R U OK? Conversation Corners All, Australia (2015)

Students at the heart of a new street furniture project

R U OK? is an organisation promoting suicide prevention in Australia. Based on the powerful premise that ‘a conversation could change a life’, the initiative asks people to check in with family, friends and colleagues and ask, ‘R U OK?’

R U OK? took to schools by launching 65 Conversation Corners, sponsored by Yellow Pages, in mid 2015. The Conversation Corners will serve as ongoing reminders for students to support one another, and feature a specially designed  R U OK? bench.

The 65 schools awarded a bench had to submit 150 words as to why the bench was a great idea for their school. Students at James Meehan High School in Macquarie Fields were among the first to launch their Conversation Corner. Head Teacher of Wellbeing, Sarah Jackson, says, “By putting young people at the heart of the project, they’re more likely to live the R U OK? message on a daily basis.”

“By putting young people at the heart of the project, they’re more likely to live the R U OK? message.”

Street Furniture Australia (SFA) produced the customised benches, which feature timber battens and stainless steel sides; the ‘R U OK?’ logo has been cut out of the metal. Michelle Herbut, Custom Manager at SFA, says, “The very broad brief I received was to develop a product that could be sent to schools around Australia and engage the students during the R U OK? lesson plan. It was also important that the product be placed somewhere in the school where it acted as a constant visual reminder for the students to ask each other, ‘R U OK?’”

R-U-OK Bench drawings

Early considerations were a folded metal bench or laser-cut plywood cube, which could be produced in high volume and at low cost. The decision to produce a folded metal bench seat came down to accessibility; a bench allows for up to 3 students to be seated at one time. Herbut says, “Once we had decided on a bench, R U OK? realised that schools could install this wherever they liked, within a landscaped area or as part of an existing seating space. As it could be used as a bench or an area for kids to congregate, they thought it was a great way for the kids to encourage conversation. It also meant the schools could have this within their grounds for many years to come.”

R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis calls the custom bench “the perfect solution”. “The benches look great! When the sun hits the bench, the letters even illuminate across the ground,” she says.

“When the sun hits the bench, the letters illuminate across the ground.”

Students and teachers have been guided through the project with an implementation kit. “R U OK? wanted the kids to be engaged with the product, whether it was assembling or painting it, in order to make it unique to each school,” says Herbut. The metal can be easily cleaned back and stripped of paint, so that the benches can be re-customised by students in the new school year and made their own. Lewis says, “If students feel like they own the space and a part of its creation, they are more likely to take the message seriously.”

Painted R U OK Bench

The collaboration between SFA and R U OK? was successful in achieving a cost-effective product that has been embraced by participating schools. Lewis says, “SFA was wonderful, and everything we look for in a partner: warm, collaborative and willing to brainstorm ideas that are ambitious but fall within budget.”

Barry DuBois and students

Due to the success of the project, Lewis hopes to expand its reach: “We’d love to produce and distribute more. We’re looking at ways to raise funds for this. At our core, R U OK? is about preventing suicide by inspiring people to have regular and meaningful conversations, and long before an issue is a crisis. Given that suicide is the biggest killer of secondary students, we want to do more to better equip our young people.”

If your school is interested in creating a Conversation Corner, you can download the toolkit.

R U OK? logo

Students at the heart of a new street furniture project

R U OK? is an organisation promoting suicide prevention in Australia. Based on the powerful premise that ‘a conversation could change a life’, the initiative asks people to check in with family, friends and colleagues and ask, ‘R U OK?’

R U OK? took to schools by launching 65 Conversation Corners, sponsored by Yellow Pages, in mid 2015. The Conversation Corners will serve as ongoing reminders for students to support one another, and feature a specially designed  R U OK? bench.

The 65 schools awarded a bench had to submit 150 words as to why the bench was a great idea for their school. Students at James Meehan High School in Macquarie Fields were among the first to launch their Conversation Corner. Head Teacher of Wellbeing, Sarah Jackson, says, “By putting young people at the heart of the project, they’re more likely to live the R U OK? message on a daily basis.”

“By putting young people at the heart of the project, they’re more likely to live the R U OK? message.”

