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International Graduate Centre of Education

Making Connections

Left to right: Linda Mahony, Liza Bowers, Nici Barnes, Linel Franck, Helen Cahill, Richard Midford, Ben Johns, Varun Pathak, Katie Hicks, Rachel Mayhead

Monday, June 27, 2016

CDU/IGCE has partnered with St John’s Catholic College to develop and trial a comprehensive social and emotional wellbeing program for remote community Indigenous students in residential schooling at St John’s.

The St John’s staff undertook two days of training to learn how to effectively deliver the program to Indigenous students.

The program, entitled Making Connections, is a social and emotional health program informed by both the evidence of effective social and emotional learning programs, and the holistic and collectivist model of understanding resilience and wellbeing. It encourages a strength-based focus to nurturing and growing positive connections to mind, emotions, body, and seeks in doing so to foster and respect the ways in which young people learn from strengths of kinship, community and culture. The program intervenes chiefly through building positive connections between the peers who share the experience of living together in the boarding school, seeking to foster a spirit and practice of friendship and care for self and others. It also provides use of open forms of play and exploration which invite students to share about, and honour the strengths they learn from their community, kin and tradition.

Each session in this program begins and ends with a collaborative game. These inclusive and collaborative games are used to strengthen a sense of social connection between the participants. They provide an open-ended way to introduce themes relevant to the social and emotional learning tasks that forms the heart of the session. The open-ended nature of the discussion, in which students share insights and values from the games, permits students to share knowledge and insights that they have gained from their family and community heritage. This positions them as co-creators of the knowledge that is created.

Key activities invite students to share about the strengths they learn from role-models in their communities, and positive coping strategies they value in relation to their appreciation of kin, community and country.

Professor Helen Cahill (from the University of Melbourne) delivered the training and the IGCE’s Richard Midford facilitated the training.  Professor Cahill is a world recognised expert in youth wellbeing and has trained staff in similar programs across South-East Asia and Australia.

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