ANZSSA e-newsletter - November/December 2020

In this Edition

Safe and Healthy Campuses

For your Information




Safe and Healthy Campuses

Embedding the Okanagan Charter into student health and wellbeing

Anna Thorpe (Canterbury District Health Board), Jude West (Victoria University of Wellington), Steve Gibling (University of Canterbury), Liz Hosking (University of Auckland), Jackie Blunt (Lincoln University) & Kate Morgaine (University of Otago)

Tertiary Wellbeing Aotearoa New Zealand (TWANZ)

TWANZ is a network of professionals and students working in and alongside higher education. We plan activities and events, respond to current issues and develop resources that promote health in higher education settings.

Established in 2016, TWANZ initially focused on producing a practical guide applying the Okanagan Charter to campuses in Aotearoa New Zealand. The guide is a practical tool integrating Te Tiriti O Waitangi and Māori health promotion models as interpretive lenses. The guide can be used as a tool to check if your organisation or programme has key prinicples and initiatives in place. Recommended actions are suggested for gaps, as well as measures for each action area. An paper for JANZSSA was also published in 2019.

In 2019, TWANZ hosted the International Health Promoting Campuses Symposium, prior to the IUHPE conference in Rotorua. An annual South Island Tertiary Wellbeing Forum is hosted in turn by UC, Ara and Lincoln University. A South Island Tertiary Health and Wellbeing Survey was conducted in 2016 of 7/8 South Island tertiary institutions, structured around the Okanagan Charter’s action areas and a general report of findings and recomendations generated. An online toolkit for campuses to address sexual harm has been developed with good practice policies, protocols, precedures and resources. This toolkit will be hosted and moderated by Universities New Zealand and launched in September 2020.

TWANZ current work is focused on building up regional networks around New Zealand. We offer opportunities to tackle contemporary issues for campuses such as seminars for the upcoming Cannabis Referendum and holding Campus and Covid Conversations.

TWANZ are members of the International Health Promoting Universities and Colleges Network.

Okanagan Charter in Aotearoa New Zealand universities

Several New Zealand universities have ratified the Okanagan Charter or strongly integrated it into their wellbeing strategies and implementation plans. Five out of the eight New Zealand universities spoke to TWANZ about their institutional process of adoption, integration and implementation.

University of Otago

In 2015, the University of Otago was the first New Zealand university to ratify the Okanagan Charter. This was signed off by the Vice Chancellor and the high-level Health Promoting University Advisory Group, with representation from Student Services, academic, health, and accommodation staff, as well as the Professor of Health Promotion. The Vice Chancellor tasked the group with addressing the priority issues of mental health and sexual health including consent and assault. A number of strongly research- and evidence-informed reports were submitted for approval.

Consequently, changes occurred within Student Health services to improve student support for mental health, with targeted counselling services and outreach within student halls of residence. Te Whare Tāwharau sexual violence support and prevention centre was established to provide support to students and staff around sexual violence, along with a focus on advocacy and prevention, including workshops and training. The University strengthened their sexual misconduct policy in 2019, forming a Sexual Misconduct Action Response Team to support ongoing change and improvement on campus. The University of Otago has made an ongoing commitment to ensuring a health promoting campus, and is currently establishing a dedicated health promoting university position.

Lincoln University

Lincoln University formally ratified the Okanagan Charter in 2018. At the time, the university also became a Health Promoting University with a Strategic Plan for Wellbeing, with the Okanagan Charter as its framework and incorporating wellbeing leadership, education, and support. The proposal to the Senior Management Group to undertake these steps was led by the Wellbeing Manager, a new role with a dedicated wellbeing programme and growing team. Students are employed as wellbeing assistants is a way to create change makers within the campus community.

Health promotion on campus includes Exercise as Medicine and workshops to staff, students within the university curriculum and visiting professional groups. Decreasing sexual harm has been a strong campus focus, including a student led preventative programme for first year students called Respectfully Lincoln, and new processes, procedures and policy leading to a more supportive and positive experience for students affected by sexual harm. The Lincoln Social Club has recently activated the 5 ways to wellbeing for students and staff on campus.

