Debbie Ollis and Kathryn Meldrum- 2008

Connecting rural young people to/with life long health and physical activity

A pilot program called 'Girls Rule' was initially developed as a response to Attitude to School Survey data that showed the then Year 8 girls at Yarram Secondary College (Gippsland 2005) were the second lowest in the state with respect to connectedness to school and peers. This represented a call to action for the school and consequently a carefully planned and integrated program was deveoped for the girls. Using youth participation principles and underpinned by strong education guidelines (connected to the curriculum and school philosophy) the program incorporated a range of health components; mental, emotional, sexual, social and physical. The mental health component focused on the dvelopement of strong coping skills which aimed to build resilient young women, able to cope with change and the pressures of teenage life in a remote rural comunity. This component was facilitated by the youth arm of Beyond Blue and the Gippsland Mental Health Group. The emotional, social and sexual health component examined the concepts surrounding healthy relationships and reinforced the need for strong commuunity ties. The Gippsland Women's Health Service and the Yarram District Health Service initially provided a focus for this aspect of the program by presenting the issues around healthy relationships, body image and domestic violence. These providers were instrumental in fostering discussion with the girls. The physical health component of the program facilitated the exploration of a number of different lifestyle physical activities such as dance, self defence and yoga, to engage the girls with alternative physical activities that were potentially available in their community. A number of different community based practitioners offered their services to the program.

A VicHealth Active Participation Grant was awarded to a consortium of local/regional agencies adn Deakin University (under the leadership of Kathryn Meldrum) to implement and extend the program over the years 2007-2010.In Semester 2, 2007 a modifed program now called G Connect was conducted.


The aims of this research is to:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of the program in improving young women's access to and use of physical activity and health resources in their community.
  • explore young women's perceptions fo the program for their health and wellbeing
  • examine the impact of the program on young women's understanding of health related issues of relevance to young women
  • explore the enablers and barriers to effective community/local/regional partnerships in the provision of school-based health and physical education in rural settings
  • develop recommendations to assist other schools to implement programs in partnership with local and regional organizations


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