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How technology is helping Australia tackle youth mental health


Posted on March 2, 2018

3 min read

Did you know that research has shown that the speed of typing on your mobile phone can be a predictor of depression?

As more young Australians deal with mental health issues, technology is playing a greater role in helping parents keep a close eye on their child’s state of mind.

The Telstra Foundation is a proud partner of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, which is developing technology to revolutionise therapy for young people with mental health conditions as well as supporting those caring for them.

For Orygen, treatments are not just about traditional psychology and delivering services face-to-face, but reinventing youth mental health services, so patients are not only relieved of the symptoms of mental ill-health but can use technology and interventions to live happier, more fulfilling, connected and purposeful lives.

Imagine a social network like Facebook – but a closed network, specially built for Australian young people suffering from a mental health condition. It is specifically designed to promote meaningful interactions with one another. There are peer moderators or young people who have been trained to provide support in the online environment as well as access to clinicians.

Associate Professor Mario Alvarez is the head of e-health at Orygen, also called eOrygen, and is pioneering the use of online social media to foster long-term recovery in youth mental health. He says they are using the latest psychological models to translate the interventions into an online environment.

“For example, the way we do it is through online comics. We have professional writers and comic developers along with clinical psychologists, researchers and young people working together, and then we take a psychological intervention that works face-to-face and adapt that intervention to be delivered online through interactive online comics.”

When young people log onto the online platform, the first thing the system does is help them identify their personal strengths and then from there it helps them work out how to use these strengths in their everyday lives to stay connected with friends, deal with stress and to experience positive emotions and well-being.

The moderators are able to suggest content or therapeutic material that is relevant to a young person’s needs.

The results from Orygen’s research have been promising. One young person who participated in a trial said: “It is the best online service available. I think it is truly life-changing; having so many options to get help all in the one place is amazing.”

Another area of work for eOrygen is a Telstra Foundation-supported project in which young people consent to have an app running in the background of their mobile phone that monitors their activity and analyses the kinds of things they are posting; picking up on any changes in their behaviour.

Orygen also believes artificial intelligence has an important role to play, to help analyse the sentiment or emotional tone of a message on social media platforms. It helps professionals try and ascertain whether someone is potentially experiencing anxiety, depression or even social anxiety. From algorithms, they can better determine whether someone is behaving out of character – and then use that information to offer effective interventions.

eOrygen has big plans for technology in the mental health space, and to play a big part in helping the younger generation live happy and fulfilling lives.

Coding for kids: Why rugby league isn’t the only code for these Cowboys

Technology For Kids

Posted on July 12, 2017

3 min read

It seems rugby league isn’t the only code for the North Queensland Cowboys. The club teamed up with Telstra to run a special ‘Cowboys Code Club’ for Indigenous students at NRL Cowboys House.


To teach the teens new skills in computer programming and digital technologies. Their surprise teacher was Cowboys’ hooker and former Indigenous All Stars representative Ray Thompson. Ray shares his top five reasons why he’s passionate about inspiring these students to catch the digital bug.

1. The future is digital and coding is vital

Computer coding is the language of the 21st Century. These are the skills young people need for a digital future. We want to help prepare these students for the jobs of the future, and that means boosting their technology and digital abilities.

2. It’s great fun

Cowboys Code Club is about teens learning coding by having fun. Code Club Australia helped us create a special project on Scratch designed specifically for NRL Cowboys House – which teaches students how to make a Cowboys goal-kicking computer game. The boys made games and kicked goals with us on and off the field.

3. These are skills students can take home to their communities

NRL Cowboys House is all about giving Indigenous students from rural and remote communities throughout North Queensland the opportunity for better education outcomes. These kids can take the skills they’re learning back to their communities – and show how important computer coding is – but also how fun it can be.

4. Digital youth soar in a digital world

I went through special tech-training from Code Club Australia and Telstra with six other players to learn how to run the Cowboys Code Club. But really, I think the NRL Cowboys House boys picked the coding skills quicker than we did. They are quick learners and had fun making games.

5. On and off the field, rugby league is inspirational

Learning a new skill, whether that’s in the classroom or on the field, is all part of a holistic education, and this is something the Cowboys are truly passionate about. I think rugby league is a great vehicle to inspire kids to learn. Our vision at the club is to support better education outcomes for the youth in North Queensland, and programs like this definitely work to help us achieve that.

