WAY – Wellbeing of Adelaide Youth

Jul 24, 2018

What is WAY?

The Wellbeing of Adelaide Youth (WAY) initiative is a Collective Impact initiative in the City of Adelaide made up of representatives from a wide range of organisations and sectors including local and state government, the social, education and health sectors, local business and community including young people who are working together to co-create a City where all 18-24 year olds have great wellbeing.

This means a City where young people have positive connections with others, are physically and mentally healthy, are safe from harm, have skills for life and a voice and influence, live in a sustainable environment and have meaning and purpose.


Why does WAY exist?

In 2016 the City of Adelaide, in collaboration with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), undertook a PERMA+ survey of its resident population. PERMA is a renowned wellbeing framework developed by Adelaide Thinker in Residence Professor Martin Seligman and is based on five elements: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. The ‘plus’ elements were devised by SAHMRI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre and include physical activity, nutrition, sleep, optimism, general health and resilience. 

Whilst the City’s total population[1] returned a higher score than the global average, the 18-24 year olds who participated in the survey self-reported lower levels of wellbeing than other age groups as demonstrated in the City’s Baseline Wellbeing Measurement Report. This age cohort make up a quarter of the City’s population. 79% of all 18-24-year olds who live in the City of Adelaide are students and 71% of all student residents were born overseas (source: id community). The City’s 18-24 year olds are also a transient population with both students and vulnerable young people moving in and out of the City each year.

Unfortunately, the PERMA+ survey results are consistent with other studies showing that stress levels in young Australians and international students are on the rise and that their health and wellbeing are declining. In ‘Never better, or getting worse? The health and wellbeing of young Australians (2008), Dr Richard Eckersley argues that this is the result of social, cultural, economic and environmental changes. Effects include that young people find it harder to feel accepted, loved and secure, know who they are, where they belong, what they want from life, and what is expected of them. Other studies paint similar pictures. For example, a snapshot of TAFE and university student participants’ in the National Union of Students Tertiary Wellbeing Survey 2016 highlights that seven out of ten students surveyed rated their mental health as only ‘poor or fair’. Most students report that they experience financial stress and two-thirds found academic experiences in general to be very stressful. This is supported by Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report which mentions that coping with stress was the top issue of concern for South Australia’s 15-19 year olds who participated in the study in 2016. A total of 47.8% of respondents indicated that they were either extremely concerned (21.4%) or very concerned (26.4%) about stress. Additionally, around a quarter of participants raised concerns about depression. Plus, when asked about the most important issues in Australia today, alcohol and drugs and equity and discrimination were the highest topics on the list.

International students are faced with these same challenges. However, the fact that they are far away from home in a new country with a different culture, customs, laws, language and expectations, without having access to a local support network, makes them extra vulnerable to low levels of wellbeing, especially during their first months in Australia (source: International Student Health and Wellbeing: A Health Lens Project 2014). Further, not being permanent residents or citizens make them ineligible to access a range of free services and support that Australian young people do have access to such as Medicare (source: International Student Welfare in Australia, 2014).

[1] 484 City of Adelaide residents out of a total population of approximately 24,000 participated in the survey.


How will WAY achieve its vision?

In 2017, the City of Adelaide engaged Together SA to drive the creation of a collective response to this complex social problem. Over a period of 16 months, WAY was established, and a Community Plan developed in consultation with 220+ representatives from a wide range of organisations and sectors including young people. WAY’s Community Plan 2018 – 2022 brings together the outcomes and priorities that will guide the initiative’s work, the way we will measure our progress and how we will work together to realise our ambitions. The Plan is the result of a co-design process and based on data, evidence, expert advice and the outcomes of a youth consultation process to capture the views of 18-24 year olds who live in the city.


Click here to access WAY’s Plan on a Page 2018 – 2022


Click here to access WAY’s Community Plan 2018 – 2022


WAY’s Top 3 Priorities: 2018 – 2019

Realising a future in which all 18-24 year olds who live in the City of Adelaide have great wellbeing will take time. To focus WAY’s efforts in 2018-2019, link with the available resources and goals of WAY’s members and to ensure we start to make a positive difference, WAY will be focusing on three priorities in 2018-2019. Like the Community Plan, these priorities are the result of a consultation process with WAY stakeholders:

WAY’s Story

Interested in finding out more about WAY’s journey? The publication ‘WAY’s Journey: March 2017 to June 2018’  tells the story of WAY. It describes why WAY was started in March 2017, gives a visual snapshot of the work that’s been done and provides a detailed overview of the outcomes that were achieved along the way.

Click here to access WAY’s Journey March 2017 – June 2018


Governance Structure

WAY aims to engage as many cross-sector stakeholders as possible including representatives from state and local government, the education and health sectors, Adelaide-based NGOs, service providers, local businesses, 18-24 year olds and other community members. That is why it needs a governance structure to help it function efficiently and effectively. In short, the governance structure encompasses how the initiative is organised and managed to address its goals.

Click here to access WAY’s Governance Structure


Current Projects/Events

To hear about current projects, please contact Esme Barret at the City of Adelaide on E.Barratt@cityofadelaide.com.au

Join WAY 

Want to be added to the WAY mailing list or get actively involved? Please contact Esme Barret at City of Adelaide.


Follow WAY

WAY now has a Facebook page. Click here to like the page and follow what we’re up to!

Thank You!

WAY couldn’t progress its work without the ongoing support of its’ community.  A big shout out to all the organisations, businesses, government departments and young people who have delivered a contribution to WAY since its start in March 2017!

Adelaide Aquatic Centre, Amnesty International, Anglicare, APP Church, Australian Red Cross, batyr, Bikes for Refugees, Body Shop, Bunnings Warehouse, Carclew, City of Adelaide, Clinic 275, Department for Environment and Water, Department of Human Services, Eynesbury Senior College, Flinders University, Goodlife Health Clubs, Headspace, Humble Lion Boxing Club, HYPA, Julia Farr, Krispy Kreme, Lush, Metropolitan Youth Health, Migrant Resource Centre, Mission Australia, MOSH, Multicultural Communities Council of SA, Muslim Women’s Association of SA, MYSA, Office of the Training Advocate, Officeworks, Pilgrim Uniting Church, PHN, Re-engage Youth Services, Rundle Mall Management Authority, SA Health, SALA, SAPOL, SA Water, SAHMRI, Salvation Army, Shine SA, St John’s Youth Services, St Mark’s College, Study Adelaide, TAFE, Tennis Australia, The Joinery, Together SA, Torrens University, UniLodge, Uniting SA, University of Adelaide, University of Adelaide Chinese Students Association, University of South Australia, Urbanest, USASA, Volunteering SA&NT, Workskil, YACSA, Youth Inc., YWCA, 65 King William and Young people.
We are especially grateful for the members of WAY’s Youth Engagement Team who volunteer their time to improve the wellbeing of 18 – 24 year olds in the City of Adelaide. Between March 2017 and June 2018, the following young people led WAY projects:
Chelsey Law, Cheung (Sam) Tsun Sum, Claire Zhang, Daniel Scannella, Đông (Peter) Nguyễn, Flora Biouk, Imran Jamalulhak, Jennifer Liu, Kang Zhang, Louis Fagan, Marissa Menezes, Mary Seagrim, Micah Ho, Mitchell Martinez, Mytheli Parthiban, Nathalie Tonga, Sultan Ahmed Johny and Willa Budiman.