The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

You are reading: NCSEHE panel discussion: Strategies for supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of students of colour and First Nations students

James Smith, Bep Uink and Daphne C. Watkins


COVID-19 has created a range of challenges for students and staff at universities throughout the world. These challenges have highlighted the need to support the social and emotional wellbeing of students, particularly those from minority and marginalised backgrounds where the impacts of COVID-19 have been felt disproportionately.

At the same time, we have seen national and global advocacy efforts aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, to reduce structural and systemic racism experienced by people of colour throughout society. This has included the racism experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a daily basis. Some of this advocacy effort has been directed to the higher education sector, where there have been calls to acknowledge and address entrenched racism within universities, which has harmful impacts on the social and emotional wellbeing of students and staff from equity groups.

In this panel discussion, we unpacked some of these issues and the respective strategies that can be put in place to promote and strengthen the mental health, and broader social and emotional wellbeing, of students of colour. We referred to emerging evidence from research and programs in Australia and the United States to drive this discussion.

Presentation recording

Webinar transcript

Audience questions answered

Extended Q and A 

Presentation slides

Relevant links


Professor James Smith, Menzies School of Health Research

James Smith is a Father Frank Flynn Fellow at Menzies School of Health Research, focusing on alcohol and other drugs harm minimisation. He was a 2017 NCSEHE Equity Fellow and has remained with the Centre as Adjunct Professorial Fellow. James was Co-Lead of the Indigenous Leadership Research and Evaluation Network, and Program Manager for the Whole of Community Engagement Initiative at Charles Darwin University, receiving SPERA Awards in 2016 and 2018. James has held senior strategic roles spanning health and education settings across the Northern Territory and South Australia.

Dr Bep Uink, Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, Murdoch University 

Bep Uink is a Noongar woman and Research Fellow at the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre, Murdoch University. Her research spans investigations into barriers and enablers of Indigenous students’ success in higher education, gendered barriers to education and young peoples’ social-emotional wellbeing.

Professor Daphne C. Watkins, University of Michigan

Daphne C. Watkins, PhD is a Professor of Social Work and Director of the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis Center for Health Equity Research and Training at the University of Michigan (USA). Her research focuses on the mental health of Black men and evidence-based strategies to improve their health. Dr. Watkins is a past president of the American Men’s Studies Association and is the founding director of the Young Black Men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) Project. She also serves on committees and boards aimed at improving men’s health both domestically and globally.