TEACHERS at St Jude’s in Langwarrin have a big job ahead of them as students return to campus this month, but they will have an extra set of paws on hand to help.
Maisie, a 12-week-old Cavoodle puppy, will begin her important role as a wellbeing dog at the school this week. She will meet the prep students first before being introduced to the grade one and two kids.
Maisie was bought recently by St Jude’s Principal Marita O’Sullivan. She said that the dog will be “a really happy thing to bring to the kids” as they transition back to on-campus learning. “From a principal’s point of view I could see the need for a wellbeing dog at the school. All the science says that spending time with a dog releases your happy hormones, so this was a great process to investigate,” she said.
“We are working with a fantastic program called Dogs Connect, who are helping teach Maisie to be really calm and to be relaxed in the school environment. It is really exciting because we know the difference she is going to make. The school community and staff see the difference she will make, people are excited.”
Last week, the state government announced a fund to help schools statewide bring in therapy pets. It announced a $200 million fund to help equip schools with mental health resources.
The fund was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
Schools will be able to access resources across three tiers based upon their needs. Tier one resources include therapy dogs, mental health first aid, anti-bullying programs, and mental health literacy training.
Tier two resources include early intervention initiatives like cross-cultural responsiveness training, and arts therapy. Tier three resources include targeted support for students experiencing mental health issues, additional mental health professionals, Headspace counselling, or suicide related support.
All state schools are expected to have access to the fund by 2024.
Education minister James Merlino said “now more than ever, our kids need support both at home and at school to make sure their wellbeing is on track. These tailored initiatives will help keep Victorian students happy and healthy, so they can focus on succeeding in their learning as we emerge from the pandemic.”
“Our schools play a central role in the development of every young Victorian – that’s why it is so important they take a leadership role in supporting student mental health,” he said.
For more information visit education.vic.gov.au/mental-health-menu-for-schools.