I rise to speak about one of the Gillard Labor government’s ways for working on preventing bullying and violence in Australian schools. I speak about this because 15 March, which is Friday, marks the third National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. Identifying bullying can sometimes be difficult. Bullying is often conducted out of sight from teachers, and children are often reluctant to report it. The national day of action allows all of us—parents, teachers, students and members of the wider school community—to say we will ‘Take a Stand Together’ against bullying in all shapes and forms, including cyberbullying, which is of particular interest to me, physical violence and intimidation. It allows us to stand up and say that there is no place for bullying or violence in or outside our schools.
There has been an overwhelming response from schools regarding this initiative, with some 530,000 students pledging to ‘Take a Stand Together’ in their own schools on 15 March 2013. This includes 12,945 students at 31 schools in my home state of Tasmania. The day provides schools with an opportunity to organise local events and raise awareness of their own policies and initiatives that encourage positive behaviour and counter bullying within their own community.
The national day of action recognises that schools, parents and students need to take a stand together to build supportive and safe school environments free from bullying, harassment and violence. The national day of action aims to create positive conversations in schools and an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the success of the range of anti-bullying initiatives and programs in schools across the country.
This year, the new Stand Together 2013 curriculum materials have been developed for teachers to use in the classroom, helping students from early childhood through to senior schooling to explore the meaning of ‘Take a Stand Together’ and the importance of being active bystanders. The Stand Together 2013 lessons also provide an opportunity for students to create a photo about the theme ‘Take a Stand Together’, and why it matters to them. Schools are encouraged to send a photo of their students’ displays, work, and performances to the Bullying. No Way! website so that that can be part of a photo gallery.
As someone with a background in early childhood education, I know it is extremely important to help young children learn positive social behaviours and that parents and educators have a critical role in teaching these social and emotional skills. A key focus for the 2013 national day of action is the development of new resources aimed at building positive social skills in children aged three to eight. A lot of this is through the use of technology—as we all know, technology to three- to eight-year-olds is second nature and they are often much more proficient at it than some of us more elderly members of the community. This includes the release of the Allen Adventure, a free iPad app for young children, and a new young children section on the Bullying. No Way! website.
The Allen Adventure is a fun and educational interactive story about a young alien who visits a school on earth. It is a fantastic resource for parents and educators and is now available in the App Store. The Allen Adventure teaches children how to get along with people and builds their social skills to identify and deal with different behaviours in different settings.
The new young children section on the Bullying. No Way! website provides parents and educators with extensive information about children’s social and emotional development. It offers advice and suggestions about dealing with bullying behaviours they experience or see with their children. Another helpful resource is the Cybersafety Help Button, which I have spoken about previously on numerous occasions in this place. That is a free desktop application that provides cybersafety advice and information to internet users, particularly children and young people.
The Easy Guide to Socialising Online is another handy resource that provides cybersafety information for a number of social networking sites, search engines and online games, including how to report cyberbullying and how to adjust privacy settings for young people. It provides a one-stop shop for parents to get information on security settings. There is more information on the Easy Guide to Socialising Online on the DBCDE website and I would encourage all those with young children in particular to take a look.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that the children in our lives understand the importance of taking a stand against bullying. The National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is just one way that the Gillard Labor government is working to prevent bullying and violence in Australian schools.