06:03am Wednesday 16 October 2019

Imagine empowering adolescents to tackle the biggest social problems in their schools

The program is a critical part of the Australian Character Study, the world’s first longitudinal study into the development of character and pro –social and anti-social behaviour in adolescents funded by the NSW Government which was launched in Wollongong in June this year. The study is tracking the students from Year 8 of high school into their early adulthood. In all, about 3,000 students are involved in the program being conducted in NSW and Queensland.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong’s School of Psychology and the Department of Human Services NSW — Juvenile Justice are behind the program which is taking place tomorrow in Wollongong and next month in Cairns, Queensland.

The high school students participate in two separate days of training in social and emotional learning. They will then return to their schools with the task of putting some value-based, pro-social action into play.

Imagine is about giving students a voice It is about letting them choose the positive actions they want to put into play back at their schools. For example, some students may identify internet bullying or internet addiction as critical problems that need addressing.

One of the project co-ordinators, Associate Professor Joseph Ciarrochi, said it was going to be very interesting to see what the students think are the biggest problems within their schools and what plans they come up with to counteract such problems.

“The students will be empowered to create the kind of community within which they most want to live, a community that promotes positive social connection, trust and mutual respect – and discourages such things as bullying and social exclusion,” Professor Ciarrochi said.

He said the overall research would be particularly vital in the development of early intervention methods that prevent young people from falling into an ‘anti-social spiral’ and dropping out of school and society.

NSW Juvenile Justice Minister, Ms Barbara Perry, said the NSW Government was proud to support Imagine and fund the Australian Character Study:

“Imagine puts students in control, teaching them the skills to create and nurture pro-social behaviour.

Student representatives can return to their schools and put strong value-based action into play. This will really help to promote pro-social communities and supports the aims of the University’s Australian Character Study.”


A photo/filming/interview opportunity exists tomorrow (Friday 20 August) when about 22 high school students from 11 schools throughout the region will be undertaking the ‘Imagine’ program at the University of Wollongong. The best time for photographs/filming/interviews would be during the workshop morning tea break at 10.45am in Room 102, Building 41 when the students can talk about their aspirations. The students will then return for a second workshop on Friday 27 August to outline what actions they have actually chosen to put in place to best help nurture their school community.

For further information contact Associate Professor Joseph Ciarrochi on (02) 4221 4488 or 0459 100 276 (m).

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