Echuca schools pave way for statewide program

Mental health addressed: All government and low-fee non government schools in Victoria will receive a mental health and wellbeing leader before 2026. Photo by Steve Huntley

Echuca East Primary School and Echuca Twin Rivers Primary School have been part of the pilot program for a $200 million investment into mental health and wellbeing in Victorian primary schools.

The Victorian Government announced this week all Victorian public and low-fee non-government primary schools will employ a mental health and wellbeing leader by 2026.

The $200 million investment will expand the Mental Health in Primary schools program to 1800 school campuses across the state to implement a whole-of-school response to wellbeing.

Based on a pilot program developed with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne, the program will initially expand to 100 schools in Victoria.

Minister for Mental Health and Education James Merlino said the program meant children won’t get left behind.

“We know the earlier in life young Victorians get mental health support, the better their changes of staying happy and healthy throughout adulthood,” he said.

“This is a historic moment in building our new mental health system, and one that will make a profound change to the way we support Victorians for generations to come.”

So far, more than 95 per cent of mental health and wellbeing leaders in the program said the model improved the ability for the schools to respond to students’ needs.

They also said since the program improved students’ mental health and also social, academic and vocational areas.

Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said the scheme would ensure all children in Victoria were looked after.

“We’re making sure every Victorian child in Northern Victoria has access to safe, tailored care through their trusted school environment — giving them the care they need, when they need it, close to home,” she said.

The investment comes as the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act replaced the previous legislation. It outlines the creation of regional Mental Health and Wellbeing boards and a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The new entities will work to respond to up to 90 per cent of Royal Commission recommendations.