Beyond Blue Chair The Hon Julia Gillard, AC, launches Be You

1 November 2018

Beyond Blue national education initiative

 The Hon Julia Gillard, AC

Opening address

Thank you Johanna.

And thank you Aunty Julieanne for your very warm welcome to country.

To Monmia Principal Lorraine Bell and your staff and students – thank you for allowing us to take over the year three and four classrooms this morning.

And my thanks to so many others who have worked alongside us to help us reach today.

I have the honour of leading much important work as Chair of Beyond Blue, but today is particularly special for me.         

Today brings together two of my passions: education and mental health.

With the simple message: mentally healthy kids learn better.

So, it is my privilege to officially launch Be You

Be You is mental health training for educators.

By educators I mean the staff and managers in early learning services and the teachers and principals in schools.

Be You will give them the knowledge and tools they need to look after students and children and their own mental health.

Times have changed. Schools are no longer ‘yes sir, no sir’, top-down institutions.

And teaching is about so much more than just following the curriculum.

560,000 children in Australia between the ages of 4 and 17 have had a mental health issue in the past year.

And 40 per cent of parents say their child’s mental health issues were first noticed in school.

Schools and early learning staff are dealing with these issues every day.

Many are relying on instinct, empathy and good will to pick up signs that a child is not coping. They may notice that a normally happy student has become withdrawn or is disengaged from school, no longer enjoying the things they once loved.

They may notice that something is not right, but they don’t know what’s wrong.

Or what to do about it.

Be You will change that.

It will give them the confidence they need to intervene, to make inquiries and to know where to go and what to do if a young person is in need.

When a whole school or early learning service registers for Be You families will know that this is a place that is especially focused on the wellbeing of their children from morning drop-off to afternoon pick-up.

This is a learning community committed to student and child wellbeing: That is literate about mental health issues, can identify the signs and symptoms if somebody is struggling and know how to support them to get the help they need.

Be You is designed to make it easier for busy educators – from those training to join their profession to our most experienced principals, teachers and early learning staff – and it’s free.

Families will be able to get to know Be You too: visit the website, browse the content, or register for a deeper dive into this information rich resource. Parents will be able to rely on the information for use in their daily lives.

Just over a year ago Beyond Blue joined forces with our delivery partners – Early Childhood Australia and headspace. We have employed 70 Be You support staff around the country, trained and ready to go.

It has been a massive and complex undertaking.

But Be You has solid foundations and is backed by evidence.

It takes the best from well-established programs that have been supporting educators for a decade but importantly replaces them with a single integrated national approach avoiding duplication...a constant from when kids transition from home to early learning to primary to secondary school.

Be You recognises that real change will only occur when a whole school or early learning service community is pulling together.

This is exactly what the National Mental Health Commission said should happen in its landmark review of 2014.

This approach was endorsed by the Lancet Global Commissioners who earlier this month found one of the best investments to improve population mental health is to start early and build confidence, literacy and capacity in educational settings involving staff, students, parents, and the local community.

And new Australian research out this week shows students with persistent emotional or behaviour problems fall a year behind their peers in numeracy between years 3 and 7. With similar, although smaller trends in reading.

We know the need is great: half of all lifelong mental health conditions emerge by age 14.

That is why we need Be You.

Because when you are mentally healthy you are better able to be your best self.

When you have the self-confidence to say ‘this is who I am’ it becomes easier to respect others for being true to themselves.

Part of the answer lies in giving children and young people the social and emotional skills they need from the early years.

Introducing them to these skills and strategies in our early learning services, then building on them as they develop during primary and secondary school.

Every day, early learning professionals, principals, teachers and other staff – alongside parents and carers – are shaping and developing future generations.

With every interaction – every gesture, every word – they are showing our children how to behave, how to react.

  • How to relate to others.
  • How to express themselves.
  • How to be themselves.

Teaching takes skill, compassion, energy, creativity – and patience – all day, every day.

Our nation, our children and young people, need educators who are at their best.

They are vital to our nation’s prosperity, and to a better future for our children and young people.

So Be You will be a resource to support their mental health too.

With Be You, we have the opportunity to grow Australia’s most mentally healthy generation.

It’s a big ambition.

To achieve it, we are asking everyone to get involved.

Thank you.