Group of young diverse people sitting oustide and discussing ideas

Helping us shape the future of mental health and substance use research

4 April 2023
The Youth Priorities Project
Led by the Matilda Centre and PREMISE Youth Advisory Board, the Youth Priorities Project seeks to understand what young people want prioritised in mental health and substance use research in Australia.

The PREMISE and Matilda Centre Youth Advisory Board (YAB) provides input into the governance and research priorities of PREMISE and contributes to specific youth-focused research projects.

The YAB is a culturally, linguistically and gender diverse group of 8 members aged 16-25, with representatives from metropolitan, rural, regional, and remote areas of Australia. They bring an expertise and interest in mental health and substance use through their own lived experience and that of their friends, families, or communities.

The Youth Priorities Project 

In 2019 and 2021, the YAB developed a list of principles and priority issues for youth mental health and substance use research. They presented these at a landmark national event – the Leaders in Prevention Summit. The Youth Priorities Project builds upon this work, seeking the perspectives of hundreds of young people across Australia.

Youth Priorities Project development stages

This is a multi-staged project, co-designed with the YAB and co-led by YAB members, Smrithi Ravindra (NSW) and Tanya Dearle (WA). 

Tanya Dearle

Tanya Dearle


“Hi, my name is Tanya (she/her), I am a 23-year-old living in the Pilbara, WA. I am passionate and committed to creating change in the mental health industry. I hold strong connections to my community, working at the oldest Aboriginal Corporation in the Pilbara, Ngarliyarndu Bindirri Aboriginal Corporation in Roebourne, WA. Currently I am studying my Master of Counselling, with the hopes to start building the therapeutic intervention and early intervention within my community to help young people be their best possible selves.”

Smrithi Ravindra

Smrithi Ravindra


“Hi, my name is Smrithi Ravindra. I am 22 years old and come from a South Indian metropolitan city called Bengaluru. I recently completed my Psychology Honours at the University of Sydney. Since I have seen, first-hand, the distress caused by mental health issues in young people and their families, I am passionate about improving these issues to the best of my capacity. I therefore chose to focus on the developmental outcomes related to parental discipline for my Honours thesis. I also joined the PREMISE Youth Advisory Board in July 2021 with the intention of collaborating with a diverse group of individuals on research that is meaningful to all of us. Quite often, youth involvement in research goes overlooked – so it’s important to me as a young person who is part of several minority groups to advocate for and represent our concerns in a purposeful way.”

In Stage 1 of the project, the YAB co-designed a national online survey for young people aged 16-25. Young people across Australia were asked about issues they would like to see prioritised in youth mental health and substance use research.

A total of 828 participants around Australia completed the survey. The average age of participants was 17.6 years and over 90% reported they had lived experience of mental health conditions and/or drug and alcohol issues. 

Illustration of survey participant demographics

Illustration of survey participant demographics

Nearly all young people who participated in the survey thought that young people should be involved in setting the agenda for mental health and substance use prevention research.

Often young people face the impact of legislation be it positive or negative. We deserve a say in what impacts us rather than being pushed aside for a 70-something-year-old to decide what they think is best for us.
Survey participant

When asked about the most important social determinant factors for preventative mental health research, 83% of respondents said discrimination related to race, immigrant status, sexual orientation and/or occupational status; and 79% said family relationships. 

Young people were also asked about the issues they thought were most important and relevant to young people’s mental health. The highest rated issues were:

  • isolation and social disconnectedness
  • unhealthy relationships
  • climate change, and
  • intergenerational trauma 

Stage 2 of the project involves leadership from YAB members who will run focus groups with young people in their communities. The focus groups aim to refine the issues and priorities identified in the national survey and provide the opportunity to explore whether these issues are reflected in their communities. Focus groups have been led by YAB members, Cheryl Ou in Brisbane, QLD and Tanya Dearle in Karratha, WA. 

Whether it's research or designing services, whatever it is, you need to have people with lived experience and young people there from day dot and diverse young people.
Focus group participant, Brisbane, QLD


This project is conducted by researchers at the Matilda Centre with the PREMISE Youth Advisory Board.

We would like to thank every young person who has participated and contributed to our understanding of youth priorities.

For further information about the Youth Priorities Project contact Felicity Duong at

Felicity Duong

Research Promotions Officer
  • Jane Foss Russell Building G02

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