Partnership profile: ReachOut and the Department of Indigenous Studies


Winner of the inaugural 2020 Faculty of Arts Research Engagement Prize, the Department of Indigenous Studies has been involved in an impressive number of research projects with a range of groups and organisations this year.

One of these organisations is ReachOut, which has been changing the way people access help since it launched the world’s first online mental health service nearly 20 years ago. ReachOut is accessed by more than 200,000 people in Australia every month.

The partnership between ReachOut and the Department of Indigenous Studies will lead to the creation of one of the first resources ReachOut has produced specifically for Indigenous youth. Head of the Department of Indigenous Studies Professor Bronwyn Carlson, tells us about this impressive partnership below.

What was/is the aim of the project?
The project, ‘Meeting where you are: social and emotional wellbeing resources and social media to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people build resilience, seek help and to prevent suicide’ aims to design, deliver and evaluate an innovative and culturally-safe social media campaign and supporting online resources to promote the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. The ultimate objective of the project is to build resilience, support help-seeking and prevent suicide.

Who are the key players?
This project is a partnership with the academic researchers in the Department of Indigenous Studies: Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Dr Tristan Kennedy, Dr Ryan Frazer, and Madi Day with ReachOut Australia, Mariesa Nicholas, Director of Research and Hilary Miller, Research and Evaluation Manager.

Project budget

How did the partnership project come about?
We first met the ReachOut team when we hosted an Indigenous youth and cyberbullying forum with one of our other partners, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council. ReachOut does significant work with young people and online violence. We were then invited to collaborate on a grant application with the Department of Health (Commonwealth) for this project.

Which Macquarie people/teams helped make it happen?
We have a fabulous relationship with the Faculty of Arts Research Office who are always very supportive of our research aspirations. Particularly Dr Jan Zwar and Associate Dean Research Professor Robert Reynolds. Also Daniel Johnston, Research Partnerships Manager.

How did you approach the management of the project?
It was a pleasure writing the grant application with ReachOut as they are very collaborative and they are used to co-design in their approach. We are also fairly tech savvy and happy to use digital platforms as well as more traditional ways of collaborating.

Any cultural or business process differences that you had to navigate?
As Indigenous people and working in Indigenous Studies our priorities are to ensure the work we are engaged in also benefits our communities. ReachOut were very responsive to this. There are always moments where we have the opportunity to learn from each other and our role is to make sure we are true to Indigenous philosophies and ways of operating.

What has been the outcome?
The outcome was being awarded the grant. We have made some initial progress on the project and are submitting our ethics application shortly. We have had a few meetings and we are trying to recruit the research associate. COVID has impacted our progress but we are fairly happy with what we have achieved so far. We have held one workshop where we have begun to think about the evaluation phase and we have done some work on the co-design of the project.

What is your advice to staff that are thinking about partnering with industry?
Partnering with industry can be very rewarding and you can see your research have real world impact. Our industry partners are keen to work with the University and our involvement brings a lot pf prestige to the outcomes. Look for partners who share your values and for us we always like to work with industry that will benefit the communities we also work with.





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