MHiPS Conference 2023

Monday, December 18, 2023 - 9:30 AM

As the first year of major expansion for the Mental Health in Primary Schools (MHiPS) project neared its end, we held our first in-person conference in Parkville on Wednesday 25 October.

The MHiPS Conference 2023 was attended by over 270 Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders (MHWLs) from across Victoria. The MHiPS team was also joined by representatives from the Victorian Department of Education (DE), University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Education (FoE) and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in a much-needed celebration of the most eventful and exciting year of the MHiPS project to date.

Stepping up to the podium first was Acting Dean Professor Lindsay Oades, who launched the conference by announcing the theme of ‘Building Connections’. Prof Frank Oberklaid, MHiPS Project Director at the Centre for Community Child Health, then welcomed keynote speakers Distinguished Professor Ron Rapee and Dr Lauren McLellan to the stage. They spoke beautifully on the importance of connection in the eco-structure of the school as a critical opportunity to support student mental health and wellbeing.

Following the keynote address, panellists A/Prof. Lisa McKay-Brown, Dr. Billy Garvey and Dr. Greg Gow briefly introduced themselves before opening the floor for an enlightening Q&A session with the MHWL attendees.

After a short break and refreshments, the foyer was filled with sunny smiles and buzzing brains as MHWLs then headed to the first of their two afternoon workshops. They were blessed with a strong line-up of choices for workshop topics, including:

  • Utilising the Cool Kids series of treatment programs to help children and adolescents cope with their anxious and difficult feelings. It also explored how the series supports parents to bolster their child’s emotional resilience through appropriate identification and responses to children presenting with anxiety disorders. Presented by Professor Ron Rapee, Distinguished Psychology Professor, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, and founder of the Centre for Emotional Health.
  • Addressing school refusal by moving towards encouraging school attendance rather than dissuading non-attendance. Pathways2Participation is a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support-informed model for providing effective supports to students and families. Presented by Associate Professor Lisa McKay-Brown (Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, FoE at the University of Melbourne) and Associate Professor Glenn Melvin (School of Psychology, Deakin University).
  • Designing and implementing Reconciliation Action Plans to foster connections between culturally responsive education, reconciliation and wellbeing for kids from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. Presented by representatives from Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali team.
  • Creating conditions for inclusion for neurodivergent students by exploring practical support strategies that can be used by teachers and staff in the classroom and around the school environment. Presented by Dr Matthew Harrison, FoE at the University of Melbourne.
  • Exploring the ways in which child resilience can be greatly enhanced by a connection to family and culture during middle childhood years, and how schools and teachers can assist in building on children’s strengths. Presented by Associate Professor Elisha Riggs and Dr Ali Fogarty, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
  • Exploring how to build genuine collaborative partnerships with families to support the children in our care, including how engaging with health services can fit into the MHWL’s role. Presented by developmental paediatrician Dr Billy Garvey.

We would love to thank everyone who attended, in person and online, for making the MHiPS Conference 2023 a successful and rewarding day of coming together, learning and taking the next steps in building a brighter future for all Victorian primary school students. From all of us in the MHiPS team, thank you very much.


Proudly in partnership with

MHiPS would like to acknowledge the Ian Potter Foundation, the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, SALT Catalyst, Bupa, the RE Ross Trust and the R.M. Ansett Trust for their support in establishing the initiative.