Skills for Life is a universal preventative social-emotional learning curriculum for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander middle schools. It was developed in consultation with knowledgeable elders and community educators as a contribution to suicide prevention and aims to promote resilience and coping among youth as they negotiate an important transition in school and community life.

It draws on research evidence for effective school-based social and emotional learning programs. A feature of skills for life is the development of themes and resources that directly tap into common experiences of young people in their communities. This helps build conversation about young people’s strengths, the challenges they face, their emotional expressions, strategies for coping and problem-solving, the things they can do to stay on track, keep well and maintain positive relationships.

Skills for Life is based on proven pedagogical techniques. It makes use of experiential, peer-to-peer learning to explore key messages and games to foster positive engagement and group collaboration. It provides pictorial resources in electronic and hard copy to enable teachers to work with students at different levels of literacy and independence. Skills for Life is being evaluated with support of a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Four remote schools and one boarding school participated in the evaluation project from 2016-2019.

Chief investigator:
Project dates:

The project commenced in December 2014 and concluded in June 2020.

  • National Health and Medical Research Council

Northern Territory Government Department of Education:

  • Maningrida College
  • Gunbalanya Community School

Catholic Education Office NT:

  • Xavier Catholic College, Wurrumiyanga
  • Our Lady of The Sacred Heart Thamarrurr Catholic College
  • Robinson, Gary & Lee, Eunro & Leckning, Bernard & Silburn, Sven & Nagel, Tricia & Midford, Richard. (2022). Validity and reliability of resiliency measures trialled for the evaluation of a preventative Resilience-promoting social-emotional curriculum for remote Aboriginal school students. PLOS ONE. 17. e0262406. 10.1371/journal.pone.0262406.
  • Robinson, Gary & Lee, Eunro & Silburn, Sven & Nagel, Patricia & Leckning, Bernard & Midford, Richard. (2020). School-Based Prevention in Very Remote Settings: A Feasibility Trial of Methods and Measures for the Evaluation of a Social Emotional Learning Program for Indigenous Students in Remote Northern Australia. Frontiers in Public Health. 8. 552878. 10.3389/fpubh.2020.552878.
  • Franck, Linel & Midford, Richard & Cahill, Helen & Buergelt, Petra & Robinson, Gary & Leckning, Bernard & Paton, Douglas. (2020). Enhancing Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Boarding Students: Evaluation of a Social and Emotional Learning Pilot Program. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17. 771. 10.3390/ijerph17030771.
  • Midford, Richard & Cahill, Helen & Geng, Gretchen & Leckning, Bernard & Robinson, Gary & Te Ava, Aue. (2016). Social and emotional education with Australian Year 7 and 8 middle school students: A pilot study. Health Education Journal. 76. 10.1177/0017896916678024.
  • Robinson, G., Leckning, B., Midford, R., Harper, H., Silburn, S., Gannaway, J., Dolan, K., Delphine, T. & Hayes, C. (2016). Developing a school-based preventive life skills program for youth in a remote Indigenous community in North Australia. Health Education, 116(5) pp. 510-523.