Two children raising their hands in the classroom

mental health program, proven to help students who may have otherwise slipped through the cracks, will be expanded to every government and low-fee non-government primary school in Victoria.

The successful program, developed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in collaboration with The University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Education and Training, will be offered in 1800 school campuses under the $200 million expansion announced today by the State Government.

Scaling up across the state from 2023, by 2026 every government school will employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader to implement a whole-school approach to wellbeing. The extra support will help teachers better identify and support at-risk students and build relationships and referral pathways to local mental health services.

The program builds on a successful pilot with 100 schools across Victoria, where more than 95 per cent of Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders said the model improved their school’s capacity to support students’ mental health and wellbeing needs.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, Murdoch Children’s Group Leader of Policy and Equity, said schools were the perfect platform to pick up any mental health problems early before they become entrenched. 

He said feedback from the pilot program had been overwhelmingly positive and had improved care pathways for students who may otherwise have slipped through the cracks. 

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System highlighted that schools play an important role in identifying children with mental health and wellbeing challenges who can then be referred to treatment, care and support if needed.

Half of all cases of anxiety, mood, impulse control and substance use disorders manifest by the age of 14. Research suggests students with mental health concerns are behind their peers in Grade 3, falling further behind throughout school.

Premier Daniel Andrews said, “We know the earlier in life young Victorians get mental health support, the better their chances of staying happy and healthy throughout adulthood. We’re making sure every Victorian child has access to safe, tailored care through their trusted school environment – giving them the care they need, when they need it, close to home.”

Available for interview: 

Professor Frank Oberklaid, Murdoch Children’s Group Leader, Policy and Equity

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About MCRI

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) is the largest child health research institute in Australia committed to making discoveries and developing treatments to improve child and adolescent health in Australia and around the world. They are pioneering new treatments, trialling better vaccines and improving ways of diagnosing and helping sick babies, children and adolescents. It is one of the only research institutes in Australia to offer genetic testing to find answers for families of children with previously undiagnosed conditions. 


The pilot study is funded by a two-year Ian Potter Foundation grant and the Victorian Department of Education and Training.