Challenges include high demand for student support services, exacerbated by the March 15th attacks and Covid-19. Ability to provide for student need has been compromised by the financial constraints during Covid 19 when need has been at its greatest.

Te Whare Wānanga O Waitaha |The University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury drew on the Okanagan Charter as one of the few directly relevant, guiding documents available to develop their 2019 Sport, Physical Activity and Wellbeing Strategy. The Okanagan Charter is accepted by senior leaders as a benchmark against which the University assess themselves.

The University of Canterbury is committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of staff and students as laid out in their Wellbeing Implementation Plan, based on Te Pae Māhutonga model. This plan explicitly aims for UC to be known for its focus on wellbeing by 2030. A new full time Wellbeing Coordinator Kairuruku Oranga role has been created to help drive progress with wellbeing objectives forward. Other proactive health promotion includes enabling student and staff support beyond standard office hours, redeveloping how the UC website presents health and wellbeing content for the diverse campus community and assessing wellbeing focused phone apps.

Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University agreed to become a Health Promoting University in 2017. A small committee of student and staff wellbeing people worked with the Vice-Provost, who championed this work and helped draft a high level strategy document with a background, current wellbeing needs and priorities, evidence base, capacity and resourcing implications; and recommendations presented to the University’s Senior Leadership Team to review, discuss and approve specific agreement. Work continues at management level to consider future implementation.

The Student Wellbeing team sits in the Retention, Achievement and Equity group within Student Academic Services, with close links to Health and Counselling services. The team has two full time staff employed to manage health promotion programmes on campus with a focus on culture change, promoting wellbeing messages and activities focusing on social connectedness, engagement and help seeking. Students are employed in leadership, volunteer and internship roles that provide practical work experience and an opportunity to promote health to Victoria’s student community. A well-attended annual Wellbeing Symposium is hosted for staff and students.

Victoria are working around balancing available wellbeing initiatives and public facing information; capacity and workload; and understanding and responding to the needs of their own student population. Learnings include socialising wellbeing concepts and documents across campus; trying more than once to develop wellbeing policies and programmes as timing is everything; having a deep understanding of what has been approved and its implications and working at a measured pace to bring people along; and aligning University strategies, frameworks and objectives.

University of Auckland

The University of Auckland is considering the Okanagan Charter alongside other frameworks as part of the new University Strategic Plan, currently in development.

Auckland University launched the Student Wellbeing Plan, Oranga Tauira, in 2019. The plan’s purpose is to create the culture and conditions that enhance student health and wellbeing, utilising a systemic and campus-wide approach. A shift in the University’s approach to student wellbeing adopts a health promotion and health education approach, by focusing on reducing the causes of stressors and empowering students to improve self and community care, through increased awareness influencing attitudes and behaviours.

Their Student Wellbeing team consists of two Health Promotion Advisors and several students who are employed casually as Wellbeing Ambassadors, helping the team deliver key events and trainings to the student community.

In summary

New Zealand universities report the Okanagan Charter to be a useful health promotion framework. The Okanagan Charter is well-developed from broad international collaborations, with clear roots in the Ottawa Charter. Adapting the Okanagan Charter for New Zealand campus settings in a practical and cultural way has assisted universities to organise and strengthen health promotion within organisational policy frameworks and initiatives. The TWANZ guide provides a phased approach to what can otherwise be a very wide area of work, and measurement to assess progress.

Present challenges revolve around prioritising health promotion goals in the face of rapid change, uncertainty and surging student wellbeing demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to take action to meet student needs and gaps, including for minority group students.


Creating safe and healthy campuses for students: A holistic and collaborative approach

Student Services and Administration, Auckland University of Technology

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is one of the fastest growing and the second largest university in New Zealand. The University is made up of a diverse community of individuals, approximately 29,000 students across three campuses within the wider Auckland region, and 2,500 staff who contribute to making AUT a great place to study. AUT aims to bring together people, knowledge and potential in ways that create unique learning experiences as well as creating experiences that are relevant, inspiring, social, and supportive.