Find out more about Cowboys Code Club

What is Code Club Australia?

Telstra Foundation partner Code Club Australia is a non-profit organisation that provides tools and support for volunteers and educators to provide free coding lessons to kids. The mission of Code Club Australia is to give every child in Australia the skills, confidence and opportunity to shape their world. Learn more.

About NRL Cowboys House?
NRL Cowboys House provides supported accommodation for 25 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote communities in north-west and Far North Queensland, enabling them to access quality secondary education options in Townsville. Learn more.

In pictures: Picasso’s Weeping Woman comes to life at the NGV

Technology For Kids

Posted on October 6, 2016

2 min read

Picasso’s Weeping Woman winking? Why not. A new art education program at the National Gallery of the Victoria (NGV) will see primary school students using computer code to animate the gallery’s famous Picasso, bringing the melancholy subject to life.

Developed in partnership with Telstra – the NGV Digital Creatives program fuses art with tech.

NGV educators worked with our expert Telstra Foundation partner, Code Club Australia, to design a series of workshops in which students create computer-generated works of abstract art and build their own digital paint palette. The program is all about driving a greater focus on science, technologies, engineering, art and maths (STEAM) in education, by using visual arts as a platform to develop students’ digital literacy skills.

In the above slideshow, you can view a few pictures from the program’s launch with students from Melbourne’s Princes Hill Primary School.

Photographer credit: Wayne Taylor


Telstra and the NGV Partnership

Through digital and technology-based initiatives, Telstra’s ongoing partnership with the NGV aims to enhance the visitor experience and unlock the potential ways in which visitors can engage with art at the NGV. Focussing on education and digital literacy, the partnership has bolstered NGV Education with the tools, knowledge and capacity to develop and implement the current program of digital and code-based workshops.

Calling all non-profits: Reimagining a digital future


Posted on April 20, 2016

4 min read

Imagine this. What would happen if you put the people dealing with some of society’s biggest problems in a room with those who enable digital solutions? Following the launch of the Telstra Imaginarium for Non-Profits this month, Prashan Paramanathan from takes a look at why the non-profit sector needs to be supported in Australia’s digital innovation ecosystem.

There is no doubt, people being “clever about digital” has changed how we do things – from how we catch taxis, how we connect with others, to how we access health, our money, or buy things – our once analog world has truly been digitally disrupted.

But this surge in digital innovation hasn’t happened in a vacuum, or magically appeared by itself. It has been driven by a suite of government and private sector initiatives to build an ecosystem to support its growth. Across the globe co-working start-up hubs, tech accelerators and incubators are strengthening digital economies by helping start-ups and social enterprises evolve ideas to investment-ready businesses.

As someone who is passionate about technology in the non-profit sector, I too want to see digital innovation shape the way that our sector does things. It brings enormous potential to scale our programs and impact, connect in new ways to different groups of people and, no doubt, to other things that we haven’t yet imagined. And therein lies the rub.

While some non-profits have seized these opportunities and done incredible things with tech, others have not. While it’s dangerous to generalise about the sector, for many non-profits, digital innovation remains low on their agenda – they are simply missing the digital wave, unaware of the risk of drifting into the doldrums.

There is no single reason for this, but, one thing I have observed is, that no matter where you sit on the digital curve, as a non-profit, there remains a very obvious gap…and that’s the lack of an ecosystem. Tech start-ups and social enterprises are increasingly supported on their journey – from handbooks to hubs, and rightly so. It is important that Australia’s digital economy thrives and that our digital innovation capability competes globally.

The support ecosystem picture is not so rosy in the non-profit world, and this is our opportunity. I think that non-profits have a great potential to look to the best of the start-up accelerators, and incubators; learn and customize their own ecosystem to help their digital ideas thrive.

I know there is an appetite for this. Many non-profits I speak to want to reimagine the way they design their services, using technology. They know that if they do, they could scale the impact of their programs and help more people and reduce their operating costs. They also have some great ideas but just starting a digital journey can be both confusing and costly if you don’t have the skills in-house.

While there will be differing levels of digital maturity in this sector, getting some basic foundations right may be a great first-step in the right direction.

A better understanding of design thinking where the service user is central to every design decision. Yes please. A guide to user research and creating and testing prototypes. Definitely. How to know when to use LEAN vs Agile methodologies and develop a minimum viable product. A must. Briefing and engaging digital agencies and nailing the killer pitch for funding. The list goes on.

