Year 5 - 10

Aussie Optimism Program

  • Overview

    Associate Professor Clare Roberts; Associate Professor Rosanna Rooney
    Year level(s)
    1 - 8
    Who is this for?
    Children and adolescents in grades 1- 8
    Who is this from?
    Teachers, chaplains, psychologists, allied health professionals, other
    Mentally Healthy Communities, Family Partnerships
    Primary School, Secondary School
    Social and emotional learning, Connectedness and relationships
    The aim of the Aussie Optimism Program is to promote good mental health, and prevent depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. The program also aims to assist children and adolescents in meeting the challenges and stresses of life, e.g., stressful life events, peer pressure, the move to high school and the changes associated with adolescence. There are five programs for students, each developed to suit the varying cognitive and social-emotional abilities of students in primary school. There is one additional program for parents and families that aims to support families through the transition to high school and adolescence.
    Training costs for teachers/school staff: Feelings and Friends (combined): $250; Positive Thinking Skills: $125; Social Life Skills: $150; Optimistic Thinking Skills: $150. Training costs for private practitioners: $600 per program per person. Student Booklets: $11.95; Parent Booklets: $11.95; Program for Parents and Families Booklet: $15. Whole school training costs TBC
    Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania
    Curtin University
    GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA6845
    Phone number
    08 9266 2465
    Mobile number
    Fax number
  • Implementation

    Detailed description

    The Aussie Optimism Program offers an evidence-based whole-school approach to promoting good mental health and reducing anxiety and depression in students. Research with the Aussie Optimism Program suggests that the program is effective at reducing and preventing anxiety and depressive symptoms, internalising and externalising problems while increasing social and emotional skills, family functioning and mental health in students and teachers. Aussie Optimism takes a skill-building approach and so focuses on developing students' resilience and emotional and social skills to reduce their risk of anxiety and depression.


    The Aussie Optimism Program comprises five developmentally appropriate programs for schools that can be implemented by trained teachers in grades 1 to 8. An additional booklet is available for parents of children transitioning to high school (or in grades 5-8). These programs are as follows:


    The two Feelings and Friends Programs (grades 1-2 and grade 3) aim to develop emotional skills such as basic emotion vocabulary and the ability to recognise and identify emotions in the self and others. Students also learn coping strategies for uncomfortable feelings and how to develop positive friendship skills. The year 3 components also include conflict management skills.


    The Positive Thinking Skills Program (grade 4) aims to develop cognitive skills associated with depression and anxiety. Students learn to identify and distinguish between thoughts and feelings. They learn to generate positive or helpful thoughts as well as coping strategies. A particular focus of this program is on students understanding the importance and benefit of engaging in fun activities and for them to learn and apply a strategy to help them break down an anxiety provoking task/situation into smaller manageable steps.


    The Social Life Skills Program aims to further develop emotional skills and has a particular focus on social skills such as verbal and non-verbal communication, assertiveness and social problem-solving. Students are encouraged and guided through the process of applying practical strategies in their own lives. Coping skills are an important part of this program, as well as for students to become aware of their social support network.


    The Optimistic Thinking Skills Program provides skills-based learning experiences that help young adolescents to overcome negative thinking styles, which reduces their risk of anxiety and depression, and builds resilience and self-esteem.


    The Program for Parents and Families was designed to augment the Social Life Skills and Optimistic Thinking Skills programs. It is self-directed and offers practical parenting solutions to common problems in families with adolescents. It also serves to generalise some of the skills of the school-based components to everyday life outside of school.

    Program structure & method delivery

    The five school-based components each comprise 10 lessons that are approximately 1 hour in length. Lessons may be delivered in one, or several shorter sessions, and it is recommended that the lessons are implemented at least once a week over at least one school term. The content is mapped to the Australian Curriculum (2013) and complements the content in the Health and Physical Education learning area, and particularly the 'Personal, social and community health' strand. There are also opportunities to address the content in the English, Civics and Citizenship, and Arts and Technologies learning areas. While the Aussie Optimism materials are offered to promote a whole-school approach, each of the five school-based Aussie Optimism components may be run individually and separately to address specific cohort needs. Within each component, teachers should follow the provided structure, and omission or substitution of content is not recommended. The skills developed early in the components are essential prerequisites for later skills and activities. The program was designed to be delivered by trained teachers to whole classes, as a universal prevention program. In some cases it may be useful to deliver the program to sub-sets of students outside the regular classroom to support specific needs. The Program for Parents and Families can be delivered to groups of parents, with a staff member leading the parents through one module at a time. Alternatively, the program can be promoted as an additional resource for parents to use at home.

    Student assessment measures


    Skills checklist included within the materials. Inclusion of a formal assessment measure is under development. The Aussie Optimism team or trainer can also assist in the selection of other suitable measures. Provision of other, formal assessments in under development.

    Professional learning compulsory


    Training is required before program implementation, with 6-hour workshops available per component. A whole school training workshop and online training modules for schools are currently under development. Workshops can be arranged at Curtin University and in schools. Training provides staff with relevant information relating to the Aussie Optimism Program, mental health and resilience, mental health difficulties in childhood and program implementation in schools. The training also offers opportunities to learn about the program's content and practise the more challenging activities of the program. Training kits include: 1. Teacher Resource; 2. Student Booklet; 3. Parent Booklet (for years 1-3 only); 4. Information Booklet; 5. Program for Parents and Families Booklet and CD-ROM (Year 5-8 only). The Teacher Resources include program rationales and relevant background information, detailed lesson plans and materials for the Aussie Optimism lessons, as well as parent information sheets for each module. The Student Booklets include developmentally appropriate information about the content of each module and key messages, and worksheets. It is recommended that each student is given a copy of the Student Booklet. The Parent Booklet and Parent Information Sheets contain information for parents about each module and its key messages. Descriptions of activities to try at home are also included. The Information Booklets contain the training handouts and worksheets, as well as some background reading and useful information relevant to program implementation. The Program for Parents and Families was designed to augment the programs for grades 5-8 and parents may purchase the book from Curtin University without training. The CD-ROM is for schools and contains newsletter items and a PowerPoint presentation for a parent talk.