Being 20 years young, a modern university, also presents AUT with the opportunity to contribute to the quality, aspiration, and success of the next generation. This article highlights the ways the University’s support services work together to create safe and healthy campuses, with some specific case examples, including the Student Services and Administration’s (SSA) response during the two COVID-19 alert level lockdowns in New Zealand.

How AUT creates safe and healthy campuses

AUT takes a holistic approach to creating safe and healthy campuses by focusing on the overall wellbeing of students. This aligns with the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of Domestic Students (the Code), which was introduced in January this year. AUT offers a wide range of services, which work collaboratively to support students while they are on their journey to success at AUT. The University’s wellbeing framework is informed by Te Whare Tapa Wha, which guides counselling and medical support, and other services that enable students’ sense of belonging and identity.

Students can share their voice and contribute to the overall wellbeing of the University, including a close relationship and collaboration with AUT’s student association, AUTSA. AUT uses technologies, such as the AUT app, Student Hub Online (the student website) and Blackboard (our Learning Management System) to connect with students and to connect them to AUT’s support services. These platforms also enable all students to have access to information, regardless of whether they’re learning on campus or remotely. The campuses at AUT aren’t just limited to the spaces within Auckland but go beyond our physical campuses to include those students who learn remotely.

The University has a specialist team of support staff within the Student Hub, who are trained social and youth workers in addition to AUT’s counselling services. Student Hub Advisors work alongside students, to create a plan to identify key needs, provide ongoing support to reach resolution, and enable their success. Not only is the Student Hub a place for students to go for information, staff are also able to provide other services such as financial support with rent arrears, dental bills, and warm clothing, just to name a few. The Student Hub team also includes AUT’s Are You OK advisors, a student network trained in mental health first aid to engage student community and connect them to support services.

In addition to our Counselling and Mental Health Services, AUT offers students a 24/7 telephone and online counselling, Puāwaitanga. Student Services staff are all trained in Mental Health First Aid to develop their ability to respond to and refer students experiencing mental health concerns – as well as Cultural Intelligence training to enhance staff capability to work with our diverse student community. The University has recently released First Responder training on responding to disclosures of sexual harm. In addition to this, our Fitness to Study Code also provides a support framework for staff who identify students with behavioural and mental health concerns, including the iRefer guide that outlines the appropriate referral pathways within service teams based on a student’s needs.

In 2019, the University piloted the Bright Side programme, which has now had its first successful year in full operation in 2020. Bright Side is designed to support students explore self-knowledge, how to have authentic relationships and what a life with meaning and purpose looks like - as well as opportunities to stay connected within the AUT community. Our community comes together for conversation, connection and reflection on the ups and downs of being human. A regular programme of talks, workshops, rituals, and social events are delivered. Topics this year have included but aren’t limited to self-compassion, find your passion and life planning, resilience, values and strengths, sleep and exercise, mindfulness, conservation and ethical spending, healthy sex and nurturing relationships. This year, Bright Side also ran Future Focus, a six-month programme to help students unlock their unique creativity and personal leadership style to succeed in their studies and work.

AUT is proud to celebrate and embrace diversity, and was the first university in New Zealand to have the Rainbow Tick both for the organisation and the student association, which acknowledges AUT’s commitment to making AUT a safe place for students and staff. The University also has a Rainbow Community Co-ordinator, another first in the country, who supports students identifying within Rainbow communities and links them to a variety of personal support services within AUT and the wider Auckland community. Collaboration across the University encourages Out@AUT, the Rainbow student club inclusion at AUT-led events to create awareness of the support that is available. AUT also offers a Rainbow Room, providing Rainbow students with a safe space to meet, study, and socialise, a place where they can explore their identity and seek support if needed. The establishment of Gender-neutral toilets on all campuses has enabled gender diverse and transgender staff and students access to safe and appropriate facilities.

