MORE than 100 student from 10 northern schools gathered at the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth for a Student Wellbeing Conference run by students in the Northern Adelaide State Secondary Schools’ Alliance (NASSSA) Youth Action Team on Wednesday, 6th July 2016.

The Conference was attended students from 10 NASSSA schools as well as students from St Peter’s College.  Students from Kaurna Plains School were keen to attend but had NAIDOC commitments on Wednesday.  We also had great community support from local providers in the area of mental health providing an explicit link to our work related to youth suicide prevention.  We had 11 representatives from a range of providers make themselves available to talk to Table groups of students at the conference.  We were also well supported by staff with responsibility for student voice in their schools, representatives from local groups such as Northern Connections, staff who work with an engagement focus in DECD and NASSSA Principals.

Addressing topics such as “Student voice:  the DNA-V model”, “Building a thriving community” and “Building resilience  at your school” the Student Wellbeing Conference has been the major focus for NASSSA’s Youth Action Team in 2016.  There is no doubt the skills the students have learnt from developing this conference will help them and their peers later in life.  The exposure to a number of international models for wellbeing is designed to empower students to apply these strategies in their own life and to consider how they can involve their wider school community in these approaches.

Split into three sections, the conference consisted of information sharing, group tasks involving models of wellbeing such as the DNA-V model and PERMA.  The conference gave students the chance to identify some of their own personal strengths to share with others as well as work with community providers from the fields of youth suicide prevention and mental health.

Professor Joseph Ciarrochi, co-author of The Thriving Adolescent, firmly believes that empowering students is a key strategy in assisting them to take control of their future.  The books co-author, Dr Louise Hayes, ran a workshop with NASSSA Youth Action Team students and their teachers at Twelve25 Youth Centre in Salisbury earlier this year. The Wellbeing Conference provided the vehicle for NASSSA Youth Action Team to share this approach and others with their peers.

As well as providing opportunities for high level student voice to be demonstrated the conference hopes to have a ripple effect where the experiences and learnings from the NASSSA Youth Action Team Wellbeing Conference are taken back to the wider school community and shared with the broader community through contact with parents and carers. A number of schools identified their desire to run smaller scale conferences such as this with cohorts of students at their school later this year.  This will be a fabulous outcome of the conference.

Serendipity played its part in the conference success.  The late unavailability of the planned guest speaker led to a phone call to Maria Hull, an original founding member of the NASSSA Youth Action Team.  Maria talked to the group about her experience in dealing with adversity.  Maria connected with the audience particularly well, adding a very personal touch to the material the conference was covering.

The NASSSA Youth Action Team  would like to wholeheartedly thank all participants and contributors for their support.