Improving Mental Health with South Sudanese Australian Communities

The South Sudanese Australian community in Melbourne has had a devastating spate of suicides amongst its young people. This project worked with young people in the South Sudanese Australian community to develop and trial ideas that improve mental health and wellbeing.




Melbourne is home to the largest South Sudanese community in Australia. In 2018, the community was experiencing increasing scrutiny, in a way that South Sudanese Australian Communities and TACSI felt was divisive, racist and harmful to their success in Australia. In response, we worked with South Sudanese Australian communities, providers and government to collectively propose ways to enable the community to thrive. That project resulted in the on-going funding of ‘Talk with Me;’ a program that connects generations within the South Sudanese Australian community.

This second project is specifically focussed on improving mental health for young people. Our partners are the community, DHHS and coHealth. This project was catalysed by a tragic string of suicides and stress related deaths. The South Sudanese Australian community and partners wanted to develop community led solutions to improve young people’s wellbeing.

Our approach

Over the past 6 months, we worked with a team of young people to build their capacity to conduct research within their own community, and analyse what they’ve heard. We created peer mental health roles that invite young people to bring their experience to the fore.

We coached teams of South Sudanese Australian young people as they developed three ideas in response to what they heard from their peers in the community. Each idea has been documented and planned with the young people. As they’ve trialled the ideas in the past month we have worked alongside them to tweak and adapt the ideas to further improve mental health, especially during the additional challenge of COVID-19.

10 ideas

Led by young people, the following ten ideas were developed, with three of these then delivered and evaluated with community members.

The Culture Party

The Culture Party is an event on Instagram Live celebrating South Sudanese Australian talent and simultaneously conducting live interviews with artists about mental health and wellbeing. The first live Culture Party was watched by more than 600 South Sudanese Australian young people.

Medida & Chill

Come together in a safe space to share tea and medida (South Sudanese porridge). Share cultural information and do South Sudanese trivia. This program has been trialled with success already by Next in Colour and young people wanted to see it expand.

Off the grid

Titan Debirioun has run a music program that aims to connect the South Sudanese diaspora. The idea would be to restart and expand this program, helping young people express their identity through music.

Men’s Day Spa

A male-led self-care day: relax and take care,while also learning about managing stress, anger, anxiety.

3rd Culture Connections

Bringing together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and South Sudanese Australian young people to connect and learn from each other’s unique experience.

Parents and children film

Using film to share stories of older and younger generations and break down barriers. A ‘day in the life of’ film to help generations see life through each other’s eyes. 

Cool Culture

Fun, social opportunities to learn and practice culture.  It could be dancing, theatre in Dinka, wrestling; young people would be involved in the organisation.

Mental health training

Culturally safe and informal mental health training for young people. This idea is also about building a network of young people with mental health training who can support each other. We also ran subsidised counselling for young people needing professional support.

Conversations between generations

An online platform hosted by young people to open up and facilitate conversations with older South Sudnaese Australians about mental health and wellbeing. This idea builds on the existing platform of ‘Talk with Me’.

Paid roles for young people with lived experience

Recruiting, training and employing young people who have a lived experience of mental ill health to support other young people. Could be running workshops and speaking about their experience, normalising mental ill health within the community.

3 Ventures

Three ideas were selected by South Sudanese Australians from the follwing ten as the most likely to improve mental wellbeing outcomes. Under the umbrella name “South Sudanese Minds”, these ventures moved into delivery with young people leading the way.

Instagram feed

Venture 1

The Culture Party

Celebrating South Sudanese Australian talent

The Culture Party is an event on Instagram LIve celebrating South Sudanese Australian talent and simultaneously conducting live interviews with artists/guests about mental health and wellbeing. Guests so far have included musicians, comedians, poets, podcasters, psychiatric nurses, advocates and more.

The first live Culture Party was watched by more than 600 South Sudanese Australian young people.

Venture 2

Mental health training

Learning about keeping ourselves well and helping others.

A few different events, services and activities to provide culturally safe, informal and professional mental health support for young people and their parents. Mindfulness Monday is a regular video conference for young people to check in, reflect on the week and their wellbeing with the support of peers and a counsellor. It provides subsidised counselling for young people needing professional support is another avenue, as well as a growing network of participants who can support each other. These activities lead into the offer of formal suicide prevention training throught the LivingWorks Start program.

Hand holding phone with Facebook comments'

Conversation on iPad

Venture 3

Conversations between generations

Younger and older people talking about taboo mental health topics.

Fortnightly conversations live streamed to Facebook on what matters when it comes to mental health for older and younger South Sudanese Australians, building understanding and empathy of the different experiences across generations. Conversations usually include older and younger people discussing an issue, with some special sessions focussing on one generation, gender or other group. It is the mental health spin-off of ‘Talk With Me’, a program where generations talk more generally.

Keep reading

Read more in our showcase document

Join us

We are currently looking for partners who want to advance the mental health of young South Sudanese Australians by funding these ideas to continue and grow.

Webinar recording

Meet the brilliant South Sudanese Australians behind these big ideas

In case you missed it, our webinar about the impact of mental health in community with South Sudanese Australian’s is available to view here.