I was thrilled to hear that our friends at the Telstra Foundation decided to take a lead in this area and have turned their focus to this opportunity, developing both workshops and investing in a new digital platform to build these capabilities.

As a sector we’ve never been more ready. Non-profits are well-placed to hone their skills and optimise their digital innovation potential. We have deep subject matter expertise, trusted relationships with the people we support, a depth of data and insights. We have endless passion to push forward even when our resources – both human and financial – are limited. But mostly, the society we all live in continues to have lots of problems that need solutions. Non-profits can reimagine the future, we just need a little more help to create it.

[tw-button size=”large” background=”” color=”blue” target=”_blank” link=”” target=”_blank””]Apply now[/tw-button] is changing the face of charity through a zero-fee crowd-funding platform that connects Gen Y donors with great non-profit causes and socially innovative ideas online. What distinguishes this platform from others is that all the money raised goes to the cause. The Telstra Foundation has invested $560,000 in seed funding and ongoing support for This has been used to establish the platform and up-skill hundreds of non-profit organisations to crowdfund online. See more about our partnership here.


Remarkable: where innovation meets universal design


Posted on April 19, 2016

4 min read

Australia’s first disability focused impact accelerator, Remarkable, is helping create technology where accessibility is part of the design process from the beginning. Kelly Schulz, a Telstra customer experience expert who has been legally blind since birth, spent some time helping innovators understand the impact they could have.

Seeing the world through my eyes is probably not something I’d recommend. My sight is limited, but what some people would describe as a disability provides me with a unique perspective on accessibility and design.

I was excited to be asked to speak at the recent launch of Australia’s first disability focused impact accelerator, Remarkable. The Telstra Foundation has partnered with Cerebral Palsy Alliance and the NSW Department of Family & Community Services to create an accessible and inclusive maker space and accelerator, where the brightest minds can innovate with digital technology to make life impacting solutions for people living with a disability. Remarkable’s first 16-week program has just begun, bringing together inclusive startups, mentors, and users.

Technology is great isn’t it? In the last decade, I’ve gone from having no location devices, limited access to directions and limited information generally, to having the world in my pocket or on my wrist. When I’m lost, I can just ask my wrist, “Hey Siri, where am I?” Not just that, I can get directions home, or even better, to the closest café.

Technology has unlocked the world for people with disabilities. But it has also created new challenges. With the best intentions accessibility has become a tick-box design element, often an afterthought. To make real progress we need truly universal, human-centred design.

Public toilets offer great examples. They get big points for having translated printed text signage into braille: “If this light starts flashing please leave the cubicle immediately.” The problem is that the person reading the braille has no idea whether the light is flashing or not.

Touch screens are fast becoming a favourite for interactive signage; from ordering burgers or calling a lift, to ATMs and self-serve checkouts. But rarely are they truly accessible. For people with sensory and physical disabilities, fixed touch screens offer little flexibility or preferences. This misses the opportunity the technology brings. How awesome would it be to have tablet menus in restaurants where you could adjust the font size, turn on speech, or have a notes capacity for the deaf to communicate easily with staff?

Accessibility needs to be part of the design process from the beginning – it’s about designing great experiences for everyone.

I’m often asked what my best and most useful piece of technology is, and my answer is usually ‘my guide dog’. Ok, not strictly technology, but when you examine why she is the best, it makes sense. She’s reliable. She’s also consistent, flexible, efficient, intelligent and approachable. Like all good devices, she needs an occasional recharge. But give her a banana and some water and she’ll go for another 12 hours.

What makes a great piece of technology for me are all the human qualities they can impart. As soon as you are designing for humanity, for the human qualities, you are designing for usability, accessibility and universality.

I am really excited to see what innovative solutions and products come to life through the Remarkable incubator – humans designing for humans. I’ve got first dibs on playing with the prototypes!

Partnering with the Telstra Foundation

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. Remarkable is Australia’s first disability focused impact Accelerator. A partnership between the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Telstra Foundation, the program connects inclusive startups with the tools, skills and network they need to succeed. The 16-week accelerator program has been tailored to early stage startups looking to build sustainable enterprises that have a big social impact.  Remarkable also hosts events like Enabled by Design-athon and Meet-Ups to engage the broader community, from university students to corporate employees in the inclusive design process. Importantly, people with a disability are front and centre of Remarkable. To find out more visit the Remarkable website.