About WISA

WISA Wellbeing in Schools Australasia Pacific Limited is a national not for profit organisation established in May 2015. WISA Wellbeing in Schools Australia works under the auspices of the parent company WISA Wellbeing in Schools AustralAsia Pacific Ltd. Working WISA not harder and building strategic sustainable resources for schools to improve wellbeing underpins all of our work.


School communities building resilience in all students, especially the most marginalised and those at risk of marginalisation, so they can reach their potential in education and in life.


To work collaboratively with and support school communities in building a strategic whole of school approach to health and wellbeing that creates a socially just environment where all students can thrive, particularly those at risk of or who are being marginalized.

WISA Goals

  • WISA is an ethical, sustainable and member-based not for profit organisation
  • WISA is a valuable support for school leaders of wellbeing for enabling socially just outcomes
  • Identify strategies that increase protective factors and reduce risk factors in marginalised communities in distress
  • Empower school leaders of wellbeing to advocate and achieve systemic school improvement
  • Lead research-informed professional development and practice in school wellbeing
  • Actively engage school leaders of wellbeing through networks and training
  • Lead the establishment of a vibrant national school wellbeing association
  • Identify and promote the development of national benchmark standards for school wellbeing

What we offer

There are four key strategic area’s that WISA has created to help school communities work in a planned strategic sustainable approach to addressing school wellbeing. These are as follows:

1. Provide support and build the capacity of school leaders of wellbeing

  • Provision of three levels of training incl. tools, resources and skills practice.
  • Essential / Basic Training for School Leaders of Wellbeing
  • Consolidating the School Wellbeing role
  • Sustaining best practice in the Wellbeing role
  • Annual membership for school leaders of wellbeing. Subscription provides access to mentor support, network meetings, newsletter, blog, resources/tools & discounts

2. Enabling school leadership and governance to effectively resource wellbeing in their school

  • A step by step guide (under development)
  • Module training for school leadership and governance bodies (under development)
  • Support networks/mentor support
  • Leadership wellbeing modules (under development)

3. Strategies for working with your most vulnerable students

  • Whole school staff strategies 3 X 2 hr training modules (under development)
  • A hardcopy and online guidebook with specific tools and links (under development)
  • Intervention and support advisory service (awaiting funding)
  • Staff Wellbeing training whole day or 3 x 2 hour modules (under development)

4. Population based approaches to school community wellbeing

  • WISA Conferences alternating years – Vic, SA, ACT, TAS then NSW, QLD, NT, WA
  • Wellbeing in Schools Awards (under development)

The Board, staff and patrons of WISA bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the organisation having worked at a local, state, national and international level in education and wellbeing. We may be a new organisation but there are very experienced hands and heads with big hearts in our organisation.


Please download our reports from the links below

Reports 2016-2017

Annual Report Financial Statements

Reports 2015-2016

Annual Report Financial Statements

The Team

Kerry Ashley
WISA Chair & Public Officer MA ClinFamTher

Kerry has been working in the Not-for-Profit sector since 1978, with particular expertise in youth and family services, homelessness, affordable housing development and management, and family counseling. She has held many executive level positions in these sectors for nearly 30 years. She has attained a Masters in Clinical Family Therapy and has worked in a number of settings providing counseling to families and disengaged young people. In more recent times, her passion and experience in working with families in social welfare and clinical settings have highlighted the needs of both students and families in education settings and the need for prevention and intervention to support young people in building resilience. In particular the capacity to deal with life’s challenges; developing coping strategies to alleviate stresses and prevent mental health issues escalating where they might impact on survival and the capacity to make the most of their life choices. ie. extreme risk taking and suicidality.
Kerry has been involved with WISA since its inception as a Not For Profit Company limited by Guarantee and currently holds the role of Chairperson. Committed to social justice and equity, her expertise on the WISA Board brings forth capacity in governance, organisation and service development, innovation, program design, strategic partnerships, financial sustainability, capacity building and risk management.

Bret Hart
WISA Deputy Chair & Treasurer MBBS FRACGP FAFPHM

A medical practitioner for over 30 years, half of which has been spent in Community Child Health and Public Health.  First Paediatric Registrar to rotate from Princess Margaret Hospital for Children to the Kimberley for 6-months. After further experience in a range of medical disciplines, returned to Derby in 1982 for almost 3 years as a District Medical Officer.
In 1984, an interest in Child Health was rekindled when employed as a Community Child Health Medical Officer. During this 7-year period founded Community Link and Network (CLAN Inc) – a volunteer support system for parents with young children, that continues today.

Convened the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force that led to the establishment of a Ministerial Youth Suicide Working Party which produced a series of recommendations that were implemented by the Youth Suicide Advisory Committee.  The Public Health approach to youth suicide prompted a broader interest in Public Health and the opportunity was taken to establish the Gascoyne Public Health Unit in 1995 which was challenged by the first outbreak of HIV in a remote Aboriginal community, prompting a pioneering holistic approach which may have contributed to the suppression of the spread of the virus.
In 1997 invited Prof Tony McMichael to launch the Global EcoHealth Network at the site of the Broad St Pump in Soho, London in the hope that web-linking concerned individuals would stimulate the action.

Established the Coastal & Wheatbelt Public Health Unit and employed the first Mental Health Promotion Officer position in WA. Introduced the University of Pennsylvania’s Depression Prevention Program to Australia, which is now known as the Aussie Optimism Program. It is being implemented throughout WA under the auspices of Curtin University.

Created the Nest Enhancement Program utilising the “Baby Think It Over” infant simulator to create a virtual parenting experience with teenagers. Modified the model to research its impact, with the Institute for Child Health Research (ICHR) i.e. the Virtual Infant Parenting Project.

