Ausnew Home Care | Resilience Project teaches vital life skills to students in flood-hit school in rural South Australia

Resilience Project teaches vital life skills to students in flood-hit school in rural South Australia

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A rural South Australian school is teaching students lifelong skills of resilience at an early age.  

Situated in a rural town about 130 kilometres north-east of Adelaide, Swan Reach Area School has students from pre-school to year 12, with 67 pupils in 2022. 

With a population of only 263 at the 2016 census, Swan Reach was heavily affected by the recent flood that hit the Riverland and Murraylands region. 

Principal John Robertson said the school's involvement in a new project to teach students about resilience and wellbeing was well timed. 

"It couldn't come at a better time when we talk about the impact of the floods," he said.  

"We're hoping this will be a injection of positivity into the community as this crisis really now hits as all the clean-up is going on." 

A man with dark skin has a greying beard and short hair, he wears a dark shirt in front of a school sign
Swan Reach Area School principal John Richardson says the project will empower the whole school community.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

Mr Robertson said the project was a logical choice, as it empowered the whole school community, not just the students. 

"I was really chuffed at the recent sports day when a guardian came to me and said, 'Oh, my daughter came home with a thank you letter for my wife'," he said. 

Empathy and emotional literacy

Initially, year 11 student Jazzy Challenor was not sold on the idea of learning wellbeing and resilience at school, after trying similar projects in the past. 

But she quickly came around to the importance of the skills. 

"In our home groups we've been watching videos and we've been doing the activities that come along with it," she said. 

"We're learning about empathy, emotional literacy, gratitude, and mindfulness." 

Jazzy said she was excited to be able to take these skills into the rest of her life. 

"I think it'll help me understand more situations and [approach them] with empathy," she said. 

"Just taking in the present instead of thinking about past and the future is a pretty useful skill that I'm glad I get to learn."

A teenager wears a navy and red school jumper, she smiles and has long brown hair with a fringe
While Jazzy Challenor was hesitant at first, she is looking forward to using the life skills. (ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

A nationwide project 

The Resilience Project chief executive Ben Waterman said the project consisted of three key principles — gratitude, empathy and mindfulness. 

"Our real focus is wanting to teach practical and relatable evidence-based strategies to teachers, students and also parents in school communities," he said. 

A school sign reads: Swan Reach Area School. Mistakes are proof that you are trying. The sign is red and navy blue
Students and visitors to the school are greeted by thoughtful messages.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Holder)

Mr Waterman said the project took a holistic approach to mental health. 

"It's like anything, if you want to be good at something, you've got to practice it," he said. 

The approach also focuses on teaching more than just the students. 

"Most importantly we want to connect with the home environment and have parents and carers across those key strategies," he said.

"So they can be supporting them in the home environment while teachers can support them in the school environment." 

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