation, clubs’ systems and volunteering for the student association. We will report on successful collaborative initiatives within the university as well as on ways of overcoming obstacles. Lastly, we will share success stories of students who have benefited from active participation in the MUSA volunteer system.


Kerry is a registered social worker who passionately believes in engaging students through offering volunteering positions.

Gunhild used to be a languages and art teacher and is a passionate organiser of events and people.

Together, they combine their strengths to create opportunities for students to find their voice as well as enable and support them to speak up for themselves and their fellow students.

Summer Internship Program: Providing a holistic learning opportunity for equity students

Ms Jessica Luquin1, Ms Jessie Lui1, Ms Rita Kusevskis- Hayes1, Mr Jeffrey Meesterman1, Dr Colin Clark1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Kensington , Australia

The Summer Internship Program is a support initiative for equity students at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. The program provides equity students the opportunity to be involved in a unique holistic learning experience. Students were paid to complete a two-week intensive program alongside staff in the Student Life and Learning Equity Team. Students connected in a professional workplace context with their peers and the staff community to gain valuable job-ready skills, develop resources and conduct research. The internship program fosters graduate attributes and complements a student’s university degree. The program was developed as a result of a review of new and opportune ways of directly supporting equity students.

The Summer Internship program was specifically targeted at students who fall under the equity umbrella. The Early Intervention team at UNSW engaged in this project by defining Equity and an analysis of ‘domestic low SES’ as mentioned in the strategic priorities of the Australian federal government. The equity definition included domestic students in enabling and pathway programs, students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged schools. Postgraduate and undergraduate students from a range of faculties participated in this internship program.

Five initiatives formed the internship program 1. Developing Resources for Self-Advocacy and Disability Disclosure, 2. Content Marketing for Co-Curricular Experiences, 3. The Re-Engage Community Partnership Project, 4. Student Welcome Initiative and 5. Student Marketing and Communication Research


Ms. Jessica Luquin is a qualified social worker with experience working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and in data analysis. She has experience with running targeted interventions, retention and attrition of students from enabling pathway  programs. She has worked with the Student Life and Learning online tool NavigateMe since 2014 and more recently the Internship Program for Equity Students in 2016. Jessica ran a welcome initiative for Equity students in 2017 utilising online technology.

Planning for reintegration – when international students return home

Mr Timothy Lawther1

1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

After an extended period studying abroad, many international students depart promptly, with little preparation, few farewells, and great short-term uncertainty. On a Friday, they are celebrating their last exam or final submission. On a Sunday, they are unemployed, sweating, and bartering for a tuk-tuk. Students benefit from proper post-study departure preparation, and planning for cultural reintegration.

On planning for departure, guidance can be extended to students on making culturally appropriate farewells, which will contribute to strong long-term links with faculty and peers. As many international students will be unable to attend graduation, an international student ‘completion ceremony’ can be organised, to thank them for their unique contributions to academic discourse and university diversity. Students should be prompted to acquire local keepsakes to remind them of positive times. Logistical aspects can be organised efficiently, such as paying down outstanding debts, and affordable shipping of personal items.

On arrival home, many students are ill prepared for the inevitable cultural, interpersonal, and professional challenges. They may have grown accustom to a certain quality of life, western gender norms (particularly those from the LGBTQ community), democratic processes, and collegial relationships with high-level individuals. Reintegration planning will equip international students with tools to navigate the different stages of reverse culture shock, and to do so while establishing/re-establishing their career after study.

Good practice models, developed by Victoria University of Wellington in managing the New Zealand Scholarship Programme, may assist education institutions to better support international students in their departure preparations and cultural reintegration post-study.


Tim Lawther is originally from Sydney. He did his undergraduate study at University of New England, and his Masters at Macquarie. He joined Victoria University of Wellington from the international development sector. His background is in aid projects advancing the rights of disadvantaged and minority groups. He started working with youth at Oxfam Australia, then spent five years in Timor-Leste – three years with NGOs for disability advocacy, and the last two years with the United Nations as a gender and disability technical adviser to The Ministry of Public Works. He then moved into refugee advocacy work in Wellington, and now manages the New Zealand Government-funded Scholarship Programme at Victoria University of Wellington.

Connecting our students from the “space in-between”

Mr George Greig1, Ms Tanya Savage2

1Tuākana Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland 1010, New Zealand, g.greig@auckland.ac.nz., 2Tuākana Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland 1010, New Zealand, t.savage@auckland.ac.nz

The University of Auckland’s Tuākana program has supported Māori and Pacific (MPI) students for decades through pedagogically relevant learning environments. Tuākana employs senior students to guide undergraduate MPI students through university in an academic and pastoral capacity. Despite the success of this program, today’s increasing state of social expansion and the depersonalisation of learning environments has weakened the relationships of the effective parties involved . At Tuākana Arts, a subset of the Tuākana community, we tasked ourselves with optimising the integration of student mentors and teaching staff. Our conclusions suggest that the Tuākana team needs an intermediary party, someone who knows the role and understands its institutional matrix. This was the starting point for the Tuākana team leader – a school specific intermediary that streamlines its student mentors while communicating their activity to the relevant bodies. This presentation will convey how the team leader role addresses many issues inherent in the modern student engagement sphere. Using our own experiences, we will illustrate how a team leader operates in an innovative “space in-between”. The role possesses an ability to slide on a spectrum between flexibility and procedure, an effective nuance we trust our audience will both understand and apply. We believe it empowers student engagement through communication, delegation and integration and we aspire to show this year’s student engagement community how a team leader will benefit their own endeavours.


George is a fourth-year undergraduate student completing a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Auckland. He is an active advocate and speaker for the rights and affairs of students on campus. Examples of his work include heading the ‘I, Too, Am, Auckland’ initiative , acting as a student representative in the Faculties of Arts and Law and presenting to first-year students throughout the year. During his university career, George has worked for the Tuākana program mentoring undergraduate Māori and Pacific students in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. This year George acted as the Tuākana team leader, a new intermediary role that supports the activity of its mentors. His transition from Tuākana mentor to team leader has granted him a powerful insight into the ubiquity and importance of such a role. As a student, an experienced mentor and a presenter, George seeks to present his perspectives on his team’s efforts and how they may be replicated in the wider student engagement space.



The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by anzssa.com.


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at www.isana.org.au.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.