Street Furniture Australia (SFA) produced the customised benches, which feature timber battens and stainless steel sides; the ‘R U OK?’ logo has been cut out of the metal. Michelle Herbut, Custom Manager at SFA, says, “The very broad brief I received was to develop a product that could be sent to schools around Australia and engage the students during the R U OK? lesson plan. It was also important that the product be placed somewhere in the school where it acted as a constant visual reminder for the students to ask each other, ‘R U OK?’”

R-U-OK Bench drawings

Early considerations were a folded metal bench or laser-cut plywood cube, which could be produced in high volume and at low cost. The decision to produce a folded metal bench seat came down to accessibility; a bench allows for up to 3 students to be seated at one time. Herbut says, “Once we had decided on a bench, R U OK? realised that schools could install this wherever they liked, within a landscaped area or as part of an existing seating space. As it could be used as a bench or an area for kids to congregate, they thought it was a great way for the kids to encourage conversation. It also meant the schools could have this within their grounds for many years to come.”

R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis calls the custom bench “the perfect solution”. “The benches look great! When the sun hits the bench, the letters even illuminate across the ground,” she says.

“When the sun hits the bench, the letters illuminate across the ground.”

Students and teachers have been guided through the project with an implementation kit. “R U OK? wanted the kids to be engaged with the product, whether it was assembling or painting it, in order to make it unique to each school,” says Herbut. The metal can be easily cleaned back and stripped of paint, so that the benches can be re-customised by students in the new school year and made their own. Lewis says, “If students feel like they own the space and a part of its creation, they are more likely to take the message seriously.”

Painted R U OK Bench

The collaboration between SFA and R U OK? was successful in achieving a cost-effective product that has been embraced by participating schools. Lewis says, “SFA was wonderful, and everything we look for in a partner: warm, collaborative and willing to brainstorm ideas that are ambitious but fall within budget.”

Barry DuBois and students

Due to the success of the project, Lewis hopes to expand its reach: “We’d love to produce and distribute more. We’re looking at ways to raise funds for this. At our core, R U OK? is about preventing suicide by inspiring people to have regular and meaningful conversations, and long before an issue is a crisis. Given that suicide is the biggest killer of secondary students, we want to do more to better equip our young people.”

If your school is interested in creating a Conversation Corner, you can download the toolkit.

R U OK? logo

similar projects

RMIT Love Seat

RMIT University’s Bundoora campus, 18 kilometres north-east of Melbourne’s CBD, has recently been furnished with ‘Bundoora Spine’. Part of RMIT’s $700 million dollar international renewal and capital works program, the Spine walkway features wetlands, extensive tree plantings, landscape features and public art, including the giant bronze Chimpanzee Finger by Lisa Roet. This new vision includes Building 204, just north of the Spine. RMIT’s Property Services senior manager, Nandor Bartol, was tasked with repositioning Building 204 as an integral part of the walkway. His first step was to commission 1:1 Architects to refurbish Building 204 into a new Student Services facility, with communal lounges, meeting rooms, offices, student union facilities and a home for RMIT’s Queer Department and Lounge. Landscape architect Tim Hart and the team at Urban Initiatives were brought onboard to ensure …

  • 25 nov 2015
read more

St Michael’s Grammar School

Custom benches were a feature on the Coleman Walk, designed by ACLA Consultants. Trapezium modular components, constructed from oversize hardwood battens and stainless panels, cleverly align to form shapes. The Coleman Walk project was implemented to created a pedestrian spine through the centre of the school that truly enhances the collegiate atmosphere of St Michael’s. The concept behind the ACLA design was to create a vibrate and versatile space that would compliment the already tree lined avenue. The design included a paved central walkway which was introduced to help with pedestrian traffic and help create an informal space for school activities. The custom furniture, manufactured by SFA, was built with the highest quality material and manufacturing techniques to compliment the space.

  • 3 feb 2015
read more

Pimpama Secondary College

A new secondary school was needed to support the growing community of East Coomera, Queensland. As one of the first new schools to be built in 2013, the Pimpama State Secondary College brims with amenities which will meet the needs of students for years to come. A selection of sturdy, easy-to-clean outdoor furniture from Street Furniture Australia, such as the Park Slim Bench, Classic Galleria Setting and Frame Bin Enclosure, were ideal choices to support the $25+ million project headed by Evans Harch of BADGE. SFA also created custom one-off pieces, combining extra-wide battens to form a platform bench and plinth mounted on the site’s Australian sandstone as a feature in the landscape.

  • 3 feb 2015
read more