Co-Chaired the State Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention Policy Group and on the editorial board of the International Journal for Mental Health Promotion.

Established the North Metropolitan Health Service Population Health Unit (PHU) and, to expand its influence on the social determinants of health, convened the North Metropolitan Alliance for Future Inc. launched in 2000 by Professor Sir Michael Marmot.

Instrumental in trialling the Early Development Index in North Metro Perth and promoted its utilisation throughout Australia. In recognition of their work in this area was awarded, with the PHU’s social epidemiologist, the status of honorary research fellow at the Telethon Institute of Child Health Research.

Until mid 2016 worked part time as a public health physician with the Unity of First People of Australia, which conducted community health assessments in remote regions of Western Australia on request. Currently Independent Board Director, Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service. Chair of and representative of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) on the Social Determinants of Health Alliance, chair of the Health in All Policies Reference Group for the RACP Faculty of Public Health Medicine Policy Advisory Committee and Faculty of Public Health Medicine representative on the RACP Child Health Equity Working Party. Previously Treasurer of the Climate and Health Alliance and a foundation Board member.

Paul Cahalan
WISA Secretary

Paul has a background in school leadership, cross-sector initiatives and student wellbeing.

He has been an educator for 30 years, 21 of those as a school principal. He has worked in a variety of locations in rural and metropolitan settings. He has worked at a systems level in school reform, as a leadership consultant and as a curriculum advisor. More recently he has worked as part of the national youth mental health strategy in supporting schools to implement the KidsMatter and MindMatters frameworks. He is currently working with 9 schools across the Catholic North Western Community exploring collaborative (rather than competitive) practices to support students and families. In particular, the group is developing links and partnerships with other agencies that can support schools in these endeavours.

He has a passion for designing schooling experiences that take into account individual child background and needs, rather than expecting them to fit a ‘one size fits all’ approach. He sees mental health and wellbeing as at the heart of learning and life choice.

Dr Katherine Dix
WISA Board member PhDEd, MPhil Sci, Bed Hons, BSc Hons

PhD Education (Flinders University of South Australia); MPhil Science (Adelaide University): BEd Hons, BSc Hons (Flinders University of South Australia)

Katherine is a Senior Research Fellow within the Educational Research and Monitoring division at the Australian Council for Educational Research.  She brings diverse experience in project managing and evaluating national school-based initiatives that focus on embedding whole-school mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention. Katherine has extensive experience in questionnaire design, large-scale survey implementation, management, and real-time reporting, along with expertise in many online survey platforms. Her innovative use of multivariate and multilevel data modelling techniques reported in the national evaluations of KidsMatter Primary and KidsMatter Early Childhood, resulted in federal funding for national rollout. In order to optimise expansion, Katherine scoped and led the build of the data management cloud-based interface that quality monitors KidsMatter.

Dr Dix is currently involved in developing several international OECD tenders that focus on student social and emotional wellbeing in early childhood and primary school settings. She is also a chief investigator in the NHMRC funded University of New South Wales Child Development Study. In addition, she is Chief Editor and owner of the academic publishing house, Shannon Research Press and holds adjunct academic status at Flinders University, where she lectured and supervised post-graduate students in educational research methods, statistical inference, and multivariate/multilevel data analyses.

Chris Champion

Chris has worked in the education sector for more than 25 years in a variety of roles ranging from classroom teacher to Principal, including postings at remote Aboriginal schools. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to WISA, especially in the areas of mental health, special needs and education in marginalised and remote communities. Chris spent ten years as a National Coordinator of KidsMatter Primary, a mental health and wellbeing initiative for primary schools.
Currently Chris works for Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), Australia’s leading not-for-profit provider of services and supports, working with people on the autism spectrum and their families. His role is National Coordinator – Projects and Innovation at Positive Partnerships, a federally funded project managed by Aspect. Positive Partnerships works with parents and carers and schools to provide professional learning, support and resources for children on the autism spectrum.

Jac Van Velsen
WISA CEO M.Ed, Grad Cert MH, DipYW

Jac is the founder of WISA and established the not for profit organization which has obtained full charity status. Early work involved the organisation of state conferences and shared writing, development and delivery of WISA resources. Jac brings to this role many years of project management, wellbeing and health promotion in education and community development. She has extensive experience working at a local, regional, state and national level addressing school wellbeing and health promotion. She was a national manager of the KidsMatter Primary school mental health and wellbeing initiative with Principals Australia Institute, supporting the implementation across Australia to schools at a local level. This also included the redevelopment of the KidsMatter resources content for schools into blended learning – a mix of face to face and online content. Jac worked with the Australian Psychological Society in the development of the hardcopy KidsMatter resources; and later was involved in the development of the strategic step by step guide for school wellbeing teams Action Team Handbook guiding a whole of school approach with best practice implementation science for school communities.

Her work has included providing a wide range of wellbeing resourcing at a local level directly to school leaders, staff, students and parents in primary and secondary schools across Western Victoria through the Catholic Education Office. This included linking schools to services in the broader community.

Rich experience was gained as the Victorian Coordinator for the Australian Principals Association Professional Development Council, in working strategically at a state level. This involved implementing MindMatters, a national mental health promotion initiative for secondary schools, working closely with secondary schools across all three education sectors, as well as the community sector, delivering professional learning to thousands of secondary school staff and hundreds of schools. Other rich opportunities to build skills and knowledge in working in the education and community sectors were through working in the School Focused Youth Service, local Government Youth Services and youth and adult homeless/housing services. Jac has a youth work, community development and education background working strongly within a social justice and community development approach.