About WISA

WISA is a national not for profit organisation established in May 2015. Working WISA not harder and building strategic sustainable resources for schools to improve wellbeing underpins all of our work.

Vision

School communities building resilience in all students, especially the most marginalised and those at risk of marginalisation, so they can reach their potential in education and in life.

Purpose

To work collaboratively with and support school communities in building a strategic whole of school approach to health and wellbeing that creates a socially just environment where all students can thrive, particularly those at risk of or who are being marginalized.

WISA Goals

1. WISA is an ethical, sustainable and member-based not for profit organisation

  • Maintaining charitable status
  • Diverse funding sources/streams
  • Efficient and effective operations and governance
  • Effective in growing and guiding WISA
  • Understands and mitigates risks

2. WISA is a valuable support for school leaders of wellbeing for enabling socially just outcomes

  • Identify strategies that increase protective factors and reduce risk factors in marginalised communities
  • Empower school leaders of wellbeing to advocate and achieve systemic school improvement
  • Lead research-informed and evidence based professional development and best practice in school wellbeing
  • Actively engage school leaders of wellbeing through networks and training
  • Lead the establishment of a vibrant national school wellbeing association
  • Identify and promote the development of national benchmark standards for school wellbeing

What we offer

There are four key strategic area’s that WISA has created to help school communities work in a planned strategic sustainable approach to addressing school wellbeing. These are as follows:

1. Provide support and build the capacity of school leaders of wellbeing

  • Provision of three levels of training incl. tools, resources and skills practice.
  • Essential / Basic Training for School Leaders of Wellbeing
  • Consolidating the School Wellbeing role which builds upon Essential Basic Training
  • Sustaining best practice in the Wellbeing role which builds upon the previous Consolidating training
  • Free annual membership for school leaders of wellbeing. Subscription provides access to newsletters, resources/tools & discounts
  • Mentor support for Leaders of School Wellbeing which offers individualised sessions tailored to address their specific needs, supporting and guiding them to work in a planned strategic whole school approach to address the Wellbeing needs, strengths and challenges within their school community.

2. Enabling school leadership and governance to effectively resource wellbeing in their school

  • A free School Governance and Leadership powerpoint presentation outlining the evidence of why wellbeing is school core business and the critically important steps required to implement a whole of school community approach to addressing Wellbeing.
  • 2-day Leadership Wellbeing Training for School Principals, Deputy Principals and Leadership roles. Day One addresses leader wellbeing and Day 2 the effective leading and resourcing of whole school community wellbeing. This training can be broken into single days or 5 x 2 hour after school modules.
  • Specifically tailored training to address the wellbeing of school leaders, governance bodies and staff at your school or network of schools.
  • Mentor support is available to work with school leadership in building and resourcing a whole of school approach to addressing Wellbeing linked to the schools strategic planning cycle.

3. Strategies for working with your most vulnerable students

  • A one day training or smaller tailored modules which can be provided for your whole school staff or district. This includes best practice tools and strategies to use.
  • Intervention, support and advice can be provided to your school upon request.

4. Population based approaches to school community wellbeing

  • WISA Conferences bring together leading academics, researchers and practitioners from across Australia to showcase school community wellbeing best practice, provide opportunities for knowledge and resource sharing and skill development
  • Staff Wellbeing training in school or district. One day or specifically tailored modules.
  • Most Effective Interventions to prevent, reduce and resolve bullying in schools is a vitally important one-day training for school leaders and staff. In school or at a district level.
  • The Balanced Student – A Whole of Person Approach to Student Wellbeing. The Balanced Student program is provided in school directly to students or as a teacher training. It is unique in taking a whole of person approach to student wellbeing, empowerment and resilience. Key elements focused on include Goal Setting, Time Management, Study Skills, Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep, Anxiety and Stress Management, Mental Strength and Mindfulness.
  • Mindfulness for Teachers and School Leaders is a practical, workshop style program focusing on how Mindfulness can improve teacher wellbeing and student wellbeing.
  • State and National Wellbeing in Schools Awards. The awards encourage and empower Australian school aged students, staff and members of the broader school community to consider and create something that improves the health, wellbeing and basic human rights of individuals within school communities. The Awards provide a mechanism to create and showcase innovation, celebrate positive strategies and empower children, young people and adults to be innovative and make a positive difference to others at a local community level through school communities. In each state there is a junior and senior student award, a school staff member award, and a school community member award. Each of the state recipients will automatically be in the draw to be selected as a national winner.

Reports

Please download our reports from the links below

Reports 2020-2021
Reports 2018-2019
Reports 2016-2017
Reports 2019-2020
Reports 2017-2018
Reports 2015-2016

The Team

The Board, staff and patrons of WISA bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the organisation having worked at a local, state, national and international level in education and wellbeing. We may be a new organisation but there are very experienced hands and heads with big hearts in our organisation.

