Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Professor Frank Oberklaid has been named Victoria's Senior Australian of the Year.

Professor Frank OberklaidProfessor Oberklaid is an internationally recognised authority and advocate for children’s health, with a focus on helping those with developmental and behavioural problems through research-based programs.

The paediatrician was director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children's Hospital for 25 years and is co-group leader of Child Health Policy, Equity and Translation at the Murdoch Children's.

He recently developed a pilot program where a child mental health and wellbeing co-ordinator is embedded within primary schools to help identify and manage emerging mental health issues in students and provide connections between education, social and health services. 

The program’s success, in helping students who may have otherwise slipped through the cracks, will see it expanded to every government and low-fee non-government primary school in Victoria by 2026 – over 1800 schools.  The extra support will help teachers better identify and support at-risk students and build relationships and referral pathways to local mental health services.

Professor Oberklaid and his team are also behind a new tool that is being heralded by experts as a game-changer for children’s mental health by reducing stigma, detecting those who are struggling and linking them to early support services. 

The Children’s Wellbeing Continuum is an evidence-based tool created to start conversations around children’s well-being and assist in identifying those who are struggling at an early stage where intervention may prevent progression to more serious mental health problems. The tool, a first in the child mental health space, provides a snapshot of a child’s social and emotional well-being at a point in time.

Professor Oberklaid also helped develop the parenting advice website, which receives millions of visits each year. He was co-chair of an expert working group tasked with developing a National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and recently stepped down after 14 years as chair of the Victorian Children’s Council, which provides expert advice to the Premier and Ministers on child health policies and services for children. 

He is an Honorary Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, a sought-after speaker and winner of many prestigious awards, including being made a Member of the Order of Australia and receiving the Nils Rosen von Rosenstein Medal, a Centenary Medal from the Commonwealth of Australia and the John Sands Medal.