In response to the Code, AUT established the role of a Student Wellbeing Promotion Co-ordinator. The Wellbeing Promotion Co-ordinator role has a strong focus of identifying and addressing issues students are faced with by providing access to information, services and tools that empower them to self-manage and maintain their health and wellbeing. This role has created awareness amongst the student population, of the support available to them while studying, not only through AUT, but in the wider Auckland community. The role has coordinated a central wellbeing section on AUT’s website, as well as delivered several awareness campaigns.

In early August, a week-long sexual health awareness campaign was delivered, ‘Sex & Respect Week’, aimed at increasing awareness of sexual health services at AUT and in the community, normalising the conversation around sexual health amongst students, and education on a variety of sexual health topics. The campaign took place on AUT’s campuses as well as online to ensure students who were not able to attend physical events still had access to the information provided. Pop-up events brought together the expertise and perspective from AUT’s services, including the Student Medical Centre and the Counselling and Mental Health services, and also sexual health services in the community, such as the New Zealand Aids Foundation.

This campaign helped promote safe and healthy campus by taking a holistic view of sexual health and looking beyond sexual transmitted infections (STIs) and contraception to also including topics such as consent and healthy relationships. Consent Matters, an online learning module on sexual consent available for all students, was promoted alongside the campaign. As was AUT’s Report and Support online tool to disclose concerns about harassment, bullying, sexual harm – which are then case managed by trained social workers toward a resolution. The Student Wellbeing Promotion team worked closely with AUTSA, AUT’s Student Association, throughout the planning and implementation phases and encouraged student input at all stages of the campaign.

Following this, a ‘Stay Well, Stay Connected’ campaign was delivered between 21 and 25 September, to coincide with the national Mental Health Awareness Week. This campaign was delivered online due to alert level restrictions on gatherings. Using digital channels, members of the AUT community shared their habits that contribute to the five ways of wellbeing (connect, give, take notice, keep learning and be active). A series of virtual activities took place including online exercise and meditation classes, a video screening of The Girl on a Bridge, a documentary on surviving suicide, and workshops on sleep, conservation, life planning and resilience. A competition also ran for students to share their tips with their peers on the five ways to wellbeing with a range of prizes on offer.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, wellbeing promotion to students living in AUT’s halls of residence included social, study, online living spaces. The Student Wellbeing Promotion team collaborated with our Student Residential Advisors to plan and facilitate an event specific for these students. Student Ambassadors also brought the campaign to students in their social spaces each lunch time. AUTSA, student clubs, student ambassadors and student residential advisors were included to ensure the student voice was heard.

How AUT responded during the alert level lockdowns

The SSA division worked together to promote a safe and healthy campus during the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown. Complying with the New Zealand government guidelines, AUT closed its campuses to keep students, staff and the community safe. Staff were supported to work from home prior to alert level 4 coming into effect ensuring a smoother transition for our students. Students and staff were also provided with coaching and training on how to take care of their wellbeing while working from home.

AUT’s Student Hub went completely online within hours of the government announcement of alert levels 3 and 4 responding to student concerns and needs via email or online forms. The Student Wellbeing team provided medical, counselling, and mental health care via phone or online, or for immediate medical care and in person for those who needed it. ‘Are You OK?’ Peer Advisors launched a social channel where students could speak with an advisor for pastoral support. Peer Mentors resumed support for students on 28 April as classes resumed after the break. Opportunities for community development were also initiated such as morning karakia and waiata. Volunteer chaplains moved events online, observing Easter and Ramadan.

During the lockdown, students were unable to readily access external supports so additional support was needed by students at this time. Student Hub Advisors, Peer Mentors, Counsellors, and the specialist student relations team completed wellbeing checks with students of particular cohorts – accommodation student residents, international students, Rainbow students, first-year students and equity groups (Māori, Pacific Island and students with impairments).

To support students to transition into the resumed semester model online, the Uni from your bubble digital orientation was developed and provided for students to commence their studies. Outcomes for the programme included digital tools, how to stay well and connected, setting up study spaces from home, and how to succeed academically online.