WISA Board

Jac Van Velsen – WISA CEO and Board Member M.Ed, Grad Cert MH, DipYW

Jac together with Kerry Ashley, Ros Pretlove and Jeremy Hurley was a co-founder of WISA in 2015. She established the not for profit organization which has obtained full charity status. Early work involved the organisation of state conferences and shared writing, development and delivery of WISA resources. Jac brings to this role many years of project management, wellbeing and health promotion in education and community development. She has extensive experience working at a local, regional, state and national level addressing school wellbeing and health promotion. She was a national manager of the KidsMatter Primary school mental health and wellbeing initiative with Principals Australia Institute, supporting the implementation across Australia to schools at a local level. This also included the redevelopment of the KidsMatter resources content for schools into blended learning – a mix of face to face and online content. Jac worked with the Australian Psychological Society in the development of the hardcopy KidsMatter resources; and later was involved in the development of the strategic step by step guide for school wellbeing teams Action Team Handbook guiding a whole of school approach with best practice implementation science for school communities.

Her work has included providing a wide range of wellbeing resourcing at a local level directly to school leaders, staff, students and parents in primary and secondary schools across Western Victoria through the Catholic Education Office. This included linking schools to services in the broader community.

Rich experience was gained as the Victorian Coordinator for the Australian Principals Association Professional Development Council, in working strategically at a state level. This involved implementing MindMatters, a national mental health promotion initiative for secondary schools, working closely with secondary schools across all three education sectors, as well as the community sector, delivering professional learning to thousands of secondary school staff and hundreds of schools. Other rich opportunities to build skills and knowledge in working in the education and community sectors were through working in the School Focused Youth Service, local Government Youth Services and youth and adult homeless/housing services. Jac has a youth work, community development and education background working strongly within a social justice and community development approach.

Mary Tobin – WISA Board Member and Chair

Mary Tobin is an experienced educator of 40 years with a career spanning the levels of teaching, leadership and sector level policy and strategy development.

Currently she works as an Educational Consultant, conference presenter and facilitator with a strong interest in the areas of Strategic planning, Leadership development, Wellbeing and Family Engagement in Learning.

Previously Mary was the Manager of the Wellbeing & Community Partnerships Unit at the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne with key responsibility for strategic advice on best practice regarding student wellbeing and learning. Mary represented the system at national and international conferences.

Mary holds a Master of Education (University of Melbourne) as well as postgraduate studies in Criminology and Special Education.

Mary believes that schools are key sites for building social cohesion, providing the opportunity to improve life chances for all. School communities are important places in the lives of young people and their families. When the partnership is strong learning can be transformed providing the chance for all to flourish.

Cassim Rawat – WISA Board Treasurer

Cassim is an experienced Finance professional with over two decades experience in Private Wealth businesses on two continents covering both sides of a client’s balance sheet with great effectiveness. From a leadership perspective, he held roles as Sales Manager & Operations Manager leading a team of professional staff in South Africa. Since migrating to Melbourne, Australia he was also Acting Relationship Director at Westpac Private leading a team of 6 high achieving Private Bankers with great success and most recently joining the National Australian Bank as a Private Client Director.

Property development, Private Equity & Venture Capital is where he spends most of his free time. With an innate talent for relationship building, Cassim is enthusiastic about intercontinental trading and business development. He is also passionate about social impact investing and entrepreneurship and is eager to assist his network and members to extend their business reach (where possible). Cassim is also the Australian Alumni Chapter Lead for the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

Education and providing kids with hope is another huge passion of his. Following on from his research paper on the Raymond Ackerman Foundations Entrepreneurship Program as part of his MBA program, he has joined WISA (Wellness in Schools Australia) as a Board Member back in 2019. WISA plays a significant role in assisting underprivileged and marginalised kids through mental wellbeing programs across Australia.

Dr Robyn Ramsden – WISA Board Member

I am currently a Senior Research Advisor for the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) and have been in that role since January 2016. During that time, I undertook an evidence-based review and then implemented a number of initiatives to strengthen RDNs approach to using evidence to support practice. I lead the implementation and evaluation of the Organisational Performance Program for health charities in the not-for-profit sector. I evaluated Rural Health Pro, RDN’s digital platform and recently produced the Research Spotlight Series for health professionals and other members of this platform which consisted of interviews with six high profile researchers in the rural health arena. This included Professor Paul Worley, the former Rural Health Commissioner and Editor in Chief of the Journal Rural and Remote Health. I recently wrote the proposal for Collaborative Care for Remote and Rural Communities that received $3.3m in the 2020 Federal Budget. It aims to promote collaborative activities that enable cooperative health service and workforce planning to address the challenges of providing sustained quality health care in remote and rural NSW.

