I rise to speak this evening about the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, which this year is held tomorrow, Friday, 16 March. This national day of action occurs on the third Friday in March each year and is organised by all Australian education authorities through the Safe and Supportive School Communities project, which is managed by the Queensland government on behalf of Australia’s government, Catholic and independent school communities. Students and teachers are encouraged to wear orange to take a stand together against bullying and violence and hold local activities involving students and families to raise community awareness of the importance of taking a stand against bullying and violence in schools. The national day of action is supported by the Australian government, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the ACMA’s Cybersmart program, Kid’s Helpline and Mix radio stations.
Bullying and violence, unfortunately, is still a feature of our schools and of society more generally. Bullying can take a number of forms, including physical, psychological, emotional, social, violence, and cyberbullying. Bullying in all its forms is an abuse of power by someone who is stronger in some way, whether it be physically, mentally, verbally, socially, electronically, politically or financially. The act of bullying can represent distrust, fear, misunderstanding, lack of knowledge or jealousy on the part of the bully—all factors that schools can address in positive and active ways.
Bullying can have a considerable effect on those who are bullied, causing cumulative layers of primary and secondary injuries. These include physical, psychological, social and identity injuries. Bullying can have a long-term effect on those who are bullied, affecting studies, careers, relationships and even financial wellbeing. It can cause severe post-traumatic stress disorder lasting many years. Those that are bullied may be targeted for a number of reasons, including those of gender, sexuality, cultural and linguistic diversity, religious diversity, disability, socioeconomic status, interests or who they associate with. It can occur regularly over months or years.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected, but we also have the responsibility to help guarantee these same rights for others. The focus of the 2012 national day of action will be on parents and families taking a stand together with school communities and recognising the important role everyone plays.
School communities should be positive spaces where students learn about who they are and their value and worth in relation to others. Positive changes can be made in school communities by incorporating support for individuals, by having fair and consistent expectations and by having approaches that address the deeper issues and encourage wellbeing for all individuals, groups and the whole school community. We know that school communities are addressing issues of bullying, harassment and violence. The national day of action helps school communities in this task by raising awareness and drilling to the core of some of these issues.
There are a variety of resources for the whole school, for the classroom, for parents and for students available at the Bullying. No Way! website, which can be accessed at bullyingnoway.com.au These resources include links to websites, fact sheets, teaching resources, T-shirt transfers and posters. There are also suggested activities for students, parents, a single classroom and the whole school.
As one of the key supporters of the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, the ACMA are running a number of events around the country. These activities will focus on cyberbullying, with the use of social networking sites, mobile phones and texting central to the theme. These activities will include Cybersmart Hero activities in schools across the country and the promotion of their Tagged DVD, which features cyberbullying as a core issue to schools. Cybersmart Hero is an anti-cyberbullying program developed by the ACMA. In Cybersmart Hero, students play the role of the bystander who becomes aware of a cyberbullying program at school. As the scenario unfolds, students are required to discuss the issues and make decisions about the responsible course of action. Tagged has continued to be very popular since its release, with over 5,000 hard copies distributed and 28,000 views on YouTube. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the ACMA on the news that Tagged has been accepted as a finalist entry in the New York International Film and Television Awards, to be judged in April. To have this film nominated for such a prestigious award is a great recognition of the outstanding work the ACMA undertakes.
The new Bullying. No way! website will be launched on the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, which, as I said, is tomorrow. The new website will include some new innovative interactive applications, including a choose-your-own-adventure game for students to learn how to deal with bullying and videos for parents and students. The new website also includes dedicated parent, teacher and student portals, including resources for teachers and information for parents on their role in managing bullying. Students will soon have the chance to try out the popular avatar builder. Students will also be able to learn how to deal with bullying in their own portal, http://www.takeastandtogether.gov.au, also to be launched on the national day of action. To further support students, an iPhone application has been developed to keep strategies and tools for students close at hand. The app will be available free in the Apple app store from 16 March. This supports existing resources such as the cybersafety help button available for Windows and Mac, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.
The ACMA’s Cybersmart unit encourages families and schools to work together to inform and protect their children by having conversations on the national day of action about cyberbullying and understanding the role that each person can play in stopping the bullying cycle. An outreach internet safety awareness online presentation will be held for students on the national day of action following the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s ‘Illuminate’ platform. This presentation examines the potential risks faced by teenagers when online and focuses specifically on identifying and preventing cyberbullying. It also includes the related areas of positive online activity, positive friendships, being a positive bystander and safe social networking. Digital citizenship, including digital footprint and digital reputation will also be covered.
ACMA is also encouraging schools to screen Tagged on the day and to use the supporting lesson plans and videos. As has been mentioned, Tagged is a cyberbullying resource for schools that encourages young people to reflect on the real-life consequences caused by cyberbullying, sexting and a negative digital reputation.
Cybersmart outreach trainer Greg Gebhart will present a workshop at the Kids in CyberSpace seminar at the New South Wales Teachers Federation Conference Centre tomorrow. The seminar will cover cybersafety, online behaviour, digital culture and cyberwellness of young people. ACMA will also have a stand to promote Cybersmart resources and the national day of action at this event. The ACMA Cybersmart website will also feature posts from various perspectives, including school principal, parents and a Kids Helpline counsellor.
All children have the right to learn in a safe and supportive school environment that values diversity, an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. The government is concerned about issues such as cyberbullying in our schools. As such, the government has dedicated a significant amount of money—over $125 million—to its cybersafety plan. I am pleased that these funds can be used to support events, including the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.
It is exciting that the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence provides an opportunity to promote the excellent cybersafety resources produced by ACMA. As Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety I can assure the Senate that cybersafety is an important priority for this Labor government. We all have the right to be treated with fairness and dignity, whether in real life or online, and we all have a responsibility to keep others safe and to treat them in the same way—with fairness, dignity and respect. The National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of these issues in our schools, in our communities and in our homes. More information about the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is available on the Bullying. No Way! website at http://www.bullyingnoway.com.au and I would recommend that everyone has a look at it.