Coffee with … Melissa Yong, Health Promotion Coordinator Division of Student Life – Health and Wellbeing, Deakin University

Describe your work/role at Deakin?

I am Deakin’s first-ever Health Promotion Coordinator.  I started in November 2018 so I’m about 7 months into the role.  It is my first experience working in tertiary or any education setting.  I’ve worked in Health Promotion for 20+ years but always at local and state government prior to starting at Deakin.

This role is specifically student-focussed, the main purpose is to lead the development of health promotion strategies; and collaboratively plan and implement university-wide health promotion programs to improve the overall health of the Deakin student community.  Under that broad banner, I would describe my work here at Deakin as very diverse.  Since my commencement I’ve worked on a range of things including leading the development of a Student Mental Health Strategy in partnership with our Counselling and Psychological Support Managers; developing a pilot Student Wellbeing Ambassador program which will be launched this month at our annual Mental Health Promotion events across campuses; starting to develop a student health promotion strategy; and running health and wellbeing events.

I am part of a team within a Division known as the ‘Division of Student Life’; Deakin’s largest internal division responsible for just about everything student-focussed but not faculty related such as Orientation, Getting Started at Deakin, Social and Cultural Engagement, Student Communications, Academic Support, Medical Service, Counselling, Specialised International Student Support, Complex Needs Case Management, Sport, Safer Community, Preventing Sexual Harm and Sexual Assault, Students at Risk of Early Attrition and Chaplaincy.

 What excites and motivates you in your role?

I feel very honoured to be the first incumbent in a brand new role.  I was a Deakin graduate and have worked closely with Deakin staff during my time in the sector so it’s pretty exciting to now be a staff member.   I am excited by the opportunities and where I can go with the position, and relish the fact that I have a fairly clean canvas to work with.  I am highly motivated by the experience I bring to the role through my many years at DHHS and working closely with the health promotion sector.  I realise the potential of the role and am particularly excited about the community partnerships I can forge in the East; after all Deakin students are also members of the broader community!

 What is most challenging about your work?

Probably what I find most challenging about my work is the breadth of it.  Students are facing an array of health and wellbeing challenges while studying; from healthy eating and nutrition through to mental health due to stress, uni/work/life balance, financial insecurity, and social and cultural isolation, particularly for international students.  I feel a strong sense of responsibility to address these issues, through health promotion and preventative health as well as more health and support services. It’s mind-blowing how enormous it is!  It takes expertise, capacity, collaboration, time and energy … so big challenges ahead for me as a mum of 3 working part-time in a new, large and complex organisation!

 Does Deakin work with volunteers? Can you describe how volunteers add value to your work?  

Deakin’s volunteer base is its own students.  We can take students on work placement as any host organisation would, or we also have a Deakin Talent Internship Program where we are able to recruit students as “interns” to give them a chance to get professional work experience in a volunteer capacity.


Student volunteers are able to support a specific project or assist with day-to-day operations.  Being currently studying students they are well connected with digital technologies and with good research skills in particular which is of great value.  They are students, helping me to help other students which makes for an effective partnership.

 What strengths do you see in the community you work with?

Deakin students know best what other Deakin students want and need.  ‘Students as Partners’ is an approach gaining more and more momentum at Deakin.  We strive to engage the voice of students and really value the insights our students have. Many students are really enthusiastic and keen to help, and engaging them in our work to help us address student health and wellbeing is the best opportunity we’ve got to deliver on health promotion initiatives that are participatory, engaging and are more likely to hit the mark.  International students are particularly engaging!

 Where do you recommend in Burwood for Coffee/ Lunch/ People Watching?

I’m pretty new to Burwood and I haven’t really ventured out all that much to be honest, so I would not know just yet!

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

I’d make all cancers curable.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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