I am on the Editorial Board of the UK based journal Health Education and am currently the Guest Editor of a special issue titled: Digital solutions to bridge the gap between health services and workforce in rural areas. I am lead or co-author of a number of peer-reviewed publications in the rural health space, including articles relating to the role of digital technology to support the education and training of rural health professionals, working in partnership to address health workforce challenges and building rural health workforce capability and rural health workforce literacy.

I undertook my Doctorate in health and social sciences at Deakin University, Melbourne. My special research interests include youth health, health promotion, evidence-based practice, capacity building, and the integration of evidence into healthcare policy and practice. I am currently an Honorary Fellow in the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin. From March 2018 to June 2019, I was employed as Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Social Development to lead a VicHealth funded alcohol culture change project with Deakin University students. In 2019, members of the project team won the Vice-Chancellors Achievement Award for contribution to research.

From 2012-2016, I was the Research and Evaluation Manager for Royal Far West, a non-government organisation that provides allied health services for children living in rural and remote parts of Australia. During that time, I led the evaluation of many key projects including the Child Health and Wellbeing Strategy, the Healthy Living Strategy and the use of technology to deliver allied health services to children and families in rural and remote parts of NSW.

From 2000-2012, I was the Manager of the Statewide Programs Unit for the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) during which time I led a team responsible for the development of health and education policy, and programs and resources for educators, students and their families. This included Drug Education in Schools and the development of the Healthy Canteen Guidelines, the Partnering Agreement between the Department of Human Services and DEECD to improve outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home-care. I also managed the education collaboration with the Victorian Department of Health to develop the Prevention and Health Promotion Achievement Program which set benchmarks for childhood service providers in eight key health areas. I am a key research partner in the Australian Research Council funded Drug Education in Victorian Schools Research Project which received the 2012 National Drug and Alcohol Award for Excellence in Community Education and Prevention. I continue to publish from that study.

As the Sector Development Manager at the Australian Drug Foundation in 2011, I lead the development of the Evidence-Based Organisation Framework and was a member of the Good Sports Advisory Team for the Good Sports Australian Research Council grant.  I was a key contributor to the development of the Australian Defence Force Alcohol Management Strategy and associated evaluation. I developed the National Rugby League Alcohol Management Strategy Evidence document which supported clubs to build evidence to improve practice in alcohol management. 

I am passionate about all aspects of my career in the education and health sectors. Fostering strong partnerships has been a key feature of my work throughout. In more recent times my career has focussed on research outputs.

Research milestones.

  • Supervision of four Masters, three PhD students, five research interns at Royal Far West and four MD students from the University of Notre Dame.
  • Winner of the Vice-Chancellors Award for Achievement, Deakin University.
  • Lead or co-author of 28 journal articles; one peer-review article is currently under review.
  • Co-author of a book chapter
  • Delivered 40 conference presentations
  • Lead or co-contributor to a number of grants and scholarships – I was a key contributor to the writing of a number of successful research or evaluation grants applications, including an Australian Research Council grant for Drug Education in Victorian Schools, a Department of Social Services (previously FAHCSIA) grant to evaluate improved screening approaches for identifying and addressing risk issues in clients, BUPA community project funding, an Australian Rotary Health Research Scholarship, an NHMRC Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship to investigate the human aspects of telehealth for rural children in Australia (2016-2018) and the Collaborative Care for Remote and Rural Communities Project 2021-2023.
  • Co-author of 10 health education resources or publications for the Commonwealth and State Governments
  • Reviewer of journal articles for various journals and member of the Editorial Board of Health Education.
Wren Gillett – WISA Board Member

Wren Gillett is a passionate youth advocate, working to ensure today’s systems reflect and empower the views and strength of young people. She is the Alannah Madeline Foundation’s Media Literacy Lab Youth Ambassador and is Pivot Professional Learning’s Student Voice Advocate. She is also part of Wellbeing in Schools Australia’s Board as a Director and Secretary.

From 15 – 18 years-old, Wren was part of Victoria’s Student Representative Committee (VICSRC) as Chair of the Student Executive Team for part of this time, and has spoken at multiple conferences and events across Australia about the power and significance of student voice, agency and empowerment. Wren is currently in her second year of university majoring in Journalism.

WISA Training and Support Contractors

Jac Van Velsen provides training in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. Mentoring and support provided nationally.

Maria Hart provides training in Western Australia.

Paul Cahalan provides Leadership Wellbeing training nationally and leadership mentor support.

Kaye Dennis provides Strategies to support marginalised students training nationally.

Brad Felstead provides Mindfulness training nationally.

Adele Hamlyn provides training nationally.

Westley Field provides training nationally and leadership wellbeing training.

Let's Work Together!

WISA can help tailor training or support to suit your local school or network of schools so please speak to us.

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