  • Evidence

    Identified theoretical framework

    The program is based on the research and theories of Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Therapy), Martin Seligman (Positive Psychology/Learned Optimism), Aaron Beck (Cognitive Therapy) and Donald Miechenbaum (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).


    Johnson, J., Rooney, R., Hassan, S., & Kane, R.T. (2014). Prevention of depression and anxiety symptoms in adolescents: 42 and 54 months follow-up of the Aussie Optimism Program - Positive Thinking Skills. Front. Psychol. 5:364. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00364. Kennedy, P., Rooney, R., Kane, R., Hassan, S., Nesa, M. (2015). The enhanced Aussie Optimism Positive Thinking Skills Program: The relationship between internalizing symptoms and family functioning in children aged 9-11 years old. Front. Psychol. 6:504. Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00504. Myles-Pallister, J., Hassan, S., Rooney, R., & Kane, R.T. (2014). The efficacy of the Enhanced Aussie Optimism Positive Thinking Skills Program in improving social and emotional learning in middle childhood. Front. Psychol. 5:909. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00909 Pophillat, E., Rooney, R.M., Nesa, M., Davis, M.C., Baughman, N., Hassan, S., Kane, R.T. (2016). Preventing Internalizing problems in 6-8 year old children: A universal school-based program. Frontiers in Psychology, 8 (Mar). Quayle, D.M, Roberts, C., Dziurawiec, S., Kane, R.T., & Ebsworthy, G. (2001). The effect of an optimism and life skills program on depressive symptoms in pre-adolescence. Behaviour Change, 18(4), 194-203. Roberts, C., Kane, R.T., Thompson, H., Bishop, B., & Hart, B. (2003). The prevention of depressive symptoms in rural school children: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 71(3), 622-628. Roberts, C., Kane, R.T., Bishop, H., Matthews, H., & Thompson, H. (2004). The prevention of depressive symptoms in rural school children: A follow-up study. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 6(3), 4-16. Roberts, C., Kane, R.T., Bishop, B., Cross, D., Fenton, J. & Hart, B. (2010). The Prevention of Anxiety and Depression in Children from Disadvantaged Schools. Behaviour Research & Therapy, 48, 68-73. Roberts, C., Williams, R., Kane, R.T., Pintabona, Y., Cross, D., Zubrick, S., & Silburn, S. (2011). Impact of a mental health promotion program on substance use in young adolescents. Advances in Mental Health, 10(1), 72-82. doi: 10.5172/ jamh .2011.10.1.72. Roberts, C.M., Kane, R.T., Rooney, R.M., Pintabona, Y., Baughman, N., Hassan, S., Cross, D., Zubrick, S.R., & Silburn, S. (2018). Efficacy of the Aussie Optimism Program: Promoting Pro-social Behavior and Preventing Suicidality in Primary School Students. A Randomised-Controlled Trial. Frontiers, 2018 (Jan). Rooney, R., Hassan, S., Kane, R., Roberts, C.M., Nesa, M. (2013) Reducing depression in 9-10 year old children in low SES schools: A longitudinal universal randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy 51 (2013) 845e854. Rooney RM, Morrison D, Hassan S, Kane R, Roberts C and Mancini V (2013) Prevention of Internalising Disorders in 9-10 year old children: Efficacy of the Aussie Optimism Positive Thinking Skills Program at 30-month follow-up. Front. Psychology 4:988. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00988 Rooney, R., Roberts, C. Kane, R.T., Pike, L., Winsor, A., White, J., & Brown, A. (2006). The prevention of depression in 8-9 year old children. A pilot study. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 16(1), 76 - 90. Tennant, R., Martin, K., Rooney, R.M., Hassan, S., Kane, R.T. (2017). Preventing internalizing problems in young children: A randomized controlled trial of the Feelings and Friends (year 3) program with a motor skills component. Frontiers in Psychology, 8 (Mar).
  • Authors


    Associate Professor Clare Roberts; Associate Professor Rosanna Rooney

    About author(s)

    Clare Roberts now retired, was a clinical psychologist with extensive experience working with children and adolescents. Clare was the clinical director at the Psychology Clinic at Curtin University and taught units on developmental psychology, child clinical psychology, child and adolescent psychotherapy and rehabilitation and disability. Clare was also involved in a number of advisory committees including beyond blue, Triple P, and the WA Curriculum Council.

    Associate Professor Rosie Rooney is the originator of the Positive Thinking Skills and the two Feelings and Friends Programs. Rosie is a Clinical Psychologist who works in areas such as postnatal depression, adult anxiety and depression as well as working with childhood anxiety and depression. She is the clinical director of the Clinical Psychology at Curtin University and teaches professional practice and health psychology to Masters students. Rosie also has a special interest in cross-cultural psychology, and has received grants aimed at preventing internalising disorders in children in the early and middle primary school years. She is the treasurer for the State Clinical College of the Australian Psychological Society as well as the acting state chair for Health Psychology.