To capture and be responsive to the student voice during the country’s response to COVID-19, AUT had representation from AUTSA at the University’s decision making forums, and had members of AUT’s Senior Leadership members participate in AUTSA’s forums, including the Student Representative Committee and live online ‘Ask a Stupid Question’ sessions for students. In addition, a daily meeting was enacted between AUTSA and AUT to enable AUTSA to share student concerns, which the University took as actions to resolve. The University also established a student sentiment dashboard within a week of the alert level 4 announcement. This tool surfaced, categorised and prioritised student feedback and concerns from a variety of student channels to enable decision making based on matters raised by the student community.

At the beginning of the year, AUT offered just under $450,000 for financial assistance for students, this was increased by $350,000 in response to our students expressing hardship because of lost income from COVID-19. In addition to this, an application for the Hardship Fund for Learners (HAFL) offered by New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Commission was successful and AUT was granted a further $1.6m to support domestic Student Achievement Component (SAC) funded students in financial hardship. The HAFL funding was allocated to the Student Hardship Fund, AUTSA’s Foodie Godmother service, and an accommodation grant for final-year students. 

In addition, the University applied to Education New Zealand’s (ENZ) international student financial support fund. The distribution of these funds to international students is also managed within the student financial assistance fund process.

For our halls of residence, AUT student residents who voluntarily chose to temporarily vacate their student village in Wellesley Student Apartments (WSA) or Akoranga Student Village (ASV) during COVID-19 alert level 4 in March received a rent rebate of $113 per week for the number of weeks they didn’t occupy their apartment. This rent rebate was in addition to the $60 utilities credit offered by AUT. For both Auckland lockdowns in March and August, the frequency of wellbeing checks increased, a comprehensive online residential life programme was delivered, and free meals each day were provided, to minimise their movements in the community and protect their safety.

With the challenges of COVID-19 this year, staff are continuing to develop what safe and healthy looks in a blended online and on-campus learning environment. Ensuring equitable and effective support and service for all students no matter where they’re located completing their studies.


Research Study - Families Un-locked: Relationships Emerging from COVID-19 into the “New Normal” - AUSTRALIA

Griffith University and Relationships Australia with the University of Worcester and RELATE Services, United Kingdom

Griffith University and Relationships Australia have joined with the University of Worcester and RELATE Services in the United Kingdom. The Australian arm of the study is led by Dr. Patricia Fronek and Associate Professor Lynne Briggs at Griffith University. 

Through this unique international research collaboration, we hope to contribute to the understanding of the medium- to long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on family life and relationships. Over the next year, the study will explore how people’s relationships are faring around the world, as we learn to live with the ongoing threat of the pandemic. The ultimate goal of the research is to develop new ways to support people as we navigate the ‘new normal’ and to be better prepared to deal with any subsequent waves of the pandemic or similar public health crises.  We are pleased to have the opportunity to contribute an Australian voice to this international study.  

We’re aiming to get up to 1,000 participants to take part and would really appreciate it if you could share details of the study across your networks.  Anybody over the age of 18 years of age can take part.  We’re keen to recruit a large number of participants from diverse backgrounds, including  people who have continued to work on the ‘frontline’ and their families, to understand how people from all walks of life have been impacted and how they are moving forward.  

How can you help:


JANZSSA editors are planning a special focus on COVID-19 ramifications within JANZSSA during 2021. 

To that end we encourage contributions of professional articles (for both peer review and non-peer review) and submissions that showcase innovation in professional practice that focus on the ramifications of COVID-19 for students, student focused services, programs and activities, student success and wellbeing initiatives, and student support delivered to different student cohorts. 

Articles embracing these topics including shifts, challenges and changes in student engagement, service delivery, use of online services, innovation needed to respond to staff and student experience and need, institutional restructures, the higher education reforms, loss of services etc related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are all invited. 

We have plans to extend this invitation to international colleagues via AMOSSHE and IASAS etc in the hope that perspectives and experiences from international colleagues can be included. 

Authors can access submission details and submit articles via the JANZSSA portal -

All enquiries can be directed to

Articles and showcase submissions on other topics are of course also welcome.  Looking forward to receiving submissions for both the April and October issues in 2021.   

Annie Andrews